Therapist Stan Tatkin Says Asking Your Partner For Permission ‘Is Not The Same As Asking A Parent’

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In the realm of relationships, there’s a delicate balance between asking permission and exercising control. But what might appear as an exercise of dominance in one context, in another, can actually be a demonstration of respect.

While it might be tempting to respond to a request from from your partner to ask their permission before you do, buy, or go to something with a snippy response along the lines of, "You're not my mom!," Dr. Stan Tatkin, a clinical psychologist who works primarily with couples, says you should probably honor their request instead.

Should you ever have to ask your partner for permission?

In a recent Instagram post, Tatkin shares his professional thoughts on this question.

"Asking your partner for permission is not the same as asking a parent," Tatkin says.

"Among equals, getting consent is a sign of respect. It shows an awareness of your separateness and autonomy," he explains further. "I impact you, and you impact me. Therefore, I check, ask, notify, and get consent on anything that could affect you."

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"This kind of formality simply helps you prevent misunderstandings and maintain civility. It’s not about controlling what your partner can and cannot do," he adds.

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How does consent differ from control?

To consent is to permit or agree to something. Consent is voluntary and is accompanied by an understanding of that agreement.

While some may misconstrue this as an attempt to control, there are important distinctions between the two.

To control is to make decisions according to one’s own wishes and desires. Further, being controlling doesn’t rely on consent from others, rather it is used to manipulate others for your own benefit.

Asking the person you love for permission is not always easy. Sometimes you may feel as if you are a kid again, asking your parents if you can hang out at a friend’s house.

One comment on Tatkin's post captures how many people understandably feel about being expected to ask their partner before they do anything: “This logically makes sense to me but at the same time feels so hard to recognize on an emotional/body level when in practice. I want to hold onto my autonomy so much that asking permission feels like it takes it away.”

But, as Tatkin emphasizes, it is essential to acknowledge the influence your actions have on your partner.

You might feel tempted to not ask your partner for permission, since whether or not they will say yes may not seem like it should matter. Maybe you believe that your individuality should triumph over your partner's feelings. After all, you are and adult and your own person, and your partner cannot “control” your decisions.

While it’s true you have your own individuality in your relationship, decisions you make, including a decision to disregard your partner’s feelings about your intended actions, can directly impact them.

Your partner is not trying to be controlling just because they express discomfort about some of your decisions.

It is essential to understand you both are a team. Even if you have your own identities, your choices impact one another.

Open discussions will ensure you both consent to the decisions being made. And having open dialogue with one another will make for healthier and stronger relationships in the long run.

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Marielisa Reyes is a writer with a Bachelor's in Psychology who covers self-help, relationships, career and family topics.