a watercolored marriage

In ALL, MARRIAGE, RAISING HOPS INTO BEERS by Stephanie Klein98 Comments

I‘ve been telling the kids how we’re going to do a “day in the life slice” of their lives. Similar to the book, What Happens on Wednesdays, filled with all the activities that happen in a day. Then I imagined how my watercolor captioned life might look documented on the pages of a storybook.

Awoke naked, with coughing in my ear. Without having to open my eyes, I know it’s Abigail. I know her cough. What are you doing in here? I thought I told you you couldn’t come in. “I told her she could” Phil says. “Oh, okay.” A few minutes later, I feel Lucas climbing on me, whining that he wants to “sleep next to Mama.” I am beyond tired, trying to catch up on a weeks worth of too little sleep. It doesn’t work that way. Fine, Lucas can sleep next to me, so long as it’s only my feet. I can’t have two sick children coughing in my face. It was one thing when Abigail was coughing into my hair and ear, but to have another one right up in my face is too much sick. I roll over and turn, throwing my body to the opposite side of the bed, with my head at all their feet. Lucas will have no part in this, insisting he sleep next to all of me, not just my feet, so he joins me down below, yanking covers over both our heads. Now I’m in a contained bubble tent of sick as he coughs into my hair and ear. I fall back asleep.

Eventually, and it could be minutes later, they’ve stirred out of bed, and I’m alone, sleeping. Phil walks in, asking what the deal is with breakfast bars, can they have one. “Yes,” I say.

“And you’re getting up now, right? You’re taking care of their breakfast, right?” FUCK OFF. “Yes, I’ve got it,” I mumble, not moving. Phil leaves to give them breakfast bars and make their lunches, a duty he thankfully agreed to take care of daily. I ghost walk to the shower, where I condition, shave, and brush. Towel up, deodorant, leave-in conditioner. Sports bra, thong, tank, running shorts, hair still in a towel. No makeup or sunscreen. No socks or shoes.

In the kitchen, I take down two bowls, fish out two spoons, milk, whole-grain Kix, napkins. They’re still in their pajamas. I ask if they’d like fruit. They don’t. Today, I don’t argue. Despite the shower, I’m still in a half-zombie sleep. They’re at the kitchen table eating, asking for TV. “Not today,” I say. They don’t argue. I’d asked Phil twice yesterday, and twice the day before that, if he’d please cut up the melon (a cross between a honeydew and cantaloupe) because I can never get a knife through, ever. He hadn’t done it. Lucas protests about the Kix. He’s never tried them. He wants something else. “Not today,” I say again. He tries them, likes them. “Yummy,” he says. “Mikey likes it,” I say.

I sort through papers on the kitchen counter, piles of them. Handouts from school, announcements, birthday party invitations. I remember that we need curiously strong, but tiny, magnets. I don’t have time to add it to my list (I’ll do it now). A list is due soon where we itemize Kindergartens for which we plan to enroll. There’s a splash-a-thon on Sept 20 or 21st, where they need sponsors. I have to submit money and ask people. I hate that my to-do list is taking over my life, and that I’m not getting any work done, at all. I don’t add it. I find strawberry hulls and stems in a Montessori activity bowl. I pick them out, toss them, wipe down the counter and add random plates to the sink. The kids are finished eating. I tell them to please get dressed, remembering that Lucas has waterplay, which means he needs a plastic bag, a towel, a change of clothes. I collect these things and add them to his backpack. Their breakfast bowls are still on the table. Lucas is in his bedroom, putting on his swim gear. Abigail is pretending to get dressed. Likely making piles of books, playing Octomom with naked dolls, tucking stuffed animals into her bed. “Brush your teeth,” I yell out. I know that they won’t.

Phil walks into the kitchen to say goodbye. “Can you please cut up the melon?” I ask.
“No,” he says.
“Please, I asked you twice yesterday, and you’d said you’d do it.”
“No. Do you know why? Whenever I ask you to do things, you always give me pushback. Always. You always have a reason why you can’t do something. I can’t even be sick, I can’t have that even, without you saying that you’re sick too. Everything always involves you, is always about you and what you need.”

Does this tank top say DUMP ON ME or UNLOAD or TAKE IT ALL OUT ON ME? I don’t know where this is coming from. He’s stressed at work. There’s a move. He always feels as if he shoulders everything. Nothing here is really new. He will attribute everything this morning to what I did wrong. How he had to wake me, how it shouldn’t be his job. He doesn’t let up.

“Could this stuff not always be lying around?” “This stuff” is a pile of 2 catalogs, 3 thin magazines and a pair of green safety scissors. I’d taken them out on Monday night for Lucas’s “Show and Teach” project for the letter “Dd.” Each week he is to find three objects that begin with the featured letter of the week, to cut them out, paste them to a piece of construction paper, and “Show and Teach” the rest of his class on Tuesdays.

Last night Phil complained that he wanted to be able to eat dinner on a clean table without having to move things. “Things” was a single lunch tray I’d set out for a learning activity. On it were sight words I’d cut out. I work with the children constructing funny sentences on the tray, an activity they love to do. Phil does plenty of things, especially roughhousing physical stuff that I don’t like to do—wheelbarrow racing with Lucas to strengthen his shoulders and improve his low muscle tone. I read to them. I research learning activities. I tape words throughout the house that correspond to the letter of the week at school. I find tins and fill them with miniature pompoms, add tweezers and have them sort the pompoms by color—a fine motor skill task. I try to present a new game each day after school. I do it at the kitchen table… the only table in the house where they can sit still and where I have their full attention.

Phil tells me he’s tired of having to always move things. “I know you have a hard-on for Montessori right now. I know that’s your ‘Bet, ba, ba, bet. Bet,’ that you’re single-minded about it, that it’s your pet of the month, but you don’t have to involve me and make me read the books. You want to do it, God bless, but I shouldn’t have to see it, move it, or have anything to do with it.”

And by “it” you mean “teaching our children,” I think. I am angry. I know he’s a wonderful father, an involved father. That he really does want the best for them, but right now, it feels like he’s not fighting with me about a philosophy or teaching method. Since moving here, without a nanny to pick them up from school, I’ve become very involved in teaching the children, organizing a playroom, making arts and crafts always available to them, building blocks and age-appropriate puzzles, lacing toys, etc. I don’t turn on the television. I’m making a real effort. And it’s insulting to hear him refer to the interest I’ve taken, how hard I’m trying, as a single-minded hard-on that I’ll lose interest in at any moment. It’s hurtful.

“I shouldn’t have to move this cup of crayons every day,” he says. I want to scream, TOUGH SHIT. IT’S FOR YOUR KIDS. WHO CARES IF YOU HAVE TO MOVE IT EVERY DAY IF IT MEANS THEY’RE LEARNING?! I am angry. Why doesn’t he research the games and make it fun for them to learn? Read to them under a fort with a flashlight the way I do? Because he’s not me. I’m not even asking him to be. What I am asking for is for him to back the fuck off and shift his focus. If he wants the house to be orderly and clean all the time, he can hire a housekeeper.

Yesterday he wanted a gold star for cleaning the toilets, as he’d promised he would. And I gave him the verbal equivalent of one. “Yes, thank you for doing them! They smell nice and clean! Thank you.” He had to ask me if I’d noticed. And I realize it would have meant more if I’d offered the thanks without a prompt.

