things I love about the suitor

April 4, 2012

marriage

The Suitor

Phil doesn’t know how to “not judge.” He has an opinion on everything, and he’s going to share that opinion, whether or not you want to hear it. And he’ll be right, every time—because he says so. He now at least knows that he needs to allow that someone else’s opinion and perspective can be true, just allow even for the possibility, instead of insisting that his is the only truth.

Phil refused to return to couples therapy when our therapist told him that his behavior was bullying. He argues that this wasn’t the reason, that things were skewed, that he was tired of spending an hour talking about something that wasn’t even true. As in, I’d bring up an issue, revealing an instance in the past week resulting in an argument, and he’d reason that my slant on it was completely askew. That my perception shouldn’t even be discussed because “If you had a completely crazy person in your office, certifiable, would we be having this conversation about what I did wrong?” Phil once said. “No, of course not. You’d know you were dealing with a crazy person and would dismiss it focusing on the real problem.” This “real problem”—he suggested ever so subtly, like with a mallet to my head—lived within me, each and every time.

After Phil refused therapy, I went alone. During one of those sessions, our therapist leaned forward, her elbows on her knees, hands clasped in prayer at her chin and said, “That man loves you. I mean LOVES. And I truly believe that he wants, more than anything, to please you. I really do.” Then, sitting back in her chair, she added, “He just has really shitty delivery.” You said it sister. “And all you can do is try your best, for as long as you can, to see through it.” To remind myself that he really doesn’t mean the mean? “Yes, and you just do it for as long as you can because having your parents together is a gift you can give to those children. Believe me. I see it every day in this office, and it’s a hard road.” Though I can’t remember if she said “hard road.” I don’t remember how she even finished the sentence because I was still chewing on the earlier part. It was a gift I could give to my children. To stay. To understand Phil’s limitations, and trying as best I could to focus on the good in him. I can’t help but want to apply that logic to a battered woman. Would you tell her to stay because while he does hurt her, truly his intentions are good, and he’s just limited? I suppose though that my even applying that logic is like Phil amping his argument up with “crazy person,” going to the extreme. I justify my decision to stay. I see a hint of this, turning a blind eye, rationalizing that good qualities have to outweigh his select faults. But I also see the merit in gazing at the bright side. Focusing on the positive. It’s a conflict.

I cringe even writing the words, “Nobody’s perfect,” because it implies that one should endure the truly awful just for an abundance of greatness.

He’s not equipped with the communication skills to express his frustrations in a healthy way. I need to remember that it’s his deficiency, and I should not feed it with my focus. Move onward and try to get past his words, striving to understand from where he’s coming. Focus on the good.

He’s a great conversationalist
Quick to think on his feet – quick witted
Dependable – protective and always defends me
Not a mama’s boy
That he is evolved enough to live his life for him, without regard for what anyone else thinks of his choices (this is a double-edged sword, but overall, I wholeheartedly agree that we should strive not to care what other people think of us).
When he adheres to traditionally male gender roles: orders for me in restaurant, stands when I come to the table, pays the check, pours the wine, surprises me with gifts
I love when he appreciates/ values when I’m “the woman,” relying on my taste when it comes to interior design, entertaining, style
I love when he’s the suitor, when he pursues me, grabs me, initiates, acts like a horny teenager who can’t get enough
I love that Phil strives in every way possible to achieve the best for our family
He’s hardworking and determined
A caring involved father
A fantastic negotiator
Excels at things I hate: like dealing with health insurance and banking
He’s a champion, advocate, and promoter
He’s an idea man, never boring
He’s reliable/ dependable
You always know where you stand with Phil – he’s not a cheat or liar
Warm-hearted
Diligent
Thoughtful
Selfless
Supportive
Entrepreneurial
Initiator/ go-getter
Enthusiastic / Energetic
Confident
Assertive
Passionate
Committed
A Pioneer
Strong
I love when he comes to me and admits something he didn’t have to admit (strength of character)
I also love his arms and when he tries to get me drunk

91 Responses to “things I love about the suitor”

  1. rj_molly Says:

    Just leave him already!

    Reply

  2. commenter Says:

    “good negotiator, promoter, go-getter, strong , assertive…” sounds great for a banker or lawyer. Not much on there in the qualities you’d expect to find in a spouse list. Does this mean you are going to stay with him and ‘turn a blind eye’ for the sake of your children? I am sure exposure to your toxic marriage will be great for them.

    Reply

  3. ana Says:

    Great post. What will Phil say to you when he reads it?

    Reply

  4. GP Says:

    A couple things crossed my mind with this post:

    1. You have a HUGE heart to be willing to focus on the good and stay with him despite the way he sometimes makes you feel.

    2. That’s a pretty substantial list!

    Reply

  5. GP Says:

    One more thing:

    I think the “having your parents together is a gift” is total BS! I think it does both you and the children a disservice to go through life miserable. Remember, they are watching you let him treat you the way he does, and that’s the example they will model as adults. Is that what you want? I personally think being a mother who does whatever it takes (even if it means getting a divorce) to make herself happy is a much better example to give.

    Reply

  6. GP Says:

    Back again — (sorry, I guess your therapist’s message got my hackles up):

    While I agree with the therapist that divorce CAN mess kids up, it won’t if it’s done the right way.

    And by the way, I didn’t mean to imply in my previous comment that you are miserable in your marriage. I’m just saying that IF you are, and you’ve tried to make it work and can’t, I think divorce is a better option than staying together for the kids’ sake.

    Reply

  7. Cheryl Says:

    “If you had a completely crazy person in your office, certifiable, would we be having this conversation about what I did wrong?” Phil once said. “No, of course not. You’d know you were dealing with a crazy person and would dismiss it focusing on the real problem.”

    Actually, I live with a certified crazy person. My husband has schizo-affective disorder along with other related problems. There are times when I’ve joined him in the therapist’s office and had to hear that I didn’t handle a situation or problem in the right way. I’ve had to learn how his mind processes things, how it functions, and act accordingly. Focusing on the “real problem” would just be me stubbornly refusing to see someone else’s side of things.

    Of course, all that is just my way of saying Phil shouldn’t think he is right all the time and that your fights are all just your issues. I used to be somewhat like Phil. It’s much easier to blame others than to be humble and admit your part in things.

    Interesting post. I wonder how easy it is for you to focus on the positive with all the negative you wrote leading up to it, especially since I focused on the negative part.

    Reply

  8. Carol (middle-aged-diva) Says:

    This is such a tough one. And since comments are open, I’ll say what I think.

    I am not a big fan of the “stay together for the children.” My father was a bully as well, and there was a lot of tension in the house. I used to fantasize that my mother was married to someone else. Kids don’t always want parents to stay together.

    But regardless, here’s the deal: is the dynamic between you and your husband what you want your kids to learn? Because that is what they are learning just by your every day interactions. Kind Sir is learning that women are to be bullied and your sweet daughter is learning that women should tolerate it. I just don’t see that as a “gift” you give your kids, no matter what your therapist says.

