Mandy Kloppers

Roles in relationships


Just think about it. There are many roles that you play as do the rest of us. I have many different roles – mother, daughter, sister, girlfriend, counsellor, friend etc  With each role that we play, we draw on different mindsets and slightly different ways of behaving.

Within relationships, there are at least three main roles that we can adopt. One is healthy, the other two tend to cause damage. The three roles are: parent, adult and child roles.

The most effective role to stay in is adult mode. When we are in this mode, we are rational, reasonable and measured in our responses. We listen to our partner and do our best to meet their needs as well as our own in the relationship. Adult mode is definitely the best mode to stay in, especially during conflict in the relationship.

Unfortunately, what tends to happen is that one individual acts out on child mode and instead of reacting in adult mode, we also go into child mode creating a destructive outcome.

Examples of adult mode:

Reasonable, rational, willing to listen, willing to compromise, assertive – “win win” situation for both, measured behaviour, reacts without being impulsive. Mature behaviour

Examples of child mode:

Sulking, the silent treatment, ‘tit-for-tat’ treatment, shouting, being aggressive, having tantrums, being unreasonable, not listening, storming out, impulsive behaviour, being deceptive, lying etc Childlike behaviour isn’t reasonable or rational. It’s impulsive and ill thought through.

Examples of parent mode:

Being condescending, acting in a judgemental way, being bossy and overbearing, being over controlling, acting superior, blaming


When you are interacting with your partner, check the mode that you are behaving in. Wherever possible, do your best to stay in adult mode. Even if your partner is sulking or giving you the silent treatment (child mode), try to respond in adult mode (attempt to communicate and resolve the issue rather than copying their behaviour). I see a lot of couples with the attitude: “Well, if they are going to go out and ignore me, I’ll do the same”. While this is very tempting, it is destructive to a relationship. Always attempt to keep the lines of comunication open and find a way forward that will solve the current issue. Child and parent modes just adds fuel to the flames and adds to resentment and the erosion of good will in the relationship.

Relationships take constant negotation. How could you expect any less when you have two individuals with their different backgrounds and with their own needs, wishes and attitudes? Work together as a team, the moment you start to see your partner as working against you, you are on rocky ground.

Mandy X

Mandy is an experienced couple counsellor and has helped many couples repair their relationships. Online skype counselling is also available for worldwide clients.





Photo by LyndaSanchez