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In a really bad place wth DH and DS

(132 Posts)
saffronwblue Thu 06-Feb-14 09:21:11

Married 16 years, DS is 15. Their relationship is just deteriorating as DH is continually bullying, nitpicking and belittling DS. He does not see how hurt DS is by the way he speaks to him and how damaged their relationship is. I spend all my time facilitating between them, trying to keep the peace and feeling dreadful. I don't want to go on like this. DH refuses to see that any of this is his problem. He thinks DS should just be more compliant and obedient and does not see that he has thrown away DS's respect by being so full of bluster and meanness.
If he was a stepfather I would separate. But he is DS's own father and I don't want to break up the family if we don't have to. I don't know what sort of message DS would get from that. We also have a 12 year old DD ( who has ASD) and is very sensitive to atmosphere. Would they both be happier if we split up? Would I? Or is this normal teenage adjustment and DH and I will end up happy ever after again?
I am so sad, angry and confused. We just had a scene at dinner where DS was chatting happily about his day. DH just started roaring at him about his table manners. Everyone ended the meal in stunned and angry silence.

mistlethrush Thu 06-Feb-14 09:28:54

My DS is a lot younger than yours - but I have had to speak to DH to point out that all DS hears from him is 'stupid boy' and other similar comments - and doesn't see any of the love that I know DH has for him. In my case, a quiet word with DH has actually changed things in a positive way. I don't want DH ending up like FiL (actually he would have a long way to go to that as DH can be quite thoughtful most of the time). How is yours and DH's relationship? Would he cope with having a discussion with you, without the children there and acknowledge that there's a problem and that it needs to be worked on? Teenagers are a different species, and he needs to bare that in mind.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 06-Feb-14 09:30:33

What do you get out of this relationship now?.

I would not tolerate this at all from your DH and yes I would separate, seek legal advice and plan your exit from this marriage. Show Mr Dominator Bully within your home that you are not powerless and that you mean business when it comes to protecting your children from him.

You would not be breaking the family by separating; your DH has caused this to happen by his actions towards his son and by turn you all.

It would not surprise me if he has over the years treated you very much the same with his abusive attentions now focussed on his eldest child.

Your DH is choosing to behave as he does (he does not behave like this in the outside world does he and to outsiders he probably gives off the image of being the perfect family man and pillar of respectability) and your eldest is taking the full brunt of it whilst you watch and try to be peacemaker. You also run the very real risk of having your own relationship with your son seriously damaged because in his eyes you have done little or not enough to protect him from his dad's outbursts.

Better to be apart and happier than to be together and miserable. Keep posting here too, you will get support here.

saffronwblue Thu 06-Feb-14 09:37:56

I'm not sure what I feel any more. I feel so protective of DS and so angry that it is affecting our relationship. At other times Dh can be kind, generous and go out of his way to do things for everyone in the family. He has a real blind spot about how his tone and criticism affect others and gets so defensive when I try to talk to him.

NotNewButNameChanged Thu 06-Feb-14 09:40:54

Put your children first. Tell your DH that if he does not curb his temper in this way, you and your children will leave and you will start divorce proceedings. The fact you have said that if he was a stepparent you would leave says everything. Your children are more important than your marriage.

saffronwblue Thu 06-Feb-14 09:41:38

Can't stop crying now I have started to admit how I feel.

AttilaTheMeerkat Thu 06-Feb-14 09:49:04

Dry your eyes saffron and start lining your ducks up in a row legally speaking. Show him you mean business and that his abuse of your eldest will not be tolerated by you.

Who is ultimately more important here; him or your children?. I think I know the answer to that one.

Your H is indeed choosing to act as he does and like many such inadequate male bullies he is choosing to pick on the nearest and dearest i.e his own family with particular reference to your son.

Do not tolerate this any longer, tell him he has to leave. If he does not use legal means to get him out. Where he goes is of no consequence or matter to you. At the very least the three of you can then eat a meal in peace, its the very least you all deserve.

The only acceptable level of abuse within a relationship is NONE.

lazarusb Thu 06-Feb-14 09:53:50

I left with ds1 when he was 5. His dad was the same but violent too (once to ds - that was one of the very final straws). Being a biological father means very little if you treat your child so badly.

If your dh really can't or won't see what he is doing to your ds then it is likely that only very affirmative action - discussing separation - might make him wake up a bit.

What is/was your dh's relationship with his father like? Is this a damaging pattern?

saffronwblue Thu 06-Feb-14 09:57:30

FIL was a lovely, gentle and passive man. MIL was toxic and narcissistic (not terms I use lightly) and treated DH as golden Boy and his sister as the 'difficult one'.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Thu 06-Feb-14 10:17:54

I told DH about the content of this thread, it brought back memories.