    I have plenty of friends who stuck it out “for the kids” and the kids were the ones who suffered, all along and then, in the end had a skewed idea of what a good relationship is. Effed up in the end, really. It wasn’t the parents’ intent, they only had the best of intents in sticking it out, but kids learn what they see, not what they’re told.

    It would be nice if we lived in a world where marriages were intact all the time and families were happy little groupings. But that’s not our world.

    Phil seems like a good guy in many respects. From the outside, though, it just doesn’t look like he likes or respects you. Is this what you want for Abigail?

    There are no easy answers. Your question about what advice a counselor would give to an abused woman is a good one, I think.

    Reply

  9. NC Says:

    If I were you, I’d have fired that therapist on the spot. She was saying that you’re being battered when she called Phil a bully — emotionally– and she told you to endure it for your kids? I don’t think that it’s sound advice to tell you to understand that his bullying has to do with his not being able to constructively express frustration and that you should let it roll off of you. how does that help you emotionally? How does putting up with his “shitty delivery” help your self-esteem? And if your children witness your arguments, are they seeing conflict resolution from two role models? No. In my eyes, they’re seeing a bulky and a battered woman who is not standing up for herself. I worry about you and the decision you have made to be a doormat…

    Reply

  10. Andrea Says:

    I’m pretty sure you prepared yourself for the comments you’d get on this one. It seems like whenever you post about Phil and his shortcomings there are a plethora of people who chime the “divorce him!” bell- as if it were just that easy. I guess the bottom line is, do you love him? Do you feel like he loves you? Is this who you still see yourself growing old with? If you answer “yes” to any of these questions then you know that staying is the right thing to do.

    I don’t know how I feel about the whole “staying together for the sake of the kids” thing. I have two parents who did just that, and they didn’t do us kids any favors. There is something to be said about deciding what you can live with and overlook, and there is something to be said about making the decision to make it work and sticking to it. It sounds like that’s what you’ve done, and if you’re at peace with that choice, who is anyone to tell you that choice is the wrong one?

    Reply

  11. penny Says:

    I’m bipolar and I know that I often see my fights with my husband from a wonky perspective. And while it would be easy to just say “I’m bipolar! You have to see it my way! I’m always right!” that’s not the mature, adult, nor fair thing to do to my husband. I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy (behavior modification, etc) to learn how to filter what is reality and what is my illness’ perception. All this to say, I think I’m disturbed that Phil won’t even go back or consider that maybe his perception isn’t right. That seems like such a hard line to take with someone you love. And I wonder if he carries that to the kids, or if he will when they’re older and can express themselves to him? The way he treats you is going to be the way he treats them and that seems every bit as dangerous as physically striking someone.

    Reply

  12. sandra Says:

    I am in no way telling you that I think you should leave Phil; it’s none of my business, I don’t know you and there are obviously a LOT of great things about him. That said, just in case you haven’t been close to someone who’s experienced this, I’d like to give you the perspective of a kid who grew up with a giant bully as a father and a “look at the positive” mother. To be clear, he never bullied me. Ever. This comes only from the way he treated my mom.

    I grew up thinking I had to be perfect to “earn” love from men (see: giant daddy issues). I learned to feel protective of my mom and to be incredibly hard on men. I still completely shut down when my (really amazing, kind, not a bully) live-in boyfriend snaps at me, at all. I knew when I was probably 10 that my dad didn’t *really* think my mom was smart, despite the fact that he did admire some things about her.

    It wasn’t easy, and them being together…not a gift. The opposite, actually; their divorce (in my late 20s) was one, though.

    Reply

  13. Marcy Says:

    Oh, Stephanie, as the child of a bully father and the mother who stayed “for the children” I can tell you two things:

    – we children are profoundly damaged, having had one parent who treated us and our mother with a total lack of respect and one parent who never stuck up for us or made us feel that our emotional needs could take precedence over his tyranny (Daddy loves you, sweetie, he just has an odd way of showing it – please, that’s the biggest load of crap ever)

    – our mother was full of shit – she didn’t stay for us – she stayed because she didn’t want to “fail” at marriage. To be alone. To have to raise us solo. My brother and I are adults, long gone from the house, and she has the financial means to leave this man who still abuses her…but she’s still there, still taking it, still his emotional punching bag. And I can tell you that her children barely feel love for her – mostly it’s pity and an enormous lack of respect.

    Is this the future you want for yourself and your kids? Believe me, as a divorced woman in a second marriage, I so get it – getting another divorce would make you feel like a total loser at life. But contrary to your therapist, I think you owe it to your kids to get the hell out.

    Reply

    • Stephanie Klein Says:

      There is way too much projection going on here. Way. I would never feel like a failure or loser or any of the above to be twice, even five times divorced. Think Liz taylor felt like a loser failure? There might have been a time where I felt that, but not now, not at all. In fact that feeling feels very unevolved (if that’s a word). I just really wouldn’t care what anyone thinks. And we have long ago stopped fighting or arguing in front of the kids. I once worried about that, but we have managed to really change that. He is honestly very gentle and loving with them- a big mush – but! But he is not a pushover and definitely has a dictator like parenting style, whereas I am authoritative but I will listen to their feelings. I am not perfect. I sometimes get frustrated and shout at the kids and at Phil. There are times Phil points out when I am doing it and I immediately change stop and will if I think it’s necessary apologize to them, whether or not Phil is there.

      And no I am not afraid of alone or co-parenting either.

      Reply

      • Marcy Says:

        Of course there’s projection going on – I was sharing my experience as the child of a man who, based on what you write about Phil, sounds markedly similar. Good for you that you aren’t afraid to leave if that’s what you want, but stay because it’s what you want, because it makes you happy, not because you think it’s the noble thing to do for the kid’s sake. That’s crap advice.

        And one more thing, my father was kind and gentle with us, too – until we became people with opinions we wanted to express that differed from his opinions. Then, not so gentle. And of course they are two different people – of course. But I cringe at some of the stuff you write about him because it is so, so familiar.

        Reply

      • Jeff Says:

        Amen Stephanie. As someone who is in a marriage where we are both really shitty at delivery I hear you! My wife and I did not do well in couples therapy as the therapist had no clue about how my wife’s MS affects her processing of things. We get along much better with individual therapy. The hater are never happy when you praise Phil or otherwise. As somone who has a significant other with a major health issue….I know how frustrating all this can….KUDOS to you for being so open. I can relate to both side of the coin with both of you all. If you too did not truly love each other…you would have been gone a long time ago…Amen Kristy and Kathy. As someone in caregiver role, if you ever need someone to bounce stuff off of let me know!!! It is hard as hell!

        Reply

      • Carrie Says:

        Regardless of what you do, I have always thought, and continue to think that you are very brave. It seems to me that your life’s work is to be seen and heard, through your blog, your books, your communication with your friends, family and Phil; you are a true communicator who wants to figure it out and maybe also be figured out. I give you SO much credit. Your work is hard. There are SO many people who simply don’t ask the questions you ask of yourself and others because it just doesn’t occur to them to ask those questions, it’s just okay for them to go along in life and accept what comes to them and HOPE for the best.

