In a typical relationship, dealing with many tiny relationship issues is inevitable. You ignore many minor problems, while others affect you or the relationship. One of these little but vital issues is gatekeeping. What is gatekeeping in relationships, and how does it affect your partnership or friendship?
What is gatekeeping in relationships?
What is gatekeeping in relationships? Gatekeeping happens when you ask your partner to carry out a task and supervise them intensely and thoroughly, revealing they can’t execute it to your standard. For a better understanding of gatekeeping meaning, try to picture a perfectionist.
Understanding gatekeeping as a communication theory can help you better understand gatekeeping in relationships. Read more about it here. Living with a perfectionist is similar to building a relationship with a gatekeeper. A perfectionist wants a chore or task done with little or no mistake. That often causes delays in executing tasks, but they don’t care.
Similarly, if things aren’t done the way a gatekeeper wants them, it matters less if most people do it the same way. For them, it’s not right, and they will do anything to make you question yourself. That brings us to how gatekeeping and gaslighting work.
What does it mean to gatekeep someone?
Gatekeeping means putting up fences around ourselves to dissuade other people from getting in whenever they want. So if we open this gate, we welcome another person into our personal space and show that we want them there.
Most of us have a particular way of doing things in real life. You may prefer washing the dishes immediately while your partner loves to rest a bit before washing them. Also, some people like to pile up clothes to a degree before washing them, but others wash them as soon as their clothes get dirty. These actions are normal, and they make us unique.
Whichever preference you have in life, you may want to put up a gate around it. You don’t want another person to leave your plates overnight when you usually wash them immediately. Knowing others won’t arrange your room in a specific way, you put up a gate by not allowing them.
Many people can’t help but put up their act of gatekeeping while in a relationship. We all know it’s good to help each other in a relationship. However, what happens when we notice our partner doing something different from our usual way?
We put up defenses and start correcting them or taking over the task when we can’t stomach their actions anymore. In these moments, you are the gatekeeper in the relationship.
Typically, gatekeeping and gaslighting work together. If a gatekeeper in a relationship doesn’t get what they want in a relationship, they begin to gaslight their spouse. In other words, a gatekeeper blames or manipulates their partner such that the person starts to doubt their ability, skills, memory, and perception. It leaves them confused and overwhelmed.
Gatekeeping while in a relationship is stressful and time-consuming. First, you ridicule your partner’s effort, who is only trying to help out, and you don’t get what you want or are not satisfied. Eventually, it’s a lose-lose situation that leaves everyone bitter.
As seemingly non-essential as it may seem, building a relationship with a gatekeeper can mess things up. It can affect your self-esteem and confidence. You start being extra conscious and careful around your love interest.
This isn’t the way to leave if you intend to build a healthy relationship. So, is gatekeeping toxic? Let’s check some examples of gatekeeping.
Examples of gatekeeping
To have a deep understanding of the meaning of gatekeeping or to get the answer to the question, what is gatekeeping in relationships, seeing some examples of gatekeeping might provide you with some perception.
Imagine this situation: You ask your partner to help you dress up the kids while you take your bath. When your partner dresses up the kids shabbily, you get mad.
On another occasion, you begged your partner to wash the dishes, but you kept hovering around them, directing them and telling them to place the dishes properly on the rack or clean up again after doing it in their way. These are just a few of the examples of gatekeeping in a relationship.
In essence, when you aren’t satisfied with the manner your partner chooses to carry out a task and police them till they feel they can’t do it up to your standard.
Is gatekeeping negatively affecting your relationship?
Is gatekeeping toxic? Yes! Gatekeeping can hurt you, your partner, and the relationship in ways you can never imagine. When your spouse tries to help you out with some domestic duties, but you reprimand, scold and correct them, you make them feel bad.
Gatekeeping while in a relationship can be frustrating for both of you. Your partner begins to be careful and wary of helping you in the future, while you feel frustrated having to redo the task or take on more tasks all by yourself. In short, gatekeeping in a relationship is demoralizing for the partners involved.
Meanwhile, it’s understandable that you can’t help it. It may be a personality you are used to and can’t get away from. Sometimes you have to overlook some things, considering your partner has a different background and up to ring from you. While we can all be a little controlling sometimes, it is vital to draw the line in relationships and marriage.
Understand that no one is perfect. Your partner may have challenges making the bed ‘perfectly’ or messing up the kitchen after use. It doesn’t matter, but their intention in making things right. These things don’t have to disrupt the peace and happiness in your relationship. In the absence of gatekeeping being in a relationship, your kitchen and bed will be fine.
This research further highlights the effects of gatekeeping in personal relationships.
What are the factors that influence gatekeeping?
Many people are concerned with knowing the answer to the question, what is gatekeeping in a relationship? However, understanding the factors that influence gatekeeping might help you understand how to solve it and make your relationship healthy in the long haul. The following factors encourage gatekeeping in a relationship:
Your background and upbringing have a significant effect on how you treat others. In some homes, it is a practice to observe dinner together in the same place. For others, it’s ok to eat your meal anywhere in the house or eat outside. These are different practices, but it doesn’t mean one is better than the others.
These different ways explain how life doesn’t have to be black and white. As you get used to these habits and routines, any other thing becomes strange to you. It’s challenging to change suddenly or accept others’ unique behavior because you have only known one way all your life.
Wisdom is best applied when you understand that they are different, which doesn’t make their actions offensive. Forcing your ideologies on them or gaslighting them when they don’t act the way you want causes gatekeeping while in a relationship.
2. The need to be a perfectionist
Another factor that propels gatekeeping in a relationship is being a perfectionist. Building a relationship with a gatekeeper is similar to dealing with a perfectionist who likes to control a situation or criticize themselves or others when things don’t work out as planned.
A gatekeeper usually thinks their way is the only right way, so anything different is a sign of flaw. They fixate on all imperfections (according to their standards). They strive for flawlessness by rebuking and correcting their partner or taking charge in frustration.
However, most gatekeepers don’t know that they act according to their perspective. Seeing from another angle or another person’s perspective helps us see a situation in a new light.
3. Unhealthy communication pattern
If you find your spouse not doing a task as you expected, it’s normal to correct them. However, your approach matters a lot. The best way to make your spouse understand something is to employ effective communication.
Effective communication is the process of relaying your thoughts, information, or ideas so that the purpose is achieved. If you want your partner to carry out a task in a specific way, you can do it politely without sounding condescending.
Gatekeeping and gaslighting, on the other hand, are ineffective communication methods. You can’t lash out at your partner and expect them to act accordingly. When you make it a habit to make demands of your partner with criticism constantly, they will fight back or withdraw.
Before you know it, one partner begins to avoid house chores or be careful around the other. As a result, this creates gaps for unhealthy and toxic relationships. Instead, you should calmly converse about the issue in an attempt to solve it.
Lack of gratitude is often one of the driving forces of gatekeeping being in a relationship. If your first thought when you see your partner helping out is, “Oh! That’s nice.” You won’t have time to nitpick or find fault with their actions.
Having a mind of gratitude makes your partner want to do more and satisfy you better. It might encourage them to do things your way without being forced to do it. When you make your spouse feel appreciated for the small actions, they put more effort.
What is gatekeeping in relationships? It simply means expecting your partner to help you with chores, but you end up supervising their actions and the task so they can’t do it to your standard.
We all, at some point, are gatekeepers to mark our territory, but it can hurt your relationship or marriage. It demoralizes your partner and makes them question their abilities. It is best to keep it under check and practice effective communication, gratitude, and understanding to build a healthy relationship.
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.