AIBU to think my partner is being really unreasonable?(62 Posts)
Short version: Is it reasonable, ever, for my partner (mother of our kids) to habitually say nasty things about me in arguments in front of the kids, like "you are a despicable person", "go and be miserable with someone else", and also to encourage/involve said kids in seeing me that way?
Hello, this is my first post. I'm a father of two (daughter 5, son 2) and I was hoping to get some perspective on something that really troubles me in an otherwise good partnership. My partner is a wonderful mum, dedicated, savvy and very much admired by me for all she does for her kids and for me. We are close, but we have always had a particular kind of fight, since we met, the dynamics of which I will only touch on as far as it helps explain what REALLY troubles me.
To summarise today's example: I came home from an extremely busy day at work (walking almost 2.5 miles each way there). Tired, but otherwise perfectly happy; happy to see my kids, especially since my daughter had her first full day at school, happy to see my partner.
I am quite happy to admit that the genesis of the palpable tension that followed was with me in the concrete sense: we had agreed that I would take DS (2) out whilst she spends time with DD before her bed. No problem with that. But I could feel I was so tired that I wasn't ready to go out just that very second; I needed 15 -20 mins after chomping my dinner down.
As I could feel the tension rising from her, I tried to pre-empt by saying "I'll leave as soon as possible". Pre-empt failed, as the reply was the very thing I was trying to pre-empt, the kind of response that makes me feel harassed "but the sooner you get out the sooner we can put the film on". OK, deep breaths etc...This is where things always get hazy, and I won't try and describe exactly what happens next except to say that she turns up the get-out-of-my-way vibe whilst I move between feeling bewildered, annoyed and trying to get her to listen to what I actually meant by that tactless thing I just said...rinse and repeat a couple of times and before you know it she is saying the things above to me: "You are a despicable human being", "go an be miserable with someone else, find another partner" and saying to my daughter "ignore daddy, he's not here".
It is so so over the top, and unbelievably hurtful, and also hypocritical. Because she quite rightly says that we shouldn't argue in front of the kids, she is all about the kids, hyper-focussed on them. But when I push the wrong button (and I would never claim that I don't foolishly push certain buttons, when tired, stressed or feeling insecure) all bets are off with me, and she says horrible things like that and even gets our daughter to ally with her. That's when I snap and end up shouting about how harmful what she is doing is. But she has already put up the Kryptonite shield several minutes before, meaning I do not exist.
I know no-one can unpick the particular tangle that creates such interactions in the first place, but could I please get some perspective on my sense of this being really really out of order? I am no angel, I can be and have been a difficult person and my partner has been wonderful and helpful and forgiving in many ways. I'm sure she could tell a thing or two about my character flaws - but what infuriates me is that she never ever wants to examine the side of her that behaves as above. Help?
I should add that the word "habitually" in my first sentence is misleading, as thankfully this doesn't happen often and generally has happened less and less over the years. But it never gets any less baffling.
Regardless of how long you take, she should not call you names. That is unreasonable, particularly in front of the children. Are you delaying stupid amounts of time? Why does she want to hurry you and put on a film? Does she go to bed at 8 or something? And why are you being asked to take out ds2? Shouldn't he be in bed by about 7 or so?
You both need to have a calm and mature conversation about this. If you cant then this cant be fixed and it is very unhealthy. It is unforgiveable to try to involve a child in berating a parent and i would consider that abusive and alienating.
If you cant communicate - you will have no marriage. When all is calm raise the subject and say you want things to change.
I dont know if you will need third party help, maybe you will. If so find a good relationship counsellor.
You both need to be willing to make changes.
No she should not be speaking to you in that way in front of the kids, however frustrated she may be. YABU.
Is she home with the 2 DC all day? If so I can relate to the feeling of being ready to pass one of them to any reasonable adult who walks through the door! In these circumstances, even a delay of 10 mins can seem like an eternity. Being able to just focus on one DC, rather than manage the dynamic between them, can feel like a weight lifted when your emotionally drained.
Even if this is the case, she needs to talk to you about it away from the children, rather than using them as an audience.
