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So...Can I salvage this relationship?

(32 Posts)
HowDoYouDealWithThis Tue 20-Oct-09 10:00:32

DH and I have been together for about 10 years and married for 8. We have two wonderful DC, a lovely family home and both have good jobs. However, over the last four to six years (essentially since having the children) our relationship has gone from almost idyllic to almost over.

I have always had issues about DHs anger and the way he deals with it. In the early days of our relationship this anger was always directed at others and manifested itself in ways such as road rage. I?ve always shown that I disapproved of this behaviour and we always had occasional arguments over it but, essentially, I was prepared to put up with the occasional low point in order to enjoy the many positive aspects of being with him: he was funny, loving and caring and basically we had some really good times together. I was deeply in love with him and he with me.

When our DD came along he was a doting father and although he found the baby stage hard work (as did I) we had few qualms about having another child. So, DS arrived and he was even harder work and of course we also had a toddler to deal with. At this time we had a lot of problems mainly caused by lack of sleep for both of us as DS rarely slept more than a couple of hours in a row (I would deal with him as BF) and DH would get up with DD who had previously been sleeping through but was now being regularly woken by the baby. We were both struggling and I felt at the time that DH was finding things exceptionally hard and that he was possibly suffering from some form of PND. I can remember saying to him that he needed help but that I just wasn?t in a position to offer it ? I still feel bad about that in some ways but I just had no emotional resources left at that time to devote to him. He didn?t seek any outside help.

At around this time his anger started to be directed towards me and the family always shouting and carrying on in what I think of as a very childish manner. One trait that really sticks in my mind and carries on to this day is that he hates to hear any crying and will always shout at a crying child (maybe crying because they have already been shouted at) ? this makes them cry more which then makes him shout more. I just think ? why??

Anyway, we?re now in a place where all the previous positives of our relationship have essentially gone. He seems very unhappy virtually all the time ? punctuated by outbursts of anger whilst I am very sad at the state of our relationship and desperately trying to hold it together and make a happy home for the DC but really I feel like I?m fighting a losing battle.

I just think that unless he admits that his anger and shouting are a problem then we can?t resolve this but no matter how many times I try to talk to him about it he will not admit that he has a problem, will not apologise and will not agree to change. His defence is always along the lines of ?But you do it too...? or ?It?s your/the DCs fault for making me angry...? or ?You are trying to manipulate me with tears/sulking...?. In response to these I would say (although rarely do coherently as I?m normally crying by now) that although I do occasionally shout I do try not to and it is rare for me to lose my temper, I think he needs to take full responsibility for his own actions and not blame us and that although I?m not trying to manipulate with tears (I am embarrassingly unable to control them sometimes) I do resort to sulking/ignoring in the face of his anger as I hate confrontation but don?t want him to think that his behaviour is OK.

WWYD?

womblemeister Tue 20-Oct-09 10:16:02

so basically having children has exacerbated a problem that was already there, i.e. your DH's anger management issues. And he is refusing to acknowledge it.

IIWU I'd start by working on communication. When you speak to him do you tend to start sentences with "You do XXX" instead of "I feel X when you do Y"? Could he feel as though he has to defend/justify himself?

morningpaper Tue 20-Oct-09 10:21:54

I would make it clear to your DH that he needs to resolve this or it will end your marriage: that it scares you, it scares the children and it isn't fair to any of you that he continues to behave like this.

Whether you make that clear through couple's counselling or through a serious talk with him is up to you.

He needs to sort this out. He CAN sort it out through proper therapy and behavioural management. Lots of men do. This is within his control.

HowDoYouDealWithThis Tue 20-Oct-09 10:22:53

I think you may have a good point there womblemeister. I do tend accuse him of things as you suggest and should perhaps try to get my point of view over in a way that doesn't cause him to be instantly on the defensive. Thanks.

