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