There's a tiny dent in our basement door. Can this marriage be saved?
January 5, 2014 6:38 PM   Subscribe

Is it necessary in a marriage to apologize for innocent mistakes like dropping a laptop?

I know that I'm a bit disorganized/ADHD, but I think I'm a basically responsible person who gets a lot done and tries very hard to stay on top of things (my husband and I both work full-time and have a one-year-old, so there are a lot of things to stay on top of.) My husband used to find my klutziness and absentmindedness charming, but now it's apparently the worst thing ever and I am expected to apologize whenever I make a minor mistake, while it's okay if he snaps at me for said mistake. Some examples:
  • Our old landlord threatened to withhold our security deposit because she didn't think that the place was clean enough (we're talking about things like a couple of burned specks on an otherwise clean stainless steel range). Everyone that I showed pictures to thought that it was perfectly clean, but I was blamed because I had hired cleaners, so it was my job to supervise the cleaners and they must have done a bad job if the landlord wasn't happy. He said that he "can't imagine dating" someone like me who "doesn't think you have to clean your apartment when you move out." (We got the whole deposit back in the end.)
  • In the year after our son was born, I heard a lot about how wonderful I was for getting up twice a night to nurse him, dealing with all the breast pump chores, etc., but he still snapped at me over the slightest housekeeping mistake (forgetting to bring a wet diaper to the garbage when the diaper pail was full, etc.)
  • Tonight, after we'd been fighting a lot over the last few weeks, we finally had a pretty nice weekend together. He said something funny, and I gave him a hug and kiss. The laptop he was holding fell out of his hands (he says I bumped his arm, I can't remember exactly how it happened) and dented the basement door before we caught it. He snapped at me, stormed off and lectured me about how I have to apologize.
I feel like this "you must apologize for innocent mistakes" thing is new and unreasonable. It's not like he doesn't make mistakes, probably just as many as I do, but it's just not in my nature to get angry about them. Is he being unreasonable, or am I?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (69 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
This gentleman is emotionally abusive.
posted by squirbel at 6:40 PM on January 5, 2014 [126 favorites]

^ Yup.
posted by ulfberht at 6:41 PM on January 5, 2014 [9 favorites]

He sounds like a clean freak with a short temper. He needs to address this. You need to tell him that he needs to get a handle on himself.

My bf is a clean freak too and one day I spilled a bunch of juice and dirty dish water all over. So gross.

He said "whoops" and helped me clean up.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:44 PM on January 5, 2014 [12 favorites]

^ Yup.

What's eating him, I don't know, but there are doctors who can help him find out, and maybe help him treat it. If he wants to go out and find such doctors, maybe you should stick around. If he doesn't want to, cut your losses and move on.
posted by LonnieK at 6:45 PM on January 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

If I bump into someone I say "sorry". That's as far as it goes. Otherwise his attitudes seem abusive.
posted by uncaken at 6:46 PM on January 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

He is out of line. If this is a change in behavior for him (which it seems to be), I would take some time to sit down with him and talk about it. It could be that his real self is coming through (which would be a shame, because that's a pretty harsh, shitty self), but it could be something else. Definitely let him know that this is something that you are not going to put up with, and call him on his verbal abuse when he indulges in it.

Nobody needs to be yelled at for minor accidents.
posted by xingcat at 6:55 PM on January 5, 2014 [9 favorites]

^ Yup.

That was a trite answer, I apologize.

I agree that your husband is, unfortunately, being emotionally abusive, and is being completely unreasonable.

I think it's therapy for both of you, to get to the bottom of this. He needs to figure out what his deal is, and learn to behave like a loving, adult partner. You should go to learn how to not let yourself be treated that way, because you deserve better—and so does your baby.

Don't show your kiddo that this is any way to treat someone they love, or be treated.

This doesn't get better without help—really. My father was this type of abusive, and I'm still pretty freaked out about making mistakes, or being imperfect, as an adult. I also dated a guy like this for 5 years, (shocker of a pattern, right?) and finally learned how to stand up for myself, but not without a lot of fights.

Oh, also: the men also were constantly reminding me how "absent-minded" and "klutzy" I was—and it was so cute! Until it wasn't. I'm actually neither absent-minded nor klutzy, come to find out. Is this something you never noticed about yourself before? Or has it gotten "worse" since you've been with him? Just a question to think about.

Regardless, best of luck to you! This question alone means you know something's up. It is. You really don't have to just take it. Internet strangers are thinking about you.
posted by ulfberht at 6:56 PM on January 5, 2014 [24 favorites]

Big life changes - moving, a new baby - can make anyone act stressed or snappish. But there's a difference between being stressed and/or snappish, and continually berating your partner over small issues that are completely attributable to differences in standards (the stove), simple human oversight (the diaper), or an honest accident (the door).

