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How do you judge whether problems in a relationship are serious?(17 Posts)
This sounds like a ridiculous question, and I'm sorry for the essay - I'm not sure I can put my finger on what I'm trying to say. I've been with DH for 20 years and married for 11. Two children under six.
This is the only relationship I've ever been in and I've always struggled with perspective. Earlier on in our relationship I used to have massive crises about what, in retrospect, were minor rows.
I've been feeling like things are bit bumpy between us recently. DH is a bit grumpy and snappy and seems to find the kids hard work at the moment, and I feel like I need to protect them from it a bit and then end up undermining him and niggling at him all the time. Plus we just seem to come at some elements of parenting from completely different perspectives.
For example, DH cooked a really nice lunch today but he struggles to multitask. So when he lost a cooking implement, he snapped at the children and cut them dead every time they tried to speak to him over a five minute period until he'd found it. This type of thing isn't uncommon, though it's not all the time.
After we put DS1 (nearly 6) to bed, he got up and was a bit sick on the landing. DS1 asked me for some towels in his bed but said he felt fine. Shortly after, he was properly sick all over one of the towels, and his bed was soaked, and DH was furious (he shouted 'fuck' in front of DS who I think was worried he was in trouble till I reassured him he wasn't) with me for not giving DS1 a bowl and stormed off and left me to deal with it till I told him to come back and help. He then gave DS1 a talk about how important it is to not be sick in his bed and to go to the toilet, and I said to DS he should try to be sick in the bowl but we won't be cross if he doesn't manage it.
I know I undermined him but felt it was unreasonable to put too much pressure on DS when he's unwell. DH reckons I'm pandering to him and he's perfectly old enough to get to a toilet and it's not 'normal' to be sick in a bed at that age.
These are only a couple of examples and it all seems really trivial written down. I just can't get a feel for whether we just have different styles of parenting and I'm blowing it all out of proportion. I feel more relaxed at the moment when DH is out at work or out in the evening, and the kids and I seem to have much more fun as things are more chilled, but I'm not sure whether that's just due to my own neuroses.
So how can I work out what problems are important and which aren't?
What is important to you is what matters
Everyone has their own line which can't be crossed. When you've had enough of his temper and grumpiness, that's when the problems are important. There's no empirical test, sadly
Those don't sound like trivial issues at all. He sounds like he has big anger issues and is being horrible to you and your children. Can you talk to him about it? It may be worth seeing a counsellor together and getting to the bottom of things if you can.
Thanks for your thoughts. The swearing in front of DS1 is unusual - I think he feels it's been a full-on day with the kids, though it just felt normal to me. The snapping is more typical at the moment, though I know work is tough for him at the moment. It goes through phases I guess.
You're right, I need to try to talk to him about it properly. I've kind of been trying over the past few days and feel like I've just been criticising everything he does. Yesterday we did have a good chat about finding a balance between encouraging DS1 to be more independent and making sure he's not constantly brushed off and can feel he's important. It has had an effect today.
We have loads of happy times, and I just can't judge whether I'm overreacting to stuff or am in denial about real problems.
Telling off a child who has just been sick is nasty. Expecting a 5 year old child to get to the toilet when he is sick is unreasonable. Poor little thing.
Hedda to be fair to DH, he didn't tell DS off - he was saying that if he felt sick again he should try to get to the bathroom, and I didn't think that it was fair to put pressure on DS to do that. Glad to hear I wasn't unreasonable about it being normal though. Increasingly we seem to disagree on what's normal and acceptable and it's sometimes hard to judge if it's me being too lenient.
One of the things that is tricky about finding a relationship so early on in your life is that when it starts out you're not thinking about serious questions like "Do we have the same life goals?" "Do we have the same approach to parenting?" etc. It's just a bit of fun. But before you know it you've been together for years and you just keep moving along that path and taking the next steps because it seems like an insurmountable task to start over with someone else.
