DH is not who I thought I married. Has anyone stuck it out and been ok?

(113 Posts)
Lostinacloud Wed 07-Oct-20 09:41:47

My head is all over the place at the moment and I don’t feel I can talk to anyone in real life so I am hoping someone here has some experience and can offer some advice.

When DH and I met about 17 years ago, we lived far apart from each other the whole time but we made it work for 5 years before we got married and finally moved in together.
Before we got married I only saw him for weekends and holidays and we had brilliant fun. He was energetic, exciting, really sociable, up for going on lots of days out and a genuinely fun and loving guy.
However, over the years (we have now been married for over 10 years and have 3DC) I have realised that I only saw the “weekend and holidays” DH and not who he actually is 90% of the time. When we have friends over or go to see family, pre marriage DH returns and he is relaxed, sociable, funny and helpful but when we are alone then he is really quite boring, always tired, always stressed, very focused on his own life and he rarely wants to do anything at weekends and almost gets annoyed when I bring up holiday ideas - although does usually have fun once on holiday.
Saying that, I have occasionally started taking the DC for days out without him because I feel we have more fun. When he comes, he almost seems to look for a way to spoil the mood and starts yelling at them to mind the roads or that they were not looking where they were going. His mum is the same if we go out with her so I assume that was his example growing up. It certainly wasn’t mine though so is alien to me and I hate how it ruins the mood and the DC’s excitement visibly lowers.

He also angers easily and if we have an argument he quickly decides that I am being unreasonable and attacking him and gets very defensive or dismissive. He is never violent to me or the kids but in the earlier days more than now, he did used to get stupidly angry and occasionally damage a toy or a door. Now he tends to just go out alone to calm down so is trying to address his temper.

I know the above makes him sound awful and anyone reading will quickly decide that I would be better off without him but it’s nothing like that simple.

He adores me and he lives for our DC. I know to my core that everything he does and works so hard to achieve is actually completely for all of us and we do have a comfortable home and have experienced some great opportunities because of his job and how hard he has worked to raise through the ranks.

However, I find myself increasingly wondering if life would be more enjoyable if I had married someone a bit less ambitious and so more relaxed and fun and without such an incessant striving for improvement. As the DC get older and he has more influence on them I also start to worry that his almost obsessive determination that things can always be improved will have a negative impact on them as they never feel good enough. My oldest DC is 12 and yesterday at dinner I winced inside as he proudly told DH that he had been given a start of term assessment grade of just one under the top mark and so had started great and still had room to make the top by the end of the year and DH basically said that surely he should be top already. DH didn’t seem to notice that our DC immediately withdrew from the conversation and that it had a negative effect on his confidence. In fact I find myself constantly mopping up after DH’s confidence attacks and in doing so I almost have to paint my DC’s own father as wrong and with unrealistic expectations. How long do I let this go on for and is this actually healthy for them? To have two parents who aren’t unified?
My DH also has, to me, what seems like a completely crazy idea that nobody can ever make a mistake and that if you do then you should berate yourself for at least the rest of the day. This will apply to making a wrong turn in a new area of town, forgetting to bring something along on a trip and so I now find myself being asked by my DC “not to tell daddy” that their water bottle has gone missing or they’ve left their coat at school. Is this ok? On one hand at least they can tell me and I feel I act more reasonably and we focus more on ways to look for the items rather than focus on the fact they’ve been lost but on the other hand I am now keeping secrets from my husband so we all have an easier life and he doesn’t end up going on at them for 20 minutes about how they don’t care about their stuff and if they did then it wouldn’t be lost or forgotten. I have actually tried to talk to DH about this point but he absolutely 100% cannot see it from any other perspective and thinks he is totally right and that mistakes or things forgotten are always deliberate and mean you are not good enough. As a strong woman, anytime he has tried to imply the same to anything I have forgotten, I can just tell him to shut up but the DC can’t do that so is it ok to leave them in this environment?

Despite all the above, the DC do love DH and would be absolutely devastated if we were to split up. It would certainly not be an easy road for all of us and I know it would also devastate DH as he does live for our DC and at times is bloody excellent with them and in honestly is much better at playing with them for hours than I am.

