Do these complaints sound familiar? Do you feel like you are being treated like a child in your relationship?
There is a word for treating someone like a child – it’s called parenting!
Many couples have a parent-child dynamic happening in their relationship, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Having excessive rules and babying your partner can suck the fun – not to mention romance- out of your partner.
Nobody wants to feel like they have to boss their partner around. Similarly, no spouse likes being treated like a child in a relationship.
Not sure whether your relationship is suffering from a parent-child dynamic?
Keep reading to find out the signs of parenting behaviors in romantic relationships and tips on how to get back on the same playing field.
13 signs of parenting behaviors in a romantic relationship
Are you a parenting partner who can’t seem to stop babying your spouse?
As a mother or father, you’re used to keeping your kids on a schedule. You wake them up, make their meals, remind them of their school assignments, and drive them around. These are all responsible things you do to keep them on track.
But remember that you are not your spouse’s parent. And people usually do not appreciate being treated like a child in a relationship.
You love your partner, and you mean well when you help them out, but there are some behaviors that – while fine for your children – should never be done to your spouse without their permission.
Here are some behaviors that show your relationship has crossed a boundary:
You always feel like your partner is doing something wrong
You buy all of their clothes/dress them
You make them chore/to-do list
You keep track of their belongings
You keep track of their social events
You keep track of their spending
You give them an allowance
You’re always picking up after your partner
You dish up your spouse’s meals
You notice yourself frequently belittling your spouse
You constantly cater to your partner
You find yourself embarrassed of your spouse and frequently apologize for them
You fill out your spouse’s legal forms
Not all of these are inherently bad. Your spouse may appreciate that you serve them food or help them keep track of their business or social gatherings.
But when you parent your spouse so often that you start to believe they are helpless without you, you create an unhealthy thought process for both partners.
Your spouse may start to feel like they can’t do anything. Your constant reminders that they would be lost if you weren’t around may start to eat away at their self-esteem.
On your end, you may start inadvertently disrespecting your spouse or thinking less of them.
Why treating your partner like a child can destroy your romance
Being treated like a child in a relationship is not the sexiest feeling in the world. Here are just some of the reasons why treating your partner like a child will doom your relationship:
1. You are exhausted
When you are with your partner, you want to relax. You don’t want to be lectured about doing the dishes wrong, not getting up on time, or saying the wrong thing.
On the other hand, constantly nitpicking your spouse or worrying about them is exhausting. You don’t want to be a nag or a parent to your partner.
A spouse’s childish behavior is exhausting and can make you feel like you’re turning into someone you don’t like.
2. You feel disrespected
If you are the one being treated like a child, the constant lectures can sometimes feel degrading. You do not want to walk on eggshells around your partner.
If you are the parenting partner, you are likely to feel disrespected and may feel that your spouse doesn’t listen to you or respect you enough to help out and lighten your load.
3. It takes the romance out of your relationship
Nobody wants to be reminded of their parents while in the bedroom.
Being treated like a child in a relationship/viewing your partner as incapable of taking care of themselves is the least sexy thing you can bring into a relationship.
Don’t just say, “Don’t treat me like a child.” Instead, communicate how their actions make you feel. Use clear terms your spouse can understand and try to get them to see things from your point of view.
Understand that sometimes your behavior may come off as irresponsible. This is why you are being treated like a baby by your girlfriend or boyfriend.
If you act like a baby you’ll be treated like a baby! So, look for ways to be more responsible. Don’t rely on your spouse so much to cook meals and manage your life.
Take charge and show them they don’t have to parent you if you really wish to stop being treated like a child in a relationship.
Tips for the spouse who is parenting their partner
Showing concern for your spouse is a natural, loving part of any relationship. The same can be said for doing caring things for your partner like cooking them dinner and buying them clothes, but it’s important to recognize that some of your behavior can come off as controlling.
“I’m only trying to help them,” you might say. But controlling where your spouse goes, when they wake up, and what they wear are toxic habits that can harm your relationship.
Instead of seeking to control everything, give your partner a chance to show responsibility for themselves. Otherwise a time will come when they will detest being treated like a child in a relationship.
If you are the one parenting your spouse, you also need to communicate your thoughts and feelings. You can’t just say, “if you act like a baby, you’ll be treated like a baby,” and expect your spouse not to be offended.
Here are some things you can do to stop treating your lover like your child:
Acknowledge your spouse does not like or does not want to be treated like a baby.
Explain why you feel frustrated by their lack of drive.
Reassure them that you don’t want to parent them.
Do not use parental tones with your spouse. Speak to them with respect.
Create a family calendar that clearly marks everyone’s responsibilities in the household.
Be mindful of moments when you treat your partner as less than your equal.
Apologize when you are in the wrong.
Speak with your partner about issues that come up. For example, if you feel you are picking up after them all the time or that they are not taking their work responsibilities seriously.
Don’t criticize or correct your partner for doing something just because they didn’t complete a task the way you would do it
Practice letting things go. When something bothers you, ask yourself: “Is this really worth getting in an argument or lecturing my partner over?” or “Will this still matter to me tomorrow morning?” Learning to let go of the little things will bring peace back into your relationship.
If your partner makes a mistake, don’t rush to clean up their mess. Let them face the consequences of their actions.
Counseling is an excellent option for couples who want to get to the bottom of their issues.
Whether you are being treated like a child in a relationship or you are not able to help being a parent, counseling can help in either cases. A therapist can help couples figure out what is driving them to act the way they do.
A counselor may teach various communication methods to help partners express themselves in new and helpful ways.
Acknowledge when it’s time to end things
You can’t keep living your life as a parent, nor can you be happy if you’re always thinking, “my boyfriend treats me like a child!”
If you have tried the above tips and your relationship still hasn’t recovered, it may be time to say goodbye and look for someone who isn’t going to control you – or make you feel like you have to be a parent 24/7.
Treating adults like babies can put a damper on your relationship, as can acting like a child in a relationship.
Signs of unhealthy parenting behaviors include keeping track of your spouse’s spending, constantly lecturing your partner, and feeling the need to compensate for your spouse’s irresponsibility. Be wary of these signs!
Being treated like a child in a relationship can drain the magic from your bond.
So, break the parent-child dynamic in your relationship by bringing romance back into your lives, communicating openly about your feelings, and seeking counseling. Good luck!
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.