“And look at these bowls on the table,” he adds pointing to their breakfast remnants.
“Phil, are you kidding me? I’m in the middle of sorting through papers and cleaning, and you want to—“
“They’ll still be here when I come home from work.”
“No, they won’t.”
“There’s always something. And why did you move things off my bedroom side table?”
“I told you I was moving them. I asked first. I put them into your bedside table drawer because we were having people over.”
“What I mean is, why do you bother moving my things, when your bedside table is a mess right now?”
“Yes, right now it is full of books and medical records because I have to take Abigail for her pre-op appointment tomorrow with a new doctor, and…”
“And you always have an excuse.”
“Phil, if people were coming over, I’d shove that shit in my closet. I wouldn’t have everything out. But they’re not coming over.”
“Like I said. An excuse for everything.”
He leaves the kitchen. I am fit to be tied.

Yes, the children should have put their bowls in the sink. Of course. I also have priorities. There is still a towel on my head. The kids still aren’t dressed. I haven’t taken my vitamins or eaten anything. Their backpacks still aren’t packed. None of us is wearing shoes. I’ve HAD IT.

“Forget Friday,” I say. I am in the kitchen by myself, still sorting through school papers, pushing window crayons back into their box. I know he is in the living room but that he can hear me. “Just forget it. There is nothing to celebrate. I am not happy. I can’t live like this. I don’t want you to get me anything. There’s nothing to celebrate.” Friday is our five year wedding anniversary.

I can’t even say things are at their worst. They aren’t. This is bickering. It’s small stuff, but it feels bigger than small. I think because I feel worn down. I’m tired. I want to be with someone who gets me. I also know that these types of arguments would happen with anyone, do happen. But maybe in that scenario one of us would make a joke, offer up some levity. This isn’t even a shouting match. We’re not yelling. I don’t know how I feel anymore, but “like celebrating” isn’t it.

Phil leaves for work without saying goodbye. And I am relieved. We need to leave for school in fourteen minutes. Abigail is finally dressed, though she’s pulling at her skirt and doesn’t like the clothes she’s picked and put on.

Gel in my hair. Vitamins. My socks, sneakers. Her socks are too big. Cream on her chin. Sunblock on faces. Lunches into backpacks. She says she wants to wear long pants. “Not an option,” I say, presenting her with hers. We’re finally in the car—the one Phil had said I “keep a mess by letting them bring toys in.” I remember that I need a gym bag and my wallet, run back inside, quickly grab my laptop and charger. We’re finally on the road.

We arrive on time. Kisses, hugs, see you later after Karate. Abigail’s clothes don’t match, teeth aren’t brushed, hair is brushed but without barrettes, and I don’t care. I get to the gym, grab water with lime, step onto the elliptical machine and realize I have not packed headphones. I have not packed my surf-shelf. I cannot use the laptop I’d packed. Going to the gym without headphones is about as productive as a sterile man. I walk out.

I pull into our driveway and feel compelled to clean out the car, rid it of tissues, cup lids, broken necklace beads. I should be working, but instead, I clean because I don’t want to hear it. Inside, I put on rubber gloves. Forget the work list I have waiting for me, the life part of my life. I wipe down the kitchen table. Clean dishes and drinking glasses, load a dishwasher, water a plant. I’m still angry, and it’s not even noon.

Worse still, I know there’s a whole other side to this story. Or, perhaps that should read “better yet.” For better or worse, I should not have cleaned; I should’ve worked. I know that parts of that other sided story will be valid. That I, too, could stand to re-shift my own focus, that I could try to be more sympathetic about how things feel in his shoes, as the sole-provider in this house, the only income with a family full of wants and enrichment classes and thinner clothes. That lately I’ve been so quick to bow out, to walk the careful steps of “I should walk out,” that I haven’t been trying. I’ve been blaming. And hiding. Avoiding. I also know that I’m not always as decent as I paint myself out to be and that every relationship is co-created. I also know that watercolors can be diluted. But if you don’t lift a mistake off the page quickly enough, it leaves a permanent stain.

Comments

  1. Stephanie.

    I have been reading your blog for 4 years. I cried when you announced your pregnancy and smiled when looking at your wedding pictures.

    I used to religiously check your site every day, thrilled when a new post was placed. If I was busy at work I would minimise the browser so I could read it on my lunch break in peace. I hardly read now. And it is because it pains me to read of your relationship with Phil.

    I dont know him, and I dont know you. All I have to go on is your posts. But I have been waiting for this post for the last 18 months.

    I am not going to give any advice. I simply hope you find a way to be happy in your relationship, or be stong enough to walk away.

    X

  2. Wow, Stephanie. I’ve been reading your blog for at least four years. I’ve always loved hearing everything you have to say. Your musings on love and life have given me so much hope for the future. Some of your posts about your marital complications have given me some real insight into how complicated marriages can be. I pray that your relationship with Phil improves. I also hope that you make the best choices for your contentment, productivity and happiness.

  3. How’d you end up with such a pain in the ass? He may be stressed about work, but there’s no need to act like a little bitch.

  4. Your husband is an atypical asshole husband who has no clue about the small details of life. and doesn’t care. they are too busy looking at the big picture. sad but true. it is what it is. and just as sure as the sun will rise and set, he and most others, will not change. maybe a little, here and there after nagging and fights, but they ALWAYS revert back to form. just like we do. with our life of details.

  5. Wow. And I am not saying that in shock but recognition. I feel as though I’m looking backwards to my ex-husband and our marriage. He was a nit-picker also and never happy with my efforts.It took me a long time to let go of thinking “if only I’d tried harder” F*** that. I did all I could physically do and emotionally far more than I should have.
    I am so thankful I did not have children with him because it would have made divorce much more difficult.
    I always feel pangs of empathy when I witness others in situations like I was in. I wish I could reach over give you a hug and a cuppa.

  6. This is stuff that, as you said, everyone deals with and goes through day in and day out but I have to say, you make it very difficult to find anything likeable about your husband.

  7. “I hate that my to-do list is taking over my life, and that I’m not getting any work done, at all.” – Yes! I call it Septemberitis.

  8. Phil’s biotching reminds me of a woman with severe PMS. It’s like he just wants to gripe and complain for the sake of spewing venom. And you are the lucky target. He doesn’t want an answer or explanation; he simply wants to strike out at someone. It makes HIM feel better if he’s made you feel worse. If he’s like this more than one day per month, I don’t know how or why you deal with it. Being alone would be better than living like that. Your children already have a father, but you could find a great partner to share your life if that is what you want.

  9. I don’t have any advice, help or anything, but I just wanted to let you know that reading this made me go give my own husband a big hug and a kiss, to take the time to tell him how much I appreciate all he does.

    It is true that all couples argue, but yes, someone breaks it with a laugh, a joke, and you don’t kick someone when they’re down. An attack on the state of the house while you are trying to get the kids off to school is unacceptable. Hire a housekeeper and a marriage counselor. YOUR job is important too, you are a very talented writer and a lot of people can’t wait to read your next book!

    Best of luck, may things be brighter soon.

  10. Beautiful Painting. Sorry to hear of the fight. Marriage is so fucking hard! Kids make it harder and oh my god what crazy stress of getting everyone ready and out the door and being the one soley responsible for it. It is a lot easier to be the one that gets to dress themself and go to work than to be the one that has to stay and clean it all up and pull it all together.

