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Which one of us needs help?

(53 Posts)
Kermit1979 Wed 21-Sep-11 13:42:03

I know that there are countless threads on here about emotionally abusive relationships, but I'm looking for some honest advice on whether my DH is causing our problems, whether I am, or whether we're just inherently incompatible. Apologies in advance for a long message.

We argue a lot, and DD is currently 6 mo - too young to be affected at the moment (it mostly happens when she's in bed in the evenings), but the very thought that she might be affected when she's older is making me consider the future. I'll give an example of the most recent argument because it illustrates a lot of the same themes that keep recurring.

Last night, I made what I considered to be a lighthearted comment as DH carried his dinner plate into the kitchen. I said 'I wish you were that helpful all of the time.' I didn't mean it to sound like a cutting remark, I actually (stupidly!) thought that he would just smile. Most of the time, I fetch the plates and clear up after dinner, but he does help probably one or two nights a week. Admittedly, he works and I'm a SAHM, and i know that I'm quite lucky in terms of what he does, so I understand that my remark probably did seem hurtful. But his reaction was, in my opinion, way way over the top. He went mad at me for implying that he doesn't help - he stormed off, told me that 'all of my friends' partners are "down here" (indicating to the floor!), while he is "up there" and that he's not appreciated by me on 'any level.' He called me ungrateful (something that he's doing a lot recently) and that I don't appreciate the life that he provides for me. I apologised, kept calm and told him that I really hadn't meant to offend him, and shouldn't have said it. But he carried on.

He said that he's sick of how ungrateful I am, and that my apologies are never 'heartfelt.' I always feel that he expects too much of me when he wants me to keep apologising - for me, 'sorry' is enough (unless the damage was much greater than just a simple remark) but his feelings seem to be hurt so much that he can't forgive straight away. I frequently feel that I;m treading on eggshells around him because of how sensitive he can be. I told him he has a problem and that he needs to move on from things quicker, which angered him even more. I also asked him to calm down because I was scared that he would wake DD, who had slept so badly the previous night. In the end, he did wake her.

At this point, we had been arguing for about 20 mins, but i had been all the time telling myself to stay calm. When DD started crying, I was furious. I looked at DH and asked him to go in to her, and he refused (I;m always the one who has to get her back to sleep). What happened then was 100% my own fault and I'm ashamed to admit it - I smashed my drinking glass on the floor. I have never before broken something deliberately, and I didn't even really intend to do it, so I was as shocked as DH. But he just smiled at me - it's like he's triumphant when he pushes me to lose my temper as badly as him. But at the end of the day, we both lost our tempers in the end which is why I don't think it's as clear cut as saying that HE has the problem. Maybe we both do.

He didn't help to clear up the glass and he continued to refuse to go and calm DD while I cleared up. I ended up in tears, shocked at myself and upset with him - he became completely calm as soon as my temper had flared up, and took himself off to the bedroom. I was so upset and told him that he's making me hate him, and this time we have to face up to the fact that our marriage has serious issues (something I always end up saying, but then apologise for later).

We are both passionate people, but I can honestly say that I've never had a relationship before that brings out this side of me. I have always cried pretty easily, and become angry and raised my voice in arguments, but I never called my ex boyfriend names, I didn't swear at him and I certainly didn't break things. I feel that DH has taught me this behaviour, but I can't even type that without recognising that I might be blaming him for my own problems.

Has anyone experienced this kind of arguing before? Is it a problem that we can solve? Leaving him is something that I'm not sure i could ever contemplate. I would hate myself for breaking up our marriage and depriving DD of having two parents bringing her up together. I would rather find a way to get out of the problem, but first I need to feel confident about who exactly has the problem.

notsorted Wed 21-Sep-11 13:52:08

It is a very difficult time with first child. Tiredness, change of roles, a lot of responsibility on both of you. Fwiw, I heard about a lot of arguments - some quite nasty and out of character - between partners of babies and toddlers.
Question is what happens now. If you can both reconnect, you and he can discuss the problem and underlying causes and work on it getting better that is a good sign. It may take getting some sleep, finding a bit of time for each other again, letting house run itself for a bit or getting grandparents in.
However, if this becomes a gulf that you don't feel you can cross or he refuses to discuss it is another thing and does suggest deeper problems. If you think it is your anger then practice some calming techniques. Some men feel hopeless, helpless or don't get out of the selfish man not dad mode until long after the mums.
Thing about EA is that it distorts the relationship - you do react to how he behaves and vice versa. Read up on EA, have a look at Freedom programme stuff and take a step back. If you can be a little less passionate in face of his behaviour you will be better able to reassess where it is coming from and know what to do about it.

