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4/14 Interactive Board: Codependent Partners

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1/14 Interactive Board: My Purrrfect Husband

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7/20: Dr. Irene on cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness

6/12 Interactive Board: Unintentional Abuse

11/7 Interactive Board: Is This Abusive?

12/29 Interactive Board: There Goes the Wife...

11/4 Interactive Board: A New Me!

10/8 Interactive Board: Seeming Impossibility

9/8 Interactive Board: My Ex MisTreats Our Son

5/1 Interactive Board: I feel Dead - Towards Him

4/26 Interactive Board: Why is This So Hard?

4/19 Interactive Board: I Lost My Love...

4/7 Interactive Board: Too Guilty!

Second Marriage

Second Marriage: The Bad Guy?

August 1, 2001

Dr. Irene,

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 so far.
EXIT first husband....
During 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, but...
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 inventory...
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.
:))  Sorry 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 another...

Certainly, your 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

  I just want to read the posts.