        You are a curious do-er and that makes life a little bit more challenging. Nothing is perfect and I think that is so totally okay to say it. What I think is so great is that you are always trying to find answers and make the best for you and your family. If you had married someone who was a “mush” at all times, it just wouldn’t be the Stephanie that I have read for years now.

        I also think that it’s not such a bad thing to sometimes care what people think and I think that sometimes you do. I believe there are more people on your side, wanting things to go your way, than what the comments section of this post is showing.

        Reply

  14. Bridget Says:

    Emotional abuse is just as damaging as physical abuse. Sometimes worse. And sometimes you never ever heal from it. And that is something your kids don’t deserve. He does it to you and he will do it to them, no matter how great a dad you think he is. I speak from experience. I am very sorry you are going through this.

    Reply

  15. Audrey Says:

    If you are happy with Phil, then by all means stay with him. But as my therapist once told me, “Kids are better off coming from a broken home than growing up in one.” My parents divorced when I was 9, it was pretty amicable. And the relief of not having all that tension in the house was such a relief. There is no doubt the second half of my childhood was much happier than the first. Even if you don’t fight in front of the kids (mine didn’t) they pick up on that tension and it sucks as a child to be in that situation. Knowing both my parents now as people and not just as “parents” has made me realize the two of them getting divorced was best for them as well as us. Those 9 years of disfunction stay with me to this day. I’m just glad it didn’t turn into 18 years. Seeing my mother become her own person once divorced was one of the more inspiring things I’ve ever seen. I do see your therapist’s point though. You can’t change the way people are, you can only change your reaction to the things they do. Perhaps that is what she was getting at?

    Reply

  16. Molly Says:

    My husband is VERY similar. I stay because I love him, and know that he loves me despite my many faults.

    Reply

  17. 3 teens' mom Says:

    My ex-husband’s favorite past time was to pick at me. I met him so young, was so hopeful, was so in love and was sooooo naive. Over the 13 years of our hell, his picking became pecking. Teasing turned into verbal jabs that then turned into vicious dress-downs (usually in private but sometimes just ‘in front’ of someone enough to humiliate me further…all dressed up in a tidy bow with a lovely floral spray attached. It was always my fault. No matter what it was. He had no responsibility. I had gone from being a perfectly adored, well-adjusted child/young bride to a neurotic, sleepless wreck – always looking over my shoulder awaiting the next attack.

    After the awful car-wreck when I was no longer able to keep up the facade of the ‘perfect wife’, the attacks became public. I was forever apologizing for him in front of my friends ‘he had a bad day’, ‘he’s just stressed cuz of work’ as they gave me knowing, sad looks. The worst result of the constant abuse? I started to believe him. I *was* stupid. I *was* fat. I *was* a bad mother. I *was* a bad daughter and I *was* a bad wife. He once told me the world would be better off without me – and I believed him. Almost ended it all.

    But something held me back from that final, cowardly act, and I changed my mind. I decided I was going to live and get the hell away from him – and take my babies with me. We broke the marriage officially and he left. I tucked the babies under my wings and we held on for dear life. And it got better.

    I’ve written most of this before – but watching you relive this hell over and over always brings out the same reaction. Don’t get too weak to not have the option to get away.

    My babies are strong, sound and grateful adults now that they have two strong, sound (albeit divorced) parents. My staying married would have destroyed them.

    Reply

    • Stephanie Klein Says:

      I love that you’re there for me no matter what. I also want to say that we’ve come up with ground rules about what’s allowed to be said, and what’s not. We’ve both agreed not to make any defining statements to each other. We both agree not to tell the other what they think, what they feel, what or who they are, what they are doing (or not doing), and implication is off limits, too. Phrases like “what were you thinking?” for example, cannot be said. This agreement prevents either of us from making any judging or defining statements. If the other breaks the agreement, the other person says, “What was that?” and continues to say that until the other realizes they’re making a defining statement, at which point, they may rephrase what they’re trying to say… “What I meant was…” or “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that.” Right there in the heat of it. So far it’s actually been working. And neither of us may speak for others. And let me say this isn’t the easiest thing to do. Like “You’re not listening to me,” cannot be said because it’s telling the other what they are doing. Instead I might say, “Can you please close your computer while we discuss this, so I can feel like you’re listening.” And I think learning this phrasing is also a great way to speak to anyone. Verbal abuse is actually defined as any negative defining statement told to you or about you. So living inside these parameters limits the ability to talk shit. Also, eye rolling big no (I am actually the one who does this, not him — and I know that’s not a good sign according to John Gottman, so it’s something I’m working on). Also interrupting. I interrupt all the time and need to work on that.

      Reply

      • GP Says:

        Bravo Stephanie! From your original post it sounded like Phil was unwilling to work on communication (e.g., refusing therapy), which to me is the death knell for the marriage. The ground rules you describe above sound very constructive and healthy for both of you. Very encouraging! :)

        Reply

      • Kate Says:

        Stephanie,
        Could you please clarify what a defining statement is?
        Thanks.

        Reply

        • Stephanie Klein Says:

          A defining statement is a statement where you define someone, directly or by implication. Defining how the other person thinks, how they feel, who or what they are, what they are doing or not doing. Examples:

          THINK:
          You honestly think anyone cares how you set the table?
          Implied: What, do you think you’re more important than anyone else?
          Think about someone other than yourself.

          FEEL:
          You enjoy arguing.
          You only care about yourself.
          Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
          Stop lying to yourself.

          WHO OR WHAT THEY ARE:
          You’re too sensitive, a bully, abusive (no putting labels on each other)
          You’re selfish, lazy, self0centered, you’re thoughtless, ridiculous, what you’re saying is moronic.
          Stop being such an old man, a curmudgeon, you’re being a grump
          You’re so pretentious, holier than thou

          WHAT THEY’RE DOING:
          You have to let other people talk and stop dominating conversations
          That’s not what a good parent does
          Don’t punish the kids just because you don’t want to go outside
          You never stop. You have to have everything you want.
          You’re getting upset over nothing
          You’re trying to start a fight, you just want to be right
          You never do your share
          You need to toughen up
          You need to get therapy
          You’re smarter than that
          Implied: So, when will you do your part in this marriage?

          And no speaking for others: No one can stand the way you…
          You make people feel… Everyone thinks you’re…

          And no blaming the other for our making a defining statement. This is a definite no, excusing the breach… “Well, I said it because you just make me so frustrated.”

          Reply

      • NB Says:

        So, sorry I don’t understand this. It’s OK for you and your husband to post about your possible impending divorce, but you are fine with having your young children read all of this one day online? Wow.

        Reply

  18. Kristen Says:

    Stephanie, I have read your blog for a looooong time, and I admire you for your candid honesty, in good times and in not so good times. You’re very brave to lay it bare all these years. I think people feel like they’ve some insight to your world, and you’ve always been gracious to accept comments on posts such as these. But I agree with you in this instance – WAY too much projection here. It’s almost as if some of these obviously emotionally damaged want your marriage to fail…because their marriages did, and they just can’t stand to see someone who will “stick it out” and try make it work, for themselves and their children.