HereIGo Wed 21-Sep-11 14:00:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Kermit1979 Wed 21-Sep-11 14:05:23

Thanks for such a fair reply. It has been really hard since DD was born, as wonderful as she is. Sleep deprivation has sent me crazy at times, and I have often felt that my hormones are making me colder and less affectionate towards him. But at the same time, he doesn't seem to respect the job I'm doing in staying at home with her all day, and i have lost count of how many times he's called me lazy and ungrateful. I can't imagine that all couples argue like this - it doesn't seem right. And even before she was born, he had a problem with forgiving me for 'hurting his feelings' - it really doesn't take much before I'm being told off for being so awful.
But I will definitely try to detach myself a little bit the next time something like last night happens, to see where we end up if I don't get angry too. At the moment, I know I have an evening of apologies ahead of me if I want to move on from last night. He will be furious that I said i hate him (understandably so) and I don't think sorry will be enough, no matter how seriously I say it. He will probably engage very little with me and sit in another room. It sounds so pathetic and childish, but I find it difficult to cope with. I guess i need to let him cool down from this though, and start again next time.

buzzskillington Wed 21-Sep-11 14:09:22

I think it's quite freaky that he smiled at you smashing your glass and seems pleased when you lose your temper. That's not normal.

If I were you, I think reading through some of the links about EA might be worthwhile. You might recognise some behaviour there and be better placed to judge what's going on.

Kermit1979 Wed 21-Sep-11 14:10:03

Thanks HereIGo - I was drinking water, not wine. Alcohol definitely isn't the problem.
Our baby was very much planned, and the decision for me to stay at home was mutual. I had a well paid job before, but we can quite comfortably afford for me to stay with her. His job is stressful, and I have taken on the lion's share of the responsibilities with her (i put her to bed every night and get up with her - he has never done it, and I do agree that he shouldn't have to due to getting up for work the next day).

buzzskillington Wed 21-Sep-11 14:10:53

Does he ever apologise for calling you names?

Proudnscary Wed 21-Sep-11 14:16:36

I really hope people don't come on here saying 'leave him' purely because from your post it is very difficult to tell what's really going on - it really might just be the stress and having to adapt to having a baby.

Maybe you have been getting at him unfairly (I would never say 'ungrateful' though as that implies you are not a partnership). Or maybe he's being a twat. Probably a bit of both.

I remember arguing a lot when ds was a baby and sometimes we'd name call or even throw things I think (vague memory) but things are completely different now.

Sorry that's not very helpful.

Kermit1979 Wed 21-Sep-11 14:18:22

No, he doesn't. We have a recurring theme which is that I'm the one who apologises because 'i started it.' I have often asked him to apologise for the things he's said, keeping it as a separate issue from whatever started the argument, but he only ever gets angry and says that I'm shirking away from a proper apology. The most he'll ever say is 'of course I don't think you're lazy' but he will never say sorry.
Can I ask if any of you would expect him to apologise for his role in what happened last night? Or would you accept that by making a comment about how much he helps, and then ending up smashing something, that you should take the full blame? I strongly feel that he pushed me to lose my temper like that by calling me ungrateful, shouting at me, and waking up our dd, and I often feel that I'm being walked all over if I apologise for all of it. Our arguments are fairly frequent but smashing something was TOTALLY out of character for me, hence the fact that I'm now on here.

HereIGo Wed 21-Sep-11 14:35:30

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Kermit1979 Wed 21-Sep-11 14:47:05

Thanks - it's very helpful to hear your perspective. I agree with you entirely about the family stuff - I have the same opinion as you. When we're not fighting, he says he agrees that we're a family unit/ a partnership, and that we both do valuable jobs. But as soon as we;re arguing (regardless of what it's about), I get called the same names again. He clearly believes, deep down, that he is doing more and that I should be grateful to him. I don't know how to change that, because he'll just keep denying it as soon as things are good again.

However, he does play a part in the evenings. He has always given DD her bath, and then she has her bottle with me before going to sleep. It's just that I'm always the one who settles her if she wakes a (a legacy from breastfeeding which hasn't been broken now that she's on formula).

buzzskillington Wed 21-Sep-11 14:49:41

I would apologise for my part in your place, but what he seems to want in appeasement is excessive. I wouldn't expect to spend an entire evening apologising nor for him to give the cold shoulder - that's unacceptable. I do think he owes you an apology for what he said. Once you'd said sorry for your ill-judged comment, he should have let it go.

You should be giving each other some slack, as new parents and as people who supposedly love each other.

buzzskillington Wed 21-Sep-11 14:58:39

There doesn't seem to be any slack on his part, just demands for you to prostrate yourself.

babyhammock Wed 21-Sep-11 15:50:04

I think you smashed the glass out of pure frustration and tiredness and the relentless haranging from your DH.

I think him alluding to you being lazy, ungrateful and then smiling when you finally lost it is pretty nasty stuff tbh.

Oh and big overeaction to your comment too esp as it does sound like he doesn't do much around the house. Yes you are a SAHM but does that mean you never get a break and that your day never ends everyday. Oh I forgot, you have to be ever so greatful for him taking his plate out twice a week hmm

SwingingBetty Wed 21-Sep-11 15:53:42

DD is currently 6 mo - too young to be affected at the moment

sorry, didnt get past that bit

you are deluded if you think thats true sad

HereIGo Wed 21-Sep-11 15:57:41

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Spero Wed 21-Sep-11 16:05:22

When I went to relate they said that having a baby was like a bomb going off in the relationship.