NicknameTaken Tue 20-Oct-09 10:25:36

I don't know if it's salvageable, but I do think you have to give him an ultimatum and be prepared to stick to it. If he doesn't sort it out by x date, you have to be prepared to walk. There is a thing called "malignant hope" which keeps you stuck in a bad situation waiting for it to get better and it never does. You know it's not right for your children to grow up like this.

It is not up to you to convey your point of view in the "right" way that magically gets him to listen.

HowDoYouDealWithThis Tue 20-Oct-09 10:25:55

I do think our marriage is in danger - both he and I are very unhappy. I'll try to talk to him tonight but doubt that he'd agree to any type of therapy.

HowDoYouDealWithThis Tue 20-Oct-09 10:31:44

I recognise the "malignant hope" - I think thats what I've been living with for a while - but have absolutely been trying to avoid giving any ultimatums - partly because I don't want to put anyone under that sort of intense pressure and partly because I don't think he'd change and I maybe/probably won't want to stick to it when the time comes.

womblemeister Tue 20-Oct-09 10:37:20

you're welcome... hope it is a start. For the whole of this year I have been fighting with my DH, we were on the verge of separating and our communication was a disaster. Now we are ttc no. 3. (sorry hope that doesn't sound horribly smug and vomit-inducing).

Other things that have worked for me are, getting him to sit down facing me and hold his hands (rather like you would with tantruming child), look him in the face and ask "can we speak about this calmly?". Then when he's calm ask questions like "how can we improve [our communication][the situation]" etc. etc. Blokes tend to be results/action-oriented so throw the ball (gently) into his court.

HowDoYouDealWithThis Tue 20-Oct-09 10:49:33

Right...this is really helping me to get things straight in my head, so thanks to all.

I think what I need to do is try to get us to work together and sort this out - really give our all to it and try to recapture the reasons we were together in the first place. But sadly I also need to recognise that it might not get sorted out and that if it doesn't I need to be clear in my own mind that I can't continue like this and may need to go it alone.

GypsyMoth Tue 20-Oct-09 10:49:47

my ex dh was an angry man too. we had 4 dc and i found as they got older,it got worse.....his anger got worse,became violent etc etc....left him. he had intensive anger management,3-4 times but he has got worse since i left him. suppose thats worse case scenario.

do you feel he has potential to follow through with violence,maybe starting at a slap?

SolidGhoulBrass Tue 20-Oct-09 10:58:11

Unfortunately I wouldn't hold out much hope here. Because it's not so much the fact that your DH needs to learn to control his temper, what he needs to lose is his sense of entitlement. Your problems started when the DC arrived because your H was suddenly not getting all his needs met and his whims indulged by you; you had more important things to think about than just his moods. I bet your relationship pre-DC was always about him, about what he wanted, with you giving in because it didn't matter and it kept the peace. Your H basically thinks that he is a person and you and the DC are his accessories/possessions. You're supposed to obey him, do what he wants and meet his needs, his anger is supposed to make you do this properly.
The thing is, men who think like this hardly ever change.

HowDoYouDealWithThis Tue 20-Oct-09 11:00:22

I'm sorry to hear of your experience ILoveBISCUITS - I suppose what I'm trying to do is avoid further escalation in the way you describe but I'm confident that he won't resort to physical violence.

womblemeister Tue 20-Oct-09 11:05:21

Well. I have to disagree there SGB. I think there IS hope, if only because OP mentioned at the start of her post that they had very strong feelings about each other. OP also has a strong sense of entitlement - to a happy marriage. It IS possible to get those feelings back and I think she is willing to put the work in.

I think OP and her DH are stressed out and fed up. They need couple time.

newnamethistime Tue 20-Oct-09 11:06:25

I could have written so much of your post.
I reached breaking point this summer with dh.
I finally realised that my children and I were actually being abused by my dh's behaviour.
I showed him a thread I posed here which started everything off. (I'm not recommending this btw)
I took about 2 months for him to finally get it. And tbh it was only because he heard (via voice mail, I'm honestly not making this up) a distressing conversation I had with my parents about him, that finally made him fully realise how serious I was.
He made a counselling appoinment that day and has been going now once a week for the past 2 months (and will coninue going).

