what’s the difference between criticism + complaint?

In ALL, LIFE OBSERVATIONS, MARRIAGE by Stephanie Klein60 Comments

This actually isn’t a post about child rearing or dolphin training. It’s not even a post about parenting philosophies, whether or not to spank your child, or if you should exercise a time-out in an attempt to help your child learn right from wrong (I’d do it if only to call it “The Naughty Spot”). It’s a long post about communication, complaints, and criticism. It’s a post about my marriage. 

POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
I’m a big proponent of positive communication and reinforcement. If I could, I’d always be equipped with gold stars and exclamation points! I loved, almost as much as Cheez Doodles, when my parents drew a graph on a large piece of white tag paper, affixing it to our refrigerator door. A certain number of stars beside my name awarded me a trip to Toys ‘R’ Us. Stars were earned for helping around the house, for getting 100% on spelling tests, and for being nice to my sister. These were things my parents expected me to do, and I didn’t feel they were bribing me to do them. I felt as if they were honoring and acknowledging that I was doing them consistently. I cared more about the stars than I did about the trip down the Barbie aisle. The stars weren’t the easiest to come by, but when I did receive one, I’d sometimes walk down to the kitchen in my slippers and flip on the lights just to look at them lined up in their little boxes beside my name. I felt so proud, and I couldn’t wait to wake up and make my bed. It wasn’t just so I’d earn a star. I liked and became greedy for that feeling. I loved feeling proud and seeing my accomplishments. Escalating up from the bottom.

missed connections

MY PARENTING PHILOSOPHY ON DEALING WITH FEUDING SIBLINGS
So when Phil and I got into a discussion about how to handle toy spats between Lucas and Abigail, I explained that praising either of them when we saw they were sharing was the way I’d hope to handle it. Sure, if Abigail yanks something out of his sweet little paws, I’ll frown or pout, maybe say, “That wasn’t nice, Abigail. I don’t blame you for feeling angry, Lucas!” but that’s the extent of it. Unless she’s ready to bite him, I try not to get involved, especially since I’m their parent, and I don’t want either to think I pick sides or always come to the rescue of one over the other. They’re kids. They’ll work it out. And when either of them shares with me or with the other, I make a point of praising and applauding them. “What a great job you just did sharing. How polite of you.” Then I try to show them the behavior I hope they’ll repeat; I lead by example. “I’d like to share something with you now.” Then I waft it toward them.

BRACING MYSELF FOR PHIL’S RESPONSE
“But it’s not fair!” Phil argued, citing examples of bullies. He wanted to chase after Abigail and rip the toy from her hands, returning it to Lucas. I disagreed, and I couldn’t help but worry what was coming next. The same way that Abigail has learned to cover her head when it looks as if Lucas is about to throw his sippy cup, I’ve learned to brace myself for disagreements that begin casually enough but escalate into rants about how indicative this one instance is, how it stands for so much more than just this one time, how it’s a pattern, how much I do wrong.

PHIL’S RESPONSE
And then it came. “Stephanie, you’re a smart person, but the things you say are just so… I know you don’t want to hear this, but I just can’t help it.. so stupid!!! Well, they are! You haven’t said one thing that makes sense! Do you realize how stupid you sound? If Abigail yanked a toy out of the hands of a stranger, you’d return it wouldn’t you? Of course you would! Not only would you return it, but you’d apologize! It’s not fair to Lucas, and you’re really punishing him by letting her get away with that. I’ve never heard anything so dumb!”

MY RESPONSE TO HIS RESPONSE
I refused to talk to him, even though I wanted to say there’s a difference between taking what doesn’t belong to you from a stranger and playing with your sibling. I also wanted to slip in that just because I wouldn’t punish Abigail didn’t mean that if Lucas were upset (which he wasn’t in this particular case) I wouldn’t acknowledge his feelings. But I didn’t say this. I shut down. Then I powered up my computer and Googled. I emailed Phil advice from parenting web sites. Then I got to hear how opinions are like assholes.

WHAT DO I DO?
Our disagreeing isn’t what bothers me–though life would be a lot easier, not necessarily interesting, but easier if we agreed–it’s that he’s setting an example. Not only is he setting an example for our children of how women should be treated, but he’s setting me up to set my own example for them, and I have no idea how I’m supposed to react. We’re sitting in front of them, and we’re arguing. And I want it to stop, so I stop talking. Is that the message I should send to my kids? Or should I stand up for myself? I don’t know what to do. When he says things like that, I don’t feel a sense of pride or confidence, and I realize that complaining about what I think he’s doing wrong will only put him on the defensive. It’s doing exactly what I don’t want him to do. Asking, “Why can’t he instead of criticizing me just focus on what I do right? Why can’t he set an example for our children by behaving the way he hopes they’ll one day behave? Why can’t he praise the good and ignore the bad, at least most of the time, or even some of the time?” only serves to highlight that even I’m incapable of doing the very thing I’m asking him to do.

MODERN LOVERS TAKE POINTERS FROM SHAMU
I know that people do it, though, that they can live in a world of claps and rewards, where grievances are brushed aside and triumphs are celebrated. I remember reading the Modern Love column back in 2006 about the woman who learned how to deal with her husband by applying what she’d learned about training animals.

“The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don’t. After all, you don’t get a sea lion to balance a ball on the end of its nose by nagging. The same goes for the American husband.” –Excerpted from NYTimes, Modern Love, June 25, 2006

MY PHILOSOPHY ON CRITICISM AND WHAT I HOPE TO TEACH MY CHILDREN
Great. Sounds like a plan since I strongly believe that criticism, when it’s not constructive or said in the spirit of genuinely hoping to encourage and invigorate, doesn’t inspire greatness. It’s why I never want to be that mother. I want to embolden my children to speak up for themselves, for them to know there are consequences to their behavior, but most importantly, to know that they’re capable. I want to raise children who believe in their abilities to problem-solve, who are confident enough to trust themselves and who recognize that they have the skills to accomplish things on their own. I want them to know it’s okay to ask for help and advice and opinions, and it’s up to them to make decisions. And if they don’t make the right ones, they’ll learn something anyway. That it’s far more impressive, and really speaks about our own confidence, when we’re able to compliment and praise, rather than criticize and condemn.