    I hope you two find a way to honor the 5 years before Friday. Even if it is just a peachful resolution for change. Only you know what is right for you. I hate the Phil bashers on here so I won’t do that. I would never tkae the liberty to judge the inner workings of a marriage but I will only say ‘bon courage’ and again, marriage is fucking hard and I wish you much strength and luck in figuring out your limits.

    1. I disagree. Marriage is actually not *that* hard if you choose well. Always with ups and downs, yes, but not the kind of suffering and downright mean behaviour described here over and over. My husband and I both work. He travels a lot. Our young children are both in school and extra curriculars. We work long hours. Our life is far from stress free. But we’re partners – we comiserate, we lean on each other and support each other. It’s not always posies and rainbows but it’s not the living hell you describe. Stephanie, you often say “this is the way life is for everyone.” You’re kidding yourself. Some of us have wonderful, understanding men who cherish us despite stressful, busy lives. And if Phil’s severe illness hasn’t made both of you re-evaluate your priorities and shift your focus and treasure one another, this relationship is doomed. You must know that. Otherwise you wouldn’t always be talking about pulling the rip cord.

  11. I just read the last paragraph because it had not showed up in my blog reader. Good for you for trying to see the other side of it. It doesn’t sound like you are done. I think Friday can still be salvaged. Not easily, but salvaged.

  12. I have been reading your blog since 2007 – every.single.day and I have never commented. This post so absolutely resonated with me today. Thank you for perspective.

  13. He’s controlling, Stephanie. Whether or not I SHOULD say it, I will because we all know it is true. It actually isn’t very relevant whether or not you are painting yourself in a better light than is true, the fact is that he wanted you to clean the house and instead of asking nicely, he manipulated you into doing it. In a way that he knew would work. So he got what he wanted. And he is going to continue to use that particular method to continue to get what he wants.

    You need to ask yourself if what YOU want is to be in a relationship that is about Phil getting what he wants at your expense, while making you feel the way he is making you feel. There are two sides to every story, etc etc, but shouldn’t the story be a happy one? For the record, I’ve been there. And I cleaned the house when I shouldn’t have, too.

    Now I’m not there anymore. And damn, it feels good. It feels like freedom. No joke.

  14. There was a sound that to this day strikes a bad chord within me…a sound I loathed…feared…dreaded.

    It was the sound of the garage door opening in the middle of the night, announcing the arrival of my ex – home from work – oh, so very important and full of himself – oh so demanding of my every attention. And I would be tired…achingly tired. The darlings drained every bit of me…lovingly, appropriately, and completely…exhaustion that was beyond comprehension. Right where you are now.

    I would have meticulously planned every detail – the calendar with the cute colored stickers outlining the week’s activities…the color-coordinated wreaths on the front door with matching dining room centerpieces…the darlings’ school uniforms and his work shirts neatly pressed and ready to go – lunch materials ready…breakfast on hand…everything hanging…ready…like crystals on a chandelier…like dominoes standing at the ready. Then he’d come crashing in.

    Before the garage door would go up, sometimes I would lay still in my bed. The babies would be down for the night. The dishes would be done (mostly). The laundry was under control (ish). The bills would be paid (if he’d supplied the money). I would lay still in my bed and think about what an incredible relief it would be if the garage door didn’t go up. If the doorbell rang instead, and it was the police saying there was a terrible accident. “Is there someone I could call?” Collapsing in appropriate grief. I could have – so easily – slipped into the ‘grieving widow’ mode…replete with my insurance settlement and – donned in black for years to come – somehow soldiered on. It would have been elegant and tragic and, somehow, easier.

    But my ex was/is too mean to die. And I’ve long-since quit wishing for that outcome. That was 13+ years ago. I just had to move away from his mean spirited, demeaning and crushing self. Once I extricated myself from it – the torment stopped.

    It was really that one moment when I decided to take the babies and run…well – not an easy road. But I was right. And by doing it alone – not looking for husband 2, 3 or 5 – but truly, fundamentally, crucially, un-beautifully devoting myself to raising these young people…well…it’s amazing. Each one of them is so unique – so gifted – so brilliant – so different. Each one has thanked me for not marrying again, or bringing boyfriends or lovers into the mix.

    Has it been easy? “No!” is the convenient/expected answer. But frankly – “yes” is the truth. It has been much easier to raise them alone – because I can always be right. I don’t have to apologize for a messy house or a strict curfew. It is what it is. If we eat fast food for 3 days in a row – who cares? If I hire a maid because I cannot stand to clean a toilet – it is my business! If I don’t give one flat damn about dinner parties or entertaining the neighbors – more power to me!

    Oh Stephanie – I worry about ya. I don’t, however, worry about your darlings. You are exactly right…you’re providing a richness that goes beyond money, beyond fame – you are the mom they’ll always be proud to claim.

    My son – the darlingest nearly 21 year old darling, returned from a long excursion overseas this summer (11 weeks out of contact). When he came home he told me that throughout his trials and tribulations, when he was lonely and adrift, the one thing he focused on? Coming home – to me, to this funny home, to his sisters and village…knowing that he would be safe, loved, protected and adored.

    Well…damn.

    Be strong.

    1. This has to be one of the most pathetic and saddest things I have ever read… wishing to be widowed. You have no idea… there is no such thing as easily slipping into “grieving widow” mode, and the callousness is offensive to those actually walking this path. In this particular case, the grass on the widowed side of the hill is in no way, shape, or form greener.

      1. You utterly miss the point. Of course being widowed is horrific. But being married to an abusive bastard is also horrific, and unlike the finality of a spouse’s death, the abuse goes on and on and on. Until you end it with divorce which is difficult, expensive, and can often bring on yet more abuse, along with all the wrenching life changes. So, yeah, for him to drop dead would have made 3TM’s life much easier. For what it’s worth, I had the same fantasy about my exhusband years ago. I even imagined what I’d say to the cops who came to break the “awful news.” Unlike 3TM, however, I’m very happy to have remarried a wonderful man whom my daughter considers her father. But there’s neither here nor there. As long as I’m here, yakking away, regarding SK & Phil…this sounds like same old same old to me. That said, hire a cleaner and a part time nanny. You’re a writer. YOu need to work.

      2. I beg to differ. I’ve been widowed. Then remarried to a man i refer to as the “wasband” or “exhole” because he truly was and is. Sometimes a marriage is so emotionally draining and abusive that having them gone is a damn site better than wishing YOU were dead. I know you are offended by her words. But, until you’ve walked in HER shoes, zip it.

        1. So true. This very much resonates. I know a handful of women (myself included, at times) who have had the death thoughts, and if you can’t get your head around it and you find it offensive, then you very likely have not been in a situation so bad as to warrant it.

  15. September 13th was my boyfriends birthday, he never makes a big deal about it and would rather I didn’t make a big deal either. I always make a big deal about it though, as he deserves it and sadly, no one in his life ever made a big deal about it.
    Well, tuesday came and I had gifts for him, a special dinner and a card which I took a lot of time to write out to him. The problem was that I had a meltdown, I have been working two jobs, seven days a week for several years. I was an emotional wreck and ruined his day. I was depressed, cried, wanted to be alone and ultimately ended up just leaving and going out for a drive. I feel horrible about it and wish I could take it back.
    We all handle stress differently, sometimes we handle it better than others. I truely hope you two will find a way to work through this.

