Dimension Number Six – Parenting the Child in your Partner
We are not only the age we are now but all the ages we’ve ever been. Memories are simply ways of going back in time and feeling as we did then.
As a result, there are times when you will symbolically be seen as a parent by your intimate partner. This dimension of a relationship can be the most difficult for many couples to navigate.
Your current relationship interactions may spark conscious or unconscious reactions from experiences you’ve had in childhood.
It is virtually impossible not to have those early memories affect the way we respond to the words, phrases, facial expressions, voice intonations, and touch from the partner we share our lives within the present.
Would you want to raise a child similar to your current intimate partner? Given what you know about him or her now, would you have treated that child differently? What would you value or resent in his or her personality?
How would you make that child feel beloved but also behave in ways that you felt were beneficial and successful to both of you?
1) Do you feel that your partner’s qualities would be likable to you if he or she were your own child? ____
2) Would you feel compassion for his or her struggles? ____
3) Would you want to change his or her behaviors or personality?____
4) Would he or she feel glad to have you as a parent?____
5) Would you feel competent to do a good job raising him or her? ____
What is your total score? ____
Dimension Number Seven – Would the child in you want your partner as a parent?
This question is the complement to the one above, seen from the other side of the equation. Your partner will often symbolically parent you as he or she was parented as a child.
Looking at your partner’s parenting, you can see how that style of raising a child evolved and how it affected your partner’s behavior with you.
Responses to parental behaviors can run the gamut from satisfyingly pleasurable to deeply offensive. Those responses tend to increase with time.
What may have begun as tolerant and supportive responses can morph into more critical statements like, “You’re starting to drink too much, just like your father,” or “Your mother is incredibly cheap. Don’t pull that on me.”
If you are beginning to feel “parented” in a way that exudes resentment, hurt, or detachment, you must tell your partner how you’re feeling and why.
On the other hand, you may love the way your partner cradles you when you’re hurting or soothes you when you’re down.
It is crucial that “parental” behaviors do not re-wound you the way they did when you were small. If partners can identify them, they can replace their responses with those that help childhood sorrows heal.
1) When you need a symbolic parental caring, does your partner provide that for you in a helpful way? ____
2) When you feel childlike, vulnerable, and needing of comfort, do you feel your partner can give that to you? ____
3) Can your partner put aside his or her needs and be there for you when you ask? ____
4) Can your partner differentiate between symbolically parenting you in a good way as opposed to making you feel worse? ____
5) Would you have wished your partner had been your parent? ____
What is your total score? ____
Your answers to these questions may change markedly over time and with each stage of your relationship, but if you check them out on a regular basis, you can see where you’ve been, where you might be going as a partnership, and any changes you may wish to make.
Written By Randi Gunther Ph.D
Printed with Permission
Whenever you have trouble dealing with your relationship issues, come back to this happy relationship quiz with your partner. If your scores match or almost match, then celebrate, and if they don’t, then make it a point to work on your relationship issues as a team, and you will be able to resolve everything in the blink of an eye. This happy relationship quiz is truly a game-changer!