We had this in our family too, saffron, around 14-15, up until DS turned 17. Small scale and gradual. Basically the alpha male was suddenly realising that the next in line was threatening his position. Mealtimes were the flashpoint. Just as you think isn't this nice, all 4 of us sitting together, pow. I don't mean it ever descended to physical btw. Sometimes it was a hair's breadth from joshing around to anger. But I could see when they pushed each other's buttons. Nobody likes a smart alec but DS couldn't always help himself. At some point DH got riled enough to stop making allowances for his youth.

Now in your case it doesn't sound as if DS is doing anything wrong.

Unless DS brings home report cards and gets detention weekly, he obviously behaves himself at school.

Week days they'll have school and work respectively, what happens at weekends, do they spend time together?

What was DH's relationship like with your FIL?

I doubt DH hears himself, how he comes across. How useful and enlightening if you could somehow record such a scene.

I feel sorry for DD too, if DH doesn't realise this will impact on her he is kidding himself.

The strange thing is, if my DS hadn't ever challenged DH and "clash antlers" and develop his own personality DH would probably have felt he had failed as a father.

DH finally accepted DS is his own person, thankfully before DS left home to study. He says now that he has to rein himself in on occasion but on the whole they get along now because they respect and love each other.

Is there some sort of Family Counselling service available?

I have now read FIL was a lovely man. DH shouldn't feel threatened by the next generation. I don't think you'd have married a bully, so I don't see why you should put up with one now.

BadgerFace Thu 06-Feb-14 10:24:05

If your DH doesn't see how he is acting, can you record it? Hearing it played back might be the only way for him to realise how he is coming across.

Poor DS. sad At least by challenging your DH on the behaviour he might start to realise how important it it he changes it.

dramajustfollowsme Thu 06-Feb-14 10:24:15

Saffron, I had a really difficult relationship with my dad. He would mock me in front of people, say things like "why can't you be more like xx?"
He had a very different relationship with my Dsis. He was always very living towards her. Although Dsis was much younger than me and that may have contributed to the difference.
He could stand the thought that I had ideas of my own, my own opinions. He hated that I was so similar, in every way to mum.
My parents split for a different reason but I was relieved I didn't have to try and please him and live with him anymore. sad
He still saw my Dsis but wanted nothing to do with me. I was 15, she was 4.
On my 16th birthday, he arrived to pick up my Dsis for contact. I answered the door. He asked if she was ready as he was in a hurry and went back to the car. I was and still get upset by that. He knew exactly what date it was but said nothing.
I never wanted to tell my mum how dad made me feel. I thought I was just bad and she had enough on.
It wasn't until mum asked me that I opened up. Have you asked your children how they feel?
Then you could speak to your dh and see if there is any improvement.
Thinking of you.

saffronwblue Thu 06-Feb-14 10:29:15

Thanks everyone for listening and helping me sort out my thoughts. When DH is 'having a go' at DS I can see DS getting more and more beside himself with hurt and anger while DH just will not back down. He is just oblivious and thinks I do not care about table manners etc and always take the DC's side.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Thu 06-Feb-14 10:34:20

Or a mirror, if DH is getting red-faced and belligerent.

BadgerFace Thu 06-Feb-14 10:36:48

Have you tried talking to DH about how positive reinforcements are better than negative ones? So he could praise the things DS does at the dinner table that are good manners instead of always picking up on the bad habits he doesn't like?

If it were me Saffron I think I would have to point out to DH that it wasn't that I didn't care about table manners, because I do, but when it came down to him being aggresive, or my DD's behaviour, then I was always going to take her/the child's side because there is no excuse for an adult behaving so badly towards anyone let alone their child.

Does he manage people at work? If so, do you know if he manages them well/in a proper way? If he does, then it might be worth asking him what he thinks would happen if he spoke to his staff the way he speaks to DS? I.e. Immediate complaints from the staff to HR about his behaviour with good reason.

beastietoys Thu 06-Feb-14 10:45:04

I can really sympathise with this. Particularly when you say "He has a real blind spot about how his tone and criticism affect others and gets so defensive when I try to talk to him" but then my DH is definitely on the autistic spectrum so always has problems like this. I really sympathise.

I would say though that this is a relationship problem too. You talk to him about your family dynamics and he does not listen to you, denies all wrongdoing and gets angry and defensive. Do you think he would go to relate? You could raise the issue of his treatment of DS there. We did this.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Thu 06-Feb-14 10:50:03

This isn't about table manners is it.

A family meal isn't a family meal if it's three of you and a gorilla beating his chest.

Clutterbugsmum Thu 06-Feb-14 11:57:21

Like Drama I had a similar relationship with my dad. My brother could do no wrong because he was the oldest and a boy, my younger sister could do no wrong because she was the youngest, I on the otherhand was always 'Old enough to know better'.

