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 . . .
- Takes care of you or even spoils you.
- Gives you guidance when you need it.
- Makes hard decisions for you.
- Does the dirty work for you.
- 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 . . .
- Control your every move.
- Expect you to fail, so that he/she can step in.
- “Teach you a lesson” when you’ve gone astray.
- Talk down to you.
- Treat you as inferior.
- Smother you.
- 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?