Has anyone had similar experience where their DH is not horrific and does work hard for their family and yet they have left and found they were happier, or conversely not happier?
Or has anyone had a similar experience and decided to truck on at least until the DC are older and then see where they’re at?

I’m not saying I’m unhappy all of the time and like any marriage ours has its ups and downs and ours has been ups for the majority of the years. I am also very sociable and can build quite a busy life for myself that brings me happiness but on down days I wonder if that is healthy as I end up organising so much time to not include him?

Sorry this is long but I needed to paint the whole picture and hope someone might have had similar experiences and not necessarily decided to leave.

OP’s posts: |
timeforawine Wed 07-Oct-20 09:56:44

I'm sorry i can't offer any advice but my only suggestion would be counselling, he needs an outsider to make him realise these traits and work on them.
I hope you can get things sorted OP, all the best

IdblowJonSnow Wed 07-Oct-20 10:00:49

I'd suggest a very honest conversation with him and therapy too.
Do you not bollock him, when it's just the two of you, after he's said stuff like that to the kids?
You're right that it will affect them and I wouldnt just let it rumble on.

Notyoungbutscrappyandhungry Wed 07-Oct-20 10:03:51

I grew up in a home similar to your DH’s and have had counselling to overcome my parenting ‘model’. It’s unbelievably ingrained and I work hard every day to consciously challenge my automatic thoughts and reactions. Would he be open counselling?
I think if he is open to considering why he holds the kids to such standards (clue- it’s because he doesn’t feel good enough) then it sounds like he is otherwise a good partner. It might take time but he needs to be committed to that journey. I’m determined not to replicate my childhood which whilst good in many, many ways was not right emotionally.

If he won’t try to change, it will be miserable for him and anyone around him. You should leave.

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 07-Oct-20 10:07:26

What do you get out of this relationship now?.

What did you learn about relationships when you were growing up?.

Re your comment:-
"He adores me and he lives for our DC".

I doubt that very much. He only loves his own self and he seems very much like his own mother who has and likely continues this self same behaviour. We after all learn about relationships first and foremost from our parents. What do you want to teach your children about relationships?. Is this really the model or blueprint you want them to potentially emulate as adults?. This is not a healthy relationship for you or for that matter, them.

He is also way too critical of his children particularly the eldest who copped it from dad only just yesterday. You may well be their cheerleader but whilst he was having a go at his child, you're watching that damage being done to him right in front of your very eyes. Why did you not directly challenge your H the moment he started on your eldest?. Your children will ultimately look at you as well because if you were to stay with him, they could well accuse you of putting him before them. They will also not say "thanks mum" to you for choosing to stay with such a man either.

You may appear or want to be a strong woman but at home you are and remain very much on the back foot here. If you really want to be strong then show them properly that the only acceptable level of abuse in a relationship is none. Why would you not want to leave; your house is no sanctuary for your kids nor for you. The house as well is only but bricks and mortar after all.

Re this comment:-
" He is never violent to me or the kids but in the earlier days more than now, he did used to get stupidly angry and occasionally damage a toy or a door."

Why did you not leave him then?.

So he has acted aggressively against some inanimate objects; I would also think he has NEVER broken or damaged any of his own possessions and what you're describing here is really an example of domestic abuse. Its a red flag re him that you've also minimised here by choosing to stay even after he did that. Its never his fault is it; its always someone else's i.e yours or your kids. I would also think he does not behave like this to people in the outside world or to work colleagues. You sound like the kids cheerleader who is jollying everyone including your own self along whilst ignoring the elephant in the room here i.e your joyless fun sponge of a H.

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 07-Oct-20 10:09:22

If counselling is to be considered then I would go on my own. He won't likely attend any counselling sessions mainly because he feels entitled to act like this and feels like he is doing nothing wrong here.

Also if there is or has been any sort of abuse within the relationship then joint counselling is never recommended. You would not be emotionally safe enough here to undertake any form of joint counselling with him.

pointythings Wed 07-Oct-20 10:10:06

I think it's really important that you address his negativity and critical behaviour towards the DC. Undermining their confidence like that is really bad of him. It won't drive them to do better (and it sounds as if they are actually doing really well!), it will instead teach them that there is no point in trying hard because their father will never offer them a crumb of positivity or praise.

