Are You Smothering Your Man? Here’s How to Know…

Before we ask the provocative question of “Are you smothering your man?” let’s start with a simpler question. What is “smothering” and why does it bother men so much?

You’ve probably heard the term “smothering” before, as well as all the clichés like “I need some space!” or “I need some time apart!” or even the more dramatic “We need a break.”

What does any of it mean? And how is it that even though you both crave emotional intimacy, one of you is still unhappy with how close you are? Shouldn’t the opposite be true, shouldn’t you both LOVE the idea of smothering, like a couple of gazing lovebirds?

Maybe it’s time we consider what smothering actually means—and how men perceive these “smothering qualities.”

Everything in relationships is based on how your partner perceives your actions. So let’s start with this simple fact: whatever you do, regardless of good intentions, will be interpreted by your partner. And depending on his past experiences, he may see your actions as positive, neutral or negative.

According to Psychology Today, when one partner complains about “needing space”, it’s not necessarily about intimacy but about identity. One partner may feel that his or her life, once highly independent, is being sucked into an “US” – a relationship. Now all those independent thoughts have been taken over by an organism that requires teamwork and group thinking all at the expense of individuality.

The goal then is to find a balance between “togetherness and independence”, and in a way that doesn’t threaten your partner.

Here are three ways to know if you are smothering your man and unconsciously pushing him away.

1. “YOU, you are the problem!”

Does it seem like most conversations with your man involve “you do this” and “you do that”? In trying to help, don’t make the mistake of trying to control him and explain to him why he needs some mothering. The more you try to explain that “you always do this and so you need some of this!” the worse you’re making him feel. It’s best to avoid talking so much about “you do this” and instead focus on “I”. As in, “I feel this way. The way I think, I tend to do this. I feel anxious about this and so I react in this way.”

By making the conversation more about how you feel and less about what he’s doing wrong, you give him back his dignity while still voicing your needs. He’s a grown man and doesn’t want to be taken care of or mothered because he feels this robs him of his independence. Learn to communicate your needs without insisting that you take care of his too. He may want to manage his own life and resents the control you have over planning his day.

2. He seems to resist when you touch him.

Your level of physical affection can also be a telling sign about the relationship. Partners who feel smothered by the other tend to become defensive when they are hugged, kissed and touched. The reason is not necessarily because they fear intimacy or don’t like huggy-kissy stuff. Rather, they pick up on a very subtle problem.

Partners who feel needy will often over-compensate in affection, basically using their hugs and kisses as a control technique. As in, “If I keep hugging or kissing him he won’t want to look elsewhere. He will realize how much he loves me. I need to remind him of why he’s with me.”

Some women feel entitled to hug and kiss their man as often as they want, assuming that marriage implies freedom of intimacy and affection all the time. But Psychology Today quoted Dr. Patricia Farrell, who said “Agree to provide each other with a signal that it’s OK to cuddle. It avoids misunderstandings and hurtful put-downs.”

The real problem comes when you ignore your partner’s signal to give him space and you go in for affection anyway because you need it. Yes, to you it’s a demonstration of love. But he interprets it as, “She needs this regardless of how I feel right now.”

3. You’re trying too hard when he wants to try harder.

Lastly, learn to take “a few steps back” so he can take a step forward. This is a negotiating tactic that is very effective—but often forgotten in marriage. When one party is pushing too far and becomes invasive, the other takes a step back. The invasive party now backs away two steps, allowing the defensive party to come out and feel safe, taking just one step forward.

This is just as necessary in marriage. When one partner is overly affectionate or micromanaging or pushing too hard, the other partner will shrink back. When you sense this happening, the wise thing to do is “take two steps back” in conversation so that your partner can feel calm and centered and then get back his confidence to speak freely.

The easier way to remember this principle is to simply “Let the man chase you”, as we often say here. By “chasing” the man and smothering him with too much attention, you’re not letting him provide. You’re not letting him chase you.

Men are biologically happier when they can follow their own instincts and work harder to please you. He wants to decide when to talk, when to share and when to confide in you. Don’t force him to share according to your timeframe, because once again, you’re dominating the relationship and robbing him of his independent life. Be ready to accommodate him WHEN he wants to talk (and if it’s convenient for you) and then reward him for the effort he puts forth. Don’t reward him with hugs and kisses if he hasn’t done anything to merit that affection. Chances are, that’s not what he needs right now.

If you can remember these three basic principles, you can avoid smothering your man and instead focus doing more of what makes you both happy.

About The Author

Matthew Coast

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