PHIL’S RESPONSE TO MY REQUEST
“Well, I never want to have to lie,” he said in response to my requesting that he be a bit gentler. “And what you’re asking, really, is for me to sugarcoat things. I’m not going to get into a cheering session so you can feel good about things that don’t matter. If I think something sucks, I’m going to tell you. And if you say stupid idiotic things, I’m going to tell you that they’re stupid. I can’t just sit here and not say it, or pander to you, telling you how it’s a start, but have you thought about it this way? Or when you write something that sucks and you ask for my opinion tell you, ‘wow, I totally get where you’re going with that, but were you also planning on writing about this? Or have you considered that?’ Don’t you realize that when people talk that way, starting with some positive just so they can really get to the negative, they’re treating you like an imbecile? What they wish they could do is skip all the filler positive and tell you the truth: ‘that’s dumb and this sucks.’ And I refuse to talk to you like you’re a three-year-old.”

MY RESPONSE TO HIS RESPONSE: HOW TO DISENGAGE
Once he says it, I can’t help it; I want to grab his mouth and twist it shut, like a little white button shoved into a very small opening. Then I want to scream, then cry, then highlight passages from How To Win Friends And Influence People. I feel angry and depressed and want to point to evidence. I want to show him that he’s wrong, that you don’t have to talk to people like that for them to hear you. And I know when I say it, he’ll say that I won’t listen to him any other way. He’s tried that, he’ll argue.  I tell him that he’s too hard on me, that when he says these things to me, I don’t feel encouraged. It makes me want to shut down. “Again, I’m not your cheering section,” he says. And the irony of course is that I’ve never known anyone who’s given me more support. And I tell him as much.

WHEN IT’S SAID TO EVERYONE BUT THE PERSON WHO NEEDS TO HEAR IT MOST
“Phil, I know you rave to other people about me, that you go on and on with how proud you are of me, how talented you think I am, but when it’s just us, you don’t say those things. Maybe it’s because you think I know it, think I can take it, think I don’t need the encouragement, but I do. Telling me, ‘this writing is just terrible writing and seriously, I can’t say it any nicer… it just sucks’ doesn’t exactly energize me. It makes me want to quit, not to do it better. And I value what you have to say. I don’t always agree with you, but when you point things out I at least think about them. I just wish you could still bring these things up but without raging and yelling and putting me down.”

YOU DON’T WANT TO FIX THIS. YOU WANT TO BE RIGHT.
And again, he says, “You’re just so infuriating! And you don’t even get how what you’re saying makes no sense at all. I’m not going to lie. And don’t lie to me. You really don’t want to hear the truth.” Then I do, in fact, go highlight Dale Carnegie passages, right there on my little white computer screen, in my little world of pity. I don’t know what to do next.

“… that ninety-nine times out of a hundred, people don’t criticize themselves for anything, no matter how wrong it may be. Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”

“B.F. Skinner, the world-famous psychologist, proved through his experiments that an animal rewarded for good behavior will learn much more rapidly and retain what it learns far more effectively than an animal punished for bad behavior. Later studies have shown that the same applies to humans. By criticizing, we do not make lasting changes and often incur resentment.”

“…The resentment that criticism engenders can demoralize employees, family members and friends, and still not correct the situation that has been condemned.”

“… Let’s try to figure out why they do what they do. That’s a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance and kindness. …”

“… Honest appreciation got results where criticism and ridicule failed. Hurting people not only does not change them, it is never called for. …”

“… Abilities wither under criticism; they blossom under encouragement. …”

In all my “why”s, in my implied use of “always,” even including any of this here without giving him a chance to defend himself, that can’t inspire improvement. And I’m not really trying to understand why he talks to me that way because I don’t want to understand it. I don’t want to hear that he’s frustrated, so he’s allowed. I want it to stop, and praising and thanking and appreciating all the times he’s patient doesn’t prevent him from lashing out. Man, I have no idea how Dale Carnegie went about breaking up with his gardener, never mind communicating with a spouse. 

IT’S NOT GOING TO CLEAN ITSELF. SOMETIMES YOU CAN’T IGNORE A MOLD.
Ignoring the negatives and focusing more on positive reinforcement isn’t going to hurt when it comes to dealing with unwashed dishes, but I believe it’s less about ignoring and more about addressing grievances in a constructive way (voicing complaints about a specific behavior) rather than behaving destructively (criticizing, judging, attacking). In other words, “name it, don’t blame it.” Point out the specific behavior. Don’t assign blame and make a blanket statement. I’ve also heard this referred to as “labeling is disabling.” Label the behavior, not the person.

WRONG: You’re so lazy.
RIGHT: Instead of sitting on the couch, can you please get up and help me?

WRONG: You’re so irresponsible. You’re always late.
RIGHT: When you show up late, it’s irresponsible and it makes me feel disrespected.

WRONG: Stop acting like such a fucking baby.
RIGHT: When you whine, you make it hard for me to listen to you.

complaint |kəmˈplānt|
noun
a statement that a situation is unsatisfactory or unacceptable : I intend to make an official complaint | there were complaints that the building was an eyesore.
• a reason for dissatisfaction : I have no complaints about the hotel.
• the expression of dissatisfaction : a letter of complaint | he hasn’t any cause for complaint.
• Law: the plaintiff’s reasons for proceeding in a civil action.

criticism |ˈkritəˌsizəm|
noun
the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes : he received a lot of criticism | he ignored the criticisms of his friends.

HOW TO FIGHT FAIR-ISH: AN ARGUMENT FROM LAST NIGHT
“I don’t like that you said you were going to be five minutes, Stephanie, that you just had to take some notes from your meeting, but then you took longer than that. And you went from taking notes to actually writing! Actually working on a sentence! A sentence that you had the nerve to ask my opinion about! I was left to do all the heavy lifting around here, from feeding the kids to getting them ready for bed, to then putting away the food. And I had an email to send out, too, and you knew that, and you interrupted me asking about my doctor’s appointment! All you think about is yourself! You are so selfish!”

IT BEGAN IN COMPLAINTS
These started out as fair complaints, even if they did, indeed, put me in a position of wanting to defend myself. “Yes, it took longer than I’d thought, but I actually did help you put them to bed, remember? And when we were upstairs I made a point of thanking you for helping out. The only reason I didn’t put away the food is because I didn’t know if you’d even eaten. I feel if I had put the food away, I’d end up hearing, ‘You’re so selfish! Just because you’ve eaten doesn’t mean that I have!” I can’t win no matter what I do. I mean, I ask you about your doctor’s appointment, and you tell me I’m selfish. How can I–” and then I think the word “win” but I don’t say it, knowing this isn’t supposed to be a game of right and wrong. And yet I can’t help but defending myself.

