Integrating Compassion with the Wisdom of God’s Word


The purpose of Aunt Dara’s Christian Advice Column is to glorify God by addressing human needs with compassion and the wisdom of God’s word.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Boyfriend is Impatient with His Mother

Dear Aunt Dara,

I've always heard people say to watch how a man treats his mother, because that is how he will someday treat his wife. Well, I've been with my boyfriend for a year, we are both Christians, ages 21 and 24, and we plan on getting married in a year or two. We are very happy together and I look up to him for many things, spiritual and otherwise, but I do have a concern about how he treats his mom. He is pretty impatient with her, jokes with her in a demeaning way, and I feel like he makes her feel dumb for the things she doesn't know, such as modern technology. I know she feels like she can't do anything right by him because she has said so outright. Once in a while I feel a tinge of the same treatment from my boyfriend, but whenever I ask him about it, he explains he never means to put me down and he just didn't realize how his words or tone of voice came across, and I believe him and can tell he loves me dearly. I have talked to my boyfriend about his treatment of his mom maybe 4 or 5 times, only once or twice in depth, and he's explained to me that he knows he needs to be more patient and treat her more kindly, but the things she does really irritates him, and some of the things she says seem demeaning to him. In my boyfriend's defense, I will admit that some of his mother's quirks can be annoying sometimes, and since my own mother has similar traits, and I have responded at times in a similar way as my boyfriend does with his mom, I know how hard it can be. I know my boyfriend wants to treat everyone with the love of Christ and become more like Him everyday, but I still wonder if this is something to be concerned about for our future. I am a very sensitive person sometimes and I know I couldn't handle receiving that kind of treatment on a regular basis. We have both agreed to do premarital counseling, and I'm thinking that should help but I also know that I can't count on another person changing, since only the other person has control over that. Should I be concerned?

Concerned Girlfriend

Dear Concerned Girlfriend, 

I see a lot of positive things in your letter.  Both you and your boyfriend are Christians and want to please God and grow spiritually.  You have been together for a year, you are not rushing to get married anytime soon, and the two of you will be participating in premarital counseling before you marry.  Your letter makes it obvious that you love each other and have a good relationship.  You are able to talk to each other on an intimate level and be honest with each other about your feelings, motives, and needs.  You have a lot of good things upon which to build your lives together and I pray for blessings for you both. 

However, you are concerned about how your boyfriend speaks to his mother and how he sometimes talks to you, and you fear that he may continue to act this way in the future.  Here are some things to consider.  Does he ever speak to anyone else in a demeaning way?  Did he ever see his father or any other man speak to his mother in a demeaning way?  If so, this may be a learned behavior.  (The positive news is that anything that is learned can be unlearned.)  When you have talked to him about his communication, he says that he is not aware of how his messages are being received and he says he doesn’t mean to be hurtful.  That’s probably true, but you have talked to him enough times for him to realize that he needs to be more sensitive to the feelings of others.  Did he seem to be sorry for hurting his mother or you?  Was there any improvement in how he talks to his mother or you, if even for a short time, after each time that you talked to him?  I ask these things because (1) it seems that he is making excuses when he says he didn’t know how his words and tone of voice came across, (2) it seems he is not accepting full responsibility for his behavior by blaming it on his mother’s annoying, irritating quirks, and (3) it seems he is trying to justify himself by saying that she says demeaning to him sometimes. 

So, what I see that is of concern is his lack of respect for his mother and girlfriend, and he is defending himself by trying to excuse and justify his behavior.  However, he does acknowledge that he needs to be more patient and kind, and you say he wants to treat everyone with the love of Christ and become more Christ-like.  So, there is hope.  It’s true that you can’t count on another person changing, but you can count on God, and God can change people.  I suggest that you and your boyfriend have some in-depth, regular Bible study and prayer focusing on Galatians 5: 22-23 and II Peter 1: 5-8.  The object of this study should be for the spiritual growth of both of you (so he doesn’t feel as if you are trying to “fix” him).  In the meantime, whenever he slips and says something hurtful, model the fruit of the Spirit to him in your response by acting and speaking kindly and lovingly to him. 

God bless,
Aunt Dara

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