Friday, 15 March 2013

Why you shouldn't act like your partner's parent

You should be a lot of things to your partner: friend, lover, companion, confidant (e), ally, and comforter. One thing you shouldn't be is their parent. They’re grown-up and they don’t need one of those any more, at least not beyond and they've got already.

Your partner is an independent and mature person who can run their own life. They choose to spend it with you, for which I hope you are properly grateful. They don’t need anyone else to tell them how to run it. So don’t let me catch you telling your partner, ‘take those muddy shoes off before you come in here,’ or ‘you haven’t eaten much. Go on – at least finish your vegetable,’ or ‘you know, you don’t take enough exercise. You should join the gym.’

These are all actions or decisions they are capable of taking for themselves. I’m not saying you should never express an opinion, but there’s no need to tell them what they should do. It’s just your opinion, OK?  So express it as a point of view and not as an instruction.
I’ll tell you what will happen if you do this, because I've seen it happen to couples I know. If you act like a parent to your partner, they will respond in one of two ways. The first option is that they will respond like a child. They will meekly do as you tell them, and allow you to become their parent.

This might seem to work at first, but in fact it will destroy the equality in your relationship. When you want someone to look after you, they won’t seem like the right person any more. And they’ll expect you to solve all their problems for them, which you won’t always be able to do. So you’ll both be disappointed and frustrated. That’s hardly a recipe for a happy relationship.

The alternative is that they’ll act like a rebellious teenager, and quite rightly push against your attempts to parent them. This will lead to arguments and conflict, as they resent and resist you.
If you want to be a parent to someone, have children. That’s the only solution I know to that one. But don’t practice your parenting techniques on your partner because they deserve better than that. If you know you have tendencies in this direction, turn it into a joke and ask your partner to let you know when you’re doing it without thinking, so you can stop yourself. Otherwise you’ll cause resentment at the least, and at worst you’ll seriously damage the relationship.
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