Psychology and Relationships

Raising your partner is a relationship 'red flag': Here are 3 signs you might be doing it and how to stop

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You've seen the meme: The words "I can fix him" accompanied by a picture of an infamous serial killer or unhinged super-villain. 

If the sentiment rings uncomfortably true for you, it might mean you are attempting to 'raise' your partner. 

Raising your partner refers to when you feel like someone hasn't fully matured and you are the person to help them get to where they "need" to be, regardless of what they want.

It can be about small things, like when to get to the airport, or big ones like how to budget for a house.

And generally, it's not a good dynamic, says Lisa Bobby, psychologist and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling & Coaching in Denver, Colorado.

"I think that in itself can be a bit of a red flag in a relationship," she says. "Not because a partner needs to be raised, but because they are with someone who thinks that they do. I think that is just yucky." 

Here are signs you are raising your partner, and how to stop.

3 signs you're raising your partner 

1. You think they should operate differently 

"If you feel like your partner's current way of being is not good enough," this indicates you're trying to change them in inappropriate ways, Bobby says. 

You will probably also have lots of opinions about how they make decisions and what they can be doing differently to be more "effective in the word," she says.

"If you are constantly feeling frustrated with your partner and wanting them to do things differently, communicate differently, manage their time or energy differently, and you are attempting to guide or teach or control or improve them, those are signs that you are trying to raise your partner," she says. 

2. You think your partner wouldn't be able to function without you

Along with not liking how they accomplish a task, you might also believe your partner can't accomplish tasks without you.

This is a sign of an unbalanced power dynamic. 

"It's kind of like the on-ramp for codependent relationships," Bobby says. It will cause you to be over-controlling and them to perhaps start relying on that control.

3. You don't feel 'safe' unless they do things your way

Having separate lives and friends is normal in a healthy relationship, Bobby says.

If you're unable to accept that your partner makes friends in a different way than you or makes their decisions in a different way than you do, you are likely asserting too much control. 

"If you need your partner to be doing certain things in certain ways in order for you to feel safe and happy, that is a sign of overdependence," she says.

If you need your partner to be doing certain things in certain ways in order for you to feel safe and happy, that is a sign of overdependence.
Lisa Bobby

2 ways to help let go of the desire to raise your partner

To some, raising a partner is second-nature. They might even conflate it with compassion and care.

"Perhaps you were put in the position of having to protect or care for other people in your family and so this kind of dynamic feels very natural for you," Bobby says. 

Still, it's not healthy. If you want to stop raising your partner there are a few steps you can take.

1. Allow your partner to be who they are

Try going a few days without advising them.

"Allow your partner to be who and what they are, and if that is not tolerable or comfortable for you, that is an indication that this relationship may not be good for either of you," she says. 

2. Ask yourself these questions

If relinquishing control gives you anxiety, that's an important feeling to listen to and reflect on.

Ask yourself some questions: 

  • Why do I want to do this? 
  • How did I get into this situation? 
  • Why am I with a person who I don't feel is an actualized human? 
  • Why do I feel like the only person who knows the right way to be? 

"Have some personal reflection with some humility," she says. "Just imagine what it feels like to be in a relationship with somebody who thinks that it would be better for you to improve in the ways that they determine." 

By thinking about how you got here, you can let go of the desire to "fix" your partner.

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