When you’re in a relationship with someone, you’re meant to be equal. Partners. You’ll both have strengths and weaknesses, and it’s okay to help each other out and complement one another.
However, you’re partners. You’re not a parent to each other.
Maybe you came from different backgrounds, and maybe your partner has some growing up to do. If they’re willing to put in the work and they want to mature on their own, that’s a great thing! You can help and support them along the way. But, there’s a difference between supporting their efforts and playing the parental role in your relationship.
Let’s take a closer look at why that can be a problem, and what you can do if you find yourself stuck in that situation.
It’s Not Okay to Treat Your Partner Like a Child
Even if your partner has some growing up to do, it’s never okay to treat them as anything less than your equal.
If they want you to take care of them like a child would—including doing their laundry and making meals, it’s up to you to evaluate how much of that you want to participate in. However, if you’re regularly treating them like a child of your own accord, you could be doing more harm than good.
For starters, you could be creating more bad habits in your partner than you realize. If you treat them like a child because they exhibit immature behaviors, there’s no reason for them to want to change. You’re essentially enabling them, rather than helping them learn and grow.
Additionally, treating your partner like a child—especially if they aren’t acting like one – can be incredibly demeaning and condescending. They might even end up resenting you or start to feel like you’re trying to control everything in your relationship.
Are You Taking On a Parenting Role?
Often, when someone is treating their partner like a child, they don’t even realize it. Maybe it’s nothing more than a bad habit. Maybe you started doing it to help guide and encourage your partner, but it’s created an imbalance in your relationship.
So, what are some of the signs that you’re parenting your partner?
First, think about the things you do for them on a daily basis. Again, it’s okay to want to take care of your partner. But consider whether you’re doing certain things out of love, or because you feel like they’re your responsibility. Some examples include waking them up for work, keeping track of their belongings, and making appointments for them.
Do you cater to their every need? What do they have to do on their own each day? While they might appreciate that for a while, it creates a serious power imbalance in your relationship, and can end up making you both resentful.
You might also be parenting your partner if you’re overprotective, or if you use the same language with them that you would to a young child or teenager.
What Can You Do to Stop Parenting Your Partner?
If any of those signs sound familiar, it’s time to stop being a parent to the person you love.
Accept the fact that they don’t need to be treated like a child. Have a talk about responsibilities and what you both expect from each other, and keep your tone and language appropriate for an adult conversation.
If you’ve been parenting your partner for a while, it can be hard to stop right away. You might struggle to find a new, healthy balance. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate to contact me to set up an appointment for couples therapy. We’ll work on effective ways to reduce those parenting behaviors, and can get to the bottom of why they started in the first place.