We didn't have a relationship at all. After he left my mum when I was 22 I probably saw him a dozen times in 18 years until he died 5yrs ago. It was only once he knew he was dying did he want a relationship, but by then it was to late.

Don't get me wrong I wouldn't wish him dead, but I could no longer put myself in a position to get hurt again with his attitude towards me. Especially after I had children.

Viviennemary Thu 06-Feb-14 12:08:13

Teenage boys can be difficult. Teenage girls too! I can't see the point of family meals when they end in tears and anger. I would stop the family meals for the time being. I have the opposite problem. I'm the one who gets annoyed, nags and finds fault so Dad is usually the popular one.

I'm going to show this thread to DP, as I can foresee this being our family in 10 yrs time.
DP has a short fuse, as do I but I try everyday to control myself and keep calm and firm with the DC (2 and 5). I don't always succeed but my DC have made me a better person as before them I just lost my temper when I wanted to with DP (and him me).

I think the point is, how do we behave in public? If we can manage it in public, we can manage it at home, most of the time. No one is perfect.

DP tries but he becomes mr grumpy/shouty and then thinks I don't care about discipline and always take the kids' sides. Which I don't.
I support his judgements, up to a point. He is very much 'zero tolerance' and won't ignore the little things. I dislike that he shouts over most things and I can see things getting worse once the kids are teenagers.
He adores them but he does have a blind spot about how he deals with them.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Thu 06-Feb-14 12:39:30

Your DS isn't even retaliating. If there were raised voices on both sides or DS provoked it by being challenging, DH might have some defence. But this sounds like he is targetting DS.

I don't know if you can pinpoint when this started?

You shouldn't have to referee. It is affecting all of you. And not to be alarmist but if DH applies enough pressure it could tip into the physical.

On one occasion with DH and DS, some row kicked off over something and DH who is normally placid and un-confrontational went from zero to 80 in a micro second. For a moment it was like two 6 feet tall angry teenagers eyeball to eyeball instead of a grown man and a 16 year old.

Prior to this, I would have never in a million years thought DH would ever hurt our son, (we didn't believe in smacking), but that time I honestly felt like we were a split second away from a really bad situation. DH was shocked by his own reaction. It never got to that again.

springysofa Thu 06-Feb-14 13:14:44

I would get outside intervention ie a family therapy-type thing. Something foundational is going on here and perhaps if DH hears your opinion repeated out of the mouths of professionals he should take some notice (one hopes).

I also think that making it very clear that you won't tolerate this - and are prepared to separate because of it - actually sends a healthy message to your son: that this is serious and it is unacceptable, to the point that you will take serious steps to protect your son.

lazarusb Thu 06-Feb-14 13:19:03

I agree with Donkeys. Your ds is the passive one here, your dh is at fault.
Vivienne Teenagers can be difficult but it doesn't appear to be the issue here. The problem here is that a grown, adult man is bullying his own child and doesn't seem to be prepared to acknowledge that. That is what I really find worrying - his lack of awareness of his cruelty and what effect that is having on his family as a whole.

OxfordBags Thu 06-Feb-14 14:24:16

OP, you should ask yourself which is worse: imperfect table manners or bellowing at a child (albeit teenage) who loves you and is dependent on you, upsetting and scaring not only the lad, but his mother and sister?! Elbows on table Vs ruining the meal with uncalled-for aggression and nastiness - hardly a contest, is it?!

That he is their biological father matter not a jot in terms of how unacceptable it is, or whether you should leave him or not. In fact, from your son's point of view, a stepfather treating him this way might actually not be as upsetting, as he could console himself that it's because he's not his, or something similar.

You wonder about what it might say to your Dc about relationships if you left. But what about what they are being taught by you staying - that men are allowed to bully and belittle their children, and mothers don't protect them. I don't mean that to sound accusative as it might do, it's just that that's how it will seem to children, even teenagers. By staying, you keep them in a situation where DS is made your OH's whipping boy. OH is a bully. He doesn't treat anyone else this way, does he? No, because he's found which victim he gets the biggest kick out of being mean to - your son. Would you keep him in a school where he was forced to spend all his time a boy who was bullying him? If not, why are you keeping him in a home where he's being bullied?

A final point to consider: your DD has ASD. This means that she learns about social skills and relationships differently from other children. It is especially important that her parents model good behaviour and respect for her,even more than other children, therefore. The lessons she will be learning from you two about relationships and how to treat people and be treated will be so, so damaging.

They're also v damaging for your son. If your own father bullies you, it's hardly going to set you up for a life of carefree confidence and high self-esteem, is it?

lazarusb Thu 06-Feb-14 16:20:20

Your ds was chatting happily about his day - unless he was doing so with his mouth full I don't see that as bad table manners - it's just normal. Even with his mouth full doesn't warrant a full-on rant, just a quick reminder.

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