I no longer accept bad behaviour towards me or the children. I bring it up every time now and he is slowly learning how to behave like a normal person.
He has lots and lots of underlying issues to deal with, but he knows now that these can never be an excuse for being abusive towards his family.
I insisted that he go to therapy to deal with all of these issues. Anger management was not an option. I needed to be able to believe/trust that he would truely deal with his issues. Otherwise I felt they would be there forever to haunt us.
It's a hard slog, but I can see improvements in his relationship with the children as well as with me. Our ds's behaviour in particular has improved so much (which ironically makes me feel so sad when I think of all he witnessed/experienced).
I'm hoping that things will continue to improve. I am however feeling that I have to be very vigilant, not to let myself slip back into old ways (pandering to him for fear of angry outbursts), and I pull him up if I see that he is 'blaming' me or the children for anything (i.e. making his life difficult).

I'm rambling, but the point I really wanted to make was that DH was never going to get it until he realised I was serious and that he was going to loose us.

GypsyMoth Tue 20-Oct-09 11:08:10

i think the shouting is actually a form of abuse anyway. must be very frightening for them

HowDoYouDealWithThis Tue 20-Oct-09 11:18:10

Part of the reason this has all come to a head for me now is that I'm starting to see the effect this is having on the DCs. DD trys to make everything alright with everyone whilst DS is more likely to shout back. I just don't want them to be in the middle of all this...but neither do I want them to come from a 'broken home' - they love their daddy very much.

cestlavielife Tue 20-Oct-09 11:21:50

you doubt that he'd agree to any type of therapy.

that is the deal breaker - he agrees to therapy to try and address the issues - or you go.

simple enough.

if he doesnt accept there is a problem then as SGB says - he wont change. the fact that he always blames you for his anger is telling...

if he wiling to accept there are issues - then therapy.

both of you to relate, if he says "well you teh one that needs therapy!" and individual for both for you.

and do not be so sure he wont resort to violence - you have already mentioned road rage and directing anger at others - this means he has a serious anger problem.

overmydeadbody Tue 20-Oct-09 11:32:52

I agree with SGB

I don't tinhk there is any point trying to salvage this relationship. He won't stop being an angry man.

womblemeister Tue 20-Oct-09 11:39:50

Why all the negativity??

My sister gave me some very good advice a few months ago when I was struggling ... when you've tried absolutely everything and it still isn't working, only then do you give up, so you can say to the kids that you did your best. OP needs to try to see if her DH actually WANTS to move forward - together - or not.

CeeUnit Tue 20-Oct-09 11:43:10

I don't have a lot of experience to draw on, but can I just suggest that you wait until a quiet calm moment to bring this up with DH?

It's tempting when things are good, to keep quiet and hope they stay that way, but IME that's the best time to tackle the hard stuff.

That way it's not said in a moment of anger, there are no tears, DH can't accuse you of manipulation and he will know this is something you have given a lot of serious thought to rather than an emotional reaction to his latest outburst.

GypsyMoth Tue 20-Oct-09 11:43:46

i think the term 'broken home' is very outdated. however your dd,walking on eggshells at hom and your ds now copying his father??

its gone beyond help i think! he will surey have noticed this too....but has he addressed his behaviour or said he can see he is the problem?

its emotional abuse of your dc's really....don't you think??

newnamethistime Tue 20-Oct-09 12:23:43

What made the difference his time for us was the huge shift that had happened in my mind.
He threatened our dc in an truely awful way. I clung to that incident as 'proof'.
When I confronted DH about his abusive behaviour, I was calm. I repeated things like
'I'm not imagining this' 'I'm not over-reacting' 'I'm not exaggerating' 'this is not in my head' etc.
I refused to discuss possible reasons for his behaviour but focussed instead on how it impacted on me and the children.