Whether he's being unreasonable or not - I say not - is really up to you. Is this behavior new? Has it escalated as you've dealt with the life changes of moving and a baby? Can you talk to him about it in a way that won't turn into a giant argument accomplishing nothing? We just moved, and it's been super-stressful, so my husband and I have been probably too short and snappish with each other and the kids, but we're away of why and trying to get it under control. Is it that sort of situation?

If it's more of a long term thing, or an escalating pattern, you might try to convince him that something like couple's therapy might help you align your expectations better. Or, if you're me, you call him on his shit AND go to therapy. Because those examples you provided are complete nonsense on his part.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 6:56 PM on January 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

Small mistakes should lead to small apologies.

Things that aren't mistakes at all but are just unfortunate outcomes of normal behaviour might lead to ordinary conversations about how to not have that happen again. Expecting you to be entirely accountable for a cleaner not doing a perfect job is kind of weird.

Is it possible he's depressed?
posted by The Monkey at 7:03 PM on January 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

Do not apologize for things like the wet diaper or laptop. Don't cower to his bullying. He needs to get over it and calm down. Next time he pitches a fit, call him on it in an even tone. "I'm sorry that the wet diaper bothers you. I didn't throw it away. Please do not take it personally."
posted by Fairchild at 7:03 PM on January 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

To answer your question, he is being unreasonable -- comprehensively so.
posted by ambient2 at 7:12 PM on January 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't rush to say he's abusive. I do try to apologize even if I accidentally dent something or what not. But it sounds like he's easily set off right now, and that you two are in a pretty bad place in the relationship. This could be situational, or it could be there are some deep problems. Those problems might be his, or they might be relational - between the two of you. It's hard to diagnose this kind of thing online, and couples counseling might help. Individual therapy - or even a reality check by some straight-talking friends might help you identify where you are at with this relationship right now.

Good luck.
posted by latkes at 7:14 PM on January 5, 2014 [17 favorites]

I'm agreeing with the emotionally abusive comments. It's a control thing. I watched my brother do this for 8 years to my SIL before I realized what was happening (I regret I never noticed sooner so we could have gotten her out of there before he went full on crazy pants). It may well be fixable if this is new behavior, it could just be he is stressed, tired or having some other issues that are making him hyper critical but I would seriously suggest you both look into couples counselling to head this off at the pass if possible.

The above is my grown up well thought out reaction. As a side note that is probably not at all relevant and is, I know logically a complete over reaction, my gut reaction is please God run as fast as you can. My brother ended up trying to beat my SIL to death in a carpark in front of witnesses because she left him, and then told the police it was her fault he'd had to hit her, because she'd made him angry. Soooo I may be a tad over sensitive to signs of someone trying to emotionally control another person now a days.
posted by wwax at 7:14 PM on January 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

I would be absolutely apoplectic if someone dropped my laptop, sorry. Even if it was an "absentminded" "mistake". My whole life is on my laptop, it's a vital tool without which I couldn't do my job or pursue creative projects, and it would cost a lot of money to replace. Dropping a laptop isn't like breaking a wineglass or shrinking a sweater in the wash.

That said, he sounds like he is having trouble controlling his temper around you, in general, and other incidents where he blamed you unfairly (the security deposit thing) are inappropriate.

I agree with others that if this feels like a long term pattern, therapy would probably be the best approach.
posted by Sara C. at 7:17 PM on January 5, 2014 [13 favorites]

Can this marriage be saved?

Yes, but not by you.

It is not unreasonable for you to want him not to act this way. At the same time, it is not unreasonable for him to want you to be less klutzy and absent-minded; it's just unreasonable for him to express it in this way. If he is willing to seek help, give him the chance to change. But only if he keeps trying.
posted by Etrigan at 7:24 PM on January 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

He was holding the laptop, it fell, and you have to apologize? That's some bullshit, right there. Tell him to get a grip (literally!).

Obviously, though, that would probably set him off, so don't actually do that. But he is being unreasonable, and if he wasn't like this before, I'd want to know what the hell was going on with him.
posted by limeonaire at 7:25 PM on January 5, 2014 [19 favorites]

He's being unreasonable, and he needs to learn to adjust his behavior not just out of fairness to you, but because he's setting a horrible example for your kid; and he may very well carry over this intolerance of human mistakes in his interactions with your little one.

Time for a sit-down with him, with adult supervision if needed (family therapist). Best to nip bullying behavior in the bud.
posted by nacho fries at 7:26 PM on January 5, 2014

Sara C., the man dropped his own laptop, claiming that the OP bumped his arm.

