Yes, we're only trying to be helpful by explaining how to do things correctly. We know we’re right, and we well might be, whether it’s about a small thing (how to fold the towels) or a big thing (how to balance next year’s budget).

So, what’s wrong with advice-giving, especially if we’re right?  Nothing is wrong if the other person asks for advice. And nothing is wrong if there is balance in the relationship between giving and receiving counsel. Many couples give endless unsolicited advice to each other with no problem, and value the opportunity to learn from each other. 

But advice-giving is problematic when it kicks the relationship out of balance or if we’re better at giving it than receiving it. It shades into criticism when there are too many little corrections, or we deliver it in an “I-know-what’s-best” tone. And if the other person doesn’t follow our advice, it’s a good indication that we shouldn’t be giving it. 

If you’re a first-born sibling with a younger, same-sex sibling, you may be especially prone to wanting your partner to do things the right way, which is your way.  If your partner truly values such guidance, there’s no problem. If he doesn’t value it, it’s his responsibility to tell you to back off and make himself heard.

The problem is that he may not be a clear communicator. He may not even be aware of how much easier the relationship would feel if you did less steering. It might surprise him to discover that he feels more relaxed and competent when you’re out of town for a week or two.

What matters in a relationship is not that things get done according to who is right. What matters is that two people are dedicated to contributing to each other’s happiness.

That includes giving each other the space to make mistakes and develop competence through trial and error, and being available to help—when asked.

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