  16. When I was working flat out to support my partner, I would get so angry when things round the house weren’t done. I’d be thinking, ‘I’m killing myself here and you can’t even load the dishwasher?’ Only now I’m out of the situation can I see how frustrating it was for both of us. We started by hiring a cleaner once a week, at the very least you can relax the night before and after they come. They can do the big jobs like the bathrooms and you can do the important jobs like raising amazing children.

  17. I am pissed off for you right now. I really am.

    I hope things get better. I hope you’re not the only one trying to work this out.

  18. Maybe he’s not perfect. Maybe you are not perfect. But both sides have to accept that. It seems to me that you have always tried to do that really hard, that you have gone to therapy and so on and so forth and I worry he is not accepting of you in your nonperfections.

    Dude. You know the deal better than anyone. I also hope you find the strength to do what you want to do. Of course having moved, making new friends ect is exceptional stress on you as well…but seriously, this is not a good example…I grew up with parents and a controlling dad. I ended up marrying someone because I just didn’t know any better. someone who was so much more than my dad than I ever thought…controlling, hurtful, mean. But my mom never really gave me a good example on how to deal with it. You might do that, I still think it’s really rough on kids to witness a dad treating the mom like this.

    1. You are so right, Ulli. It is really rough on the children. I grew up with a mean, controlling father. My mother never stood up to him and we all suffered horribly. The tension in the home was unbearable. Luckily, instead of modeling my mom’s choices, I chose a partner on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. My husband is loving and giving- a true partner in parenting. He loves me unconditionally in all my imperfections. I can’t imagine living like Stephanie has chosen to do. She can’t change Phil, but she can change her acceptance of it. This post reminds me of abused women who think they are abused because of they way they act; that they brought it on themselves and deserve it. Sure, couples have issues with each other at times– but in loving, healthy relationships they never resolve problems by denigrating and humiliating each other. It is truly sad. I hope Abigail and Lucas do not grow up to model their parent’s behavior in their own relationships.

  19. Please tell me that this fight did happen in front of Abigal and Lucas.

    I have a feeling that it did. Instead of fighting in front of them, you 2 need to have a code word signaling: “I am pissed, but I need to get out the door, and I don’t want to fight in front of the children. Let’s discuss this later.”

      1. That code word would have to be ever-changing because the kids will catch on real quick when “Oregon” or “heartburn” or “butterfly” is spewed with such venom and anger, even if a fight never happens in front of them, the tension will be apparent. They are only getting older and their comprehension is only growing deeper. No code word will ever stay disguised for long.

  20. Maybe Phil can step in and add his part (he has before?) I feel alarm when i read these (I like the fact you share slice of life..) as it feels too intimate to share private relationship stuff with…everyone. Are you worried what new potential friends could think? How about how Phil’s coworkers..will they see this? This stuff seems stressful but I think it is something that (maybe? hopefully?) can be resolved over time. Writing about this is such detail is concerning.. is it you being ‘real’ or is it a sign you have truly made a decision it is time to get out and are just building up to the announcement?

    I celebrated my 5th anniversary a month ago. Oddly this stuff really happens (in different degrees) every so often and it drives me bonkers. I think we all have days where we weigh ‘is this just an annoyance or am i in a bad situation’. I think a lot of people can relate to this and for that i thank you. But still… I like you two together and hope it can work out. Phil sounds OCD clean freak and I am sooo that way. My husband is not. I just clean up a little more than average and do so for me— not to please him. So there is a difference. I do commend your living a non sterile existence.. kids need to be nurtured and not feel worried about messing things up. THAT can f*** them up. So, good for you. You sound like a fun mom and they will thank you for that have no doubt

  21. As we don’t know both sides to the story or likely even the whole story I’m not going to write a diatribe on how I pretend to know your life well enough to give advice.

    I’ll just say… it’s really not supposed to be that hard. There are bad days and good days to every marriage but it shouldn’t be like this.

  22. What I find interesting, though you try to mitigate it with your final paragraph, is that you are always the victim in your relationships. The victim of a cheating, cold ex, and the victim of a mean and controlling current. You know what these men have in common? You.

    You claimed, and swore, and wrote up and down how you worked on yourself, loved yourself, found yourself between relationships, but I still don’t get the timeline between your divorce and getting serious with Phil. I still maintain it was less than a year (and I know divorce can be dragged out and take forever). And you dated pretty frequently, even being close to moving in and talking marriage with another man before Phil (don’t remember his name/pseudonym, don’t care to look it up. He was also a doctor like your ex, no?). And then you were engaged to Phil less than a year after meeting him like some sort of Kardashian cousin. I know the baby clock was ticking. I’m sure Phil was/is very impressive on paper (and in some ways in real life), but you two don’t seem compatible at all. You don’t seem to like each other, even if you love each other.

    Now, 5 years on after who knows how many therapists and sessions, both on your own and together (though if I remember Phil quit those), you’re still here? Really? I’d like a post on what exactly HAS changed? And not a one-off, a consistent, result of talk/work/therapy change. Cause I don’t see it/read it here.

    And since when is Phil the sole bread winner? You really never write about the reality of being a published author. You write about the ups and downs of hollywood, but you never express your disappointment or disillusionment (if you have any) with the literary world. I know your publisher had high hopes for you and your books, but are you not making any money? Or just new wardrobe money (which isn’t really a substantial amount with two tots in private school/your family’s standard of living). I know you still have an agent, but have you actually sold your next idea/book(s)? Or is it before the pitch process? You randomly mention “work” but there’s been nary an article or mention of new work at all. Even though you did publish a story in a compilation about your dog, right?

    Everything you write just seems like such an act. A veneer. A carefully crafted image to make you look “best.” Even posts like this. Though I’m glad you’re writing more substantial posts and less “stuff I want/lust lists” and lazy “straight up answers” posts.

    1. Author

      Thanks for your thoughts Danielle. I haven’t tried to sell anything because I haven’t written a proposal yet. I believe I’ve written about that… about saying I’m going to do something and then not doing it. And then wondering what that’s even about, and then questioning what I even want. You make money when you earn royalties, which in my case would mean earning out a half million dollars before seeing a royalty check. So, yes, Phil is the sole moneymaker. I have fantastic representation all around who all believe in me, who are ready and waiting, but unless I get a proposal written, there’s nothing for them to sell. I have been working on compiling tons of material, am still struggling with storyline, but after a recent meeting with my literary agent, I’m going to ignore the story arc (for now) and focus instead on compiling the stories I want to tell… and on the proposal. My heart hasn’t been in my writing lately. I’ve been staging a house, packing, researching schools, signing kids up for enrichment courses (Karate, Tennis, etc.), being a driver, taking everyone to Dr. appointments, moving, adjusting… and now without a full-time nanny. So my days are stop start stop, and I haven’t been productive this way. I need non-stop uninterrupted time to write. I don’t EVER meet people for lunch because of this reason. I need to spend full DAYS at the library until it’s dark out. It’s the only way I work… fully-immersed in it. Otherwise, I allow myself to get overloaded and distracted by a million other things… recipes, books on bringing out your children’s strengths, occupational therapy exercises for Lucas, taking the kids to swim lessons, etc. I hope this answers your question.