I find the whole concept that any mistake needs to be followed by self-inflicted punishment to be really disturbing, and your DH needs to address this. It's an incredibly unhealthy and destructive coping mechanism.

Other than that, he just doesn't sound as if he is that compatible with you, and only you can decide what to do about that - but the first two points above demand action as they will impact negatively on your DC. Set out clearly what changes you need and expect from him and if he refuses to admit there is an issue and undertake change, you have some thinking to do.


Lostinacloud Wed 07-Oct-20 10:14:11

Thank you all for your advice. I’m quite relieved I didn’t get told to leave straight away and I think you are right that maybe I can suggest counselling so it gives us somewhere neutral to discuss these issues. When I have tried to bring them up myself, either he can’t see my point at all or gets quite defensive - probably because he knows I am making sense. He is very good at taking on board what I have said in the past and consciously trying to change what he appreciates is unwarranted behaviour but I agree with him that sometimes it would probably feel like I am just attacking lots about his personality because I do want to challenge his behaviour towards the DC. Counselling would give us a neutral space to bring up my issues and probably his and help avoid the feeling of personal attack.
@Notyoungbutscrappyandhungry but I was really interested to read your experience from the DC point of view and thank you very much for taking the time to reply. It has made me decide that it’s worth pursuing a change but that it is important for the future mental health of the DC to make the break if DH is not willing to try and change. It sounds like you will be a great parent because of your determination not to follow in your DH’s footsteps.

OP’s posts: |
Saggyoldsofa Wed 07-Oct-20 10:16:34

I had one a bit like this - basically, a fun sponge with a bad temper. He is now my ex fun sponge with a bad temper and I am much happier! I've found cheerful old me again.

Lostinacloud Wed 07-Oct-20 10:22:12

To the point but I do see your point of view. I do actually challenge him in front of the DC when he does something like he did at dinner with my oldest and indeed I did last night so I would hope that they see that as they get older. However, I don’t think this is healthy and I don’t really want to be having a disagreement with my DH in front of the DC as much as possible so I agree that the status quo needs to change.

I didn’t leave him earlier on because the temper moments were rare and when we were young and stressed. I also did give him an ultimatum that if he carried on with those episodes that I would leave and to be fair to him he has managed himself much better for many years.

OP’s posts: |
Peach1886 Wed 07-Oct-20 10:31:44

We have had something similar here - DH generally being negative and grumpy and always finding fault even though DS works really hard at school and generally has grades similar to your DS.

After a particularly nasty episode about six months ago when he lost his temper and overreacted about something trivial I found I was able to lose mine (when DS had gone to school) and told him I wasn't putting up with it any more. I was amazed that I was able to stand up for myself - first time ever - presumably because it was DS getting the brunt of it and Tiger Mum came to the fore - and although the first time I still held back a bit, I gradually got more assertive. Like your DH he read it as me criticising his personality, but frankly that was just an excuse.

I told him that his behaviour was unacceptable, people outside the family had noticed it, and that I wasn't prepared for it to go on; he either got counselling and anger management or got out. Cue usual denial and prevarication until the next problem...at which point I said if it happened again he'd definitely be moving out.

He realised I was serious and that my usual "putting up with it" approach had gone, and he did go to counselling and so far it has helped a lot.

What changed was me. I didn't make excuses for him and jumped in to support DS whenever necessary. I also stood up for myself (first time ever!).

What I'm saying is his behaviour is not your responsibility - he either sorts it or he goes, and you can tell him that. Like my DH he has obviously learnt it from his own parents, but I now don't allow that to be an excuse, as he knows it's not acceptable.

Whether he has counselling on his own or you go together is entirely your choice, maybe both would be helpful. But I can 100% say I am glad I found the strength to insist on it - our marriage very nearly foundered and we're not quite out of the woods yet - but his new less negative and grumpy approach to life is much easier to live with, and better for DS.

Lostinacloud Wed 07-Oct-20 10:39:13

Wow @Peach1886 that’s just so useful to know and just brilliant to hear! Thank you so much for your experience which sounds incredibly similar to my own and well done to you for taking such strong action. I have been feeling a bit like I was heading to the same situation of change or that’s it for a while. Really good to hear it’s paying off for you and that things can change and the marriage can continue to work.

