Nita Verma, 31 (name changed) started every day ringing up her boyfriend for a few minutes. But that little lovey-dovey ‘reach out’ went on to do more harm than good. She says, “It started with us saying hello and we flirted a little too, which was fun. But soon, I was doing a regular update on his day, what he was going to do, how he was going to react to his co-workers and it felt less fun and more of a pain. A little advice is fun, but feeling guilty for not saying things every day started to weigh down on my own relationship and by the end of the fortnight I was ready to tell him that I didn’t want to call him first thing in the morning.” She’s not wrong. While a little friendly advice and counselling should cause no grief to anyone, either over-expecting it or dishing it out in an overload, can make things fall flat.
‘Don’t give advice on everything’
Yes, talking is said to be the key to healthy relationships, but there is a line to be drawn too, feels relationship expert, Nisha Shah. “Feeling dominated by over-guidance from a partner or spouse is a complaint that we often come across. I spoke to a couple a few days ago who were disagreeing on this very issue. The husband thought that he must advise his wife on everything — her office problems, gym regimen, etc. The problem began when he also wanted to make sure that she was implementing all his advice and that it was not going to waste. She began to feel he was a nag and also didn’t want to be under so much scrutiny. This is the key issue that couples face. If you must share your view, also give people the freedom to think things out and see if they want to go ahead with your advice.”
Adds Sonal Sheth, counselling psychotherapist, “Among my clients, I have noticed that it is very common to mindlessly advise and nag out of habit. It’s time one takes a pause and reflects on this. I’d like to tell the ladies that you may want to go on advising your better half, but your partner is not a kid and may find it over-bearing. Don’t advise on all topics — prioritise what areas are important and say a few things while doing away with the others. Also, the way you advise matters. Talking down to someone won’t work. If X is over-eating, first empathise, then understand. Also, don’t attack the personality (for example, if someone tends to leave things around in the house, don’t say, ‘you’re such a messy slob!’ but focus what actions can be done to rectify things. Say, ‘this shirt needs to be cleaned up.’”
Turning mommy or daddy to your spouse? It can take away the zing in your marriage
The risk of mothering your husband or becoming a father figure to your wife can take away the zing in your marriage. It’s okay to make lunch for someone, pick up their things etc, etc, but going overboard is a big no-no! Warns Dr Pavan Sonar, psychiatrist and psychotherapist, “When you are married, you have to understand that you are the partner or counterpart. Yes, be available for advice, but don’t do every single thing for him or her. Slipping into a partner mode is easy, but coming out of it is not. The one acting like a parent feels the other partner is just too immature. Such a person will not be looked at as a friend or even on the same level. The one playing mommy or daddy will feel that the other cannot do anything on their own and this is when negativity seeps in. It stifles romance and can ruin relationships.”
The other inevitable result of playing shrink this way is your partner may start to use you as an excuse to get out of doing key tasks. For instance, ‘I didn’t get through your number, so I didn’t do this’ or ‘You didn’t finish telling me what to do so I left it,’ are perfect examples of an escapist attitude used undercover. Those who tend to over-lean on others, become even more indecisive. Adds Dr Sheth, “Often, I have spouses especially the husband complaining that the wife is seeking constant advice and is unable to make decisions or sometimes, it is the other way around where the person is too much of a control freak by constantly giving advice.”
Constantly showering your partner with advice may also make you out to be a nag, which can sour your image. Adds Dr Sonar, “The pestering has to stop. Trying to be a counsellor all the time will take away a person’s chances to improve. You also stop seeing the partner as a human being and just a weakness that needs to be corrected. It can affect the person’s self-esteem. Be empathic, go into someone’s shoes, but do not be a preacher.”
STEPS TO FIND A WAY OUT
If you have already started to become a shrink to your spouse, here’s what to do to help the situation, says psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty…
- Go behind the sentences you utter and find what makes you want to say things or counsel your partner.
- Understand the maxim that you can’t go on the net and become an engineer, doctor or psychiatrist.
- When you start becoming a shrink, immediately walk four steps backward and put issues on the table without a third person around. You will find new ways to resolve things rather than handing out a talk.
- When you find yourself suddenly counselling everybody around, it means that there could be something wrong with yourself, where you have a craving to go and advice others.
- When you feel extremely bored and there is lots of emptiness, it may lead many to preach. So, handle the emptiness yourself. Fill it with something meaningful.
- Excessive reliance on philosophy and meditation may also lead to a person becoming this wa