PREDICTING THE FUTURE
It’s hard not to jump to that place of “knowing” what would have happened had you said or done something else when you know the other person and your habits of communicating so well. You can have an entire argument, playing both sides of it, with yourself. I can do this. I do this. This is the role I play, the defensive defeated voice that has begun to see everything as an attack, and I’m tired of feeling like shit about myself because of it. I’m tired of feeling like anything I do is wrong, and that feeling spills over into our conversations when he does, in fact, have a legitimate complaint. It’s not fair. At least I’m willing to admit that I’m not perfect, that I fuck up, that I have things to work on. That I should stop assuming that anything I do will be wrong. It’s just soooo hard to feel otherwise when that’s consistently the case. It’s as if he brings things up not because he wants them resolved but because he needs something else. He needs validation or more praise. I feel alone in admitting this, and what’s worse, I’ll prove my point by jumping to conclusions again: he’ll respond by telling me, “they’re just words.”

AND IT ENDED IN SARCASM AND PERSONAL ATTACKS
When things elevated to, “You’re a selfish person because you always think about yourself first. Want a list of all the ways you think about you? We’ll be here all night” it was no longer constructive. It became a personal attack and a judgment. I was left feeling like I’d never do anything right. I never want to be that mother, that partner, that wife. I want to be the person who focuses on the good or can at least stick to complaints without escalating them to criticisms. Given the fact that I penned a memoir titled Moose, I can’t believe I’m about to write this, but I wish Phil would just treat me like Shamu.

Comments

  1. Wow, thanks for being so honest about your fight(s) with your husband. I have been there myself, but I relate more to Phil…I think I am the selfish one in our relationship and I even know it most of the time, but it for some reason does not stop me from pointing out faults in the other person to make me feel better about myself. Usually at the end of the fight, I realize what a total ASS I am being and apologize, I just wish I could see it before I throw up all those defensive hurtful words at my spouse. We are all growing in communicating with our spouses, I don't think that is ever something we acheive perfection in, just an area of continual growth. We women often want just to be understood, while our spouses just want respect, not love, respect. Its hard, through the eyes of all our hormones and feelings to separate the two and give our spouse what they truly need in those heated moments. I fail most of the time (READ ALL OF THE TIME) so its nice to know that others struggle too. Thanks, Stephanie! :) There will come a day in the near future where you will both be on the same page and communicating again with understanding, those days always come back around :)

  2. Well, ok. I have to say that I am with you on this. I know that couples have their fights and also their pity parties. But at the same time, your descriptions of how Phil is to you always make me think that he resents you. He doesn't always give your work equal standing, and yet, it seems to me that you work your ass off PLUS are a relatively active mother and wife. Does he resent that capability? I understand that he is supportive but does he think compliments are more valuable if they are scarce? In fact, maybe Phil comes from a place of scarcity, instead of a place of plenty.

    And in this case, WHY does he have to insult you or attempt to bring you down a notch or even two or three notches? Why can't he be more productive, and seek some common ground?

    I think this is not uncommon, though, in relationships that move too quickly to marriage and then to children, without having hashed out these issues sufficiently.

    I am sure this is only one moment in time, in a relationship that is satisfying on the whole. I don't know.

    I do know this: While you may be somewhat of a Pollyanna, he can be somewhat of a judgmental and abusive ass. And that's a red flag you just won't be able to ignore over the long term.

  3. Thank you for writing this. It actually made me think very carefully about how I treat my husband sometimes, particularly as I am conscious of trying to be very 'fair' in my criticism of him. Having read this, I can't help but think maybe criticism is inherently unfair. To the other person, and to yourself, as you're very unlikely to produce the happy ending you're aiming for. I'll definately be trying out the Shamu approach for a while. I sincerely hope the two of you find a way through your issues, and respect your willingness to share your warts.

  4. Relationships are tricky things but ultimately the most important thing is to decide if you're with someone that lifts you up. No one wants to spend time around someone who brings them down or discourages them. Those aren't the kind of qualities that we look for in a partner. Explain what you require out of your relationship with him. Help him to remember that you are there for his needs just like you need him to be there for yours.

  5. My mother always taught me to confront conflict with "I statements." We're all entitled to our own "I feel…" and "I think…" Knowing how to make "I statements" and not "you statements" was a lesson that I learned when I was very little, but I've applied it to my 10-year relationship (and taught my now-husband about it too). It seems silly, but being good at fighting keeps our difficult "conversations" from escalating into hurtful fights. There will always be fights, but knowing how to fight is a skill that is extremely valuable.

  6. Well, the simple comment I can make is….you are right and Phil is wrong. Not only is he wrong, but he is dangerously wrong. It's part manners, part respect, part being a great communicator, part being an adult, part caring about the feelings of someone you supposedly adore.

  7. Have you and Phil considered taking the actual Dale Carnegie course? I did, and it was a real mind-opener. Some of the best money I ever spent. Today it seems like the course is marketed more for business purposes (Since businesses usually pay the bill for it)but I think it would make anyone a better parent, husband or wife, business person, friend, etc. Above all it will make you a better communicator. I read the book several times when I was younger, but it didn't have near the effect that the course itself did.

    Your post today reminds me of one of my father's sayings- "When it comes to raising kids, the toughest thing isn't figuring out what to say, it's figuring out when to say nothing at all."

  8. I had to weigh in on your tactic with the twins and sharing. I agree with your approach 100%. My kids are older (8 year old boy and 10 year old girl) They are constantly fighting about or over something, and I've recently stopped playing referee. No, I don't think you should let the twins beat on each other, but there is something to be said for standing back and letting them work it out themselves. It doesn't mean that you're letting Abigail bully Lucas, or that one of them is going to grow up to be the playground menace. You're simply teaching them how to work things out for themselves. You're not always going to be in the room to get between them, and it's never to early to teach your children how to think and act for themselves. As far as your trouble with your husband, your frustration with the situation jumps off the screen. Being divorced from my own Phil I don't have many words of advice, but please hang in there…

  9. Is Phil like that with you only? Or is he like that with everyone? Friends, family, employees? If so, has he found that talking to people that way is working out for him? If he does talk to others like that, are his relationships with them successful? And if it's only you, why does he think that talking to you like that will somehow bring about a positive result?

  10. This is sad. The fact you have kids who are watching and learning from you both makes it more loaded. Even if you had no children, though, this is no way to live. I would say maybe Phil is stressed about his health but it seems like this has been going on for a while. And I'm sure Norma is there while you are away on business trips to care for the babies but how does Phil react when you return? Does he say he feels overwhelmed? None of that makes it ok to receive verbal abuse.
    Maybe Phil could see someone alone to talk; if anything get some sort of mood stabilizers.