    Ladies, marriage? IS. HARD. WORK. EVERY. DAY. Realistic people know that marriage is between two imperfect yet committed (hopefully) people. It sounds like some of you didn’t fully read the fine print when you signed the contract, and the minute things got tough, you got going. And here we go with the “bullying” tag, today’s cause celeb. Just because someone says out loud and opinion and stands by it? Doesn’t make them a bully. It makes them opinionated. Just because a person says out loud the negative thoughts they’re thinking and your feelings get hurt? Doesn’t make them a bully. It means they’re honest, to a fault, and perhaps you’re a little too tenderhearted. Just because what someone says may be insensitive – “shitty delivery” – doesn’t always mean they are intentionally trying to wound you. It just may be that they never learned, as Stephanie has said, in Phil’s case, how to communicate delicately. It doesn’t make him a “bully” monster. Perhaps some of these men who come home and “bully” their wives and kids have been “bullied” at work, and this is their coping mechanism. Does it make it right? No. But you’ve got to remember than men operate differently, and different doesn’t always mean wrong. I’m not saying you’ve got to put up with it, but their needs to be a conversation about it, and understanding from both parties.

    It’s obvious Stephanie loves Phil, and from reading this blog the entirety of their marriage thus far, it’s obvious Phil loves Stephanie. She’s no ball of wax, either! (Am I right, girl? ;-) ) MOST IMPORTANTLY – I think he’d do anything for the Beans. That right there? Would make it worth my while to hang on to this man.

    Loved this post, Stephanie. From the bottom of my heart, I wish for your family love, peace, compassion, patience and understanding.

    Reply

    • Stephanie Klein Says:

      I really appreciate this. This is actually what everyone in my family has said to me (and obviously they knew me before Phil and know him very well). One could argue that no one knows what really goes on behind closed doors, but I’d say I’m pretty okay at expressing every single thing, without shame, to those closest to me.

      Reply

  19. commenter Says:

    Of course Phil points out when you do something ‘wrong’.

    Reply

  20. sara Says:

    Do your friends and family see Phil’s bullyish nature and comment on it? Sometimes people flip the switch, but I always think it’s interesting to see what other people who may witness behaviors like this have to say. If I were you, trying to figure out ways to approach this seemingingly constant and unlikely to change factor — I’d consider asking others if they see it and how they see it. You can sometimes discover that other people observe what you do but they also see how you provoke or handle the situation in a way that you can change, too.

    Reply

  21. Kathy Says:

    There is a kindness, an unspoken feeling of safety and calm that is transmitted between two people who love and respect each other in a healthy relationship. It’s there; it’s felt, even when there are disagreements and fights and hardships. You just know that no matter how nasty things get, or how much ugly you show each other, neither one of you will turn and use it against the other. Kids know when it’s there too, and they know when it’s not, no matter how much you try to hide it or make everything seem normal. Staying is not a gift.

    When I was in my previous marriage, I never felt emotionally “safe” around my ex. I knew that I could never truly give my all to him, even the ugly parts, because I knew that it would eventually be used against me or criticized and judged. I finally came to the point of where I could no longer tolerate myself for being so unauthentic around a person who was supposed to be “my soft place to fall”. I had to take full responsibility for my actions in choosing that person, and my motives, and what my true priorities were before I could come to terms with who I REALLY was as a person. It turns out that the big house, nice car, and status wasn’t what I wanted, wasn’t who I was after all. Those unspoken rules that we are taught to believe (by family mostly when growing up) are a bitch!

    Now I have a simple man who’s the kindest, smartest, funniest, and most loving person I could ever, ever hope for. I am blessed every day. Years ago, the person I was then would have NOT chosen him, and it has taken me a long time to grow up and realize that. I was shallow and I was a fool.

    It’s ok Stephanie; we make mistakes. Coming to accept that we deserve better is a hard decision to make, and it’s scary as hell because it means we have to take full responsibility for our own actions, motives, and happiness. You’ll know what to do when the time is right.

    Reply

    • Stephanie Klein Says:

      I think this is exactly right.

      Reply

    • 3 teens' mom Says:

      Kathy, that is beautiful.

      Reply

    • Stephanie Klein Says:

      Also that first paragraph *is* us. Phil does see my ugliest moments, and that love is definitely there despite our disagreements. I know it and he knows it. But my belief is that sometimes love isn’t enough. If defining statements were still being made in our home, I wouldn’t be able to live in it for long because that really is abusive.

      Reply

    • 3 teens' mom Says:

      It has been one of those days, but all throughout – Kathy’s remark has rung through time and time again. “There is a kindness, an unspoken feeling of safety and calm that is transmitted between two people who love and respect each other in a healthy relationship.”

      Tonight – I’m with mom…she’s not getting better after a hip-replacement gone very, very wrong. I’m with dad… he’s coping…we’re circling the wagons and we’re so damned tired.

      So, dad and I get mom all tucked in, safe and sound, medications administered, salmon and soda crackers served, wound dressings attended to, fresh jammies and socks. Dad and I sit down for a glass of wine/scotch to touch base – actually – after a month of this, we’re beyond that…we’re starting to crouch down and cling on to one another…courage and strength (we breathe)…courage and strength.

      I say to dad…”no matter how this turns out, dad…you are my hero. You have been a rock and a rock-star throughout this entire ordeal…I’m in awe”. You know what he said?

      “I just love [your mother] so much. I love her more than everything. I would do anything to make this better. I met her when I was 15 and I knew from that moment I would love her always. I feel so helpless – I hurt so much that she hurts – I just can’t stand it when she’s in pain…I feel so helpless”…

      Good god. It at once strengthens me and brings me to my knees. Such love. Such profound, undying, limitless, deep and abiding love. Calm, comfort, peace, soft place to fall – it’s all here. Well, damn. Really? June 13 of this year will mark their 52nd anniversary. 45 personal years of being surrounded by this love…I’m so grateful.

      Reply

      • Jodi Says:

        YOU are a rock star, 3 teens’ mom. Wishing you strength and comfort and serenity this holiday weekend.

        Are you in the Bergen/Rockland area, by any chance?

        Reply

      • GP Says:

        This has very little to do with the original post, but 3 Teens’ Mom, this comment made me weep! My parents are in the EXACT same situation. Married 52 years, Mom terminally ill, Dad the primary caregiver. The devotion and love is just awe-inspiring — my Dad is such a rock star!! Especially when my Mom’s having a bad day and lashes out. What a blessing for us to witness! My prayers are with you.

        Reply

  22. Kathy Says:

    I would like to also add that I think you would really, really benefit from going to your local Codependents Anonymous (CODA) meetings. Truly. It helped me immensely.

    Reply

  23. Juice Says:

    Does your therapist also know that you have REALLY fucked up boundaries?

    Reply

  24. commenter Says:

    Ugh Stephanie – all these rules and parameters for dealing with your spouse? I know marriage is hard work, but really if you have to have so many rules and so many barriers to being abusive to each other – is it a good relationship? He might love you in his way, but do you want to spend your life dealing with this? You can have better – whether you deserve it is up to you.