It sounds like she is at the end of her tether to be honest. You sound really vague about your contribution to the row, and it's not clear what you mean by 'snap'. No, she shouldn't be speaking to you like that, but I can imagine how frustrating it would be to be asking a straight question about when you were going to do what you said you would do, and be told 'as soon as possible' (not really sure what that means!).
Am I being harsh? Sorry, long day.
Thanks all who have posted so far. Quick replies before bed:
Yes she goes to bed pretty early, and yes I can understand that she wants me to take over/take one child out ASAP and even a small delay can be very trying. She has been through very very tough times with full time care of the kids, but things have been better recently, and its possible that in the back of my mind I was thinking she might not mind a slight delay as DD now full time hours at school and so the day should have been somewhat easier for her? But of course that is naïve - the reality is she is trying to adjust DD to the new schedule and earlier nights, and I admit I'm not always the best at being aware or thinking ahead to such things.
Though I really do try, and I really do help out in all sorts of ways. We are a hardworking team and I do my share and take the criticism from her when I fall down with anything. I am far from lazy, I am dedicated. Just sometimes habitually not the most focused. The only thing I resist and complain about is the way she sometimes talks to me.
We really are on different planets though when it comes to these arguments. I should clarify that when it gets to that crisis point I am complaining about, its more that the kids are there as audience, as Madinche1 said - she is not asking DD to also tell me I'm a horrible person or anything, its just like she gathers the kids to her as her little allies, whilst refusing to let me speak/respond and meanwhile berating me. In the heat of the moment, it does feel incredibly alienating and unfair. My heart sinks inside. I don't want my daughter to hear those things about me from the person from whom she absorbs the most in terms of feelings and values.
She refuses, point blank, absolutely refuses to respond to anything I say about this. I lay my heart out - I tell her I'm sorry, I know it was me that started it, that it was me who was unreasonable first, but that this does not justify her speaking this way to me, especially in front of the kids. She
will not respond, just changes the subject back to what a hypocrite I am. How am I a hypocrite when I have no problem admitting my part in everything, yet she cannot admit hers?
No she shouldn't say those things in front of the kids obviously but I agree with a pp that you are I think intentionally vague about your contribution to this fight. Everything you wrote is clearly designed to make it sound like she is the bad guy, even though you chuck in a few platitudes about how you know you arn't always 100% perfect.
Also this for example
I am quite happy to admit that the genesis of the palpable tension that followed was with me in the concrete sense:
Do you talk to her like this in day to day conversation? Coz that would drive me up the wall
You need to try & speak to her when she is not tired & the DC are otherwise occupied. My EX used to speak to me like that all the time & I thought the kids hadn't picked up on it until the eldest started treating me the same way & by the time I left him taking my 3DD's the eldest still to this day 12yrs later grown up herself & married sometimes speaks to her partner the way her dad spoke to me & I have it out with her & tell her it's not acceptable but seemily her dad still behaves like this with his current partner. You need to try & get to the bottom of it now before your DD starts to think it's acceptable language. Good luck.
Yeah, the whole 'genesis of palpable tension' thing is just really strange.
Short answer: no, she shouldn't be saying things like that in front of the kids. It's inappropriate and unfair in them.
Long answer: she sounds at the end of her tether. It would mightily piss me off if you'd said 'as soon as possible' to me. Because it's not as soon as possible it's when you fucking feel like it. It would infuriate me that you 'needed' 15-20 minutes post dinner because you were 'tired'. I'm currently on maternity leave - I don't get any downtime to myself. Whenever I'm lucky enough that my baby is sleeping that's when the laundry, dishes, cleaning, cooking, showering etc gets done. It would be amazing to have some time off but it doesn't happen. You saying something like that really demonstrates how little you value what she's doing and how hard she works, even if you're doing it unintentionally.
And you say this happens very rarely - she blew her top because you pissed her off. How much do you contribute to the daily running of your household, including cooking, cleaning, life admin? What you think of as an even distribution might be way off the mark.
"Do you talk to her like this in day to day conversation? Coz that would drive me up the wall."
"its possible that in the back of my mind I was thinking she might not mind a slight delay as DD now full time hours at school and so the day should have been somewhat easier for her?"