      As for a veneer… I beg to differ. I am nothing but completely honest, with full disclosure about everything. And as “lazy” as some posts might read or seem, the alternative is sometimes NOTHING. Because imagine my trying to work on a proposal, a marriage, mothering, and keeping up with regular engaging blog posts? There’s just not enough of me. So if the blog is lists, it’s lists. But at least *I* am off living.

      As for my romantic past and the time between them, I don’t care to look it up either. It would genuinely require me to read through emails to figure it all out. What I do know is that I have made mistakes, will continue to make mistakes. I am not perfect; I’m feeling my way through it like anyone else. I don’t pretend at anything. And yes, my clock was ticking and I wanted babies more than anything else. That, obviously, I would never change. Did I rush into marriage? I think so. But I also believe that where I am right now was meant to be where I am… things will grow out of these lessons, things I haven’t even imagined. It’s true for all of us.

      1. “So my days are stop start stop, and I haven’t been productive this way.”

        Yes. I can so relate to this.

      2. Totally off topic here but when I was reading your previous post, about the “three D’s” it seemed like a really great idea for a fictional novel. Obviously, names would be changed but the idea that, and I don’t want this to seem snarky, I genuinely mean this, that you are kind of a big deal in some circles and certainly a household name back home (NY) and then you have the culture shock and a whole new set of rules/people/etiquette in Florida to get used to, I think it would be a great read. I know there have been other similar stories but you would be adding your own flare and real life experiences. Plus, maybe a work of fiction, rather than a memoir would be theraputic for you now?

  23. You said you think you’d have these problems with anyone…and in general it seems like you think these are very typical problems in a marriage, but they are not. I’ve been married for 7 years and my husband never belittles me, yells at me, or is hostile toward me in any way. None of my friends have ever told me that their husbands treat them that way. I’m not trying to make you feel bad, I’m just letting you know that you don’t have to live this way.

    1. My husband is my best friend. We’ve been married almost 14 years. There have been times in our past where we’ve both behaved like Phil. I don’t think it’s that uncommon nor do I think it’s necessarily indicative of a failing marriage or of either of them being bad people.

      My suggestion: take a vacay without the kids. Get away for a few nights and just be together, just the two of you. Rekindle the connection, reinforce the pair bond, whatever you want to call it. Disconnect from the internet, put on the out-of-office replies, turn off the cell phones (or at least put them on mute), and just be with each other.

  24. Have you hear of Emotion Focused Therapy? There’s a book that I read when I first got engaged and then engaged and I LOVED by Sue Johnson called Hold Me Tight. It might help you both learn to communicate again with each other with love and compassion.

  25. I’m sorry you are going through this and would never judge someone else’s relationship. I just want to respond to your comment that: “I also know that these types of arguments would happen with anyone, do happen.” I’ve been married for 17 years and I can tell you that I’ve not experienced what you describe. My husband and I do not agree on everything by any means and our personalities are very different but we have a basic respect for each other that precludes the cutting down and criticism you describe. I feel for you, and hope that you find the right path forward, whatever it is. My only comment is that marriage doesn’t and shouldn’t have to involve the type of encounter you described.

  26. I’d suggest therapy or counseling, but it sounds like neither of you can find the time for it.

    Good thoughts.

    1. Author

      I’ve always found time for it. We’ve moved and would need to find someone five steps ahead of Phil. Because Phil will spend an entire session arguing with the therapist over, what I’ve always seen as, semantics. It has to be someone Phil deeply respects and looks up to, someone he’s impressed by, otherwise, he’ll never take anything a therapist has to say seriously.

      1. I’m sorry to say that it’s obvious Phil doesn’t value or respect women. I would suggest finding a male therapist who is older than him- a truly wise therapist will help him deal with this.

      2. I would be very interested to know who (in any walk of life) Phil deeply respects and looks up to. The answer to that could be very telling. He doesn’t sound like someone who would label anyone that way… other than the man in the mirror.

      3. Have you ever looked into a family systems therapist? it looks at the family as a whole and does not tend to pathologize individuals and takes into account the dynamic developmental challenges that face individuals couples, and families, and balances in those relationships can be damaged. Systems perspectives are prominent in the business world and may appeal to Phil. Bowen, Minuchen/Structural Family therapy are some watchwords. Good luck!

  27. Stephanie – I wish we were friends in “real-life”, if you will…this seems like one of those situations where you need a really good friend to help you sort everything out. I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years now, and have found the following to be true: 1. Your love runs deeply for your tots, and you are an amazing mama! 2. You have the power/means to make it on your own…Just as an aside, I wish I did. 3. I think Phil is a jerk…Im sorry, but I do. You dont deserve the treatment you receive from him. I find him to be smug, mean, and completely undeserving of you. Again, sorry.

    I just want you to be happy, and can tell that deep down, you are not. I know this tale all too well…if you can, get yourself out. Sending you a hug from Cincinnati, Ohio!

  28. Phil reminds me SO much of my ex, Stephanie. That bit about finding a counsellor HE deems worthy is so so familiar.

    I also struggled with the “writing is not work, it’s your little hobby” mentality, in which my ex was so sold on the idea that he was the breadwinner and therefore it was my job to do absolutely every single other thing (including staying up every night to do my own WORK, which couldn’t be construed as work in any way because I liked doing it). Every success I had was super-threatening to him, although he said he was thrilled, the comments about how much my writing cost HIM in terms of babysitter costs and his own (much more valuable) time, would always increase anytime I got paid. He’d tell everyone who would listen how I was a raging bitch when I was on a deadline and how hard it was for HIM, because feeding his kids a pizza because Mummy was working was such a huge sacrifice on his part. /BITTER

    Maybe I’m projecting, but Stephanie, you do a LOT of work, you’ve had an incredibly successful career so far, and you know what? If the damn cereal bowls on the table bother him, maybe he could go right ahead and put them in the dishwasher himself. Is there a reason why he needs to wait for you to do it?

    And hey, maybe your next book can be about what it’s like to be married to a Phil. I bet it would be your biggest success yet.

    1. Author

      I must say this. Phil is an enormous advocate of my work… that is, my writing career. In fact, I have believed for a long time now that Phil has held onto my being a writer as part of his identity. I believe he felt/feels very proud and boasts any chance he can about me. But, as I’ve stated here before, it had been upsetting to me. To believe that he valued that part of me over the rest of me. I used to believe that he wouldn’t value me as much, love me as much, if I stopped being a writer. If I were “just” a mother. That’s not what I want right now, but for a long time, I was certain that he valued my being a writer more than I did.

      However, since moving, actually, since I voiced this very concern to him before moving, he has completely stopped pushing me about my writing, work, or career. He has been trying, quite successfully, to let me know that he loves so much more about me than what I *do.*

      Though, I will also say that I appreciate your “hey, maybe your next book can be about what it’s like to be married to a Phil,” because that will certainly be making an appearance in the next book.

      1. It’s interesting because even as I posted that, I realized that C. always was vocally supportive of my writing to other people (I think our friends would be surprised if they heard me say that he wasn’t), he bragged about me, etc., and at times I believed also that he was chuffed to be married to a writer but that it had little to do with ME, personally, he just liked the bragging rights. It was something I really struggled with, I felt like he was in love with the IDEA of me and the IDEA of being married to a writer and not the REALITY of me and the totally unglamorous reality of living with someone who is actually writing.

