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Married to a Child-like Spouse

Photo by Blake Meyer on Unsplash

What’s it like having a child-like spouse? Why would a person want to assume the child position in a marriage? Everyone who identified with the parent position from last week’s blog, probably can relate to their spouse being child-like. This is how they justify being the parent, although it’s not the best position. Children require a lot of time, attention, and energy which is true for child-like spouses too. In some cases, the child-spouse never grew up since in childhood they had limited responsibility or were used to always getting their way. In many situations, the “child” has not matured emotionally even though intellectually they are very capable. In my practice, I often work with adult patients who are emotionally underdeveloped and intellectually overdeveloped. In general, people stick with their strengths and avoid their weaknesses, so emotional expression, awareness, and sensitivity are not strong suits for the child. The child can be defiant, defensive, rebellious, whiny, avoidant, and passive-aggressive. Their response can vary from throwing a temper tantrum to the silent treatment. Fear of conflict, confrontation, failure, rejection, and abandonment may all contribute to the child’s response. The problem with the child position, similar to the parent position, is that closure and resolution doesn’t occur and the problems linger. Both the child and the parent positions are attempts to gain control. The child seeks control using different mechanisms, but it’s still control. If you haven’t already figured this out, a parent-spouse is often married to a child-spouse since it seems to be a good fit, albeit dysfunctional. Remember that although we all can be the parent or child at times and can swap from one position to the other, the conflict occurs when we assume one of these positions the majority of the time. Next week I will discuss the healthy adult position and ways for both partners to engage as adults eighty percent of the time.

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