Why Treating Your Spouse Like a Child Can Destroy Your Relationship

Couple talking at breakfast
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It doesn't make any difference if your spouse doesn't get up on time, has horrible taste in clothes, forgets appointments or to take pills, loses the car keys, or never picks things up. If you parent your spouse, you are actually showing him or her a lack of acceptance and a lack of respect.

If you have an immature or irresponsible husband, you may need to say this to yourself often: I am his wife, not his mother.

If you have an immature or irresponsible wife, you may need to say this to yourself often: I am her husband, not her father.

Putting yourself in a parental role and putting your spouse in a child role is demeaning to your mate and actually counterproductive. Your spouse will eventually resent you for taking on this controlling role, and it will almost certainly severely damage your marital relationship. If this becomes a battleground in your marriage, seek counseling as a couple.

Mothering or Parenting Behaviors

You might not realize how these things feel to your partner, but these are all behaviors that are appropriate in your interactions with your kids, not your mate. While you might get in the habit of doing some of these things if you have children, it's important to remember the difference in your relationship with them and your mate.

Some of these behaviors are more obvious or egregious than others, but they all show lack of respect for your partner as an adult and your equal in the marriage.

  • You pick out what clothes you think your spouse should wear.
  • Your conversation style with your mate is baby talk or a mothering or parental tone of voice.
  • You think nothing of putting food on your spouse's plate, cutting your spouse's meat, or pestering your spouse to eat all the vegetables on his or her plate.
  • Waking your spouse up in the morning.
  • When traveling, you pack your spouse's suitcase.
  • You style your mate's hair.
  • You are the official reminder person in your family, whether it is to take medications, finish a chore, or be on time somewhere.
  • You believe one of your roles is to correct your spouse's behavior.
  • You often cater to his or her every need.
  • You are overprotective.
  • You make appointments with doctors for your mate.
  • You buy your spouse's clothes.
  • You fill out medical or legal forms for your mate.
  • You pick up after your spouse.
  • You keep track of your spouse's belongings like eyeglasses, car keys, or wallet.

How to Stop Parenting Your Spouse

The first thing you need to do is realize that showing concern and caring for your spouse is normal and expected. It is when you cross that line into the parenting role that normal nurturing stops and parenting begins. 

  • Have a talk with your spouse about things that are an issue, such as your partner not picking up after himself.
  • Be mindful of your actions and stop treating your mate like a child.
  • Don't correct or criticize how your spouse takes out the trash or completes other tasks around the house.
  • Let your spouse make mistakes and have to face the consequences of being forgetful or making a wrong decision.
  • Create a calendar for your family but be clear that keeping it current is everyone's responsibility.
  • Refrain from talking in a "parental' tone with your partner.
  • Accept that your mate really does not like being treated like a kid.
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