While most couples strive to be equals, the desire to take care of your significant other is only natural. It just feels good. There is, however, a fine line between caring for your partner, and straight up babying them. If you suspect your romantic seesaw may be teetering too far in the parental direction, it’s time to step out of the sandbox. Here are six signs you act more like a parent than a partner.
1. You constantly nag
Nobody likes a nagger, especially if you are on the receiving end. But for a significant other who acts more like a child than a partner, nagging may be the only way to get through to them, or so you think. As luck would have it, communicating in a more constructive, adult manner is possible.
Instead: Communicate differently
When you realize communication is no longer on a mature, intimate level, it’s time to evaluate how you speak to one another. Rather than simply assigning a chore, MentalHelp.net suggests you “discuss a situation with your partner and ask your partner for suggestions and advice on how to handle the issue. Compromise and give the child partner ownership of the task at hand.” Changing your nagging ways may be easier than you think — you just have to give it a try.
2. Your arguments end at an impasse
Every couple has disagreements, but hopefully, you’re able to resolve them more times than not. If you don’t, you’ll both just end up full of resentment, anger, and frustration. Think back to how you fought, or still fight, with one or both of your parents. The arguments you had with them should look vastly different from those you have with your partner. After all, these people have very different roles in your life. When your arguments end at an impasse, like they often did during childhood, nothing will ever get resolved.
Instead: Argue with the intention of reaching a solution
Couples who argue like a parent and child probably won’t reach a viable solution. Your parent persona may bring temporary compliance, but won’t permanently change your partner’s ways.
“More often than not, the outcome of parent-child relating between adults is impasse,” Christine Meinecke, Ph.D., writes in Psychology Today. “You are at an impasse when you hear yourself saying to your partner, ‘How many times do we have to go through this same thing? When are you going to get the message?'” If this is your M.O. for arguments, you need to change your ways, and fast.
3. You clean up after your partner
The nagging hasn’t worked, and you’ve ended up at an impasse. What you’re left with is the feeling that you must pick up after your partner. But nobody should be following their significant other around, collecting crumbs and picking dirty clothes off the floor. Unless your partner is deathly sick or has an injury which prevents them from doing so on their own, there’s not a whole lot of explaining to do on this one.
Instead: Split chores evenly
When it comes to household chores, both parties should contribute equally. Not to mention, cleaning up after your partner won’t do you any favors in the long run. Forget the probability you’ll become wrought with frustration; doing so may stunt the healthy progression of your relationship as a whole. In fact, one study showed splitting chores equally makes for a happy relationship.
4. You’re in charge of everything
Some people are just control freaks. But if you’re in charge of absolutely everything because you have no faith in your partner, that’s an issue. It’s important both partners recognize the state of the relationship, and each needs to put in the work if they want it to change. If you’re hell-bent on leaving absolutely nothing up to your partner, you’re not doing them, nor your relationship, any favors.
Instead: Empower your partner to help make decisions
Hard as it might be, try to relinquish a little control. Instead of being a helicopter parent, give the passenger’s seat a whirl. Your partner needs someone who is right there alongside them, not someone who’s constantly navigating on their own. As Sara Hagmann mentions on FamilyShare, it’s important to remind yourself your partner is a fully capable, functional adult. Requiring nothing of your partner shows you simply don’t trust their abilities, and that’s a recipe for disaster.
5. You make excuses for your partner
Wanting to stand up for the one you love is only natural, but defending his or her ongoing bad behavior isn’t your responsibility. If your significant other is a repeat offender, it may be time to assess your current situation. What are you really looking for in a mate? We’d venture to guess it doesn’t involve behavior that consistently requires you to make excuses for bad decisions.
Instead: Encourage your partner to take responsibility
You want a partner who can own up to their actions, and someone you feel good about backing up. Living in a world of excuses, no matter what the situation, is no way to live. As an article published on TheTalko mentions, adults take responsibility for their actions. “When you find yourself shielding [your partner] from reality, you’re assuming the role of his [or her] mother when you should be more focused on being his [or her] partner instead,” Carissa Moore writes. You certainly don’t want your partner seeing you as their mother or father. Yikes.
6. You baby your partner
Treating your significant other as though they’re not enough — not smart enough, not capable enough, not responsible enough — is something no one wishes for. Unfortunately, such emotions can be the result of one partner babying the other. And when a person feels less than as a result of how their partner treats them, it can lead to a great sense of resentment and self-doubt.
Instead: Remind your partner, and yourself, of both your roles
Family dynamics can be quite tricky, but it’s important your significant other remains in the partner role where they belong. Even if you’re used to being a mom to someone else, your partner certainly doesn’t belong in the kid spot, nor should they feel comfortable in it. There’s no reason to baby your partner, so it’s time to either change your ways, or cut the cord for good.
As PopSugar puts it, “Your ‘parenting’ of your spouse may be due to anxiety or because you can’t trust this person, but either way, it needs to stop, and the sooner it does, the sooner things will change and for the better.” Taking a step back may end up saving your relationship, so long as you fix it in time.