When we are in a long term relationship, we automatically fall into a pattern of behaviour where, under the pretext of ‘taking care’ of our partner, we unconsciously start moulding them into how we think they should be. But somewhere along the line we forget that we are not supposed to ‘fix’ them; we liked them for who they were when we met them. Yes, as a couple living together you might find that there are certain aspects that need adjustment, but that requires a collaborative partnership, not an ‘I’m right and you need to listen to me’ attitude! This tendency has been observed more in women but men too are not too far behind. Do you think you might be unconsciously ‘fixing’ or ‘parenting’ your partner?
- ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ are being used lots! Think back on your general day-to-day conversations with your partner. Do most of your statements sound like “you should have…” “you shouldn’t have…” “you know, you ought to…”? Then Houston, we have a problem! Now take a minute to reflect on the initial phase of your courtship days. Did you really have a problem with so many of their ways? Didn’t you find happiness in just discovering who they were, bit by bit, and you probably found half of all that adorable! So when did it turn into a problem? And think about it, is a toothpaste tube squeezed down the middle really that big an issue?
- Physical corrections. It’s one thing to straighten out his tie or collar once in a while when you’re leaving home to go out, but it’s a completely different level to reach out with a tissue every time he gets ketchup on his chin or his shirt…in public! It’s NOT your job to make sure he looks presentable; he’s an adult and we’re pretty sure he knows when there’s something dribbling down his chin. lnstead, if you must, discreetly signal to him when no one is looking, that’s more than enough!
- Taking over choices. All of us like to buy clothes and accessories for our partners and that’s one way to show them we care. That’s wonderful! But somewhere along the line if you’ve started dictating your partner’s choices in what they wear and how they dress, then you’ve most likely gone into ‘fixing’ mode. There’s actually a very fine line to distinguish this. If you say “Oh hey that looks nice…and did you try the other colour too?”, that’s just fine but if you find yourself saying “Please don’t tell me you’re planning to wear that; why don’t you let me pick out your outfit?” then you’ve definitely crossed the line.
- Turning therapist. Everyone has a past, everyone has baggage. But not everything needs to be mended. Some pains you just learn to live with. If there’s something that has hurt your partner in the past and pinches them emotionally now and then, then it’s not your job to turn their personal therapist and dig it all out. Yes, be there for them, hold their hand, support them and ask them “what do you need from me?”. But don’t start assuming that what you want is what they want and that they want to be ‘fixed’ in the way you deem fit!
- Project spouse. If lately you’ve caught yourself comparing your partner to your friends’ partners and subtly hinting that they should be ‘more like them’ or, on the flip side, saying stuff like “your friends’ spouses do so and so and you’re becoming more and more like them, I don’t like it”, then yes, you’re again on mend mode. You married your partner for who they were, then why would you want them to be like someone else? Or, why would you see someone else’s spouse issues and juxtapose them on your own relationship? If there are indeed things that are bothering you about your own relationship, first, make sure that they are indeed your own and not second-hand perception. Sometimes our own insecurities about our relationship make us find morbid comfort in other people’s problems. But the way out is to communicate it to your partner not to push them to be the “ideal” picture in your mind.
There’s nothing wrong in wanting your partner to be the best version of them, that’s what love brings out. But all you need to keep in check is whether their ‘best’ avatar is their version or yours. All we’d say is don’t fix what’s not broken!! Have a happy relationship!