Frieda, this is the short version of what you wrote us last week:
My husband is a responsible and loving father, a hardworking family man, which is why I flip-flop on whether he’s really a jerk.
In the years I’ve known him, I’ve been living on eggshells, not knowing when his explosive temper might occur. In the beginning, I was confused when we had a conversation and he barely responded.
When I asked him a question and there was no response, I would say something like, Hello? Are you there? Next thing you know, he’s kicking my purse and throwing my things down the stairs.
Last year I was ready to divorce. But I had my kids to think of.
As a compromise, I moved into the spare room and only spoke to him when necessary. He improved his behavior and controlled his temper. Not a single outburst in over a year. I started to believe he’d changed and moved back into our room.
Things were okay for a while, but he’s back to his old self again. My daughter will be leaving for college in less than two years, but my youngest is only 10. I think I can hang on for 24 months, but no more.
Frieda, Tamara once had a teacher who would ask questions to the class which were never answered. When that occurred, she would say, Hello? Is anyone out there? The response she got was always the same: stone-cold
Why? Because the question is snide. It asserts the superiority of the questioner. It says, “I have a right to compel you to answer.”
Early on in your marriage, you say, this is how you handled your husband. What part did you play in making him an angry man? If you made pork chops for him every Friday and he didn’t eat them because he doesn’t like pork chops, would you continue making them every Friday? Apparently so.
You are a match to his gasoline. He feels anger is his only defense. You flip-flop on whether your husband is a jerk. We have the same problem because inadvertently you make his case for him.
When you moved into the spare room, there was not a single outburst from him in a year. He must have felt he won the lottery. You thought he had changed. Did it ever occur to you he thought you had changed?
It’s obvious you prefer his anger to his silence, and our guess is he has always been a pretty quiet guy. Our further guess is you are the one who drove this marriage to occur.
But whatever the facts, one thing is clear. This little thing is a measure of your relationship. He doesn’t care enough about what you say to respond, and he has a defense mechanism against you “badgering” him. Perhaps there is a world going on in his mind he doesn’t care to share.
But you are right. His blowups are not an apt response. The circumstances don’t require an explosion, and besides, it isn’t working. It doesn’t advance pleasure on either side. It simply stops you in your tracks.
One question intrigues us. If he wrote us, what might he say? We know he has a side. We would like to receive a letter from each of you, written independently, about how you got married. Those stories are never the same.
Now you are locked in a deep-rooted dance of distress. Perhaps a truce is the most you can hope for. But before you leave, ask yourself how great a part you’ve played in your own anguish. Perhaps a counselor can help you understand your role in the problem.
Our point is not who is to blame. All we care is that each of you finds more happiness than you currently have.
~ Wayne & Tamara
Column for the week of November 16, 2015
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