7 "Helpful" Things You're Doing That Actually Make You Too Much Of A Parent To Your Partner
In general, it always feels good to do something nice for your partner, especially if they're the type who feels love through acts of service. But just be mindful that the things you're doing to be helpful are actually helpful. Because according to experts, sometimes the things you're doing can make you seem more like a parent than a partner.
If you're guilty of sometimes "babying" your partner, don't worry. You're not alone. As Jenna Birch, CEO of Plum dating app and author of The Love Gap, tells Bustle, "Women have always been put in the 'nurturer' position in relationships, for better or worse. Oftentimes, it’s about getting stuck in a gendered role."
Babying a partner or playing the role of their parent, means doing everything for them. While it may seem helpful to do simple tasks for them like making their lunch, Birch says it can come off as though they aren't capable of doing things on their own. Over time, this can lead to resentment for both parties. One partner may feel like the other thinks they're incapable of doing things, while the other feels like they're not being treated like an equal.
It's not always easy to tell when you're doing too much, especially if you're just trying to be nice. So here are some helpful things you may be doing that actually make you more of a parent to your partner, according to experts.
1. Doing All The Chores
To be fair, some people really enjoy cleaning. That's completely fine. If you've established that early on in the relationship, licensed marriage and family therapist, Heidi McBain, MA, tells Bustle, that's OK. However, just be aware of what you're setting yourself up for. "If you like a clean house and you’re constantly cleaning up after your partner even before they can get to these chores themselves, then you are setting these roles in your relationship from the start," she says. It will be hard to break out of this dynamic later on when you decide that you want things to be more equal.
2. Telling Your Partner How To Do Certain Things
"Not necessarily telling your partner what to do, but telling them how to do it is a sign of babying," Birch says. For instance, if they're trying to do something nice like make dinner and you come over and say, "You should add this instead," that can come off as parenting them. Offering your suggestions is fine. But sometimes, it's OK to sit back and just let your partner do their thing. If they need help, they will ask for it.
3. Doing Little Tasks For Them
Being a parent to your partner means doing things for them that they could have done on their own, Birch says. That includes cleaning up their messes, doing their own laundry, or scheduling their doctors' appointments. It's helpful to schedule an appointment for them if they've told you they've wanted to, but they've been busy and haven't had the time to do it. It's slightly overbearing if you just schedule something without them knowing because you think it's good for them.
4. Checking In With Them During Work Hours Every Single Day
There's nothing wrong with checking in with your partner to see how they're doing. But if you're checking in with them all the time, it can come off as controlling. According to Birch, being helpful is all about being subtle. When you're trying to get in contact with them to see how they're doing and what they need all the time, it throws the balance of your partnership way off.
5. Working Out Solutions To Every One Of Their Problems
Being truly helpful to your partner is very different from acting like a parent to them. According to Birch, being helpful should come from a place of need that's not a "permanent condition" of the relationship. For instance, maybe your partner has deadlines to meet, so they're working overtime and they barely have time to eat dinner. In this case, it can be nice and helpful to make dinner for them and bring it to their office one night. "Being helpful should come when your partner is low on time or resources that moment," she says. They shouldn't just assume you're down to bring them dinner every single time they're working late.
6. Talking To Someone For Them
You should always have your partner's back no matter what. But if they're having issues with one of their friends, their co-workers, or even your parents, they should be the one to work out a solution, not you. "Don’t take on a role you’re not comfortable with," Birch says. While it may seem helpful to put in a good word for your partner to someone they're in conflict with, you shouldn't get involved in something that doesn't involve you. Even if your partner asks, they're an adult. They should have the proper communication skills to fight their own battles and smooth things out on their own.
7. Reminding Them About Things They Need To Get Done
If your partner is the forgetful type, it's nice to give them little reminders to help them out. For instance, reminding them that their sister's birthday party is on Saturday or that they have an early meeting scheduled on Tuesday, is totally fine. As McBain says, you can remind your partner of things in order to be helpful to potentially make their life a little easier. But when it comes to reminding them about tasks like taking out the trash or washing the dishes right after they eat, sometimes being "helpful" can come off as nagging. "At some point you have to let the less important things go, or else you end up in the dreaded 'nagging parent' role," she says.
The problem with babying your partner is it creates the expectation that you're going to do it all the time. Maybe that's OK with you for now. But five or even ten years from now playing the "parent" role can cause resentment.
So if you have a habit of babying your partner, Birch suggests tapping in to your internal filter. "Start passing tasks under the 'could they do this themself right now?' category," she says. For instance, can they do their own laundry today? Yes? OK, cool. So let them do it.
"In many modern partnerships, you both do your fair share of labor — emotional, professional, and otherwise," Birch says. "If you set up the dynamic very early on that you’ll be adopting more work than feels balanced, it’s hard to break out of that."
Remember, you're their partner, not their parent. So as much as you can, try not to put yourself in that role. Your relationship will be much better for it.