August 1, 2001
I have been in the process of learning
to understand the dynamics that have caused so much trouble in my
second marriage. From the beginning of our relationship we have
had problems that have only gotten worse over the years. Actually,
I have a wonderful husband, who married me with four children, and
now we have a daughter of our own as well.
This is what I have come to understand
EXIT first husband....
my separation/divorce with my first husband I had all the
responsibility of my four children, and they were acting out in ways
they had never done before. I found myself alone with the
enormously heavy responsibility of disciplining my out-of-control
children. At one point, while spanking my daughters for stealing money
from my wallet, I realized how much I did NOT want this job! I
was overcome with the feeling of responsibility, and feeling of being
out of control myself! I didn't know it, but I decided then, that I didn't
want this role. Soon I met and started dating a sensitive guy,
who was sooo good with the children.. I thought I was saved!
ENTER second husband....
From the beginning, my husband wanted
to be the hero! He did great things for the kids when we dated,
and he wanted it to stay that way. At that time, I did not
realize that I had made a decision not to parent my children
anymore! I started immediately to require that my new husband
STEP IN. I didn't listen to him begging for me not to put him in
the position of being the "bad guy". I did nothing when my kids
acted out, I came across to my husband as suddenly
complacent and disinterested. My refusal to act, forced
my husband's hand, and he stepped in. He was frustrated, but I
was relieved!!!! I realize now that he resisted this
role from the beginning, but my need to be absolved of parenting,
overrode his desires. He wanted to keep the peace, so he
attempted to become the disciplinarian I wanted him to be.
In my heart, I knew he would have
trouble in this role, he had not come from a loving family, he had
been abused. He would have
trouble in this role even had he come from a loving family.
Kids resent having to listen to anyone other than their
biological/ adoptive parents! I knew he never wanted to repeat what happened to
him, on our children. He found himself acting more and more like
his abusive step father. Looking back now, I can't believe I made
him take over for me! We both knew he did not have the skills. I
had a good family upbringing, and I had greater anger management
skills, but still...I insisted he fill this role. When he would
react irrationally, I would jump on him...I was not pleased with
his impatient methods or his yelling to get the children to
comply. I criticized him for his poor skills, but I didn't join
him, or take my role up again.
For most of the seven years of our
relationship he has been forced to be in this position. Sorry.
Not "forced." He chose to take you up on your strong request that
he enter the role. He used
statements like.."I can never win!" or "I hate being the bad guy! I
can't say or do anything right!" I never paid any attention to
these statements. The only good thing that has come out of this,
is he has HAD to learn some parenting skills. How much
better of a parent he could have been, if it would have come from
me modeling it for him, instead of letting him flounder around
getting it all wrong in my eyes!
Woulda shoulds coulda. How do you know you wouldn't have had other
problems? How do you know, for example, that your marital
relationship would not have been compromised because he felt like
it was you and the kids vs. him? The answer is you can't know, so
please don't beat yourself up.
Because I had no respect for his
parenting skills, the kids picked up on it, and showed him little
respect as well, talking back to him, and feeling free to say or
do what they want! Your behavior didn't
help, except, you say that your kids were already angry.
I allowed them to do what I was doing, which
was show my dissatisfaction with him!! How horrible! Yes,
He has become so frustrated that he is
raging! I thought for so long it was at the children (their
disrespect), but the thought dropped into my head (from God
perhaps?) that I might be contributing to this somehow? I went on
a search for the answer....and I came back to that day, when I was
spanking my daughters and realized that seven years had gone by
since I had really taken any role in their discipline except to
criticize my husband's poor methods!
You know, we all want to think that
something is wrong with the other person, and I have to
admit that I spent a lot of time obsessing on that possibility.
Only when the thought kept troubling me, that I might be
contributing to this raging, did I turn inward to check myself.
AFTER 7 YEARS. (he wasn't a raging maniac when we met / on the
otherhand, I was a strong disciplinarian when he met me!) Things
change! For the better once we take our own
I am not saying that our partners
should not take responsibility for their own anger, they should.
That is a sign of maturity (we expect if of two year olds, don't
we?) I have seen that people stay in relationships because they
are getting some need met, even if it hurts! I had to
ask myself why I would stay for this abusive treatment, and why I
would subject my children to his anger? When I started asking
myself why...that's when I started looking for MY PAYOFF... you
know, the thing that made it worth while to stick around, even
though the relationship was full of anxiety and discord. It lead
me right to that day, when I felt so much pain spanking my girls
for wanting candy money (stealing) when we had no groceries in the
house. That for me was parental CHECK OUT DAY... and for
my husband, hell on earth.
I have learned the difference between
the right way to treat children and the wrong way.. I saw both
examples. Children need correction, discipline and guidance. I
knew that the methods used on my husband were none of these...why
would I expect him to be able to do any better? He was
utilizing the only information on parenting he had, his abusive
past....(blame, yelling, screaming, rages, the angry
punishment..hoping you don't loose total control physically and
really hurt someone )...I have come to understand that the wrong
method is two-fold: bending one's will to yours, and breaking
their spirit. Neither of which is loving discipline.
Discipline is three-fold and shows
the child you care and you are willing to guide him to the right
decisions. It is taking time to correct:
Johnny, it is not OK for you to: (fill in the blank)...and
then if the correction is ignored, swift discipline. I have come
to understand the saying: a parent that doesn't discipline his
child doesn't love him....I think it means that an undisciplined
child becomes unlovable to others and...eventually to the
parent. Sadly, it isn't even the child's fault. Children need to
know they matter enough to be corrected for bad behavior. Lots of
children are screaming for this kind of love! I have a lot of
regret for the position I have taken with my own children. We all
have paid too high a price. They have not only suffered at my
husband's unskilled hands, but at my own omission. I hope that my
story may shed some light on someone else's similar situation.
Seven years is a long time to go on in ignorance. Taking an
active role again in my children's lives will show them that I
love them, and will give my husband some peace of mind as well.
Finally, I see the light at the end of the tunnel for my family.
I know we are going to make it.
Jo, chose not to help striking out "the end." Because you
certainly have reached a beginning... You recognize it takes
two to tango and you recognize there is no "good" guy and "bad"
guy. It would have been easy for you to stay stuck in the denial
of your anger, especially since hubby was doing a good job
participating, but you didn't do that. If our job is, as I think
it is, to learn from the past, you're an almost shining example.
(Almost because you come a tad too close to condemning yourself
for your errors, but, I suppose a tad of that is OK...) Please
remember that if it weren't this set of problems, it would just be
hubby's anger has been validated. Now, it's up to him to deal with
his own feelings. Be careful you let him - and don't fall into the
trap of taking on more responsibility than is yours because of
what you "did" to him..
Thank you for
sharing your story, a wonderful example of how easy it is to blame
the other guy, hurting everybody in the process. I hope some
readers who see themselves as "victims" are inspired to take a
closer look inside...
My warmest regards
and best wishes for the future, Dr. Irene