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Doc@DrIrene.com


 

Interactive Board:  Your ALT-Text here My Purrrfect Husband

Sunday January 14, 2007
 

I've been married to my husband for 23 yrs. and have 7 children, ages from 19 down to 7. Four kids have diagnosed developmental or learning disabilities--i.e. autism, dyslexia, etc. We are self employed. I also homeschool some of my kids. As you can imagine, this keeps us quite busy. Wow! Yes!

First the good: my husband is a brilliant, driven man who is working with a business/life coach to help his business grow and bring his life into line with what he says he wants. This is resulting in unprecedented growth on the business side, and he personally is becoming more mature, focused, and a better leader overall in the company and at home with the kids. Excellent!

Now for the downside: my husband can be critical, harsh, and a jerk to me and the kids. Hmmm. I wonder if his life coach knows this, and if he doesn't, what s/he would say?

Example: just last night, I was working on financial and home projects while caring for the kids, fixing dinner, etc. Husband is working at a trade show. He came home and ate dinner, and I thought things were o.k. He went downstairs, and saw that a couple of my teens and their friends made a mess in a couple of rooms. Dad then went "ballistic" on the kids who made the mess--he's typically harsh and mean and causes hard feelings when he reacts. :(

Rather than just saying, "don't leave a mess, clean it up" he has a way of verbally communicating that engender humiliation and anger. It's not that he's "wrong" about an issue, and it's not what he says, but how he says it. Yes...  Last night he said that I isolate myself from the kids and I am not vigilant enough about going around and checking on what they do, several times per day.  There is some truth to that. I do check on them, but apparently not often enough if he finds trouble and has to correct them...then I'm not doing my job, according to him. Wrong! You need to find a way to get it across to your husband that his job does not include telling you how to do your job to his standards. Your job is to do things to your standards. And you also need to get it across that you reserve the right to be purrrfectly imperfect. You need to tell yourself this one too; I don't think you're too good at being OK about being impurrrfect. In addition, you need to talk with him about the tone of his voice, that it promotes fear and intimidation rather than cooperation from others. Ask him if this is how he wants to address his family, and if this is what he wants to teach his children to do.

I have fear of confrontation with my family on several levels--my dad was verbally/physically abusive to my mom, and my husband can be nasty verbally sometimes, while technically being "correct". And this is the problem. You have learned to fear your husband given your experience with dad.  Maybe I compensate or try not to go looking for trouble... I get what he says, and know that I need to be more parental. Yep. You try to avoid trouble. Maybe, instead, he needs to learn to accommodate to others...

My husband said that I deliberately set my life up to have conflict with him, so that he looks like "the bad guy" all the time. There may be some truth to this, though I doubt he would agree with my take on it. You see, it takes two to Tango. He says that I make him an a_hole...by not doing my job as a wife or parent (according to his preference) Yikes! , by not meeting his needs Ack!, or by not communicating correctly You bad, bad girl! I bring on the meanness from him, because, as I've heard him say many times, that's the only way I seem to get the message. Ridiculous, isn't it! It's not your job to meet his needs, or to make his preferences/standards your own. You both have a responsibility to communicate - and to forgive each other when there are misunderstandings/ miscommunications. It sounds as though he's almost waiting for you to make a "mistake" so he can pounce on you! He blames me because he went off on the kids last night. Nope. His angry behavior is his behavior; nobody else's. Doesn't he know that he can feel angry without destructively acting out his anger?  Hubby can certainly use a little anger management training!

He holds me responsible for whenever he goes off on me or the kids. You need to let him know that you will not take responsibility for his anger. I know I don't try to inspire that mean behavior consciously...and I would hope I don't do that unconsciously, either. Of course yu don't inspire his angry behavior; you look to avoid conflict. He creates it.  Your part is your fear of standing up to him, and doubting yourself. I bet you wonder if maybe he isn't right!!!! He's not - because nobody has the right to foist their values on other. Nobody has the ability to control other.   I just think I'm more laid-back than he is. And there is nothing wrong with that. If he insists on being the "stricter" parent, that is his right. However, he has no right to insist that you take on his form of parenting. That's control. Then he expects you to exert control over the kids...