I have since realised the pattern we had fallen into. If we ever had a disagreement, he reacted with such force, completely not proportional to the thing in question, that it was just easier to back down, to aim to do things the way he wanted.
Of course it was never enough and this pressure increased when we had children. I suffer from depression and now I realise that many (all) the episodes coincided with me not coping with the strain of living with him and his expectations, of always being wrong, for being lazy etc.
Previously I would have said that his behaviour got worse when I was depressed (which I took the blame for for being such a useless person). Now I realise that it was his behaviour which led to the depression.
Just to add that he physically only hurt me a few times over a 20 yr relationship (bruises from grabbing me shoving me), but living with him was so unpredictable. He used indirect violence to get his way. Road rage, shouting a us, shouting not at us but in the next room, facial guestures, smashing things, breaking things etc. He was seething with rage a lot...
It wasn't like his all the time, just enough to keep me in line though.
After we discussed it (very distressing), he promised to see a counsellor alone and things improved. But he kept putting it off.
I realised that there was going to be no real change when things started creeping back to he way they were (I felt scared to talk to him about it for fear of him getting angry - this was a warning sign for me).
Over a series of distressing phone calls (hence the voice mail mix up), I decided to talk to my parents, knowing by telling them I could never back down over this.
Finally he is getting help.

We are going through a better patch now and I do feel that our relationship is salvagable. But I am not the same person I was 6 months ago, and I feel angry that he has done this to us (and angry that I put up with it, and made the children experience it)

btw - it was that feeling of 'walking on eggshells' and how often it cropped up in threads from women that were very obviously being abused, that helped the penny drop for me.

cestlavielife Tue 20-Oct-09 12:48:36

well of course they love their daddy. children do. but how do they feel when he shouts at them?

have you asked them?
ask them to draw themselves, draw you, draw daddy.
ask them to draw their family.

ask them to act out the family with dolls /teddies. let's play a game this teddy is mummy this one is daddy here is ds here is dd. what shall we do?

this might tell you a) what they want to see happening eg they might act out a lovely ahppy family scene and you might ask yourself - when does this actually happen?

b) they might also reveal what is really happening...teddy shouts at dolly... ds dolly runs away and hides...

a "broken home" doesnt have to mean they wont see him or continue a relationship with him.

and in any case when something is truly awful to be in then it is already broken - splitting up doesnt break the home, that is already there usually - what you can create is a much nicer home for the children.

i didn't break the home when i moved out with kids from angry abusive exP - it was hell to be there. now we have a nice pleasant home and much happier kids...

i think i stayed far too long than was healthy for all of us and i regret that. stying to the bitter end then "giving up" is really not the way to go about it..sure, the OP is willing to try - but she keeps saying her H wont change, her H wont do therapy. so what hope is there?

and here are the children, suffering the anger because the parents want to keep staying together and keep the anger in the home (because it is better than a "broken home"????) for them?

is an angry, unhappy home with the H and W together, really better than them living separately?? how long do the children have to suffer this?

things HAVE to change and now - and maybe getting the H out of the home to then work on things is the way to go.

my youngest dd loves her daddy still but hates being let down by him - yet she still wants to believe in him. it is very hard for them. but she is no longer scared of him because we dont live with his anger day in day out any more .

notaloud Tue 20-Oct-09 14:01:42

Your post question is entitled "Can I salvage this relationship?" Do you think that gives you a hint that you might be doing it all by yourself? It doesn't sound like he will be helping you.

I'm sorry I don't think it sounds like things can change that much. And thats from personal experience in a very similar situation. You can try, and yes you probably should try, but it will also probably be just you trying! For your own peace of mind maybe you should give it all you can. At least you will know you did your best then.

But you have to think carefully about what might make a difference. Would not crying help? Or would that in fact make things worse because you are just doing as he wishes? Or would having a frank talk to him about things help more?

In my experience when you realise it is emotional abuse you start to also realise that not much will change the behaviour.

I'm sorry I don't have any answers - but if I did maybe I might not still be with my angry, aggressive husband.

NicknameTaken Tue 20-Oct-09 15:27:32

The Lundy Bancroft book is often mentioned here and it really is an eye-opener in deciding what to do about such relationships.

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