Who’s Your Daddy?

Parenting a SpouseSometimes this dynamic shows up in a marriage, and when it does, it almost always makes the marriage messier.

Don’t get me wrong. If your spouse acts this way, you probably like it on some level. It truly has its perks. A spouse that acts like a parent often . . .

  1. Takes care of you or even spoils you.
  2. Gives you guidance when you need it.
  3. Makes hard decisions for you.
  4. Does the dirty work for you.
  5. Rescues when you’ve blown it (especially financially).

Sometimes those extras are nice, but they can also allow for immaturity to continue or develop in the receiving spouse. At that point, it becomes an unhealthy, albeit occasionally pleasant, dynamic in the marriage.

Now for the unpleasant side: “parent-like” spouses often . . .

  1. Control your every move.
  2. Expect you to fail, so that he/she can step in.
  3. “Teach you a lesson” when you’ve gone astray.
  4. Talk down to you.
  5. Treat you as inferior.
  6. Smother you.
  7. Demand compliance.

 Sure, sometimes we all give our spouse a little “parent-tude.” But if it becomes a long-standing pattern in the relationship, it can threaten the very life of the marriage. After all, who wants to be married to their parent? All visions of romance go right down the toilet—that you’ve just thrown up in, that is!

If this is a pattern in your life, try to become more aware of the temptation to act this way. Make a point to treat your spouse as an equal, as an adult, rather than as a child. Also, realize that although you may not feel you are “smarter than” or “superior to” your spouse, that’s how this kind of behavior appears and is communicated.

If your spouse is the one who treats you as a child, then begin by looking at areas where you may not be demonstrating maturity. Perhaps you need to be more responsible in some area of your life and that may be all it takes to shift the balance of the relationship in the healthy direction.

However, if your spouse has a natural tendency to be controlling, you may need to calmly and respectfully discuss the issue with your spouse. To do this well (especially with a spouse who is hostile or extremely defensive), may require the help of a counselor or pastor. So consider meeting with someone who has objectivity and strong communication skills to help you formulate a response.

Is this something you can relate to?

 

Are you more often the “parent” or the “child” in the dynamic?

 

In what types of situations does it seem to show up most?

Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters
  • Becky Boerner

    This is something that I realized (through counseling) that was very personal to my relationship. When my husband and I met, we both came from broken homes. His brokenness was lacking in maternal, nurturing care and mine was being fatherless. We both filled a void in each others lives, which was great for a while just like you said. It had it’s perks but when the control freak(parent) came out, neither one of us were mature.
    The day I realized that my husband might be viewing me as his mother (GROSS), I began (and still am) working on changing the way I show him I love him and care for him. One area that this shows up is me doing EVERYTHING for him – waking him up every morning, fixing every single meal for him, plating his food, and the list goes on. All these are great things to do and I enjoy doing them but the problem was that he has become dependent on those actions. Just like I want our son to grow up and be able to do for himself, I also need to stop doing all for Chris. So, with this not being easy for me, I am working on letting Chris do some of these daily things for himself. I then use my energy to really love him by spending more time with him – shooting pool, playing games or snuggling on the couch. Every day is encouraging because this is one mess that is getting cleaned up! 🙂

  • Wow, Becky, you’ve really shared some important aspects of how this develops. Thanks so much!

    And I have to say, that Gary and I “both” do this parenting dynamic from time to time. And of course, Gary gets the worst of it all – “the counselor” treatment from time to time as well! Yikes! Boy, do I have some work to do!