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Hw to deal with a DP who sulks?

(90 Posts)
Trinpy Sun 17-Mar-13 14:50:13

A bit of background: DH is 34, we've been together 4.5 years, married for 1.5. FIL sulks massively whenever he doesn't get his own way and MIL always justifies his behaviour and encourages their dcs to do the same. DH used to be as bad as his dad but through the course of our relationship has improved and now only has one minor sulk every 2-3 months.

He is in one today and it is very minor but its there and its annoying. He's at work today but last night he turned his back on me in bed and wouldn't show any affection (which is always a sign he's sulking) and when he left for work he wouldn't hug or kiss me properly. It might not sound much but for him this is quite cold. I've asked him if there is anything wrong and he's said no, but in a way that its obvious there is something wrong. I think I know the reason why he is upset but its, imo, nothing to get this worked up about and certainly not my fault, more to do with his own insecurities.

So, where do I go from here? Normally when he sulks I ignore his behaviour and do my own thing, but I just cba anymore. His problems stem from his parents putting him down, treating his feelings as though they were worthless and encouraging him to hide his problems. He is committed to changing and has matured so much since I met him. But after putting in so much effort to support him in making these changes I'm exhausted now and just wish he would stop behaving like this.

What do you think?

ThePavlovianCat Sun 17-Mar-13 14:55:59

It sounds frustrating for you. Does he ever apologise after his sulks?

Herrenamakesagreatwelshcake Sun 17-Mar-13 14:58:16

Well I can't abide sulking (DM was a terrible sulker) so I'd ignore as you are doing. If my DP kept doing it when faced with total disinterest from me, then I'd leave him.

Sorry, probably not what you want to hear! However I do think that this sort of behaviour erodes respect in a relationship extremely fast. I couldn't put up with it. Surely the important thing is not that he's improved a lot (although that is a nice fact) but the fact that you are finding him hard to deal with. That alone is justification enough for you to leave if you so choose. You won't get any prizes for staying with him!

ApplyYourself Sun 17-Mar-13 14:59:02

Well, if you have asked him what the matter is and he refuses to discuss it with you, there is not an awful lot else you CAN do.

So.. he is doing this 4 or 5 times a year? How long will he sulk for? Will he apologise afterwards? Is he open to trying to stop this childish behaviour?

Depending on the answers to the above, you can then decide what to do.

A minor sulk for a day once every so often over something trivial that he then apologises for... I could possibly deal with this. A stone walling for days on end with no apology would be a different matter.

And yes, the only way to deal with him is to ignore him and do your own thing. But only you can decide if you an put up with him long term

Madlizzy Sun 17-Mar-13 15:00:27

I'd be saying stuff along the lines of "FFS, if you've got a problem tell me, instead of sulking like a three year old, because I can't be arsed dealing with it. Come back when you can act like a real, adult, human being." and if he wasn't prepared to sort his face out, I'd tell him to fuck off.

Earlybird Sun 17-Mar-13 15:02:57

When he is calm, he needs to think about some alternative strategies to deal with upsets. Problem is, when he has a visceral reaction to something, sulking is what he 'knows' to do.

He will need to actively choose another way of responding when he feels upset, but it won't be easy/natural as he must 'unlearn' what is ingrained. (think of it like those of us who were smacked as a form of discipline as children, but know we don't wish to use that method on our own dc - so must work to come up with other ways).

A bit of CBT might help with this.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 17-Mar-13 15:03:21

"His problems stem from his parents putting him down, treating his feelings as though they were worthless and encouraging him to hide his problems."

Point out to him that it's been 16 years since he turned 18, parental influence is long ago and that he should have found a better way by now to express whatever it is he thinks he's expressing by sulking and which doesn't take it out on the people he's meant to be closest to. As SuperNanny would say... 'unassettable' (sic)

If he's committed to changing, great. If he's better than he used to be, equally great. But I think you now need to give him an extra shove by refusing to tolerate childish behaviour any longer, no more ignoring, no more letting him get away with it and no more excuses like copying in-laws.

ivegotaniphone Sun 17-Mar-13 15:04:24

Even though he only does it every 2 or 3 months he obviously feels it is perfectly ok to do that to you. He is also teaching your children, if you have any, to do it as well.

SanityClause Sun 17-Mar-13 15:19:35

DH used to sulk. He learnt it from MIL who used it to great effect as he was growing up. She has been known to sulk for months at a time.

I have just made it clear, over time, that it is ineffectual, childish, and reduces my respect for him. This is reinforced any time I criticise the sulkiness of MIL or our DC (who are also learning it's not a useful strategy in this household).

