Women referring to their husbands as another child is an unhealthy dynamic in a marriage relationship, according to Christine Meinecke of Psychology Today.
“Even though the appropriate model for relating to a romantic partner is adult-to-adult, most of us, when frustrated, resort to parent-to-child relating,” Meinecke wrote.
Reddit user “Fran” (pseudonym) realized she was treating her husband like a child after what she called her “hamburger meat moment.” The post, which got hundreds of responses, described Fran’s reaction to her husband’s efforts at grocery shopping:
“I started pulling things out of the bag, and realized he’d gotten the 70/30 hamburger meat — which means it’s 70 percent lean and 30 percent fat.
“I asked, ‘What’s this?’
“‘Hamburger meat,’ he replied, slightly confused.
“‘You didn’t get the right kind,’ I said ‘You got the 70/30. I always get at least the 80/20.’
“He laughed. ‘Oh. That’s all? I thought I’d really messed up or something.’ ”
Fran followed this exchange with a long tirade filled with “righteous indignation” about her husband’s lack of caring, inattention, inability to read labels and lack of knowledge about of all things, hamburger meat.
In the end, Fran’s husband looked like a scolded child, and Fran realized she’d made a mistake. “The bottom line in all this is that I chose this man as my partner. He’s not my servant. He’s not my employee. He’s not my child,” she wrote.
After an exchange at a party where he met a woman who referred to her husband as her “third child,” fatherhood blogger Frederick J. Goodall wrote: “Most men have a deep desire to feel respected. If you ask a group of men if they’d rather be respected or liked, the majority of them would say respected. When one spouse treats the other as a child, the relationship becomes unbalanced.”
Respect goes both ways, Goodall added. “Respect is something given freely and is based on love and honor. My wife encourages me and lets me know how much she appreciates the things I do for our family and I do the same for her.”
Blogger Selena Mills wrote that treating her husband like a child was “the one thing I stopped doing to improve my marriage,” but that it was “easier said than done.”
“Oh, it’s hard. So hard to bite my tongue with (not so) subtle reminders like, ‘fold all the laundry together in individual little piles, it’ll be so much easier to put away!’ Or, ‘please remember to sort the laundry!’ ” Mills wrote.
Much of the time, what motivates wives to scold their husbands is the husband’s perceived (or actual) incompetence with household chores or child care. Women spend an average of three hours a week redoing chores previously done by their husbands or partners, according to a Huffington Post report of a British study.
If quality of housework or child care is a real issue and not just a difference of opinion, that problem should be discussed as part of an adult-adult, not a parent-child, type of exchange, according to Meinecke.
“Take the opportunity to interrupt this pattern by changing the way you respond,” Meinecke wrote. “By responding constructively, you also offer your spouse a new option. With practice, any couple can transition from parent-child relating to adult-adult relating.”