Anyway, his answer to all his hostile behavior last night was that he was committed to not going off on the kids anymore, because whenever they get into trouble or don't do what they are supposed to, it's not their fault. Right. Nor is this about fault at all. It's about personal responsibility and choice. It's my fault, because I'm not doing my job. Nope. And good for you that you already know that. You have no control over the kids, not really. The only person any of us can control some parts of - is ourselves. That's it! Each kid is responsible for his/her own behavior.  The most parents can do is implement a system whereby good behavior is reinforced with some kind of reward to encourage good choices. But kids should still be able to choose to work for the reward - or to forfeit it. Of course you can punish or intimidate kids, but that only instills fear, resentment and rebellion in the long run. So he's going to hold me accountable, because somebody has to, and he evidently thinks that person should be him. He really is a control freak, huh?

He also says that this affects his commitment to me and our intimacy as a couple. If I can't bring myself to grow up and do things the way he thinks they should be done, then I'm essentially rejecting him. Garbage. But you already know this tool He's trying to dump his responsibility for his own self onto you. He is the only one who can control his behavior. Period. 

He's threatened to leave several times over the last 6 months. He is immature - and I have to wonder what his reaction would be if you took him up on one of these threats. There is more to tell, but overall he has great qualities and has come a long way as a person. And has a very long way to go. Yet he's so difficult to get along with sometimes. He seems to cycle. He's said atrociously mean things to me over the years, and then can't remember saying them. What is this that I'm dealing with? Cindy. You are dealing with a very controlling man who is verbally abusive. Abuse is about control.

You learned to fear intimidation in childhood. Now, you  unwittingly participate in his abuse because you have not found ways of setting limits. You fear him and try to smooth things over instead of letting him know - in a nice way if possible - that his expectations are unreasonable. That he needs to control himself. That he is teaching his children to grow up and either be fearful and intimated or abusive. That he has no right to tell you how to parent. That he may make a request, but demands are coercive and not OK.

He has a life coach. Why don't you get one? Preferably in the form of a therapist who can help you sort this out and can help you restore your personal power so that you can stop accepting his abuse. A "behaviorally-oriented" clinician is much more likely to give you input and advice than is a "psychodynamically-oriented" clinician.

You might ask him bring these issues up with his coach. You might ask him for a meeting with his coach because it is unlikely he presents himself as a bully. It would be interesting to find out whether his coach think deriding his wife verbally and criticizing her are the ways of the successful and productive father and husband. Does his coach think that when one is angry, he has "no choice" but to act out that anger with yelling and accusations and demands? Does his coach think that all members of the family need to follow the husband's philosophy, or may they have their own ways? Does the coach think it is OK for a husband to blame his wife when the children don't behave? Does the coach think that is it OK to make other people responsible for meeting his demands/needs? Does the coach think it is OK to threaten leaving if his demands are not met? I wonder...

In any case, the coach seems to be a powerful person in your husband's life who may be able to help if your husband is willing to tap into that resource.

But the only person who can really help your husband limit his bad behavior - is you.

First, you need to get a sense of what fair play is. Not that you don't know... It's all that good stuff that is already in your head, that stuff you kind of doubt yourself on - which is why you wrote me. In other words, like most victims of verbal and emotional abuse, you need a little validation. Well, you're certainly going to get some here! Plus, there is a wonderful moderated forum attached to the site called The CatBox. Want more validation? Go there!

As you begin to regain your faith in your good instincts, you need to learn to overcome the fear and deal with hubby. There are lots of good books on the topic, and I'll suggest a few, but books alone can't match books plus a good therapist. You want to increase your "personal power!"

It's hard to tell how a given partner will react to a more emotionally powerful wife. Some men will not accept the challenge. Many others will, and respect you for it, even if they buck at first. You are the only one who can test the waters, if you choose to go in that direction. Or not. Because moving ahead with any of this will be a choice you make only after you understand it better. So, since you asked, here are some reading selections (besides reading this whole site!):

bullet Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft.
bullet

The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse: Getting Off the Emotional Roller Coaster and Regaining Control of Your Life by (The Father of Cognitive Therapy) Albert Ellis et al. 

bullet

When Love Goes Wrong: What To Do When You can't do anything Right by Susan Schlecter and Ann Jones.

bullet

Beverly Engel's  The Emotionally Abused Woman.

You can no longer post, but Look here if you want to read the entries. Warmest regards, Dr. Irene, 1/14/07

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