Dear Kate: My boyfriend treats me like a child. Help!

Dear KateBy Katharine Luckinbill

Dear Kate,

I have been dating a (mostly) great guy for over a year now. We get along like peas and carrots, but he sometimes treats me like a child. Or really what I should say is he dismisses my practical suggestions in preference to his own (oft faulty) thinking.

I will admit that he is my senior by about ten years. But really we are both well above legal. We are at different adult stages (he is divorced with two wonderful children; I’ve never been married, no kids), so I totally understand that he may believe that I don’t have as much life experience as he has. My stance is simply that my life experiences are different.

How do I get him to understand and take me seriously?




Dear Junior Partner,

Here’s the most prominent thing that I noticed in your letter, “I’ve been dating a (mostly) great guy…”. Mostly? I think your answer is in the very first sentence.

Something that I am noticing more and more with my girlfriends and colleagues is women settling for someone not nearly good enough for them, because they are “mostly” great. Do you want to be “mostly” happy, or completely happy? Do you want to be fulfilled, or just moderately satisfied? Do you want to look at your partner and think, “YES!!” or “meh”?

Obviously, I don’t know you from a can of beans, but I do know that you deserve to be happy – because everyone does. I also know that you deserve to be with someone who will love you for all that you are, not some of what you are. Now, this last piece of advice can be translated differently. Some people have the notion that your partner should love you for who you are, no matter what. But what if you aren’t a very good person? Everyone can, and should, do his or her personal work to be kinder, more thoughtful, and more compassionate – generally better for themselves and the people they love. If they are doing those things and can be considered a good person by the majority vote – then yes, love them as they are, quirks and kinks included. We should not, however, love people just as they are if how they are is unkind, rude, or disrespectful of others. That isn’t loving, it’s enabling.

But no one could ever, with any amount of effort, make him or herself older, only time can do that. You can only be the age that you are, and you can only know and be sure of the things you have personally experienced.

The very wise Anna Quindlen, writes in her memoir “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake”:

“You don’t know what you don’t know when you’re young. How could you? People who are older nod sagely and say you’ll learn – about love, about marriage, about failing and falling down . . . but the young woman I once was could not hear [that], not just because of time and space but because of the language, and the lessons, she has yet to learn.”

You cannot be expected to be 50 if you are 25 – nor should someone who is 50, be expected to viscerally recall the gripes of young adulthood at a moment’s thought. With age comes understanding, and with understanding comes maturity.

I don't care

Which leads me to my next point. Does this man of yours really respect and love you as the younger counterpart to his life’s journey? If he is so old and wise, how come he doesn’t recognize that you simply cannot be where he is in life? Love is not putting someone down, or making them feel small for any reason.

Think about finding someone who can better understand you, and who won’t feel the need to navigate their own insecurities by putting the person they love in a corner.

Or if you feel strongly that this man has enough redeeming qualities (redeeming, being the key word), then start living your life as your own – and let him catch up to you. Call your girlfriends, go out for dinner, shopping, a movie, whatever! As long as you separate yourself from him and show by example that you are a grown and mature adult woman who should be treated as such.

You're terrible for me



Dear Kate is a column that runs on every Thursday at noon. It is written by the wise Katharine Luckinbill, who you should follow on Twitter. Got a life, friendship, family, dating, or relationship question that you’d like Dear Kate to answer? Send it to and she will help you out.

8 thoughts on “Dear Kate: My boyfriend treats me like a child. Help!

  1. Kaitlin Williams says:

    Yay!!!! Awesome use of ecards!!!

    Also, your good sense and advice are seemlingly infallible, DearKate.

    I couldn’t agree more with you, especially in the “Is it love? or is it ‘meh’?’ aspect. You really have to find someone who pushes you to grow, who wants you to succeed, and who supports your silly pipe dreams. Find someone who really makes you feel special, not someone who makes you feel stupid or immature.

  2. Kate S. says:

    That’s friggin awesome advice! I love the “corner” clip. So apropos. Your moral compass is always true, Kate. Right on!

  3. that last bit about going out and doing things on your own is EXTREMELY important regardless of what stage your relationship is in. it’s important to have a life of your own and if you want to be treated a certain way, then you need to act the part.

    I <3 dear kate.

  4. Fabri-Kate says:

    Once again, awesome advice, Kate. Simply put, people treat you the way you allow them to treat you. If “Junior Partner” doesn’t want to be treated like a child, then she shouldn’t allow that in the relationship. You want to be treated like an equal partner, then state that. If her bf doesn’t like than, then I guess that speaks volumes for the relationship. Get out, and don’t look back.

    “How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.”

  5. Dear Kate says:

    What great feedback, Kates! Keep it coming! Love hearing what the readers think :)

  6. Lina says:

    dear kate every time i go out with my boyfriend when we are in a public place he treats me like a lil kid =.. saying DON’T do that DON’T touch that sit there DON’T move .. it embarrasses me & i don’t feel comfy it hurts my feeling. when we are alone he’s more like a man why is he doing this he does know that i’m not a child..& to talk to me like a more grown up i did tell him I’m a women & I can be a women if he treats me like a women…i am 43 he is 58 ….. is it cause of our age ???? he really does look like an old man i never said that to him he knows it himself cause he keeps saying it to himself IM OLD IM GETTING OLD i tell him you are not old….

    • Lina says:

      he is a very sweet guy I care for him a lot he does everything for me the only thing i don’t understand about him is why he talks like this with me I feel like i’m 15 years old.. but i guess its the way his is I don’t know if he’s been like this to other women he’s had ?? but he is such a sweet man …

      • anon says:

        He sounds chauvanistic and also insecure. If he treats you well when it is only the two of you and puts you down when you are in public places, he is doing that so that other people will see him put you down. You say he is insecure about his aging looks. These days being in the 50s is not “old” but some people age themselves. It seems he is trying to make himself feel better by cutting you down in front of others so they can see it and, he hopes, be impressed with him. This can often happen when the person doing it actually feels that you have some quality that he/she lacks and so they project that “lack” onto you, pretending that it is you and not taking responsibility for it.

        But there is no need even to analyze it: It is simply bad behaviour. No one deserves to be treated that way. He needs to grow up and if he hasn’t by now perhaps he won’t in the future, either.

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