Why Treating Your Partner Like a Child Can Destroy Your Relationship

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It doesn't make any difference if your partner 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 partner, you are actually showing them a lack of acceptance and a lack of respect.

Putting yourself in the role of "parent" and your partner in the role of "child" is demeaning and can actually be counterproductive. Your partner might come to resent you for taking on a controlling role in your relationship. This can cause serious damage to your marriage.

If you have an immature or irresponsible partner, you might need to repeat this mantra to yourself often: I am their partner, not their parent.

Once you identify the pattern, it might help to seek counseling as a couple to work on resolving it together.

Signs of Parenting Behaviors in a Romantic Relationship

There are some behaviors that are appropriate in your interactions with your kids, but not with your mate. You might not realize that you are even doing these things, let alone how they might feel to your partner.

If you get in the habit of doing these things when you have children, it's important to remember the difference in your relationship with them and your mate.

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

  • Waking your partner up in the morning.
  • When traveling, you pack your partner's suitcase.
  • You are overprotective.
  • 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 partner's behavior.
  • You buy your partner's clothes.
  • You fill out medical or legal forms for your mate.
  • You keep track of your partner's belongings like eyeglasses, car keys, or wallet.
  • You make appointments with doctors for your mate.
  • You often cater to your partner's every need.
  • You pick out what clothes you think your partner should wear.
  • You pick up after your partner.
  • You style your mate's hair.
  • You think nothing of putting food on your partner's plate, cutting up their meat, or pestering them to eat all the vegetables on their plate.
  • Your conversation style with your mate uses "baby talk" or a parental tone of voice.

How to Stop Parenting Your Partner

Showing concern and caring for your partner is normal and expected in a healthy relationship. The point where you cross the line into a parenting role is where the nurturing ends and parenting begins.

Once you have identified the parenting behaviors you are displaying, there are some steps you can take to correct them.

  • Accept that your mate does not like being treated like a kid.
  • Be mindful of your actions and stop treating your mate as a child.
  • Create a calendar for your family but be clear that keeping it current is everyone's responsibility.
  • Don't correct or criticize how your partner takes out the trash or completes other tasks around the house.
  • Have a talk with your partner about any issues that arise (for example, if they tend to leave messes for you to clean up).
  • Let your partner make mistakes and face the consequences of being forgetful or making the wrong decision.
  • Refrain from using a "parental" tone with your partner.

A Word From Verywell

If you become aware of your parenting behavior but still can't stop, there might be dysfunction in your relationship that could benefit from professional help. Going to counseling as a couple can help you both recognize the problem and address the negative impact it is having on your relationship.

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