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Overcoming the Parent-Child Relationship with Your Spouse

Jonathan Riley

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu

Relationships are a partnership between two adults who love and respect each other. However, sometimes one partner takes on the role of a parent and the other becomes a child. This dynamic can lead to decreased marital satisfaction, frustration, anger, and resentment for both partners. In this blog, we will explore signs that you may be parenting your partner, the side effects of acting as a parent, why people start parenting their partners, and what constitutes a healthy relationship.

Signs You’re Parenting Your Partner

Parenting your partner can be subtle and insidious, so it’s important to recognize the signs before it becomes a bigger issue. Some of the signs that you may be parenting your partner include:

  1. Making decisions for your partner without consulting them or considering their input: In a partnership, decisions should be made together.
  2. Being overly critical or controlling of your partner’s behaviour, appearance, or habits: Criticism is not constructive and can lead to a breakdown in communication.
  3. Taking on the majority of household responsibilities and expecting your partner to follow your lead: Sharing responsibilities is important in a partnership.
  4. Treating your partner like a child, talking down to them, or belittling them: No one likes to be spoken to in a condescending manner.
  5. Trying to fix your partner’s problems for them instead of allowing them to handle things on their own: Everyone should be able to handle their own problems.
  6. Making excuses for your partner’s behaviour or covering up their mistakes: This can lead to a lack of accountability and responsibility.
  7. Dismissing your partner’s opinions or feelings: Listening to your partner is crucial in a partnership.

If any of these behaviours sound familiar, it’s important to reflect on your relationship and consider whether you are falling into the trap of parenting your partner.

Side Effects of Acting as a Parent to Your Partner

When one partner takes on the role of a parent and the other that of a child, it can have serious consequences for both partners. For the parent partner, they may become overly controlling and critical, leading to frustration and resentment from their partner. They may also experience feelings of loneliness and isolation, as their partner may not be able to provide the emotional support they need.

For the child partner, they may feel suffocated and oppressed, leading to anger and resentment. They may also experience a loss of self-esteem and confidence, as their partner is constantly making decisions for them and not allowing them to take responsibility for their own lives.

Why People Start Parenting Partners

There are many reasons why someone may start parenting their partner, including:

  1. A perceived imbalance of power: If one partner feels like they have more power in the relationship, they may start to take on a parental role.
  2. Learned behaviour: If someone grew up in a household where one parent was overly controlling or critical, they may unconsciously recreate that dynamic in their own relationships.
  3. Insecurity: If someone feels insecure in their relationship, they may try to exert control over their partner as a way to feel more secure.
  4. Co-dependency: If someone is co-dependent, they may feel like they need to take care of their partner in order to feel valued and loved.

What Constitutes a ‘Healthy’ Relationship?

A healthy relationship is one where both partners feel valued and respected, and where there is a balance of power and responsibility. In a healthy relationship, both partners are emotionally mature and able to communicate effectively with one another. They are able to compromise and make decisions together, and they are able to support each other through both good times and bad.

To maintain a healthy relationship, it’s important to communicate openly and honestly with your partner. Set boundaries and make decisions together as equals, taking into consideration each other’s input and opinions. It’s important to respect each other’s individuality and make space for each other’s interests and hobbies. In a healthy relationship, both partners should be able to pursue their own goals and dreams, while still supporting each other along the way.

To avoid the parent-child relationship dynamic, both partners need to work towards building a healthy partnership based on mutual respect, trust, and equality. This includes communicating openly and honestly, listening to each other’s perspectives, and making joint decisions together. Couples should also avoid making assumptions about each other’s needs and preferences and instead take the time to discuss them. It’s essential to acknowledge each other’s strengths and weaknesses and work together to build a balanced and interdependent relationship. In a healthy relationship, both partners accept each other’s personality, individuality, and lead balanced lives, where they nurture their relationship and also look after themselves individually. They are neither consumed with each other to the point of possessiveness nor do they live separate lives – they are interdependent on one another in a ‘healthy’ way.

In conclusion, a parent-child relationship dynamic in relationship can be detrimental to the relationship and individuals involved. It’s essential to recognize the signs of this dynamic and work towards building a healthy partnership based on mutual respect, trust, and equality. By communicating openly and honestly, making joint decisions, and acknowledging each other’s strengths and weaknesses, couples can avoid falling into the trap of a parent-child relationship dynamic and build a strong, healthy relationship that stands the test of time.