Anyway, it's impossible to know what's really going on here. I agree this blaming behavior sounds abusive. I'm wondering if the stress has led to him having more irritability if not depression, but I don't know. It seems like he'll probably be slow to see what's going on. (If he can't accept his own responsibility for dropping a laptop he was holding, it's less likely he'll see his responsibility for a relationship trend.) So I'd guess couples counseling would be your only option for a good conversation about this. In the meantime, you might start naming it. "I don't appreciate you blaming me when you share in the responsibility here." Pick a mantra and try to use it whenever he blames you, but without getting sucked into fights. Maybe over time he'll start to have some self awareness about this.
posted by salvia at 7:30 PM on January 5, 2014 [8 favorites]

Babies add extra stress to a marriage.

But he needs to cut that crap out.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:32 PM on January 5, 2014 [12 favorites]

I would suggest individual therapy for you, so that you can have someone objective help you figure out what you want to do. I'm not sure this is a great situation for couple's therapy -- couple's therapy is for situations in which both halves of the couple are equally responsible for creating the problem, and for situations in which honestly talking about the problems in the therapy office is not going to trigger abusive tirades at home later. I don't think your (totally normal) actions are at all responsible for his outbursts, which is why I think it's more appropriate for you to seek out an advocate (therapist) for yourself right now.
posted by jaguar at 7:34 PM on January 5, 2014 [6 favorites]

I don't think your (totally normal) actions are at all responsible for his outbursts

Errrr, that is, I don't think you hold equal responsibility here, as his reactions to your (totally normal) actions are completely disproportionate and quite possibly abusive.
posted by jaguar at 7:35 PM on January 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

He's definitely overreacting and taking things out on you when it doesn't appear to be rational. It might be stress, it might be that he's no longer capable of hiding this aspect of himself, etc.

Therapy will probably help - start with you, and your therapist can help you sort out what else may need to be done. You may want to learn about assertiveness while you're waiting to get an appointment (the examples you gave all illustrate aggressive communication, not assertive.)
posted by SMPA at 7:39 PM on January 5, 2014

Everyone that I showed pictures to thought that it was perfectly clean, but I was blamed because I had hired cleaners, so it was my job to supervise the cleaners and they must have done a bad job if the landlord wasn't happy.

This is just bananas, especially since you got your deposit back. Landlords aren't some kind of perfect arbiter of cleanliness (and in fact I think it's generally assumed that this is not the case.)

When you said "dropped a laptop" I thought you meant you didn't apologize for something that resulted in a broken screen or flying gears or something, not a brief fall in the air where the laptop was fine. I would still have apologized but it would have been more like "Whew, sorry, not sure how that happened!" And then I would have made sure not to ever kiss my partner when they were carrying anything ever again, because frankly he was carrying the laptop and it takes two to kiss and hug.

I think Etrigan is right. I think that you should work with a therapist and that perhaps he should too, separately. And hopefully you two can work through this together. But he has to buy into the idea that there's a problem, and there is, if for no other reason that you're really unhappy.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:39 PM on January 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

If I'm reading this correctly, it sounds like his (yes) abusive behavior is escalating. You are working and carrying more than your half of the load when you consider the housework and nursing you're responsible for as well as your job and yet he's getting more and more controlling and condescending toward you. What I'd say is that you might be able to go to counseling or even talk things out to a better end, but those changes are almost invariably temporary. A controlling person doesn't give up control ever, but they're very good at changing their ways for a little while if they sense that you're truly getting fed up - IOW, if they feel that their long-term control is threatened, they'll change - just long enough for you to get back to believing everything's okay again and then they can again assert their superiority and bully you back into line.

I've been there, and I've known a lot of women in this position - and a couple of men whose wives were the controlling partner. In every case, it's the trend that matters: charm/slow escalation of "you're disappointing me"/minor retreat when partner revolts/escalation again. And eventually they'll accuse you of being the one who's screwed up because they've changed and changed and you're never happy.

Here's the deal, though: You have a child and your responsibility to that child is to keep it safe and loved and not allow it to be abused in any way, including learning that it's impossible to be good enough for Dad. Do you really think that if you're not worthy of anything other than criticism no matter how hard you work to please this man that your child will better at it than you are? Not a chance - the child has to stretch limits in order to grow and stretching limits isn't going to work here.

I'm sorry, but if you were my daughter or granddaughter, I'd advise you to gently ease out of the marriage for the sake of your own self-respect and for the good of your little one.
posted by aryma at 7:47 PM on January 5, 2014 [28 favorites]

I'm a little weirdly hung up on his "I can't imagine dating you" comment. It makes me feel like he's got something going on emotionally that he's repressing a lot, so couples therapy seems like it could be worthwhile. (Unless it happened before you were married, in which case disregard my weird feelings about a potentially harmless statement)
posted by elizardbits at 7:48 PM on January 5, 2014 [25 favorites]

OP can't remember what happened, so I don't see how any of us can report the laptop incident any better. "He dropped it!" and "She bumped it!" are nothing but speculation.