OP, this sounds like you did her thinking for her to me. She was telling you this wasn't the case. She did need you to do something for her and was asking you when you would do it. Of course it isn't okay for her to talk to you like this, but don't you think it's passive aggressive to hear what someone is saying to you, then internally change it to what suits you, but not tell them?
The points about vagueness regarding my contribution to the fight, and also not valuing what she does and not pulling my weight as much as I think are fair. RE: vagueness I get moments of insecurity sometimes that make me behave probably like an arse- I try to get her to listen to me and end up following her saying "please just listen a sec" and it drives her crazy. I know it drives her crazy but I feel goaded by what seems to me the unnecessary curtness of her replies/rebuffs and refusal to listen. This is what I mean by things spiralling from there - I'm vague about it because it's hard for me to describe exactly what's going on, all I know is I feel insecure, annoyed by her rebuffs that make me feel yet more insecure, and I have trouble even remembering exactly how things went before suddenly we're at the crisis point, out of nowhere. BUT - I accept such situations are my fault and I need to try really hard not to do that. That's what I mean by "genesis of palpable tension". Read: me being an insecure arse.
Re: housework, delays, and valuing what she does. Again, yes. I come from a really difficult household in these matters. Whilst I feel that I have already worked hard to change and be more responsible, its always relative to how not-responsible I was and I know I need to forget that and keep working hard. Thanks for the reminder.
Having reflected on it I can see where she is coming from, as I think to her it is just like "I do all this for you, I even told you to go for a rest if you are tired, and you pick a fight out of nowhere". It is my fault and I am going to let her know, again, that I know that.
What I want her to understand in return is that this still does not justify the way she talks to me in front of the kids at such moments. It feels terrible, ruinous, and I am worried about exactly what some of you are describing - that my daughter will just absorb all that and start speaking to me the same way. Its awful because we all have an otherwise great relationship, things going well after some tough times, and plenty to look forward to.
My partner has always had this streak in her when it comes to arguments, since I've known her. So yes she is at the end of her tether sometimes, but that is not the only cause of it. It's like a button is pushed at some point and out comes this incredible venom. I have seen her behave similarly with her family (a long time ago, not now) so its not like it only appeared with me. It is highly intimidating.
Blimey, even your 'explanation' is overly wordy and still a bit vague and wishy washy
Can you not explain in a short concise and straight to the point way?
What do you mean, you come from a difficult household when it comes to pulling your weight?
I don't think you need to accept responsibility for everything up to the assassination of JFK, OP, just try to understand why she might be being curt to begin with, and why she might become frustrated when you give meaningless answers like "as soon as possible" to questions about when you're going to do something 😂
The things she said are awful and she shouldn't say them. Have you discussed anger management? If she can't reel it in in front of the kids it's a problem. Really nasty things to say to you too. Tell her in a calm moment how upsetting these particular remarks are and see what she thinks will help her to not say them. If she can't commit to treating you decently in front of your kids (and all the time) this may be an LTB situation.
Meanwhile, don't deliberately wind her up. In this situation she was more tired than you I'm willing to bet she'd probably kill for the opportunity to walk 2.5 miles, think her own thoughts, get some fresh air, maybe listen to an audiobook on the way... Ok I'm talking about me here but i bet she could relate.
How are your time keeping skills generally? If she has to get dinner (which she's prepared by herself with two kids to watch) finished, get film on and completed, create reassuring bonding time with DD, get kids to bed by a certain time, she does not have 15-20 minutes for you to relax. I think she was very clear about this. She specifically stated she needed you gone to move on to the next thing. Then rather than helping you made a big drama.
You sound like a good and loving parent and partner, but she has a whole family to create a schedule for. Both her and your needs come after the kids. When you (whether deliberately or not) put your needs before everyone else's it's going to cause trouble.
YANBU to be upset by her intolerable remarks.
YABU to not help out when she's under a lot more stress than you to keep the household running. That means now - not in 20 minutes.
This op is one which more than any other has my blood pressure rising for the poor person being complained about.
Of course she shouldn't say that stuff but her utter exhaustion and frustration hee is almost palpable. She has been dying for you to come home, help her just push through that last hurdle of the day so she can relax with her adult at last. Small children can be so all consuming, so draining in a very specific way which can lead carers to just count the minutes before their much loved little ones are tucked up safely and they can have that sense of personal space and switch off the always alert button in their brain.