    Reply

  25. Karen Says:

    The kids know. They are all-knowing: kids. They are absorbing Suitor’s distain for your feelings, even when he’s being a ‘big mush’. That may even be more confusing to them…

    Reply

  26. Rory Says:

    If I am understanding what your counselor said correctly to tough it out as long as you can, it hardly seems constructive. Is it possible to see someone else? There seems to be a false either/or binary set up here “lump it as long as you can Phil won’t change or leave him make you happy.” Like there are no other possibilities. With all those admirable qualities that you are able to list about him, it just doesn’t seem possible that he could be that big of an asshole that he’s completely intractable. Obviously, he’s not because he’s agreed to terms that are off limits. If you love him as much as the counselor says he loves you and that you are striving to do the best for your kids as you are, I just feel like things are going to work out for you two in a way that addresses each of your needs… eventually, perhaps with a different counselor? I admire that you are willing to really work for your marriage and at the same time not lose sight of your needs.

    I have identified the following trait recently with my husband and am surprised I didn’t see it earlier in my marriage. My husband is a bully when he feels like he is losing ground and not able to assert his influence as much as he would like on important family decisions. Then comes the mock incredulity that implies I’m irrational, “Are you kidding me? What were you thinking?” I now just let him have his moment and don’t say anything so he can let off steam or whatever this display does for him. And surprisingly, it is not like I even have to hold my tongue because now that I have recognized what he is doing, it doesn’t get me worked up anymore. Then he goes to his study and a little later we are able to talk about it on a more even ground…of course it doesn’t always work this way but it usually does. I am not suggesting this is an ideal way to deal with things, I am just saying where we are now, and I feel that our vehicle of communication has been steadily improving over the last two years and that I have hopes that this dysfunction will eventually disappear too. I now know he doesn’t think I am irrational or stupid or whatever, but it is his effed up tool for getting his way.

    I also had a question re: “If you had a completely crazy person in your office, certifiable, would we be having this conversation about what I did wrong?”
    Does Phil REALLY think that your participation in therapy sessions is that of a crazy person or is he really lashing out for being called a bully?

    In my marriage, I have made decisions that outsiders would no doubt judge me unfavorably for and I don’t care. We are both in it for the long haul and yes, we work at it… a lot…and it really sucks sometimes, but it is also amazing and the best thing in my life… our family, our mutual love and respect, etc. You are obviously a very perceptive person and work really hard for what is best for your kids and family, so, it just seems more than likely you’ll make good decisions. I bet that means a lot to you coming from an anonymous person on the Internet – ha, but I believe it anyway. I appreciate the space to respond because articulating my thoughts about relationships helps clarify things for me for my own marriage, so thank you. Best to you.

    Reply

  27. Brit Says:

    Several of the comments on this blog reinforce the idea that divorce is better for children than their parents having a poor marriage. This is just an alternative theory that I think applies in many (not all) cases.

    http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2012/02/28/divorce-is-immature-and-selfish-dont-do-it/

    Reply

    • commenter Says:

      Excpet Brit – Penelope Trunk is widely reported to be a total and complete nutcase in many, many places. So whatever she says – do the opposite.

      Reply

    • concerned Says:

      How can you advocate the advice of this blogger ( the Penelope lady). I just checked her out and found that she posts pictures of herself after domestic violence, and then advocates staying in a marriage no matter what. This woman has serious issues. It makes me sick for many reasons, but mostly because my good friend and her two middle school age children were murdered by her estranged husband (their father) last June.

      This is not in response to Stephanie’s post. That is a whole other ball of wax. I just felt I had to say something about Penelope Trunk.

      Reply

  28. Amy H Says:

    So many thoughts on this post!

    *I remember how you’ve always rejected the “oh, you got divorced because you married too young” with “No, I got divorced because I married the wrong person” As a survivor of a brutal divorce and ensuing custody battle I look at it the same way – my childhood wasn’t difficult or damaged because my parents got divorced, and it would probably have been just as bad if they had stayed together – the damage came from their total inability to put the best interests of their children above themselves. That’s how they were together and that’s how they were apart. Divorced people who hate each other DON’T stop fighting in front of their kids. I must add that a lot’s changed since then and, as an adult, I have very good relationships with them both now.

    *”Abusive” relationships exist on a continuum and Phil seems to definitely be/has been on the verbal and emotional abuse spectrum which makes it very easy to judge him. It’s also a limitation of the internet – we don’t really know anything about him that isn’t filtered through you. The biggest sign to me that there are still boundaries and healthy aspects is that these posts exist at all. How many severely abusive men would “allow” their wife to publish things that make him look like a total dick and will live on forever on the internet – where his own mother or colleagues can read them?

    *If Phil wrote blog posts dedicated to the bad parts of SK and her worst behavior as a wife, he’d probably have legions of commentors urging him to leave that self-centered jerk who leaves all the yucky things like health insurance and finances to him while she plans her next imaginary party menu.

    Anyway, I’m glad to hear you feel like a lot of progress has been made with the ground rules and I wish all four of you the very best -

    Reply

    • Andrea Says:

      “my childhood wasn’t difficult or damaged because my parents got divorced, and it would probably have been just as bad if they had stayed together – the damage came from their total inability to put the best interests of their children above themselves. That’s how they were together and that’s how they were apart.” This statement basically defines my entire childhood, it’s nice to know that I’m not alone!

      Reply

  29. Kristen Says:

    Stephanie, I think what a lot of these commentors really want to say is Phil is alpha-male paternalistic dickhead, and you really need to divorce him and find someone you can pussy whip into submission. Am I right, ladies?

    Reply

  30. Carol (middle-aged-diva) Says:

    I think it’s easy to marginalize comments as “oh, they’re just projecting.” What I’m reading is people offering their own experiences, their perspective based on what they see as their own somewhat similar circumstances. If I’d written a blog post like this, I’d sure like to hear the perspective of kids raised with parents who share some of the described traits, wives who’ve gone through it, have more life experience and more experience with this. Most serious commenters here have something personal and valuable to share. Take it or leave it, but when comments are open, and people are brave enough to share a bit of their personal life, well, I can’t help but respect them for it.

    You’re going to do whatever you see fit, of that I’m assured. As you should. But data, whether it’s anecdotal or statistical, is always good to look at.

    Oh BTW, even if you don’t fight in front of kids? Can’t hide dynamics. There’s no way they exist only in fights. The leak out of everything we do. That’s just the way it is.

    Reply

    • Stephanie Klein Says:

      I value the stories people share here about their lives, and it’s fantastic being able to hear from adults who were children with parents similar to Phil and me. I take exception to certain comments that TELL ME how I must be feeling. It’s the exact behavior Phil and I try to avoid doing to each other. “Getting another divorce would make you feel like a total loser at life.” Projection. Very different from sharing a personal story. Though, I also understand, and am thankful, truly, that most people really only share what they do to offer help or insight.

