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Partner or Parent?

Do you feel like you’re living with your parent instead of your spouse? Does it seem like it’s never right or good enough? Well, you’re not alone. Many of the couples I work with live in a parent-child marriage. This and the next two blogs will cover the three possible marital roles (parent, child, and adult) and offer insights about their impacts on the relationship. Although we can all be parent-like or child-like at times and often switch positions, consider which position you find yourself in the majority of the time. As you read these blogs, write down the percentage of time you spend in all three positions. Firstly, some spouses take on the parent position. This is where one partner wants to fix, change, control, and manage the child (the other partner). Therefore they can be nagging, micromanaging, belittling, emasculating, domineering, critical, and condescending. They tell the other person what to think, feel, and how to behave. For some, the parent role provides a sense of control and gives them purpose or meaning. Others feel compelled to rescue and caretake their partner because they themselves didn’t receive this as a child. Or maybe they learned that being loved is tied to fixing others. Most people who assume the parent position are well-intentioned in their efforts, but their partner doesn’t always respond favorably. Anger,resentment, fear, shame, and hurt are common emotional reactions which result in either detachment or lashing out. Being the parent in a marriage can also produce feelings of inadequacy and insecurity in your spouse. Obviously, it doesn’t work to be the parent in a marriage. Next week we’ll discuss the child position.

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