        When the chips were down, it was clear that he wanted me to know my place. He wanted a clean house. He wanted me not to be too busy to take care of everything (including him).

        It was quite a paradox. But it was different from your situation, sure. I am projecting all over the place, but in some of the stuff you’ve written about Phil here and in the past, I cringe in recognition.

      2. That part about Phil valuing you being an author… reminds me of my ex. He bragged about me working on my Masters. But when going to school full-time and working parttime wasn’t enough for him, he started in on my weight, my kids, my housekeeping abilities. In short,when I fell short of his vision of the “ideal wife” fell short, he left. His 3rd wife not only has her Masters degree, but her LPC. I think she needs it to keep up with his craziness.
        Oh, we tried conseling as well. In the first visit with my therapist he proceeded to tell him exactly what was wrong with ME and that he wasn’t willing to change anything.
        Have I mentioned I am ecstatic he is an ex?

  29. Is your TX house still on the market? Maybe he’s stressing about that. We have ours on the market and are in the process of moving, and it’s a serious bitch. And so are men when they are stressed out. We as Moms get the full force of all aspects of life–and the criticism that comes when they are stressed. See it for what it is-you are a damn good mother and he’s being a jerk. I know it’s hard not to internalize the hateful remarks, but you do far more than most moms I know. Take care and hang in there.

  30. A Husband and a father that WONT cut a melon out of spite, isn’t something I would want in my life – not just about the melon either

    move on! you & your kids deserve it

    you’ve overcome soo much in your life & recently got your groove back – cut out the negativity & move on, I think you’ll be much happier/serene & yourself again.

    I cannot imagine you maintaing your weightloss with such negativity & bickering – that would led me right to nervous eating

    Stephanie, your beautiful, young, strong & need to be surrounded by positivity & happiness

  31. I can’t address the dynamics of your relationship since improving those are far beyond my capabilities. Since you are committed to trying to make your relationship work, has outsourcing some domestic responsibilities made your life happier in the past? Do you have the financial resources to do so? I understand that you may be enjoying your time with the beans (especially since they are in school at least part time) and might not want a nanny, but would a housekeeper help reduce conflict with your husband?

    And yes, to all of the people advocating divorce, I do fully understand the real issue here is how they relate to each other, but I can’t fix the underlying dynamics of their relationship, and at most would hope to find ways to reduce the triggers to Phil’s anger. It’s Stephanie’s decision as to whether or not this is the right relationship for her and her children, and it is hard enough to figure out if it is right to intervene in someone’s marriage when you have spent a lot of time watching them interact, let alone only learning about it from a blog.

    1. That is true, but someone who puts it all out there on her blog and leaves comments open is not asking people to keep their opinions to themselves. We can only comment on what we see here (which is plenty),and Stephanie has the choice to consider or ignore what we all have to say.

  32. This makes me sad, because I have been here (not in a marriage, just a boyfriend). The belittling and taking aggravation/stress out on me, making me feel as though everything I did was the work of an idiot and basically making me feel as though he didn’t actually *like* me, no matter how much he said “be you!” and told me he cared. I would ask him to just be nice to me, not get so upset over stupid things and his response would be that I was the one creating drama. When he was out of town for 2 weeks visiting family and I realized I was happier than I had been in months, I knew that was it.

    And you know what? As I’ve told people this story (including my own therapist) so many people have said that it stems from his own insecurities, his own issues, his own feelings of inadequacy and emotional distance. Cold comfort as it happens, but as you look for ways to see the other side, perhaps it can be of help…and help you decide how you want to move forward (whatever moving forward means to you).

    In the end, you can’t change his behavior, only your reaction to it. I really hope that you find some peace in this story in whatever way is best for you. I’ve read your blog since before your first book and although I don’t always agree with you, I believe you’ve worked hard to carve out a beautiful life, which I admire. Don’t lose sight of that, please.

  33. This post made me feel so sad and frustrated for you. I have a friend with a husband so much like Phil. They go through periods when all is well, and she tells anyone and everyone that he’s “really trying” and “he’s changed” and then something sets him off and they’re right back where they started.

    I have no doubt there are two sides to every story, and I know that Phil has chimed in here before to set the record straight. I’m sure there are things that you do that drive him justifiably nuts. With that said, why does he HAVE to be so mean and spiteful?! Why does he have to talk to you the way that he does? I know that in the heat of the moment we all have the tendency to put on our nasty hats, but you and he weren’t having a full-on fight (at least not based on your description), and his words are just so heartless and cold.

    I know that it’s very easy for commenters to just write “pack up and leave”, but I don’t get the sense that’s where you’re at, and maybe you shouldn’t be. But there has to be a point when you calmy state to Phil that “I refuse to listen to you speak to me that way and I am leaving the room” and continue to tell him that until he learns THATs NOT HOW YOU TALK TO PEOPLE! Does he talk to his coworkers like that? Or his friends? You’re his wife and the mother of his hops, when is he going to get it together and stop using you as his verbal punching bag????

  34. This is the Passover fight all over again…Phil demeaning you. He ‘appears’ to be a narcissistic ass who belittles you (and others no doubt). How you can stay with him is beyond imagination. For all your veneer of being strong and smart, you have the victim mentality when it comes to Phil. I agree with the previous commenter – you married him super quick because you wanted babies.

    Only YOU know what you should do, but from the laundry you hang out here, it seems obvious that this is doomed to be unhealthy for all parties (kids included) until you leave.

  35. Do you ever feel like you try too hard to stage everything perfectly? From the researched learning activities to the Polynesian-themed get-together? Do you ever lower your standards and live in the moment without the carefully crafted props? I often get the impression that you are overly concerned with presentation. I’ve read your blog for years and have been cheering for you every step of the way. I wish you were happier with Phil. The way he talks to you seems profoundly disrespectful. I’d like to hear his side of the story.

    1. As a longtime reader I can say that Phil always justifies his behavior by saying Stephanie is selfish. It infuriates me. I agree with others who posted about his seeing a psychiatrist. I also don’t think any laundry list of good things he does would cancel out the fundamentally disrespectful way he treats Stephanie.

  36. I’m longtime reader, very occasional commenter. Always amused/amazed at how drastic the advice readers give you whenever you have a fight with Phil is. For the record: I appreciate you writing about all facets of your life and relationships as you really do give it “straight-up”, and aren’t simply trying to maintain a brand and make money from advertising.

    Unlike the others who all claim to have near-perfect relationships but seem advocate divorce after a few heated disagreements, that is far from my reaction upon reading the occasional blog entry about them. To me, one or both parts of busy, stressed, overtired couple overreacting (or giving the silent treatment or being passive aggressive or crying hysterically or whatever way emotions are expressed) is as real as it gets. But still normal.

    It sounds like you guys have strong and stubborn personalities. So generally you work together but friction happens. And when it does, it’s explosive. Thats just how you are. The good times are probably also great and equally emotionally charged.

    So I hope you both will soon make peace with a comfortable routine and feel more settled in and can relax more. Also, I think, over time, Phil will begin to appreciate your parenting style when he sees the awesome results. Now, I suppose he is more preoccupied with work to take it all in so just trusts your methods (which doesn’t mean he understands why it can leave a mess in its wake).

