If you frequently find yourself nagging or scolding your partner or you have heard yourself say “I am raising four children” when only two of them are actual children, also when you frequently say, “Why is it me taking all the responsibilities’’ you have fallen into the parenting trap and that your relationship is becoming stressful.
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.
When couples get stuck in a pattern where one dominates the other, there can be a high price to pay: decreased marital satisfaction, low sex drive, frustration, anger, resentment and low self-esteem. If you frequently find yourself nagging or scolding your partner, you may have fallen into the parenting trap. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to get your relationship back on grown-up ground.
1. Acknowledge your part in it:
Parent-child scenarios often begin when one partner feels the other isn’t sharing the load, or when the same issues keep resurfacing. The person who adopts the parent role ends up frustrated, thinking: “Well, if he would just do it, I wouldn’t have to keep reminding him or take care of it myself.” The truth is that although we can’t control what our partners do, we can control ourselves. So, instead of immediately blaming your partner, consider how you’ve helped create the situation: Is it your default setting to assume all the responsibility just because it seems easier? When you get frustrated, do you lash out, scold or punish? Now consider changing your approach to help him change his.
2. Be direct, not passive aggressive
Guys respond much better to clear requests. So saying “Hey, can you take out the garbage this morning?” is a much faster route to success than simply stating “Wow, the garbage is so full, and you have no plans to take them out “ while privately wishing he’d empty it.
3. Talk it out:
Choose a time to voice your concerns. Explain what’s frustrating you, why it bothers you and what the fix is. Be sure to highlight the benefits. Humour can sometimes help: When you tease him about leaving the toothpaste uncapped, it gets the point across without any unnecessary friction.
4. Divide and conquer as a team:
Write out a list of daily, weekly and monthly responsibilities, then decide together who does what. Figure out your ideal partnership and how roles such as housekeeping, parenting or financial planning will be divvied up. If you’re usually the “parent,” accept that you need to give up certain tasks. Touch base often to share your thoughts about what is or isn’t working. Finally, be respectful and remember to thank your partner for the help, grown-up to grown-up!
5. Identify what areas you both need to work on:
Safely take accountability for your setbacks and explain to your partner how you see these challenges showing up in the relationship. With humility, own them. No one wants you to be perfect, but by taking accountability, it can help your partner feel validated, thus creating healing and motivation to want to work on change together.
6. Identify your strengths and weaknesses and how you’d work better as a team if you both were to work with your strengths more:
If your relationship was a sports team, what position would each of you flourish in? Together, agree and collaborate on what roles and responsibilities that are within your “expertise,” as well as commit to taking on something within the relationship that challenges your comfort zone.
7. Talk about childhoods and impactful moments in your lives:
From a curious place, discuss how you both perceive the why behind why you are the way that you are. Go further into discussion about your childhoods and how they are impacting your current relationship. How does this give you both more compassion and understanding as to why certain characteristics or behaviors may be hard to change in adulthood.