Your Girlfriend Doesn’t Want to “Soft Parent” You
I know your TikTok feed is very different than mine.
The algorithm has decided that I want to watch Taylor Swift singing songs that are most definitely probably about her ex in the pouring rain in New Jersey. And it’s right!
You get Michael Block fan edits.
I’m fed a surprising amount of teacher OOTD’s for someone who doesn’t dress with children’s sticky hands in mind.
You—I’m guessing here—are served hot girls doing vaguely aesthetic things in skimpier outfits than what the teachers are showing up to school in.
And that’s all fine. To each man, woman, and child over thirteen their own FYP!
But I want to draw your attention, my dear millennial-ish male reader, to a video trend I’m seeing and bet you’re not.
Because it’s worth seeking out on your next scroll sesh:
Women opining on the good, the bad, and the ugly in dating.
In this case, the trend of “soft parenting” in relationships.
The concept of soft parenting comes from the Montessori technique also known as “gentle parenting.”
It focuses on offering guidance and support to children while also clearly defining boundaries for them.
On TikTok, women use it to describe a dynamic where the woman takes on a caretaking role in a relationship, guiding and nurturing her partner through his emotional and personal challenges.
If it’s not clear, when a woman is comparing your relationship to that of a parent raising a child, things aren’t going great.
The trend me think of this SNL sketch that spoofed a trending Netflix reality show imported from Japan, about small children who are sent on grown-up tasks:
I get why men may not see #RelationshipTok from the female perspective on the platform. Getting hit with this kind of real talk could scare you off the app, and TikTok wants you to keep scrolling!
But I think it’s important for men to see that women are looking for partners who cultivate emotional maturity and share in emotional labor, and that you can be that partner!
So, here’s how to avoid the need for soft parenting in your relationship:
Embrace emotional awareness
A woman wants to be with a man who’s already done the work of untangling his feelings, not one who needs her to pull the thread for him.
Developing emotional intelligence helps you bring your best self to a relationship.
As uncomfortable as it may be, make time to reflect on your own thoughts and feelings.
Understand where your emotions come from (spoiler: your dad), and learn healthy ways to express and manage them.
Cultivating a better understanding of your emotions empowers you to navigate relationship challenges and connect with your partner on a deeper level.
The goal is to be able to make conscious choices in your relationship that are aligned with you and your partner’s shared desires and values.
Build your communication muscles
Building strong communication skills means your partner isn’t doing all the work of staying connected as a couple.
Effective communication strengthens your relationship foundation and minimizes the need for soft parenting-type guidance from one party.
So, express your thoughts and emotions clearly, and encourage your partner to do the same.
And practice active listening!
Put down your phone when she’s telling you about what Linda in HR said about changing her health insurance at the next enrollment date. Reflect back to her what you’re hearing (“It sounds like you were really frustrated when that happened.”) Look her in the eye. Hold her hand.
It’s not rocket science, but it might not come automatically, so consciously commit to making a habit of good comminication.
Take responsibility for personal growth
When it comes to being a boyfriend or husband who doesn’t need gentle parenting from his partner, you’ve gotta put in the work.
That means: proactively invest in your own self-improvement.
Identify areas of your life that require attention and work on them independently from your partner.
Whether it’s personal goals, career development, or even tackling a new skill or hobby, taking responsibility for your own growth demonstrates maturity and self-reliance.
That doesn’t mean you can’t lean on your partner. You can and should look to her for support!
But she’s a sounding board, not a secretary.
She shouldn’t be signing you up for art lessons and ordering an easel off Amazon, or crafting an email to your boss angling for a raise.
Create a personal support network beyond your partner
Your wife or girlfriend can’t be your one-stop support shop, and you shouldn’t want her to be!
That’s too much to put on one person’s shoulders. And it’s a surefire way to quckly suck the romance out of a relationship.
So, surround yourself with friends, mentors, and yes, a therapist or coach who can offer the guidance and support you may currently be only looking to your partner to provide.
Cultivating a diverse support system beyond your romantic relationship helps you to navigate the messiness of life with more balance.