    But, good luck with it all. I know you will be fine.

  37. I am new to your website and feel like it is most definitely not my place to be offering commentary on your marriage fairly anonymously over the internet — which is to say, I’m uncomfortable writing this, but feel compelled to go ahead anyway. What about paying attention to all of the good and kind things he does for you and your children, and devoting a post exclusively to that? A detailed, play-by-play account in the same style as the posts that solely depict the bickering and negativity that makes readers recoil and wish for you to leave him. It is so easy to feel indignant and articulate about the bad and so much harder. but more important, to focus your time and your language upon acknowledging the good. And if you can’t find it in you to apply your writing talent toward celebrating the good in your marriage — well. Cringing at myself for writing all of this, for the record, and hope you’ll forgive the over-familiarity. I’ve just never wanted to address someone so badly after reading their words before. Best of luck.

  38. I’m so sorry you are going through this again. I hope you find a resolution that makes you both happy. My best to you and your family.

  39. I’ve been reading your blog faithfully for years. I don’t think that Phil is an asshole… I really don’t. I bet that he pretty much devotes himself to you and the twins — his heart, his time and his money. Actions speak louder than words. In general, you probably have a good life with him. There are plenty of men out there with nice personalities, big deal. Some of the most pleasant married men you can imagine are all out all night with the boys after work, checking out women and spending the family money on toys for themselves. So yes it would be better if Phil had a nicer personality and he needs to work on preventing himself from saying mean things. But nothing is perfect.

    Oh, and a hire a maid ASAP!

  40. A friend mentioned Welbutrin when I was stressed at work. After I started taking it I realized that I have had anxiety my whole life. The more anxious and stressed the less patience I had and the meaner I felt. Instead of being nasty to people I would segregate myself. Now I feel mellow and every day when something happens I understand how that would have sent me in a tailspin before and now I can take it in stride. Sounds like stress does not do nice things to Phil and maybe he should just try something. I learned from therapy that my anger was related to my anxiety about things being the right way. Also, nobody judges you the way that you do Stephanie. It really isn’t necessary that you make everything perfect for your kids. Chances are your children already are way ahead of peers in vocabulary and knowledge about the world. I think the next thing to do would be to reduce the stress level in the house so that they can continue to learn. Maslow’s hierarchy and all. I appreciate the time you put into the blogs you write and how open you are. Thank you for keeping this up and good luck to you.

  41. I’ve posted this before, but I don’t think Phil is entirely well, mentally speaking. I’m not suggesting he’s deranged, or even seriously mentally ill, but suspect some kind of anxiety disorder and I think he should be in treatment. I agree both with the posts that say his behavior is unacceptable and the posts that say he seems like a man who is devoted to his family.

    I suggest finding a high level psychiatrist and/or psychologist for him to meet with alone.

  42. Hi Stephanie,
    i can’t comment on your personal relationship with Phil because I don’t know either of you. But it does sound like you need some help around the house if you want to get back to work. Any chance of a mother’s helper to handle the afternoon chores? At least a couple of days a week? It would allow you to get back to research and writing for a solid block of time. It takes a lot of effort to maintain a household AND work. I know thousands do it every day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some help at times. (Your intensive OT/activity work with the kids isn’t just spur of the moment playtime, it’s a whole other job) You and Phil both sound stretched to the max.

  43. You just can’t argue/reason with someone who’s so convinced they’re right, they can’t see the other side. Period.

  44. Happy Anniversary! Relationships are up and down, the passionate ones especially. Congratulations on marrying someone you are passionate about. I hope the down swing has had time to run it’s cycle and now you two are on the up and up. Today is a special day for you!

  45. Get a housekeeper. It is so worth it, you have no idea. It will automatically improve your relationship!

  46. Happy Anniversary Stephanie.

    I hope the two of you have looked past this most recent incident long enough to celebrate what you have together.

  47. Well, you have done an enormous amount in less that 4 months. I’m thinking you are worn out and adjusting and the creative juices will flow as you get in sync. You have lots of talent and can set goals and make money. When you are ready.

    That said, Phil is an oaf. He is inconsiderate, he is rude, he is disrespectful. And it seems to me that you are saying he is just like his mother, repeating patterns from childhood. I don’t think those are therapeutic issues, or medication issues. I do believe better manners can be learned, but only with awareness. I’ve watched a sweet nephew raised by a coke-addicted then sober but always aggressive and grumpy dad repeat that communication pattern and then learn to be kind to his wife and daughters and it took 10 long years.

    I can’t predict the future, but screw that ‘actions speak louder than words” crap. A well-placed cutting remark can sting for days, even weeks. You get to walk around in pain all that time and for nothing. I balked when so many others used the term abusive, but it is growing on me.

    I couldn’t begin to guess the pathology that plays out in your relationship, but you are human, and you have vulnerabilities and Phil has lots of practice in hitting those targets. I guess walking out of the room when he pulls this crap on you won’t work. The question is “will anything?”

    You deserve good manners, they cost nothing and leave only good will. Anything else is wrong.

  48. First off, you are an incredible and inspiring mom Stephanie.

    The man I married was, for the most part, kind, considerate, supportive, loving, very critical and a bit lazy. Things were good :-)

    Then for a 10 month period after our second child was born, he turned into a jerk – moody, irritable, critical and constantly complaining, constantly having a go at me. Eventually I told him I’d like a week long time out – for him to go stay with his parents for a week so I could have a break from him and he from us…not a separation, a time to think. I told him he was making me miserable and I’d rather cope by myself for a bit than spend another bloody minute with him. I said that I know I have my faults but overall I am a dedicated, loving wife and mother, and I don’t deserve this treatment. He didn’t go to his mom, but my words woke him up the fuck up. 1 year later and thank GOD he has pulled himself together – we have our ups and downs but he is for the most part back to being kind and supporting and considerate (still critical and a bit lazy :-).

    But here’s the thing:
    1. From the sounds of it, my husband started off way nicer than Phil
    2. In his jerk phase, my husband never came close to the sheer assholish behaviour of yours.

  49. Here is my simple, you don’t know me, take it for whatever it’s worth, advice. Two people either enrich each other, or they don’t. From some of your own advice that I took to heart and you know it’s true, when you ask for advice you already know the answer.

  50. Have you considered seeing a therapist on your own, someone who could help you sort through your feelings and figure things out? I’m sorry to hear what you’re going through. I don’t care how spoiled you may come acros on occasion, nobody deserves to be berated and belittled. In addition, even though you guys take care not to argue in front of your children, it won’t be long before they pick up on the conflict between you (if they haven’t already). Good luck to you. I’m sure you will land on your feet no matter what happens. You strike me as a resilient person.

    1. I reread my post and saw the irony: belittling you while tell you that no one deserves to be belittled! For that I apologize. You’re just a much more “girly girl” than I am, so sometimes it’s hard for me to relate. I am impressed by your dedication to your kids and I think you sound like a terrific and fun Mom. We should all be so lucky!

  51. I’m not going to post anything about your marriage because it has been covered and I agree with much of what has been said, but the easiest way to cut a melon in with a serrated bread knife.

  52. I love that Rebecca commented on the melon part of the story. It made me laugh out loud.

    Thanks for sharing your marriage trials and tribulations. It’s nice to know there are people out there who aren’t afraid to admit their relationships have imperfections.

