While we find a way to work things out, I need a way to protect my son that (a)stops the verbal abuse when it is occurring , and(b)does not give my son the message that his father is the bad cop and mommy is the good cop. My son is visibly scared of my husband when my husband is in this mood.
Hi tigger, and welcome to the Catbox! I'm sorry you're stuck in this situation.
Unfortunately I'm having a hard time seeing any solution to the problem you've presented, given both of the criteria you've imposed.
True, there are ways that you MIGHT be able to stop the verbal abuse of your son as it's occurring--that's if your husband isn't TOO angry and belligerent at the time. If you interrupt him with a reminder to speak more civilly, he might respond to that--though I'm inclined to doubt it. If you intervene more assertively, telling him in no uncertain terms to "cut it out," he MIGHT respond to that--though he might turn his anger on you instead! Then you could just get between him and your son any time there's a problem, telling him that "you'll handle this." He might be inclined to let you do that. Or you may be able to physically remove your son and take him into another room if your husband starts in with the abuse. Any of these approaches MAY be worth a try, and if anyone has any better ideas I'm sure we'll both be glad to hear them.
But the trouble is, first, that none of this is guaranteed to work if your husband insists on acting out his anger regardless. Second, NONE of these approaches, even if they do work, can possibly fulfill your second criterion: that's to say, NOT giving your son the message that Daddy is the Bad Cop and Mommy is the Good Cop. Your son is bound to learn that lesson anyway, and there's no way you can stop that from happening. Not unless there's some magic button you could press that would modify your husband's behavior without your even having to appear on the scene!
Otherwise your son is always going to have the same experience. First Daddy starts raging at him over something, terrifying him to death. Then Mommy appears like a fairy godmother, and regardless of what Mommy actually says or does--whether she says some magic words, waves her magic wand or whatever--somehow she saves the little boy from Daddy's raging and makes everything all right again. So he's always going to experience Daddy as the Persecutor and Mommy as the Rescuer.
Outside of that, what can you do to get your husband to stop his angry and abusive outbursts? What influence can you bring to bear on him to persuade him to change his behavior? I'm afraid your options are rather limited. He won't listen to what you say. He won't read books or articles that might help. What's more, if he ever is going to conquer what you've described as an impulse control problem, he's unlikely to do it without some kind of professional help.
You could, as "cantdecide" suggested, consider family counseling in the hope of influencing him. But as she rightly said, there are drawbacks to that with abusive people like your husband. To start with, he may not even agree to go. If he does, he probably won't want to listen to the counselor, and you might find him using the sessions to make unfair complaints about you instead.
If you do go to church, frequently a pastor or other church members can exert authority that he might listen to. That has happened, though again there's no guarantee. It may be worth a try, that's all.
Otherwise all you're left with is your final sanction: to leave. Or anyway to lay down an ultimatum: that if this behavior doesn't change, then you will leave. But don't forget, drawing boundaries like that won't work unless you're prepared to follow through with them if you have to.
One worrying aspect to all this is your son's age. He's three and a half, yet he's getting raged at--over the most trivial things, like playing with his food. All this, although three is typically a "nice" age when kids are relatively cooperative. To many parents this stage comes as a welcome relief after the "Terrible Twos," characterized by battles of will against a parent. Yet this "nicer" stage doesn't last either, and pretty soon you'll be seeing the Ferocious Fours. And the Ferocious Fours are often WORSE than the Terrible Twos.
However annoying the Terrible Twos may be, at least there's nothing personal
in a toddler's opposition to a parent at that age. Children are just trying out their newfound independence. But when the Ferocious Fours come around, some children seem to act as if they're deliberately trying
to get a parent's reaction! If your husband is raging at your son and threatening him right now, I hate to think what will happen in a few months' time if your son starts experimenting with ways of intentionally
getting his father's goat. He could be in real danger from your husband's nasty temper.
At the same time, though you're saying you're "not ready to quit" yet, your marriage sounds very unstable already if you're often going for days without talking. This sounds to me as if matters are approaching a crisis. You've said your husband is a good man and father "when he is not angry/moody,"
but you also said "He is moody, sullen, sarcastic and just plain angry all the time."
Those "good moods" seem to be rather few and far between.
Unfortunately anyone in your situation can get into a state where you're settling for far too little in a marriage. You may be viewing your husband's GOOD moods as some kind of "reward," as if it's worth putting up with all the raging and the bad moods because he's nice SOME of the time! This is rather like the story of the man who kept hitting himself on the head with a hammer. When they asked him why he did it, he said: "Because it feels so wonderful when I stop!"
That's an awful lot of pain to put up with for the sake of a few moments of blessed relief.
Even if your husband "only" has a big rage one day a week, say, that's still one day too much. And it's certainly more than your son should have to put up with.
It's hard when anyone is forced to think seriously about giving up on a marriage. So regardless of what the specific issues are, I do understand your saying you're "not ready to quit" yet. But many parents in abusive marriages put up with being treated badly for years, as long as they're the only ones being abused. Often it's when they see their kids being abused too that they realize this is altogether too much. Then they have to do something to stop it, even if it means getting out. And some people--a minority, to be sure, but some--have found their abusive spouse was prepared to make some real changes when they finally did leave.
Even if you can't get your husband to listen, take notice of you, or seek help, I do recommend seeking help for yourself. A counselor can help you work through your own situation and decide how best to act for your own sake and your son's sake as well, even if your husband won't cooperate. Anyway I hope you'll continue posting and let us know how it's going. You'll always find someone to support you here in the Catbox. Good luck dealing with this!