    I know a recent comment said they missed you writing about personal things in your life but this might be best between you two. Please do not take any advice on your marriage from anyone much less comments (yes I see the irony here) but my point is making this public won't help you get resolution. It might even make things worse. I'm not sure if you were able to find a counselor you liked but I hope for your sake (and the kids) this ends well.

  11. I so understand this from my ex-marriage. I personally think that women tend to think about how their words affect (effect? I can never remember that one) others much more than men do. Whenever my ex-husband and I would argue, I would try so hard to say "I feel.." instead of "you always…" and he always went for the insults and critism. No advice I guess, just empathy.

    P.S. been reading for awhile, but this is my first post. You are a wonderful writer.

  12. Awww, sweets. You know it's such a big deal that you even talk about this shit, though. I know so many people who refuse to have these discussions (with spouses, friends, children, parents, bosses). Hip hip hooray for functionality! (I like cheerleading.)

  13. I think it's interesting that Phil focuses so much on messages like "I'm not going to be your cheering section," that he equates this with treating you like an imbecile. I firmly believe that your spouse (like your parents, when you're young) SHOULD be your biggest fans, your loudest cheerleaders–not only to others, but to your face, like you commented. What else is a marriage/family/home supposed to be if not a soft place to land, a place where you don't have to always put your best foot forward because you know they'll love you anyway? The real irony here is that Phil seems to ascribe to this philosophy for himself (i.e. ". . .I can't just sit here and not say it, or pander to you. . ."). It's as though he's saying that he should be able to let it all hang out, so to speak, in your relationship, because he shouldn't have to expend the energy to sugarcoat things. But he certainly doesn't extend this generosity of behavior to you, because he DOES believe that YOU should be at your best, certainly NOT letting it all hang out. At least that's how it reads in your descriptions. Maybe you could have a discussion about this double standard, and come to a mutual decision about the level of formality and politeness in your relationship. Are you both allowed to let it all hang out and just "be who you are," even when that includes rude, tardy, etc.? Or should you hold yourselves to a higher standard of manners?

    You don't want it, but my advice? Stick with the better manners. After my first marriage ended in divorce, I discovered that relationships work better when you focus on being as polite and accommodating after you're married as you were on your first three dates. Remember how it felt to want to impress the other person enough that you would NEVER have been openly, rudely critical. It's certainly not an easy behavior to maintain, but I've found that even keeping the effort in mind makes a big difference.

  14. I love you for posting this. I'll be back later and comment on the blog itself, and my opinion on positive reinforcement.
    Thank you for showing this side of yourself, Stephanie, and please don't regret it. We've all been in that frustrated spot where we can't get through to someone we love.

  15. "Not only is he setting an example for our children of how women should be treated, but he's setting me up to set my own example for them, and I have no idea how I'm supposed to react."

    Do you really think his argument style has a sexist undertone to it?
    Perhaps you could agree not to argue/criticize in front of your kids, UNTIL you two work out a more healthy way to disagree/argue. I think kids can learn a lot for seeing arguments, but it has to be done in a constructive way.
    And at the risk of sounding trite, give yourself the gold stars even if your husband doesn't. You can keep track for yourself, which is almost as good.

  16. I'm Phil, my husband is you. You and my husband are right. If there is a positive way to approach a potentially negative situation, you should always take it. It took me YEARS to get past this poor behavior on my part. Mainly, because like Phil, I didn't think I was doing anything wrong. I was just telling 'truth'. Who could fault me for that?

    I was never outwardly mean, it was more subtle. Saying something that I personally knew would zing him. Highlighting his mistakes just as his loving, yet controlling mother used to do when he was young. We do tend to marry people that push the very buttons our parents did during our childhood.

    I read that people who had critical parents and then married critical spouses are attracting these people because they have yet to stop looking outside of themselves for validation…this was true for my hubby. Once they start valuing themselves properly, the critical people in their lives will lose that power over them. The criticism will roll right off their backs because it doesn't jive with their own healthy image of themselves. That's when the critical people start changing, when they realize their criticism has no effect on their target and it only serves to leave them in a negative state of mind…this was true for me.

    I speak from experience…taking the high road is a much smoother drive.

  17. Stephanie,

    I remember reading that same article in the NYTimes… I even sent it to my mom!

    :)

    I'm going to have to read through this post again to see how I feel about it..

  18. You have an incredibly way of communicating. And while I have not always agreed with what you say – which, is not necessary – I simply could not find more kinship with you than with this post.

    I am married to Phil's emotional twin.

    And I love him with all of my being, but man is it fucking exhausting.

  19. I find that you are both correct in different circumstances. It's time to find a common ground and take it all day by day. Sometimes his tactics are necessary and other times he needs to be reminded that your reaction stems from him actions. Other times your version of "cheerleading" is something to be spoken for, and sometimes it could be shadowing the bigger picture.
    I think you'll find that with children (and with the world) you have to pick your battles and your war tactics carefully.

    This post definitely reiterates that Men and Women are different and we sure do communicate differently. If you can continue communicating though (even if it's communicating about your comunication) you're one up on those that aren't. (Just my own two cents…Thanks Stephanie!)

  20. I sympathize with you because this sounds like so many arguments my husband and I have had over the past 27 years. Almost all of our arguments have been about our different philosophies about raising our three children. Somehow we've held on…our youngest is seventeen…but it was touch and go for a while. I usually do the same thing, just quit talking. The positive side of it is that it won't ruin your kids…if you love each other, they'll see that, and they'll see that even people that love each other don't always get along, they'll see that their parents aren't perfect and that will help them when they make their own mistakes. They'll be watching you all the time, not just when you argue. However, you are right to let him know you need to hear him validate you to your face, not just to others. Don't be afraid to speak up and defend yourself, but perhaps get him to go to another room if you can. Hang in there!! I'm glad I did…

  21. I echo another commenter about mood stabilizers. Phil reminds me of my husband when we were first married. He was angry, said hurtful things and he responded disproportionally to the small annoyances in life. Anti-depressants didn't change his personality (which is great) but it took the edge off of his anger and made life much happier and less stressful for both of us.

  22. As far as the kids go, it's such a delicate balance, isn't it?

    My boyfriend's sister, a former dog trainer, uses ONLY positive reinforcement with her daughter, who is 5. That means when she starts screaming, she gets ignored till she stops. Completely ignored.

    It works, and damn that kid is precocious, but I can't help but wonder if it's stunting her ability to feel and be OK feeling negative emotions (sadness, anger, humiliation)? Kids need to know that they won't stop being lovable or loved because they are experiencing a negative emotion (read Alice Miller's "The Drama of the Gifted Child" for an excellent explanation of this), and that their parents are there and can handle their anger/sadness/whatever.