You can't under estimate the impact a baby is having, but that doesn't mean you can ignore whatis going on, it needs to be addressed now. Just because your baby can't talk, doesn't mean she can't hear shouting, glasses being smashed and be very frightened.

Your initial comment was mean and utterly unproductive, it would have upset and angered me. But his response is worrying and so too your smashing a glass.

It sounds like you are both resentful of one another and not able to discuss it maturely.

I think you both need help with communication at what is a difficult time for any relationship. Seeing a professional counsellor might also flush out any more serious issues of emotional abuse.

LittleHousebytheRiver Wed 21-Sep-11 16:06:27

Kermit come and hang out with us on the EA Support thread and read up some of the background stuff. I recognise in your post a lot of the mindgames my H used on me before I saw the light.

We call it the spaghetti head mess and there is even a song about it!

Don't feel you have to understand what is happening immediately, just recognise you are not a bad person and even good people can behave badly if they are put in an intolerable position.

And have a slice of banana bread and a cup of brew as it's that time already!

Dozer Wed 21-Sep-11 17:10:23

Sorry you're having a rough time.

I don't like that your DH expects you to be "grateful"; that he smiled when you lost it; or that he sulks disproportionately.

On your statement that you're a SAHM - you're actually not, you're only 6 months in, that's maternity leave. Have you resigned? If not, then perhaps reconsider.

It might just be "babyshock" and things will improve with time / discussion / adjustment on both your parts, but if not and it is EA, or even if you just can't get along, you might find it a lot harder to leave (even a few years down the line) if you don't have a job.

garlicnutty Wed 21-Sep-11 18:09:43

I don't like that your DH expects you to be "grateful"; that he smiled when you lost it; or that he sulks disproportionately.

Neither do I.

I don't know what your relationship was like before your baby but, even if it was brilliant, there's a serious power imbalance going on here and it won't right itself automatically in a few years' time.

Where's his gratitude for your keeping house, looking after his baby and him and choosing to share your life with him? How come you need to grovel for grudging forgiveness, when he doesn't even say sorry for upsetting you? His smile when you broke the glass is a bit creepy, though only you know what kind of a smile it was.

He's exerting power over you and I, too, would like to think you can go back to work. It will broaden your options somewhat, and keep you from being his "prisoner" at home.

To answer your questions: Yes, your remark was a bit snidey. He could have picked you up on that, without making a drama out of your ingratitude, so evidently he was determined to create a row. When happy couples row, they're both sorry for hurting the other one (even if they still disagree.)

KatieScarlett2833 Wed 21-Sep-11 18:20:10

Sorry, I would have lost the plot at you after the first comment you made. I get the feeling from his reaction that it is not the first time you have made comments of this type. If DH said that to me I would be incensed.

It was snidey, especially since he was helping at the time. The glass smashing lost you even more of the moral high ground IMO.

However, there is no way you should be expected to feel "grateful" for his contributions to the household work or finances. He needs to get over himself on that one and fast.

So, bit of both I'd say.


amverytired Wed 21-Sep-11 18:24:52

I'm with the others who suggest you visit the emotional abuse thread. Like them I recognise myself in your post.

It took me a long time to realise what was going on. About a year from the gradual realisation that I couldn't ALWAYS be in the wrong - but I was according to him...

I also spent ages thinking about how I could word things so that I wouldn't be offensive. Apparently it was 'the way I said things' - I really really tried to change myself for him, thinking it always took two to have a row.
Actually, sometimes it only takes the one person. Because they are looking for any excuse to have a go.

BelleDameSansMerci Wed 21-Sep-11 18:29:41

What garlicnutty said...

Smum99 Wed 21-Sep-11 18:58:36

How long were you together before the baby? I would certainly factor in the stress of the new baby and adjustment that you are both going through. I also think you need to learn to raise issues in a constructive manner - often we speak to our partners in ways that we would never do with friends or family members. Consider a change of approach and see if you can be more constructive in your arguments - encourage him to do the same. Then review if you are making progress, maybe set a time frame and see if issues have improved. You can only change your behaviour. He is responsibility for his own behaviour.

Bumpsadaisie Wed 21-Sep-11 19:11:18

Its unlikely to be either just you or just him.

To me it sounds like fairly normal kind of arguing that I think many people have experienced at times. I've smashed a couple of glasses in my time in anger. Much less so nowadays though - DH and I have got better at rowing, I think!

I do shout and swear and call him names when I am very angry though (eg "just f off you f-ing pratt". Though we are never near physical violence and the vast majority of our rows involved raised voices but not swearing and name calling.

If you're smashing glasses and swearing and name calling very regularly then its something you need to work on. But most of us have done it at times!

One thing you don't talk about is how you make up. A lot rides on this. DH and I row a fair bit (we have a toddler and I'm about to have no.2 so we are hard pressed) but we are VERY good at not sulking and at making up. We always both apologise and we have a rule that if one person comes over to make up the other accepts it and makes an effort too. This works wonders! No sulking or days of silent treatment in our house, thank god.

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