Why Treating Your Partner Like a Child Can Destroy Your Relationship

Smiling couple talking at breakfast table
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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 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 partner in a child role is demeaning to your mate and actually counterproductive. Your partner 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 relationship, seek counseling as a couple.

Signs of Parenting Behaviors in a Romantic Relationship

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 a lack of respect for your partner as an adult and your equal in the relationship.

  • You pick out what clothes you think your partner 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 partner's plate, cutting your partner's meat, or pestering your spouse to eat all the vegetables on his or her plate.
  • Waking your partner up in the morning.
  • When traveling, you pack your partner'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 partner'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 partner's clothes.
  • You fill out medical or legal forms for your mate.
  • You pick up after your partner.
  • You keep track of your partner's belongings like eyeglasses, car keys, or wallet.

How to Stop Parenting Your Partner

The first thing you need to do is realize that showing concern and caring for your partner 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 partner 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 partner takes out the trash or completes other tasks around the house.
  • Let your partner 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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