    I'm not sure I believe in ignoring the negative behaviors…because I know that not being acknowledged when I was feeling "bad" (encompassing all those above emotions) as a kid has made it all the more difficult for me to express them fully and constructively as an adult without feeling guilty or ashamed that I had the emotions in the first place.

    Did that make any sense at all? Anyway, despite all that each couple needs to find out what works for THEM and them only. You and Phil are still in that process. It doesn't mean you're doomed to fail (individually or as a couple), but it also doesn't mean you should sacrifice yourself to make it "easier". It doesn't make it easier, it breeds resentment.
    I sincerely wish you many best wishes in continuing to engage with and sort through the muck with your husband. It's never easy.

    And LOVE Gottman. I read him often, to remind me of the benefits that constructive interaction can give us. Especially when my boyfriend is contemptuous. It's so very grounding, isn't it?

  23. Thanks for your raw honesty. I cringe at all this for you. My Dad called me names as a kid when he was angry, and also called my Mom names (doorknob, moron, stupid). Not all the time, mind you. But it sticks with you. As a kid, you don't know how to process that stuff and you start to believe it about yourself. And even if it's not directed at you, but at your Mom,…he supposedly loves your Mom. So if he loves her but can call her names…it's not a stretch that as a kid you're worried he feels that way about you, too. And you worry your opinions may be stupid, too…so you're afraid to have them.

    As a result, I"ve spent much of my adult life trying to move past fear of my opinions or making mistakes. I won't tolerate being talked to that way anymore, either. Personally, I wouldn't want my kids to see me allowing myself to be called names in front of them. I would say something like, "I understand you don't agree with what I'm saying, but I'm not stupid and I won't talk about this anymore until we can talk without name calling (and/or yelling). …Come talk to me when you're ready to do that." And then I'd leave the room.

  24. excellent post. im sure others will second my feelings. im getting close to 40 and i can tell you that the scars and confusion of living with yelling parents remain with me to this day. in fact, i think it drove me to my husband who is the polar opposite of the yeller (and i never yell) to a point where the lack of confrontation is a problem. please please you have got to love your children more than you love to fight or prove you are right. if you have to fight please please try to do it out of earshot. i think i would have rather have been hit than to listen to that vitriol day after day. on a lighter point, the twins seem really young to even begin to learn how to share. im trying to think back but they seem very young to even grasp it.

  25. The last time I asked this question, you told me "We don't have time…we have to find a baby sitter."

    Now you have a full-time nanny.

    So, when are you and Phil going to find someone to talk to?

    For the time it took you to write this post, you could have talked to a therapist who could have helped you both. Two hours a month…that's all it takes.

  26. Long time reader – first time poster. Wow, same story, different characters. My husband and I are _exactly_ the same as you both. Thank you for expressing my frustration in such amazing and thought provoking words. I am off to find that Modern Love article. Hang in there.

  27. I saved the Shamu article from the NYT too! I don't think you've addressed if he's like this with others — if you did, I missed it. Being a hedge fund manager is a tough job and it seems to me to take a certain type of aggressive personality to do it. So I wouldn't be surprised if he pretty much is the same with people he works with. In that element his communication style might be par for the course — but very hard to take at home

  28. "I'm not going to be your cheering section." Ugh. What a dick. I would never tolerate that from my husband. You should drag his ass to couples therapy.

  29. In this one, Phil is 100% wrong. With a capital W. I used to be like Phil. I rarely had good to say, I always criticized and said negative things. I nearly wrecked my marriage. My husband is the opposite of Phil, he points out the good, as well as the bad, but he couches any criticism in more positive terms, aiming to have it help rathe than accuse or hurt. Phil needs to see his method of communication is destructive and harmful and he needs to change it. I'm so glad I did. If I hadn't, I'd be single right now, wondering why my husband left me.

    Shall I drop by during my visit to the Texas Book Festival and whack him upside the head with an extra large Chuy's burrito?

    I think your method of handling siblig conflict is excellent. A milder variation of some of Phil's points could be used as well, but nothing as negative and drastic as he proposes. It makes him sound like he'd sooner hit them than talk to them, and I seriously doubt that is his belief. He just sounds frustrated and unable to communicate or deal well with it.

    Good luck with it. I think the writing of it was well written and graceful.

  30. I think I say this every time I read a post like this, but perhaps it bears repeating.

    I decided my marriage was over when I saw my sweet, precious little boy start to treat me like his dad did.

    By putting me down, belittling me, taking me for granted, calling me names, keeping me off-balance, my ex impelled me to make the hardest decision of my life.

    When the darlings were just little – let's see – 8, 7 and 5 – I realized if I continued to let him beat me down, grind me in to nothingness – that I would be worse than non-useful. I would be dead.

    So, I severed it. And I tucked the darlings under my broken wings, and we huddled together. I sheltered them from badness, and as I healed, I recreated our world. The last 9 years we have created a home of safety, comfort, love and support. It is a place where everyone has a voice, put-downs aren't tolerated, and fierce loyalty shines through. Sure, the darlings quibble – they snarf – they argue – like rowdy puppies. But at the end of the day – this home is a safe haven. I wouldn't have it any other way.

    My sweet son, on the verge of college, is dear, sweet, supportive and thoughtful. He opens doors, he turns on the fireplace and sets the alarm. He gasses up the car without complaint, and showers tenderness on his grandma, grandpa and me – and appropriate big-brotherness for his sisters. He's kind. He is precious.

    And he would have been a total asshole if I hadn't gotten him away from his dad.

  31. This really hit a cord with me. I have been working incredibly hard to put everything in a positive tone and perspective and it is really really hard. I want to focus on what is wrong and hurt others out of frustration, but with practice – it is worth it. I think now I understand what my mother said when she used to say "treat me like a stranger". I would never say to a stranger the things I said to her. A note on the kids – Kids learn how to act from peer to peer observation. So Lucas and Abigail will learn to share by watching you and Phil share – not necessarily by watching how you share with them. In the same way, they will learn how to treat each other and the people they care about by watching you and Phil. My parents would shut down when they had disagreements and I never learned how to fight productively and with compassion.

  32. Oh my- what an intense post. I full-heartedly agree with you that positive reinforcement is the best way to teach kids, hell- teach anyone.

    There's something called 'learned hopelessness' that occurs when someone is bombarded by The Negative (I've been trying to 'unlearn' this for years now, thanks Shrink) It's so very counterproductive and creates an uncomfortable atmosphere.