      When a personal story is capped off with “Is this the future you want for yourself and your kids?” it’s also projection. Because they are implying our dynamic is the same. I’m not a mother who would ever excuse anyone’s behavior to my children. I do stand up for them when I disagree, as Phil does when he disagrees.

      “And I can tell you that her children barely feel love for her – mostly it’s pity and an enormous lack of respect. Is this the future you want for yourself and your kids?” Woah. Projection.I don’t know how my children feel. We never technically know how anyone feels. This is basically saying, your kids will feel this way about you if you stay with this man. Hence my comment: Projection.

      Reply

      • Carol (middle-aged-diva) Says:

        I hear you. I’m just saying that you don’t have to read it that way.

        I think a comment like that is an invitation to look at what the impact of this relationship dynamic could be on your kids down the road, that’s all.

        I think it’s easy to recommend divorce, harder to work through issues, and working through issues is good modeling for kids to see.

        But working through issues assumes that both are doing that, not just one of you.

        Reply

  31. The Suitor Says:

    Not to explain, excuse, debate any of the feelings in this post, to clarify why I didn’t feel the sessions became constructive was for 2 reasons. For weeks we would go to sessions both(not just my imagination) having good weeks together and the sessions would force us to think of some disagreement we had that most likely wasn’t a big deal to either of us and discuss it for the full session. It began to feel like manufacturing reasons.

    The biggest catalyst was that 1 week it was expressed that I was abusive or bullying to Stephanie during two incidents in a weekend. The twins were 3 years old. I went downstairs on a Saturday morning and found prescription pilll box opened and emptied in the floor. I ran upstairs in a panic and everyone said “everyone come down stairs now” fearing a child ate pills. The next day, I open the door to our media room and see an inch thick big screen tv glass stand shattered with shards everywhere and no way someone who did that couldn’t be seriously injured. I run to everyone and again say “everyone downstairs now”! Not in a angry tone but serious concern.

    We spend the entire session discussing how I did not treat tephanie as my equal because I said “everyone” and didn’t ask her separately. How I treated the situation wrong and I should be better and know that is not the way to treat her.

    It became clear to me that identifying 2 situations that were serious and required immediate action and in a moment of panic the only thing tht mattered to this therapist was to have me recognize I did something unacceptable. I was done.

    Reply

    • Stephanie Klein Says:

      Because I have an ample bosom, I offer you some tit for your tat. No one questioned your alarm, and we all understood that when we’re freaked out, we don’t always use the best possible language. It was that this was, from my perception, not the first time I’d ever heard marching orders. On sunny days it was, “You need to go outside, Stephanie. You can’t be so selfish!” When you were worried about Lucas telling you a story about how he felt isolated on a playground, you commanded that I drop everything and come here this instant. Judgement and commands. What the therapist said was that in an ideal situation you would have said to the kids, “We need to go down stairs right now.” And then you’d address me separately, not as one of the children. “Can you please come down here? I’m totally freaking out.” Or some such thing. She was talking about the ideal. Had these two isolated incidences been the only times you’d made orders, it wouldn’t have been an issue. Also, these examples were actually not discussed on the day you decided you didn’t want to return. It was your behavior there in the office we were discussing.

      Reply

    • Linda O. Says:

      Geeze, Phil. Why didn’t you just pick up the pill, clean up the glass then discuss it. Calling your children down into a room with glass shards doesn’t sound all that safe.

      Reply

    • NB Says:

      I am still baffled by the dialogue here. Are you really serious? Again, I ask, will your kids read this one day? And will you be proud? Sheesh. I’ve read two of Stephanie’s books and enjoyed them, and I have randomly followed her blog, but I’ve lost all interest. Please remember the children.

      Reply

    • Carol (middle-aged-diva) Says:

      I remember this story from another of your posts, Phil. I wonder why it’s the only example you cite and hold on to.

      I wish you both the best and hope that you always remember that life is very short and none of this matters in the end. What will matter is how much you showed Stephanie you loved and respected her, and how much she showed you the same.

      Reply

    • Jacks Says:

      How do you feel being the subject of discussion on the internet? I wish you’d start your own blog. It’s pretty one-sided here.

      Reply

  32. Suzanne Says:

    I’m sure there are also tons of things Phil does ‘right’ but if Stephanie were to share them on her blog she’d get accused of throwing it in her readers’ faces. She can’t win, either way. Let’s face it–as humans we tend to focus on the negative. Why do you think gossip rags are so popular? It makes us feel like our own lives are better in comparison. And writing about her marital discord on her blog is likely a good way for her to vent (far more constructive than yelling, I’d say). Not that anyone wants to read about anyone being mistreated (unless you’re seriously screwed up), but don’t you think reading post upon post about all the nice things Phil does would get boring? (Not to mention the fact that people would no doubt accuse Stephanie of making it up or having some nefarious ulterior motive.) Sure, according to Stephanie, Phil has mistreated her in the past, but seriously, who among us who’s been married more than a few months hasn’t mistreated his/her spouse? Be honest. I sure as hell have and I’ve never been branded “abusive.”
    I truly am not trying to piss anyone off here or cause further dissent…I know that the vast majority of commenters on this post simply mean well and wish Stephanie the best. But please remember that we’re seeing just a small slice of their marriage, completely out of context. I think we’re probably all–myself included–jumping to conclusions we are clearly not well enough informed to make.

    And for the record, if it had been me or my husband who had found pills and shattered glass all over the floor, considering the possible severity of the situation, I think we’d both be totally fine if the other had screamed, “Holy f-ing mother of god–get your asses down here NOW!” Sometimes therapy does indeed prod you to nitpick things that truly don’t need nitpicking.

    Reply

    • Carol (middle-aged-diva) Says:

      I’m certain Phil does lots of nice things and I think it would be great to hear some of them. And we have, at times. I think Stephanie has shown remarkable restraint in not blogging more about things like Phil’s health and their marriage, although I must admit to some curiosity about these things that get mentioned once and then not again for a very long time. But so what–her prerogative.

      I am all for hearing about the kinder, gentler Phil that I know must exist or he wouldn’t be such a terrific dad.

      Reply

  33. anne Says:

    i do have to say, an important thing in a therapist, for me, is that they come from a resilience model, and focus on building on strengths and developing resources, not just n problems and difficulties. noticing how you are maladaptive is helpful, but buildings on your adaptive abilities is key and give you the ego strength to work on the tough stuff in the long run.

    Reply

  34. Kim Says:

    It does sound a bit of a mindf… at times. I wonder how much has this relationship effected your sense of self esteem. Just that I see you as someone not totally confident in yourself, so how does this effect you. I remember you used to have ideas all the time on things to write about, were writing books and had television series in the pipeline. Is that still all going? or did the moves and being a mum put a brake on that or did your confidence in yourself take a bit of a blow? with the undermining and him being so dominating. I think if you are staying strong, havent taken too many blows to your self esteem with the put downs, then why not stay and try and work on it as you obviously both love each other. But if you think it has had a big effect on your feelings of self esteem then maybe that price of staying is too high.