OP’s posts: |
BlankTimes Wed 07-Oct-20 10:39:47

He seems fixated on striving every day to be not just his best, but better, so instead of focusing on the here and now, he's focusing on creating a better future, but by doing that exclusively, he's missing all the joys of now.

Mindfulness could really help him, if he'd be open to trying it.

Lostinacloud Wed 07-Oct-20 10:42:40

I also think this whole situation has been amplified by lockdown and the subsequent restrictions, plus we also moved away from all our friends and family this summer. Not only have I not seen most of my family for some months but we haven’t really had any friends over either and so I’ve only had “post marriage grumpy DH” at home! But this is why I don’t want to just throw in the towel now, as I do see that this is a definite dip with many outside influences making it worse and I need to make sure I make the right call and not based on a situation that could change with the right action and some changes of outside circumstances.

OP’s posts: |
Peach1886 Wed 07-Oct-20 10:56:16

You're very welcome Lostinacloud I'm sorry it was such an essay! Our experiences do sound very similar and it kind of creeps up on you doesn't it, and then you realise you've been putting up with stuff and pussy-footing around for too long. What did it for me was DS saying the same stuff "don't tell daddy", and also, horrifically, starting to copy his behaviour - when you're six who else would you take for a role model but your dad? I felt very down for a while, especially when I thought we might have to go our separate ways, but after talking to friends I realised that would be better for DS in the long term, even if brutal initially. I haven't told DH that I got as far as looking for a solicitor - it was that close - and repairing our relationship is taking some doing, but something better is very gradually re-emerging.

I know it will be hard to be so assertive with your DH, but if he responds properly then it will be worth it, and if he doesn't then you and the DC are better off not living with him and just having those weekend/holiday fun days. Life is too short to be miserable, especially when it's someone else's misery!

I don't honestly know where I found the strength, but it's here now, and here to stay. I hope you can find yours xxx

Saggyoldsofa Wed 07-Oct-20 10:56:35

You're making excuses for him OP. Lockdown schmockdown. This has been going on since before you were even married: the grumps, the tantrums, the throwing things, the exacting standards.

Ultimatum time for him. Ex had many ultimatums from me, but I didn't really mean it enough. Eventually I said I'd leave him and he got 3 sessions of counselling. He didn't care enough all those years to stop being a dick because it hurt me. Only when he would lose something. Love had died a death by then. If you want things to be saved, I'd lay it on the line in no uncertain terms and be prepared that you might find it difficult to forgive him for years of being a dick, when he suddenly manages to change to avoid disaster for him

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 07-Oct-20 11:06:54

"But this is why I don’t want to just throw in the towel now, as I do see that this is a definite dip with many outside influences making it worse and I need to make sure I make the right call and not based on a situation that could change with the right action and some changes of outside circumstances".

People get bogged down by focusing on their sunk costs; ensure you do not do the same. All this about not wanting to throw the towel in smacks of the sunken costs fallacy; what you forget here is that the damage has already been done.

He has in the past broken toys and damaged doors; that should have been your red line then. For whatever reasons though, you stayed.

Is this really a definite dip or is this really a continuation of same?. His mother acted and probably still does act like this and that is a powerful influence. Your task here going forward is to ensure all your children do not go down that same path or go onto choose a critical fun sponge like their own dad is. If he refuses to change which is actually likely then you will have to consider whether you want to remain with him or not. He has to decide for himself that what he is doing here to you and your kids is wrong.

You cannot use age or stress as an excuse for how he acts here.
We've all had a bloody tough year and not all men or people for that matter act like your H does towards you and his children. He does this because he can and it works for him. It works for his mother too, it gave her power and control. The nice man who you saw only on weekends and holidays was it could be argued an act and one that he has not been able to at all maintain. It could well be you are now seeing who he really is and was all along.

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 07-Oct-20 11:13:32

I hope I am wrong here but I do think your H will refuse counselling. Alternatively if he does go he will only go the once or use that session to blame you for his shortcomings.