    I am hoping you parents can work this out. My only advice would be to keep the arguement from your children; remove yourselves to have your discussion. Let your children observe you working together (through good and hard stuff) but do not let it all hang out in front of the little ones. Those kids need to see the adults treating each other with respect at all times!

  33. It doesn't matter whether you're right or wrong or how many articles on criticism you find that prove your point.

    What matters are your feelings. If he is hurting them by saying stuff the way he says them, he needs to know that. You need to tell him it hurts you when he says things that criticize you like that. And he needs to respect that and find a different way of communicating his disapproval rather than saying "that's stupid".

    This is one of the most important lessons I ever learned in my marriage.

  34. I can't really say I'm "with" either of you but I certainly empathize with your frustration. I shut down a lot during fights too, which irritates me, especially during those times when what I really want is to SCREAM.

    Personally I'm trying to positively reinforce my sig-oths good behavior, and also trying to develop a thicker skin because lets face it he probably isn't going to morph into someone that doesn't regularly piss me off anytime soon.

    Sorry you're sad/hurt. Sometimes playground banter rings true, boys really do stink (sometimes :-).

  35. Stephanie,

    I'm a few years behind you in life: I'm 28, live in NYC, grew up in a NY suburb, suffered from a binge eating disorder, just got married. So hopefully my words come from a trustworthy place.

    My parents have been married for over 35 years, and they fought constantly when I was growing up. They yelled about big and little things and never shielded me or my younger brother from the fighting. I always worried they didn't love each other and were heading for divorce. Somehow I thought this was all my fault.

    I've been sorting this out in therapy for a while. My mom only recently told me that she and my dad always made up before going to bed, and that the "make-up" process was very loving. As a kid, I only saw the fights….I never saw the love. A fight would be over by morning for them, but not for me.

    I completely respect the process you and Phil are going through. I think it's healthy for kids to understand real family dynamics. But if you have to fight in front of them, share the "make-ups" too.

    Lisa

  36. This is exactly how I want to raise my children! I can't wait!

    The Dolphin trainer article is so true. My last relationship was founded on patience and positive reinforcement. I grew so much from it. I think the spiritual aspect behind practicing patience and empathy can't be underestimated. My former partner and I both grew up in homes with unsatisfied, criticizing parents (mine was worse, with a lot of severe emotional abuse). It gave us so much peace to be in such an affectionate, mostly criticism-free relationship. We ultimately broke up because of our religious differences.
    I have faith we can both have amazing future relationships. There are, of course, moments when one person has a temper tantrum. But when you act this way from the beginning, a lot of the typical strife couples have never arises. It's contagious: your capacity to love those you come into contact with deepens.

  37. That was long. I'll have to come back and read the whole thing later. But just in case I don't find the time tonight:

    You really should intervene when the kids take toys away from each other. By doing so, you're teaching them that a) you can't always have what you want, b) you can't get what you want by snatching it away from someone else, and c) the wounded party learns that s/he is worth defending, and eventually learns how to defend him/herself.

    The older they get, the worse it'll get. They're babies now, and what Mommy and Daddy say can rock or float their world. They'll get older, though, and as they do, it won't mean as much when Mommy pouts or sounds disapproving. Bottom line to the taker: "I wanted the toy and I still have the toy, hurt feelings and disapproving Mommy be damned."

    I love that you say, "They're kids; they'll work it out." I think many parents make the mistake of hovering, of doing too much for their kids and undercutting their own ability to deal. My personal opinion, though, is that you're erring on the opposite side.. putting the responsibility on THEM to learn adult concepts involving self-denial (sharing, generosity, etc) without showing them that there's DENIAL involved – "You cannot have that right now. S/he is using it. Give it back. You may have it later."

    I don't mean any of this disrespectfully, not at all. I hope it doesn't come across that way. Just my two cents. I hope I can set aside some time later tonight to read the whole thing.

  38. he won't be your cheering section? but that's a husband's most important job.

    if phil would prefer not to raise bullies, he needs to stop behaving like one.

  39. Wow. The comments here touched me too.
    3 teen's Mom's comment made the hair stand up on my arms, and I thought Lisa's comment was moving as well, and true.

    I come from a family where my folks have been together for nearly 40 years. That is a looooong fuckin' time and my brother and I witnessed fights, some more brutal and vocal than others. We witnessed my dad fuck up and my mom break down. But we also witnessed them go to couple's counseling, and fight for their marriage. It took my mom stepping up to my father and putting her foot down. She finally told him she was unhappy and refused to continue to live with a man she feared. My father sobbed like a baby. It was the first time I had ever seen my dad cry (I was a dirty eavesdropper).

    25 years later and they're still going strong, still doing the nasty (ewww!), still show affection towards one another, and still get on each other's damn nerves a lot of the time. But that's marriage, isn't it?

    Phil is who he is and you knew that going into the marriage, but same goes for him, HE knew how you were, and HE knew you will always need that encouragement to know you're on the right path. He might not like it, but tough shit. He signed up for this, so did you.

    I do think positive reinforcement is the best way to rear a child. I say this as a single mama raising my five year old for the last three years completely on my own. Single children can be extremely selfish, and I have always tried my best to explain things to Kellen, even if I wasn't sure he understood. I think you are doing a great job and it's not stupid at all, it's actually, uh, being a good mama.

    Having said all that, I am a lot like Phil. I have a short fuse, but I get over shit quick. I tend to hurt people's feelings by giving them the "straight truth" and it's taken me years to realize not everyone is like me, not everyone can communicate like that, or understand that kind of communication. It sounds like Phil can be hard on you at times, but it also sounds like he's hard on himself too.

    I think Bestmansgrl is on the money. You guys need a mediator. Phil is not listening to you, and you're only pouting and shutting down. Sometimes it takes an unbiased, third party to put things in perspective.

  40. I have 2 thoughts:

    1) On the kids thing – I don't think it makes any sense for a parent to snatch the toy away from Abigail in that situation. Parents lead by example. If you snatch the toy away, you are teaching her that it is ok to take things away from people (kind of like spanking a kid to punish them for hitting — I never understood that one, either). What my mom always did was calmly walk the taker back to his/her sibling and command them to return the toy. I think that is a good balance, since I do think it is important to also teach the taker that taking a toy from your sibling in that manner is simply unacceptable.

    2) It is simply not healthy for the kids to see Phil talk to you that way. They will learn that you are stupid and they will grow up to treat you like he does. Worst of all, through him, they will learn not to have any respect for you. And really, it all boils down to respect. There is a difference between "sugar coating" and having so little respect for someone that you don't consider the impact of your words before speaking them. There is no excuse for that.