Her absolute frustration at you going back on what you agreed must have been quite overwhelming. Especially with your suggestion that it wasn't at that point 'possible' for you to contribute. She has made things possible all day for your children.
Unless you change she will lose faith and trust in you. And so will your children, regardless of whether she is actually vocalising her frustration or not.
So make it clear you won't do this again and ask her not to voice her frustrations in such a destructive way. Then keep your side of the bargain 100 per cent.
I think the OP has been clear that he fucked up in dawdling over taking the toddler out and being vague and annoying when pressed about it. But his question, really, is does his mean he's a 'despicable person' and should be berated as such in front of the children? Clearly not. We all lose our rag sometimes when our partner is annoying us or letting us down, and fair enough. But we don't all tell our partners to 'go be miserable with someone else' or assassinate their character and instruct the children to pretend they're not there.
That is not OK at all, and really nasty and damaging. Not to mention stressful and upsetting for the children. This needs to be talked about when things have calmed down.
Anger is fine and normal and healthy, and can help people understand how important certain issues are in their partnership. Lashing out hatefully and with malice is not helping anyone.
By palpable tension do you mean she sulks? And then huffsend around the house. And you then chase around after her? Saying really annoying insecure things? So she sulks more until she snaps a d says something mean?
It sounds like you have got into an awful habit. No it is not fair of her to call you names. But nor is it fair that you are really vague. You needed some down time? Couldn't you refrained your half hour walk home as some down time? Just you and your music. Or could you get a bike? 2.5 miles would fly by on a bike giving you more time at home and more energy to take ds out to the park do she can spend some time with dd decompressing her day at the start of a new term
She shouldn't shout at you end of.
However you do seem very ponderous and deep thinking and does that make you a bit vague and ponderous in RL situations?
Do you talk like this to her using the phrases in your post?
Cos that would drive me insane.
Sorry op, x posted. Seems you do understand the problem. So anger management it is I think.
I'm the sort of person that let's the anger build up as i'm trying to move things along, but if my partner or whomever keeps pushing I do just snap. It seems sudden but it's been building for the last 20 minutes of talking in circles. I do not say horrible things, but I will get very upset. Perhaps your partner is like this too?
To manage her just don't push her to that point. Stop talking and move on. That's a strategy until you can get her to find a way to control her language.
Also I think people are being a bit mean and unreasonable to you, OP. You've identified the problems, it's time to take action. Discuss with her what it will take for her to be civil. Be very clear that long term this could be very damaging to the children. No one wants to hear that stuff about their dad. Especially not from their mum. They need to know you're a team.
The OP's partner committed to him had two children with him knowing that he used long words and was a bit ponderous, so I'm guessing that doesn't drive her as insane as it drives many on here. Nor, again, does it excuse her flaying him alive in front of the children. Being a bit vague and wordy is not really on the same level as telling the children to pretend their other parent isn't there because you're angry with them.
Am astonished at the contortions people are going through to make this all his fault.
Imagine this was flipped - SAHD, mother comes home tired after long day at work, doesn't immediately take toddler out & father freaks out, telling her she's a horrible person who should leave the family home and makes the children ignore her. Would we all be at pains to point out to the mother that she deserved everything she got for being annoying and insecure?
"but the sooner you get out the sooner we can put the film on". OK, deep breaths etc...This is where things always get hazy, and I won't try and describe exactly what happens next except to say that she turns up the get-out-of-my-way vibe whilst I move between feeling bewildered, annoyed and trying to get her to listen to what I actually meant by that tactless thing I just said
I learned this from another thread, but it applies here. The flashpoint, what turned her from annoyed, to the state that upsets you, is here, but you "can't remember" what you said.
Of course she should never be talking to you like that and if the situation was reversed etc.
However, there IS a gap, and it's a crucial one . . . what happened that turned her mood from irritation to rage. It's "always gets hazy" you say?
I think she is in the wrong, being bullying and including the DCs in it.
Can you call her on it? 'Can you not include the girls in your anger?' If she is does it. But you need to be calm and reasonable. Not start shouting or arguing.
I seem to come across this in various members of my family- something angers them and they are snipey at whoever is available - infuriating.
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