It’s necessary for a young child to need excessive levels of control, guidance, and correction from a parental figure. While a child is in great need of these characteristics, to one’s spouse, these tendencies are experienced as condescending, inflexible, controlling, and rigid. The spouse on the receiving end builds up walls of resentment and eventually will see their partner more as a boss to listen to, tolerate, or appease rather than a relationship where both parties can share openly and honestly.
The ‘Parent’ role occurs from four primary sources: 1) Family of origin; 2) Adjusting to children; 3) Sin; 4) Work
Family Of Origin
Never underestimate the power of your upbringing and the potential to repeat unhealthy parts of communication by your parents. For example, daughters of a critical mother will often be critical towards their husbands; likewise, sons of a distant father will often repeat this pattern towards his wife. For healthy marital communication, you must have an honest awareness of places your parents were domineering, critical, control freaks, opinionated, etc., and ask yourself if, even subconsciously, you might be repeating those tendencies in your marriage (*this awareness doesn’t mean you had bad parents; many great parents struggle with marital communication).
Adjusting To Children
Raising children can turn the most laid back person in the world into a stressed out, paranoid control freak. Who knew a home was a minefield of danger for a crawling baby…everything from accessibility of steak knives and power sockets to securing cleaning supplies and access to pet food entails daily monitoring. Throw in all the potential food allergies, keeping up with immunization records, and finding every item on the school supply list, and it’s easy to see why parents become obsessive about everything. While this is necessary to raise children, it’s devastating to communicate with your spouse out of this mindset. For healthy communication, realize that talking to your spouse is very different from talking to your toddler and sometimes it takes intentionally switching out of “parent mode” and into married mode.
The strongest believers I’ve ever known all had an awareness of the power of sin. The apostle Paul, one of the most important figures in the history of Christianity, spends multiple chapters in the book of Romans talking about the power of sin and his own struggles and inner demons. Throughout the New Testament, the human struggle with spiritual forces, realms of darkness and light, are displayed from multiple writers.
While it’s true that grace frees us from the “to do list” of the law and moves people from rules into relationship, the Bible is still very clear that holy virtues and behaviors are expected of believers. You may love Jesus and love your spouse, but the sinful nature full of pride, envy, and jealously can create a stone cold stubbornness that makes communication impossible.
Are you right about everything and is your spouse always wrong? Are you the boss? Is it your way or the highway? If so, pray about the possibility that the power of sin is influencing the communication in your marriage in a negative way.
Virtually all jobs require tremendous levels of specialty, expertise, and performance expectations. Teachers face tremendous accrediting pressures, law enforcement has never been more dangerous, and lawsuits abound for all types of job related issues. Thus, to be effective, vocations often demand employees to be controlling, precise, and perhaps even fearful and untrusting.
For example, a doctor must perform surgery with incredible levels of precision, teachers must maintain control of classrooms with 30 students, police officers have to assume even a routine traffic stop could become dangerous, and various types of counselors are paid to help people find solutions to their problems. Often, skills that make for excellent employees can make for difficult spouses. Your spouse is not the surgery lab, 3 rd grade classroom, lawbreaker, piece of equipment, or counselee.
Separating your work skills from your marriage, along with being aware of your family origin, the power of sin, and responsibilities of raising children can help you avoid many of the detrimental “Parent” patters of communication.