  41. I can't believe you two talk to each other that way! I had to stop reading. If my husband ever called me STUPID I would have serious issues. Maybe you two should work on your argument styles before tackling the kids'?

    I learned before I married NOT to say things that are hurtful and mean. They cannot ever be taken back, no matter how you try.

  42. Oh, dear. This is going to be the world's longest comment. I think that what Phil feels and what he says/how he expresses his feelings are at quite a divide. I know this because I come from a family where that is the case with everyone (except for me, of course). I spent a week making Thanksgiving dinner, everything was superb, yet all they could talk about was what I could've done better or almost did wrong. "Why don't you make green bean almandine next year? I hate sweet soup. Did you have to make butternut squash? It's. . . sufficient." Point being, I know how it feels at least in an abstract way. They actually think that they're helping. Funniest part is, if I end up speaking to one of their friends they'll tell me about how the family member raved about my green beans and butternut squash soup. They think that I'm overly sensitive and that they shouldn't have to walk on eggshells because of my feelings. I think that I shouldn't have to adjust my behavior and ignore my feelings for them, especially since they refuse to do so for me.
    My guess would be that Phil has advanced in his career by treating people the way he treats you. Not taking any bullshit or being afraid to tell someone when they're fucking up yet rewarding good behavior and congratulating sparingly and only when congratulations are due. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Not every guy on a trading floor or in an ER needs a gold star for doing their job. I think he's doing what has worked for him in the past but also what he thinks is best for you. He probably thinks that it would be cruel to pad his feelings with positives and leave you vulnerable to criticism from others who don't have his good intentions. I'm not saying ignore his behavior because constant, unadulterated criticism is maddening. Bottling it up doesn't work; talking about it only in therapy doesn't work either. The fact of the matter is that he wants to voice his opinions the way he wants to the same way you want to voice yours the way you want to. He's most comfortable being the way that he is. I don't think that you guys need a mediator since you both like being the way that you are (just not the way that the other reacts to the way you are), I don't think that you can change your fundamental natures.
    The best thing to do is acknowledge each other's feelings. So, two suggestions: 1) I don't know if you watched In Treatment, there was a relationship game that Gabriel Byrne and his wife played while they were in therapy where they listened to the other person speak and then repeated what they said without additions. Phil will probably think that it's pointless bullshit (as do I, kinda) but it’s proven very effective, 2) take a walk. This is what works for me. I usually go for a walk or run when a fight is brewing and come back with calm and perspective. If you'd like him to look over your work, why not just give him a bit of time with it? He can figure out what to say or how to say it and people tend not to be as harsh when they let things stew a bit. You can talk about the kids after you've both stated your opinions and walked away.
    Re: the sharing situation. I would firmly tell Abigail to give the toy back to Lucas and explain why, tell her you understand the impulse but we need to be considerate to others' feelings. Even if you don’t think that she’ll understand. It's one thing to ignore fussing or something because the point is for them to do something else to get their desired reaction. Abigail is doing something wrong and getting her desired reaction, no fight from Lucas and a toy.

  43. Oops! I was waiting for this….guess the honeymoon's over. You've discovered the real person you're married to….doesnt look pleasant…..you sure he aint bipolar? Sounds too much like the behavior of one….compliments you to others but belittles you in private…makes him feel better…..wow, I'd explore this one…..

    Oh, and my hubby thank God lost the shuffleboard tournament so those hussies are chasing the winner. Oy, I never. I dont envy what you gotta deal with, bubby…I may be old but I got peace…..oy

  44. You guys need counseling. Now. Instead of googling self-help books you should be searching for a local psychologist. Seriously.

  45. He sounds emotionally abusive and controlling. If you're walking on eggshells and spending most of your energy trying to avoid fights, or dreading their arrival, then it doesn't sound like a happy marriage, even in the peaceful times.

    Why aren't you guys in intensive couples' therapy?

    Please don't follow this up with a post about how you are both just feisty, or he's a great guy, or things aren't that bad. Be honest with yourself, about the respect and love you deserve, and do something about it. Who knows if that's counseling, or separation, but it doesn't seem like anything else is working. The point isn't just to get along. It's to live happily and free from disrespect. Happily doesn't mean sunshine and rainbows all time in a marriage — of course not. But again, be honest, do you want to live the rest of your life with someone who treats you like this.

    The problem isn't you. Sure, anyone can work on their flaws, but his disrespectful treatment of you will always be the same, unless something HUGE changes.

  46. After 10 years of marriage, 3 children (4 yr old twins, 8 yr old boy), a sense of humor is mandatory.
    Thanks for an honest glimpse into your life.

  47. There's more than one way to skin a cat, Stephanie. You and Phil have very different styles of communicating, resolving conflict and parenting your children. All the articles in your favor won't change anything about Phil's behavior unless you both agree to work on these issues, TOGETHER. I agree with Suzanne. You need counseling and a neutral voice to guide you along. Great post. You are so not alone with this.

  48. Robyn,

    Don't you feel a bit silly making some diagnosis as to what is the problem when 1- You do not know these people 2- Only hear one side of the issue?

    Having an opinion is fine but how do you not know that perhaps Stephanie does the same things yet doesn't think she does so doesn't articulate? Or perhaps Stephanie perceives his statements as disrespectful but are actually stated in a different way but she hears what she wants to hear? Point is there are a myriad of things not stated or shown here and you know the problem? The solution to the problem you've diagnosed? I think many people project their own issues onto Stephanie.

  49. I think that both of you are right to an extent. Kids and adults both respond well to positive reinforcement. I'm a nurse and when my patients tell me that they appreciate what I do, it makes me want to work that much harder for them.

    At the same time, it is totally unacceptable for Phil to call your ideas and, in essence, you stupid. You obviously have great restraint. I'm not sure I'd be able to maintain my dignity and not slap the shit out him for being such an asshole. I have to agree that the two of you, him especially, need someone to mediate so that you (meaning he) can learn how to fight fairly. I know that there are two sides to every story, but I just can't see how he can think that the way he treats you is okay. Hopefully he read this post and can see what he looks like from the other side.

  50. Three teens' mom — you have written many poignant and wise comments in the time I've been reading this blog. This one made me feel like I was wrapped in a cashmere blanket, drinking hot cocoa. Can we move in with you? Even under the best of circumstances, great kids are a huge accomplishment. Enjoy every second of what you've built. I hope one day your children create happy, safe, respectful homes of their own, with precious grandchildren for you to love. Best wishes!