    I’m sure you have encountered these people, but my competitive couple friends are constantly trying to prove their perfect relationships are shatterproof. It’s exhausting really.

  53. Phil always sounds like a strong character who has certain set things he believes and wants, certain ways of thinking. Those seem to be a lot different to your character. It seemed like a lot of his complaints were about tidiness, so he sounds a bit anal about wanting things tidy and clean, whereas it sounds like you are not bothered by a bit of mess. Also, although it seems tough that he does not support you with the Montessori school etc, there are people who do not see why kids need something different to the norm. It is just a point of view and he sounds like he doesn’t deviate much and is hard to convince otherwise. You sound like you put a lot of thought into things and are much more open and creative. It does sometimes sound like a clash of personalities. He sounds like he is not very diplomatic at getting things across – frustration possibly, or is he really putting you down? It also sounds like he isn’t really wanting to compromise – like its my way – or the highway. As he is a strong character and fairly unbending, you can’t win it seems, this could influence your self esteem levels, especially as he doesn’t seem to be very empathic to you or want to compromise much. I guess it is not so clear cut but that was just some thoughts I had when reading this.

  54. “I also know that these types of arguments would happen with anyone, do happen.” <— not true.

    No offense, and like you've pointed out before, painting this through your lens and not hearing both sides can cause confusion, but I just want to say that these types of arguments don't happen with everyone.

    I'm not a relationship expert, but I saw my mother have "those conversations" with my father over and over again, they're still together, and quite honestly, they shouldn't be. They're miserable. They do not like one another and it's obvious.

    One of the things I've always disliked was the way certain things were expected from a marriage. And nagging has always been on this list, we see it in most of our peers, in the media, and we've come to expect it. Men can nag just as well as women can, but it's detrimental to our relationships. Phil seemed to not want to stop, he wanted a reaction from you, and maybe you do it to him, so it's tit for tat, but I really think that we undermine how negative nagging can be in a relationship.

    I've been with my now husband for nearly 5 years, and if I feel the nagging on the tip of my tongue I tell myself to come back to it later, if it's important I'll bring it up in a constructive way, turns out, none of that shit matters.

    Good luck.

  55. I too have been a faithful reader, from the beginning of your blog, your New York life, the two awesome books you published, and especially the love story between you and Phil. Then came the birth of the twins and move to Austin, TX. You took everything in stride and like a true Libra, you have weighed everything in great detail, to make sure the scales were balanced…somehow they don’t sound balanced at all, and I am sad for you, for your having to feel anger (which is a secondary emotion) instead of what is really underneath…I truly hope you and your lovely family will work through these tough spots, sometimes one person needs all the time and attention, and the other person does more of the giving. I believe in truly equitable and loving relationships, it all balances out in the end ….here’s hoping you fall into the latter group :0) xoxoxo

  56. P.S. After reading all the comments, so much of what was interpreted is very subjective and from the viewpoint of the reader…you may have just been venting to release the stress of a bad week, month or year…every intimate relationship is multidimensional, your side, his side, and the side the outside world sees. Whichever one you feel is the most important, and is rarely something that can be adequately portrayed in an ongoing blog…the good, the bad, the in between, the love the guilt, the hopes and dreams, and above all the precious children that you and Phil both love with all your hearts…don’t lose hope and your vision, you are a very strong and capable woman who is pouring her life into her family, no easy feat by any means! xoxoxo Serenity

  57. I’m with Freya. Read you for almost 7 years, since 2005, daily until a similar post like this a while back where Phil told Lucas you don’t care about him. He is abusive, Stephanie. Emotionally and verbally. You spend so much time on enrichment and learning activities for the kids but all that stuff is just gloss if the core of their parents’ marriage is rotting. You really want them to grow up around this? This is their model for how women are treated? This NOT normal bickering. My husband is a true partner, up with the baby every morning so I can sleep, tells me to not worry about house stuff, to do my work first. My greatest champion. You deserve the same, a man who has your back, who is not always on your back, trying to control you. I just don’t understand it. Are you afraid to be twice divorced and not have the financial resources you do now?

  58. Hi Stephanie,

    Thank you for sharing yourself with such honesty and transparency. It takes much courage to do that.

    I hardly read any blogs nor comment on them, but this entry made me feel quite compelled to comment.

    I’ve read your blog for four or five years, but I stopped after you started posting about the fighting between you and Phil, and started putting up those He Said/She Said videos with the two of you. This is the first time I’ve come back in a very long while.

    It pains me to hear about your relationship because I feel fairly helpless in reaching out and saying something that would help you. I hope that you don’t think that marriage is supposed to be “hard” like another commenter said and I hope you don’t think that that all couples fight like someone else said.

    That is simply not true, and I speak from direct personal experience, not from heresay.

    I believe that you deserve to be in a loving relationship and this just simply isn’t it. I don’t think that a couple should ever speak to one another as if on opposite teams the way that you and Phil do when you fight. There can be disagreement and discussion, but this is very different from the attacks that occur in your household. Within a marriage, there should not be condemnation and personal, non-constructive, destructive attacks from either party.

    I don’t know how often these kinds of exchanges occur between the two of you but even if they happened once a month, I’d say that that is 12 times a year too many. These interactions are symptoms of deeper-rooted issues, which I’m sure that you’re well aware of.

    Given that I don’t know your history or the things you’ve tried to do to resolve the problems that exist, I won’t pretend that advice I can offer would be valuable for you. I just wanted to chime in and share my two cents, in case it makes a drop of difference as you’re evaluating your options.

    In the meantime, I will keep your family in my prayers.

    Amy

  59. No not all guys are like this. I lived with a Phil for four years. The heat between us is so strong that 30 years later we still emit sparks when we are in the same room. We broke up in our early 20s and have been happily married to other people for 20 years. People who were laid back and easygoing. People who were not quite as bright and Type A personalities. And we are both blissfully happy. It took me 7 horrible years of dating to find the right guy while my “Phil” was married within 6 months of our relationship finally gasping to a close. Lots of tears and despair, for I dreaded being alone without the minivan and the smock. Thank God it had a happy ending but would I do it over again? Frankly, NO. The happy ending was a fluke–one decent guy out of 200 I dated. I was too late to get preg and ended up adopting 2 from China which also was a fluke-China is closed now for the most part.

    I would have stuck it out with “Phil” knowing that he loved me, that we had similar extremely high IQ and admired each other even in the middle of our worst days.

    No, i would never presume to encourage you to leave your children’s father especially while they are so young. If you had a guy like my husband standing in the wings ready to marry you then I’d probably tell you to run to him but unfortunately as you so well know decent guys are rare indeed.

    Phil is a decent guy who is filled with insecurities and fears. I guarantee you if you lined up all of his ex girlfriends they would tell you the same story. My best advice is to echo the commenter who said walk out of the room when he starts being rude or dismissive and say “I will not allow you to talk to me like that.”

    Forget couples therapy; it will never work b/c Phil believes it’s all your fault. Find a supportive therapist and work through your own issues.

    Good luck

    1. Author

      Thanks for this response Lorrie. I’m finding that not leaving, for now, is in my (and my kids’ best interests). Because really good husbands are hard to find, and he’s an extraordinary father, too. Now, if only he could work on making fewer “defining statements,” we’d be golden. He’s trying. So am I.

Leave a Comment