I can't remember the last time he sulked.

yellowbrickrd Sun 17-Mar-13 15:34:12

You've been very patient by the sounds of it, far more patient than most and it's not right for him to take advantage of that by carrying on with these sulks. He's had enough time to learn to say 'i'm upset about x' instead of rubbing your nose in it for days.

I agree with those above who say it's best confronted rather than ignored as sulkers get their power from people not daring to break through the wall of sullen silence.

If you think you know what it's about ask him directly 'is it about this?' If he still says it's 'nothing' refuse to leave it at that. Keep telling him how it bad it makes you feel - it shouldn't be all about him all the time.

badinage Sun 17-Mar-13 16:11:31

Yes confront it, don't ignore it.

It's unacceptable behaviour in an adult and a terrible example to children.

But by making excuses for why he does it, you're enabling him. He makes a choice to do this. Choices have consequences and people only learn to make the right ones if the consequences of making the wrong ones are painfully felt.

Trinpy Sun 17-Mar-13 16:26:38

Interesting. Thanks for your replies.

For the first 12-18mnths of our relationship he was stonewalling. The turning point came after he didn't speak to me for over a week. He didn't give me any indication of what had upset him.Now the sulking generally lasts a 1-2 days at the most. He always apologises afterwards but we usually have to go through this whole thing of talking it through, sometimes over hours, for him to understand his feelings and how his behaviour has made me feel. I think this has helped him enormously but it is emotionally draining for me.

When I first met him he had no idea his behaviour wasn't normal and it was a total revelation to him that women like their partners to be honest and open about their feelings. I think I was the first person to ever explain to him why his behaviour was not ok. He doesn't blame his parents for the way he acts, but its glaringly obvious to see the connection. He still has a difficult relationship with them as they are very manipulative and have a way of making him feel like he's still a child they can control, iyswim?

Often the things he gets upset about seem very trivial to me, but when he explains how the situation makes him feel the words he use remind me of his parents. For example, he will often say he is worried I think he is stupid or an idiot (which his parents have called him his entire life), or say that he felt small and vulnerable. He often worries about being taken for a fool. The only other ltr he's had ended with him feeling humiliated which I think adds to his worries.

When big changes happen in life, I think he worries about losing control and can behave childishly. When I moved into his house he worried that the house would get dirty. On a few occasions I found he had been attacking my possessions, but then try to hide that he'd done anything. For example, one time I found my book on the floor on the other side of the room from where I'd left it as though it had been thrown, but he denied he'd touched it. This died down after a couple of months and in the 2 years since he's not done anything like this.

About a year ago he told me he was thinking about counselling to help him through his issues with his parents. I suggested he ask his best mate (who's job involves some counselling) to recommend someone. Unfortunately, I think think the friend convinced him he didn't need counselling and that was the end of it. It is clearly still an issue though as one phonecall with his parents can leave him feeling depressed for days. He's unable to talk about his family with anyone without discussing all these problems and getting depressed again.

Sorry for the essay. Oh and no dcs.

Trinpy Sun 17-Mar-13 16:42:10

Sorry if i don't manage to answer everyone personally.

yellow I did ask him directly last night 'is it because of this?' and he said 'no, thats ok'. But I know it was this incident that triggered it because he was normal before that.

badinage I'm trying really hard not to enable his behaviour, which is why I've posted this really. I don't know how to handle this problem on my own. Its hard because I want you all to understand how he became like this. I'm a little defensive of him because he's my husband and I don't even want strangers on the internet thinking badly of him.

yellowbrickrd Sun 17-Mar-13 16:49:28

So you know what he's sulking about but he's denying it. That's dishonest and really quite crappy isn't it? He would rather keep the sulk going and keep you bending over backwards to understand, not nice. I understand you want to defend him but he's not helping is he?

Get the counselling on the agenda again asap. Where did you get the idea that the friend thought he didn't need counselling - from something the friend said or from your dp?

Perhaps he got cold feet? A counsellor isn't going to wear themselves out for hours like you do and be available 24 hours to pander to him. Sorry if that's harsh on him but it really is true.

yellowbrickrd Sun 17-Mar-13 16:54:26

Out of interest, how does he react when you need support? Is he kind and sympathetic? Would he sit and listen for hours if you had something you needed to talk through?