  51. My parents, married 62 years, don’t communicate that well. But there was a rule that no one was ever to use words like stupid, hate, dumb, fat and some others. It is such a simple rule and you and Phil should identify the list for your family.

    Truth, as Phil insists only he knows, is relative and there can be 2 truths in every discussion/argument. He thinks what he believes trumps everything and that is immature BS. Grow up, dude. I second the idea of therapy, even with a couple. it is hard to work with smart verbal people.

    And what is his opinion on kindness. It doesn’t seem to be in his vocabulary. Has he or would he read Gandhi? he has a wonderful perspective on the use of violent or derogatory terms, which infect all parts of his life when he take that tact.

    He may not need a mood stabilizer or it may be a boon to staying healthy. Sounds like his cardio team would have go be consulted, but if he thinkw only he has the truth, then any medical intervention could just be rejected out of hand. but in my book he is abusive and can change if so motivated. Good luck.

  52. So many thoughts, but they boil down to:

    1. If your spouse is not your cheering section, who will be?
    2. Tact and gentility should not disappear once you’re married.
    3. Calling someone stupid is destructive.
    and
    4. What happened to your therapy sessions?

    Seeing his comments on the screen, in black and white, sobering–they are good reminders for me as I tend to be very quick with criticism and not in a good way…

  53. Stephanie:

    I know that I’m not your “friend” but I’ve been reading your blog for years and this is the first time that I’ve ever felt really angry on your behalf. I am not impressed with Phil and do not think that his argument about telling the “truth” is persuasive, all it is is hurtful. I have been with my husband for 5 years and we have a son and we disagree and even fight sometimes and I do think that’s inevitable but how you fight is so important and making a point of appreciating your partner even when you disagree with them is huge because otherwise it is incredibly personal. I agree also that the word “stupid” should not be allowed to be used as a criticism of each other. There are so many people in this world who will be critical of you because you are a blogger and an author and a creative person, the last thing you need is your devoted partner to be throwing words that are so careless at you. People get divorced over that shit.

    Tell him to back off and find another way. That is your right.

  54. ask him to leave and return when he no longer thinks, or, at the very least, has to say, you are stupid or incompetent or anything but a human being. Isn’t that what you would want your daughter to do? He is a downer. Not good for your children. Not good for you. When he tells others how great you are he is only bragging about HIS possession. Everything that is good about him is totally negated when he exposes himself for what he is – a bully. Don’t let him bully you. Good luck.

  55. Yes, Phil. I am in shock! That kind of name-calling is cruel, unnecessary, unproductive, and untrue. I agree with above poster, it seems bullying ,and violently intimidating and controlling. She is so brave to post about this. This matters terribly- it is a stain that could spread-very toxic. Don’t let it rip. She has complained about you misinterpreting her and throwing your teddy out of the pram before. But I think you are big enough to step back before it gets too out of hand. Steph is not totally selfish all the time, surely.? just a normal flawed feisty human bean (!) doing her best to keep all the balls in the air, and occasionally dropping a few.perhaps a bit thoughtless sometimes,, as we can all be. What’s the big deal? Do you really want to savagely erode her like this? You have so much going for you-don’t chuck it for want of a little hint-people don’t respond well to insults -like stupid- and Steph in particular has nailed her colours to the mast in being Smart, and a thinker. You strike ,unconsciosly perhaps, at her USP-the essence of her.Wounding her where she is tenderest-OUCH! I see that you are angry with her, and that makes you fearful, and then you lash out. Please dear sweet Phil, work on this together with your professional-she so wants to admire you, and you are making it hard. Please.

  56. Phil is a bully. Plain and simple. My husband as VERY similar but never called names. A few months of counseling and it’s better. Back to counseling?

    Also, your parenting styles seems similar to Conscious Discipline/Loving Guidance. I would look into it. My husband wanted to parent similarly to Phil. Once we invested in conscious discipline, it changed our marriage (because we use the principles on ourselves) and our relationships with our three babes.

    I’m sorry that you have to deal with BS like this. :( it’s hard. I wish you well.

    1. Author

      Don’t I know it. Capital B, bully. I agree. I also have children and need to figure out what I’m doing with my life… ya, know, so there’s that.

  57. “They” say we teach people how to treat us. You can’t control what Phil does or what he says but you have taken several important steps to indentify that you are not okay with it and it has to change. Your approach has been cerebral and lawyer-like by doing research and trying to prove to Phil that his reactions and words are not healthy, and that experts in several fields of study say there’s a better way to handle communications than words a child would use.”Stupid.” As Bugs Bunny would say, them’s fighting words!

    Speaking of which, maybe try using Phil’s own way of communicating back at him, just once,(when the kids are out of earshot) the next time you disagree, and see if that smart brain of his picks up on the disconnect between his supposed objective and the hurtful words that defeat the very thing he says he is trying to schieve.

    Alternately, you two may need therapy specific to people dealing with a life-threatening illness. There’s gotta be a lot of anger and fear that gets pushed aside and swept under the nearest rug.

    Keep writing Steph, all of need (and love) your words.

  58. I kind of stopped reading after the “How should I react, I shut down because I don’t want to argue in front of the kids”.

    I get that.

    But then I think of my life. And how I married a man that was a lot like my father (Uhm, I Am divorced, that should be noted) and how during therapy I realized that my mother was an awful female role model. My dad would be an ass to her and I cannot remember ONE instance not ONE in my entire childhood and teenage life (and there were many instances) where my mother stood up for herself. Where she said to him “Hell no, not in front of my kids. Don’t talk to me like that.”

    So I married a man who and reacted just like her when he acted like a dick…I got quiet and figured “I will just love him more and more and maybe he will love me back more” and voila. Eventually though, unlike my mother, I realized that this was all very, very, very wrong. And then eventually I left.

    Point being: be the role model you want your children to have. Be the woman you want your daughter to grow into. For realz.

    I spend hours of therapy and such to get there. :)

  59. One more thing:

    “I want to show him that he’s wrong, that you don’t have to talk to people like that for them to hear you. And I know when I say it, he’ll say that I won’t listen to him any other way.”

    So: It’s your fault.

    You know, for real. Some men hit their woman and make them believe it’s their fault, others do other things. I am sorry you are in this, I know you love him and I hope so much that therapy and what you have been doing will work for you two…all fingers crossed, but I don’t blame you for putting it out here….he’s way off base and he’s unfair and mean. Downright mean. Who wants a mean person in their corner..your husband is the one who is supposed to strengthen you, have your back, support you…not the dude who pushes you over and kicks you while you are on the ground. BAH.

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