    Reply

  35. Abigail Says:

    Phil has posted this exact monologue before. Its depressing that he clings to two potentially valid reactions within what sounds like years of bad behavior. There, in itself, lies the problem.

    Reply

    • Commenter Says:

      Gross- now you two are arguing on your blog? There is something so illfitting about you two. Do you even want to stay with him?

      Reply

  36. Natasha Says:

    I am not going to comment on your marriage because we’ve heard this all before and your choice to stay with Phil is YOUR choice. No one on here knows Phil as you do no matter what perception we have which is based SOLELY on your blog posts and when Phil decides to chime in. For some reason this post really aggravated me and not because you’ve made a decision to work on your marriage. What gets me about this post is that is starts by bashing Phil and then we get to read about all the good things about him. I’m not sure why his good qualities needed to be couched in the context of his decision not to continue in couple’s therapy or his terrible communication skills. I feel as if it’s an attempt to play victim, which I don’t think you are. If you want to work on your marriage then great because we all know people enter into marriage lightly and fail to do work involved to keep it together. You don’t have to justify your marriage to anyone, but next time follow through on your headline. If people start commenting on how you’re trying to put a band aid on a gun shot wound then so what!

    Reply

  37. Ali Says:

    I would keep trying to work at your marriage
    Or should I say Phil should try to work at your marriage
    Good luck
    And I hope you start to enjoy living in Boca

    Reply

  38. Mary Says:

    Rod Stewart and Rachel Hunter did something when they divorced that I thought was really revolutionary, making things so much gentler for the kids. They kept their family home intact. The kids lived there permanently, and Rod and Rachel came and went based on the custody schedule. That stability kept the kids from shuttling back and forth between two homes, which seems like one of the more stressful elements of divorce for a kid. Just food for thought.

    Reply

    • Janey Says:

      You know I LOVE this idea? Why is it always the KIDS who are shuffled from home to home? Why don’t the innocent kids get to live in a HOME and if the parents cannot live together, adjust it to suit the needs of the children?

      Been reading of a handful of bloggers who have separated/divorced lately (and indeed in real life too) and it is always the KIDS bounced to and fro. Why? Why should a kid have to live in two places? It must SUCK!

      Anyway, sorry for the ramble but Mary thanks for your food for thought.

      Reply

      • Kimberly Says:

        Logistically, this arrangement takes quite a bit of money. Both parents would have to pay for their other home and half of the marital home.

        While this certainly may seem like the ideal situation, it is also very expensive and impractical for most people.

        Reply

  39. Emma Says:

    I don’t think that the issue is necessarily the other projecting but that, as her readers, people who come to her site, the posters naturally want to side with Stephanie and make Phil the villain.

    I would also suggest that both of you need to focus more on your own reaction rather than your communication. Some of these stories seem to me to suggest what is going on in your marriage is not, excuse the term, not that bad. A lot of the arguing is over everyday things. You both seem sensitive and controlling. You both want things your own way. I know Stephanie you may be better at negotiating and compromising than Phil but you in your own way seem controlling too. May be I am totally off base but may be there’s too much talking and hurt feelings over things that should be brushed aside more easily. Your communication efforts just sound so complex to me. I think trying that hard all the time may be reinforcing the concept that your marriage is a problem and you two are opposed. I think if you each focused on, for lack of a better term, sucking things up, when one of you says something th e other doesn’t like, quickly and quietly calling them out and then moving on, while at the same time, making an effort to love each other more and apologize more, it may be better for your marriage.

    Reply

  40. pamela Says:

    my hope for you is that you realize how intimate this particular posting of yours has become and that no one other then you and your husband, and perhaps the therapist of your choice, should be involved with opinions or comments.
    this isn’t healthy for either of you. some boundaries are in place for a reason – the ‘sanctity of a marriage’ is between two people. not ‘and everyone who happens to come across my blog as well and wants to put their two cents in.
    better perspective – talk to your family. talk to your husband.
    how could a complete stranger who has never seen you interact do anything but give a biased opinion and/or judgement.
    (the very thing you claim you don’t want).

    i think about how your writing is cathartic for you, but at the same time, how very passive/aggressive it is as well. at least that how it seems to me.

    i truly do wish you well. and peace of mind.

    Reply

  41. Brit Says:

    I certainly don’t agree with every decision Penelope Trunk makes or take every word of her advice. I do think that it is delusional for anyone to think that children are better off with divorced parents, and I believe that most times it is a delusion constructed to soothe(deserved or undeserved) guilt.

    I would also like to see people take accountability for their decisions, so lets start from the beginning. You get to choose the other parent of your child. You have a responsibility to your child to ensure their parent is not a deranged lunatic. If you do select a partner that is an abusive, asshole who terrorizes you and your children to the point that you MUST initiate a divorce, then you have culpability. That was the life and the home and the family YOU CREATED for your children. You are not the victim.

    If you managed to pick a reasonably sane person who just annoys you, or of whom you grow bored or restless or unattracted, tough shit. Most times people would insert some “But I DESERVE to be adored” sentiment. Sorry, you really don’t. When there are children involved, you don’t “deserve” anything that will make their childhoods more difficult. Children deserve 2 parents who love them, respect each other, model decent behavior. They do not deserve turmoil. They do not deserve to have their family and home reorganized and their lives changed in ways they are not emotionally mature enough to handle so that their parents can be “happy”.

    Many of the stories relayed here say they were happy their parent divorced because they fought all the time, thus drawing the conclusion that divorce can be beneficial, and then applying that same rule to their (and Stephanies) situation. But what if your parents acted like adults whose main agenda was to take care of their children and not settle scores with each other? Control your emotions and your temper and need for vengence and raise your children.

    I don’t want to be harsh but I wish people would get real with themselves and admit what decades of research has told us: divorce does not help children. To realize that you are not the victim, but an active participant in your own life should be empowering, not insulting.

    Reply

    • Audrey Says:

      For not wanting to sound harsh, I have to say, that sounded pretty harsh. “I do think that it is delusional for anyone to think that children are better off with divorced parents, and I believe that most times it is a delusion constructed to soothe(deserved or undeserved) guilt.”
      I couldn’t disagree with this statement more. Live the life of a child in an unhappy household, then make statements like that. Watch out for that brush you’re painting with, it seems awfully broad to me. In a perfect world, everything you wrote about how parents should act would be followed and we would all live happy healthy lives. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Parents are parents first, but they are also people. And none of us is perfect. People make mistakes, and it is better to recognize this and rectify those mistakes than to live in a family of dis function.

      Reply

  42. Linda Klingenstein Says:

    What is really funny is the number of comments this post has generated – 68 so far! Lately i have noticed a decrease in comments over the last year – 8 here, maybe 15 there….but when Stephanie posts about Phil- bam! Need some publicity? hmmm.. me thinks things are a bit slow Boca….

    Reply

  43. Ali Says:

    I think Emma has great advice!