It might be helpful to sit down and really think about what you want out of a relationship and if your views align with those of your DH. If these are things that can be worked on and you can meet in the middle, maybe explore something like counseling to help you get there. If they can't be worked on then you need to evaluate whether it's worth it to stay in the relationship, taking the number of years you've been together out of the equation. If you met him now, would he be the person you would choose to share your life with? Does he tick all your boxes? You can't make a decision on whether or not you should invest in something going forward based on how much you've already invested in the past. It's like a business owner who refuses to cut his losses because he's invested and lost so much already. He thinks if he just puts in a little more it will sort itself out, but ultimately he just ends up even worse off.
I grew up with two parents that really weren't right for each other yet to this day they won't get a divorce. They are just comfortable being roommates who barely speak. I really wish they would have though. It was not a pleasant home life especially because my mother was a very unhappy person who often took her feelings out on us with outbursts just like you've described. By not getting us out of that situation it felt like my father was okay with it and it took a long time to for me to forgive him.
Thank you, Anna275, that was a really helpful insight. I will take your advice and do that thinking.
DH woke up this morning and said 'I feel like I was a crap husband and father yesterday' so we will sit down and have a good talk later. I think there are multiple problems here (him being snappy and not always coping well with family life, me being over sensitive and neurotic, us having different standards/expectations of being a parent).
Having thought about the worst case scenario I'm clear that I love him and I really really want this to work, and that we're OK but we need some fine-tuning. So I am thinking of suggesting counselling to get there.
Anna I think that one of my problems in thinking about the questions you suggest is that I'm not always sure if he's what I'd choose in an ideal world, because I've never been with anyone else. He has his flaws, as do I, and that's normal - but I don't know if there's 'better' out there if you see what I mean. I know no relationship is perfect but with only the snapshot you get of other people's relationships, it's tricky to judge how perfect or normal or otherwise ours is.
I think the fact that he said that this morning off his own back is a big positive? If he can see his failings and the pair of you are in agreement about which areas of his behaviour need to change then you are half way there? Not sure how helpful it would be but near us there are a fair few parenting courses targeted at the anxious middle classes, all about how to be less shouty and frazzled and have more fun with your children while maintaining boundaries, some esp aimed at say parenting boys or pre teens. Maybe that would give you a start point for talking about different ways of dealing with things with your DCs and a way of talking about which approaches you each find acceptable so you can establish common ground?
Well, good for him to unilaterally recognise that he acted poorly, and to be willing to talk about it.
However, you are allowed to draw the line wherever you want. It's worrying that you don't trust your own feelings. Really try to listen to your gut - it won't steer you wrong, since it's the expression of your deeper feelings and needs.
Bossy That's a great idea. I will look into it - it feels like a slightly less 'drastic' starting option than counselling, and would help to tackle one of our issues.
He's clearly very worried (I've said nothing yet which is most unlike me, just said we need to talk sometime but given him a massive cuddle in bed) and he's hardly slept all night and is now making a huge effort with both me and the kids.
RiceCrispie I see your point totally but I think I have my own issues and my gut isn't always to be trusted. I tend to be quite hurt in the short-term by friends over stupid things (though they would have absolutely no idea) and in the longer term I realise it was me being silly.
I understand. All of us have a gut (our true self) overlaid by neuroses (false).
The trick is to learn to distinguish our true self from our neuroses! Listening to our gut does take knowledge and practice.
I find that anything that feels tinged by anxiety is probably me being led by neurosis. There's more calm in "gut" decisions, even when they're big and scary decisions.
Sorry if this seems woolly!
Not woolly at all! That's really interesting and makes total sense, and I see what you mean about gut decisions being calmer.
If you want a less intimidating way into some counselling then relate do an email service, or they have a live chat message a counsellor thing which is free, lets you do a bit of exploring if counselling could be helpful, he can message and just explain that he feels he is being a crap husband at the moment and go from there... Instant and rather less of a big thing than a proper appointment?
Your problems don't seem unsurmountable.
Having 2 children under the ages of 6 can put a strain even in the strongest of relationships.
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