ASmidgeofMidge Sun 17-Mar-13 16:57:19

See, to me this reads as an attempt at control; seeking to have you walking on eggshells/trying to work out what's wrong etc etc. I would agree that he's choosing to do this - at some stage we have to take responsibility for our own behaviour regardless of parents/background etc. Is he choosing because he's getting something from it? Definitely get the counselling back on the agenda

TheSeniorWrangler Sun 17-Mar-13 16:57:45

But is he actually sulking or just trying to work through something until hes ready to talk to you about it?

It can sometimes take me a few days of thinking about something and working it through in my own head before i'm ready to discuss it with DH.

While i try not to be 'off' with him, sometimes its very difficult...it's obvious to him that something isn't right and i've said to him when i'm like that, not to take it personally.

Now he just gives me some space and time until i'm ready to talk to him about whatever is on my mind.

badinage Sun 17-Mar-13 17:00:02

I really do understand that, but your later post just demonstrates that these are cognitive choices he's making. You've been patient enough to explain and spend hours doing it, why sulking is a bad choice. You've both identified where it comes from, but still he doesn't change and chooses this behaviour over a more adult one.

Because there aren't any painful consequences.

The consequences are felt only by you - either from being given the cold shoulder or by the tedious, emotionally draining post-sulk analyses.

Just to share something personal, my mother is a master practitioner in passive-aggressive sulks. She wouldn't know direct and honest communication if it introduced itself and asked her to marry it wink.

I knew in early adulthood that I never ever wanted to be like that so I made a definite choice not to be. When I had the occasional lapse early on in my marriage, H kicked me up the arse and rightly so. It's a house rule that people say what they want clearly and directly and if they are pissed off with something or someone, they deal with it without sulking. That doesn't preclude people having times of reflection and thinking. It just means that others don't have to suffer the consequences.

DistanceCall Sun 17-Mar-13 17:10:28

He sounds like a good man who respects you, but his childhood influences him more than he realises and it sounds like it sometimes overwhelms him and he reacts in the way which he learnt from his parents.

I understand that it is emotionally draining, but I think you are possibly the only person he can talk to about this. So you should insist that he get some counselling, because it's not his fault (I don't think he does it out of malice), but you should not have to put up with this on a regular basis. And be a bit patient meanwhile.

Trinpy Sun 17-Mar-13 17:12:58

yellow when he came back from seeing the friend he said something along the lines of 'I've spoken to x, she said I shouldn't let it bother me. And she doesn't think I need to see anyone about this I just have to react differently to them.' Basically, after being dead set on seeking help in the morning, by the evening he was magically cured.

He does support me when I need it and has been great recently when I've been worried about health concerns and possible redundancy. I do feel though that he projects his insecurities onto me sometimes so he has someone to blame.

I will discuss with him tonight about getting the counselling back on the agenda.

Wrangler Interesting point. I don't know how i would tell the difference though?

TheSeniorWrangler Sun 17-Mar-13 17:17:59

talk to him about it when he's not sulking and see what he says perhaps? If it is that, it might help you feel better about it and less irritated.

Thing is, i suffer quite badly with anxiety, and i just CANT verbalise some things until i've worked them through them in my head because i'm worried its all going to come out wrong and my feelings will be invalidated/ridiculed because they're usually irrational.

Trinpy Sun 17-Mar-13 17:36:06

I don't know if that is what he's doing - or if it is its not working for him - because he only seems to get himself more worked up. Although he apologises and can explain why he feels a certain way, he struggles to get there on his own, like I said, we have to have these long conversations about it before he can get his head around it all.

But I will ask him about it.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 17-Mar-13 17:46:11

"He always apologises afterwards but we usually have to go through this whole thing of talking it through, sometimes over hours, for him to understand his feelings and how his behaviour has made me feel. I think this has helped him enormously but it is emotionally draining for me."

I think he's getting a kick out of this bit actually. Two days of sulking??? ... and then he gets you to listen to him bleating & whining on about his bloody feelings on top??? No wonder you're emotionally drained. He's incredibly childish and selfish.

You are not his therapist. Don't reward sulking with 'understanding his feelings'.... quite the reverse.

yellowbrickrd Sun 17-Mar-13 17:59:07

You will need to be very firm with him about the counselling Trinpy - I would be very hmm about x saying any of that stuff he reported back to you. I have never heard of anyone who works in counselling telling a concerned person that they 'shouldn't let it bother' them!

badinage Sun 17-Mar-13 18:35:47

There's a difference between someone needing time to reflect and analyse what they are feeling - and sulking, letting everyone know about it and making others' lives a misery in the process. The latter is just self-indulgent passive aggression.

Are you intending to have children? Because lord knows how you'll cope when you don't have the time or the energy to unpack these founces. You're right to tackle this now.

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