He showed your eldest by word that he is not good enough; a lesson that his parents likely taught him as well. Being the family's cheerleader as a counterpoint to him and his behaviours is not enough to mitigate the damage being done to both you and your kids.

steppemum Wed 07-Oct-20 11:22:45

I would find a time and space to talk, and tell him that you are not happy, choose one or two issues ot mention, eg crushing dcs confidence. Be clear that if things don't change, then you will leave. The way to change is through counselling.

I do know several couples that have really been helped by counselling.
The thing is, they didn't all stay together, but the counsellor helped them to see why it wasn't working, and gave them the courage to call it a day amicably

Saggyoldsofa Wed 07-Oct-20 11:26:14

Or, he might accept, and suddenly magically be fixed. And what would you make of that? If you'd genuinely be happy to let bygones be bygones, it might be worth a shot. But make sure you let yourself feel aggrieved; don't push it down and suppress your own needs for the greater good.

notalwaysalondoner Wed 07-Oct-20 11:33:19

It’s difficult for anyone to really know how bad it is - on the one hand, my father was like a more extreme version of your DH (not so much with the perfectionism, but always having a dig at my mum and completely lowering the mood to the point we all wished he wasn’t there) and I wish to god she’d left him years ago. On the other hand, if it’s just perfectionist tendencies that have got a bit more dominant then there’s hope IF he’s willing to go to counselling, and can agree he needs to change. It’s not fair on the DC to have a parent who is constantly putting them down and ruining what should be fun family times.

To put it in perspective, I regularly wish my father was dead just so my family and particularly my mother was happier. As kids we gained nothing except a moderate financial benefit from them staying together.

CausingChaos2 Wed 07-Oct-20 11:33:48

I’m sorry if this is hard to hear, but he is damaging your children, and you too. Damaging the house and toys is frightening and abusive behaviour. Cutting your children to the quick for their abilities, and giving them a hard time over minor issues like lost items, will ruin their self-esteem and ability to have healthy relationships themselves.

How would you feel if your DC were in a relationship like yours? You and they deserve to be out of this situation.

BraveGoldie Wed 07-Oct-20 11:45:36

OP, there is a book called 'five personality patterns' and there is a type in it called 'rigid'.. (I know because I am it).... it is based on the sense (embedded as a child) that performance/ achievement are the base of how you are valued so you constantly drive yourself and others, and avoiding mistakes is very important. It may be useful for you to read, or if he is open, for your husband to read.

I would also say - read it to work out what pattern you are..... and generally reflect on what you may be bringing to the cocktail. You sound like a really good mum, but I do notice that you are not talking about your own faults or seem to have much reflection on the ways you may be impacting him. I think if you come to him open to you both learning, and open to hearing his frustrations as well as voicing your own, he is much more likely to be open to looking at himself...

Good luck.

SpaceOP Wed 07-Oct-20 11:48:02

You and your DC are already walking on eggshells, scared at any moment that they will say or do something to upset him. Mistakes are not tolerated, successes are only successes if they are measured by his standards. It sounds so miserable and joyless.

I can easily imagine he is clueless about what this is doing to you and the DC. And that he doesn't want to take responsibility for any of this. But he IS damaging your children and I would not stand for that.

I do think you need to calmly and comprehensively explain the issue. Tell him that whether he agrees or not, you can see the damage to the children and if he's not willing to address it, you will have to separate. He may rant, call you controlling etc etc etc, but that's not your problem. It's his. And if he thinks you're controlling then he shouldn't be with you anyway.

workhomesleeprepeat Wed 07-Oct-20 11:49:18

Omg you are married to my dad!

I’m in my 30s now. Love my parents very much. Huge affection for my mother.

But my brother and I live on a different continent to them. We have no plans to live near my parents. Can’t do it. My mental health is too precious.

I took a sabbatical last year to stay with them and help out, and it took my Dad precisely 2 weeks before he was making comments and just generally being an arse.

I understand why he is how he is, and that he loves us, but I wish I could have had a father who wasn’t constantly pissed off, wondering what I should say and not say, no consistency with his moods.

My mom has made her choice. I know she’d like us both to be nearer but that’s not something my brother and I are willing to entertain.

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