    Reply

  44. Susie Says:

    I hate these confusing decisions in life. I can’t even decide what to have for lunch most days; I can’t even imagine trying to decide whether or not to end a marriage. It sounds like you are very smart and are considering everything carefully. I hope you arrive at the right decision for you and find contentment.

    Reply

  45. Jacks Says:

    I wish Phil would start a blog. I really do.

    Reply

  46. J Says:

    Holy cats! There’s tons of opinions here. It’s exciting.

    I think the only thing that really matters here is that you and Phil are both happy.

    Reply

  47. Caroline Says:

    This is off topic, but can we get an update (photo or otherwise) on Mr. Bikini? Never mention him anymore.

    Reply

    • Stephanie Klein Says:

      This is a long story from what seems like long ago. I hadn’t realized, until NOW, that I never posted about it. First, he is fine and in good health. Second, I will post the story.

      Reply

      • Mary Says:

        I am so glad you will tell us what is up with Mr. Bikini!! I assume he didn’t make the trip to Florida but I am so happy he is doing well. Is Linus still with the world? I know he was with your sis but he must have been getting up there in years. But I know you would never abandon an animal. Looking forward to hearing about him.

        Reply

  48. Janey Says:

    Hubby and I (20 years) are just starting to have the conflicts you and Phil have. The lashing out, negativity, feeling hurt by each other etc. Maybe the last 3 years? I have one foot out the door, not sure I can live like this and not so great for our kids. Guess I am just waiting for the last straw..

    All the best to you and Phil.

    Reply

  49. Kelly Says:

    Wow, so many opinions for not knowing the whole story (which none of us really do except for you!).

    Just wanted to thank you for writing so honestly. I imagine there are so many comments because the general situations, conversations, and communication missteps are not altogether unique to your marriage.

    I know only what you choose to share, but I wish your marriage and children much joy and many blessings in the midst of doing life together, which always seems messy.

    Reply

  50. Ulli Says:

    Your honesty and self reflection keeps things real.

    Only you will know when or if you will have a key moment, where you say “I love him but I just can’t do this anymore”. That moment might never come and if it does you will clearly be alright.

    You are obviously both working very hard on your marriage and I hope that it will get easier as communication styles improve:) you deserve it!

    Reply

  51. Michelle Says:

    I may have missed the boat here, but something is bothering me about this. It’s one think for you to post your own feelings on your website, but why is Phil defending/explaining to commenters?

    As for your post; I was especially shocked to see that one of the first comments was for you to leave him already. As someone who read both your books and irregularly visits your site, it never occurred to me that you were even considering that route. Granted, this is your website and we are not real-life friends, but you are very frank and often extremely open. My parents had difficulties; they still do. I ended up in therapy, but it had very little to do with how my parents treated each other. (And, on a side-note: we knew when they were fighting, arguing etc. even when it wasn’t in front of us.) I learned that relationships are work and that putting in the work can reap great rewards.

    My own relationship has its ups and downs and we fight. We generally come out better for it. So, the way I see it is that you need to figure out a better way to communicate with each other, not what you’re communicating. Easier said than done, but perhaps attempting (as I have) to clearly divide what is and what is not your responsibility will help. Much like creating boundaries, it allows you to say you will not be upset just because he is upset with your behaviour or vice versa. You can deal with a problem much more easily when you do not take it personally. And, no, not everything is personal; in fact, very few things are. Perhaps what your therapist is saying is not that you should deal with Phil’s ‘bullying’, but that you should remove it from yourself, because if you saw his marching orders as simply a personality quirk rather than as a slight to you, would you really care? Even if you would, how much would it matter? Not the best example, but the only one I have of your marriage at the moment. I hope that helps.

    Reply

  52. Lisa Says:

    Oh my God, seriously? I look at this blog maybe once or twice a year now, and you’re still trotting out the Phil-is-mean-but-I-love-him posts — portraying him as an awful husband and a bully. Then your readers react, you defend him, Phil joins in to defend himself. How many years are you going to do this? I understand you have a blog and, clearly, this is an issue that gets you hits. But move on already!

    Reply

  53. Annie Says:

    It’s been a while since I read your posts and I think I’ve missed a few episodes. i didn’t realize you guys were thinking about divorce.

    My husband and I have been married for 4 years now. We’ve been separated for the past year and we are now at the point where we’ve agreed to give it another try and make an effort to improve things. Our problems or issues are not similar to yours and we have no children.

    The reason I’m writing is because since I decided to move back, all I can think of is that this doesn’t feel right. There’s something missing. I don’t crave him, I don’t find comfort in being with him, I don’t miss him during the day and (mostly due to events that led to our breakup) I don’t trust him enough to let my guard down. I know that he loves me and I know that we are both very different people due to the crap we’ve been through over the past 12 months. I keep telling myself that it will take time and hard work to get back to where we were and that I shouldn’t give up so easily. I look at other couples on the street, in their cars, at the grocery store and I try to imagine what their relationship is like. Are they happy? Do they fight? Does she find him attractive? Have they cheated on each other? Is he a good father? What do they do on the weekends? Do they have date nights? I don’t believe there are couples out there with the perfect relationship. I consider the relationships my close friends are in and all I can think is “no way could I deal with that”. We’re not perfect, life isn’t perfect so how can a relationship be perfect? Some people change when you don’t want them to and some people stay the same no matter how hard you try to change them.

    I care about him but I’m not in love with him. I feel like I’m living with a friend at the moment. I don’t feel like a married woman. A year ago I would be tooting a different tune but right now I believe that I made a decision to marry this person and I need to stick to it and find a way to make it work. (Provided he feels the same way of course.) There’s no guarantees that there’s someone out there who is better for me and there’s certainly no guarantees that I will find “mr perfect”.

    What is hard for me right now (aside from how I feel about the situation) is that some family members and friends believe that I’m making a mistake and keep rolling their eyes at me or throwing comments at me that question my decision or just offer silence and a shrug. I’ve been told to stop flogging a dead horse.

    I think it’s great that you are both working on things together – even if it’s not with a therapist. Therapy wasn’t my cup of tea either. I had initially suggested it and then dropped it shortly after even though he continued going. If you both want the same thing out of your life/relationship/family and you both care about each other’s happiness… I’m sure you can make it happen.

    Like someone said further up the page… its HARD WORK and it’s EVERY DAY for YEARS and YEARS. You cannot leave things to deal with later without expecting to find some damage.

    Wishing you happiness, patience, health, courage and love.

    PS I’m starting Moose tonight by the way! xx

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  54. Sarah Says:

    Stepahnie,

    Thank you so soo much for writing this, and sharing your feelings. My husband is much the same way. He loves me very much and wants nothing for me but to be happy and to be me, but I often feel like it is on the condition that I do it “his way” because, of course that is the only way and any other perspective is faulty or crazy. I also have been told, to just focus on the positive; and have felt the same brow raising indignation and confusion, with the implication that I should just deal with something that can be considered verbally abusive. I read this article just after one such argument and I feel a lot better knowing that somebody as successful as you can relate. I have read Moose, and loved it. Thank you for having the courage to share these things through your writing and to do so with humor and honesty.

    Sarah

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