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Parent-child communication

 Q:  I have told my husband over and over again that I’m tired of him telling me what and how to do things. I am a capable 35-year-old woman, but he treats me like an incompetent child. How do I get him to stop?

A:  By the way you have described your communication pattern with your husband it sounds like he often talks to you in a parent tone and style that typically triggers a response from the child part of you. That parent-child communication is a frequent trap for couples and can lead to major misunderstandings. The most automatic response to a parent-like criticism is a childlike “I don’t have to . . .” My suggestions for changing this particular communication pattern are as follows:

  1. Listen for parent-like tones and messages from your husband that sound like “you should” or “It would be best for you if,” etc. Start with being aware of when this communication is most likely to occur.

  2. Make a choice to not automatically respond with a childlike comeback. Instead, take a breath (to regain your composure) and respond as an objective adult might. An example would be: “I feel like I’m being spoken to as a child. Your intention may be to protect me, however I feel insulted, not supported when I hear that voice.”

  3. Talk with your husband and see if he also would like to improve the way you talk with each other. If so, you both might read one of several books outlining the parent-child, adult-child communication pattern. As basic book to start with is “I’m O.K, You’re O.K.” by Eric Berne.