OP, on your three named incidents:

* I think his comment that he wouldn't date someone like you was rather mean. I think it is the worst incident in your question. Although, who would have supervised the workers to make sure the job was done right if not you? You act as if this expectation was unreasonable, but it makes sense that you would make sure the job was done right.

* I've raised two children through the diaper phase, but I don't understand "forgetting to bring a wet diaper to the garbage when the diaper pail was full". If the diaper didn't go in the full diaper pail and you didn't put it in the garbage, what did you do with it? Did you forget that a used diaper needed to be disposed of? That doesn't make sense to me.

* If you don't know whether or not you bumped the laptop, I surely don't. I think it is never appropriate for a person to demand an apology, but if you did bump the laptop out of his hands, I don't understand why you wouldn't have apologized unprompted. In any event, it is probably a good idea to avoid hugging people when they are holding things.

I think it is a bit much to call the behavior you describe abusive, although you do describe some mean behavior. I would not have acted as you describe your husband. Everyone seems stressed. He is overreacting to things.

That said, I am also troubled by "but now it's apparently the worst thing ever and I am expected to apologize whenever I make a minor mistake" and "I feel like this you must apologize for innocent mistakes thing is new and unreasonable." Why shouldn't you apologize for making a mistake, no matter how minor or innocent? Why is that unreasonable? Everyone should apologize for even minor mistakes, even when they have ADHD. People don't like klutziness and absent-mindedness because nice things get broken and important things get forgotten. I think your husband is overreacting, but that doesn't mean you aren't giving him something that merits a reaction. Part of his overreaction is probably his perception that you are unapologetic for making mistakes, and the cavalier attitude may anger him more than the mistake itself.

If I were you, I would have a talk with him with the theme of, "You hurt me when you overreact to my mistakes. Please work on your overreactions and I will work on being more careful."
posted by Tanizaki at 7:48 PM on January 5, 2014 [47 favorites]

It's one thing to be unreasonably short-tempered, especially with a baby in the picture. That's not acceptable behavior, but I get it.

But it sounds like he's going beyond that and openly displaying contempt for you. "Can't imagine dating" someone like you who "doesn't think you have to clean your apartment?" Lecturing you about apologizing? These are red flags for me. At least yellow flags, anyway. You didn't say, so I'm assuming you apologize like a normal person when you think you did something wrong. Seems like he's trying to shame you, or control you as others have suggested, by constantly forcing you to apologize even when you didn't do something wrong.

I think this is a serious problem, and agree with those above who suggested outside help.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:53 PM on January 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Forgive me for saying this....but he sounds really hateful and disrespectful. I don't know him, of course, but reading between the lines, it would seem that he is experiencing some sort of deep disapproval of you. What's that about? Does he think he is getting enough sex...or not? (I bring this up because my ex h got abusive when he felt he wasn't being "taken care of").

I'm not suggesting you ply him with sex---but it would be interesting to put yourself in his shoes to try to see just what is so irritating about you! Maybe you should just flat out ask him...because you need to keep the doors of communication open and if you don't, your marriage is going to get rockier and rockier.
posted by naplesyellow at 7:54 PM on January 5, 2014

Just chiming in that that this strikes me as not-normal, not-acceptable, controlling behavior on his part trending towards abusive imbalanced relationship. You need to find a way to change this dynamic. Otherwise sadly, no, the marriage can't be saved.
posted by alms at 7:57 PM on January 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry you're going through this, and it sounds tough. The thing is, you should feel like you can be comfortable in your shared space. Feeling accountable to someone for minor slip-ups, or for maintaining cleanness etc. is hard, especially if you have a full time job and a baby. If you sometimes make mistakes, so does everyone else. I agree that he sounds disrespectful, and that you should have some kind of intervention before things get worse. And if they don't get better, think about leaving. Life's too short to walk on eggshells in your own home.
posted by MFZ at 7:58 PM on January 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Why can't he take the diapers out? Why does he assume it's your job by default?

Honestly I think he needs to apologize to YOU for the way he reacts.
posted by fireandthud at 8:00 PM on January 5, 2014 [10 favorites]

This is neither normal nor acceptable behavior, even with the understanding that we are only receiving your perspective on these stories. As for the cause, maybe it's stress, maybe it's new responsibilities, or maybe it's something else altogether. The why is only important when it comes to fixing it, however, and it does not excuse this treatment or make it okay. Since this sounds like a significant recent change in his personality, I would recommend two things: 1. A full physical/thorough medical workup to make sure there isn't some underlying medical condition affecting his behavior and 2. Couples counseling. If he refuses to attend counseling with you, see a counselor on your own to help you make sense of this and get the support you need to decide what your next steps should be. Best of luck!
posted by katemcd at 8:04 PM on January 5, 2014

You're getting lots of recommendations for marriage counseling. Please read this before you go that route with your partner (who yes, sounds abusive): Why Your Marriage Counseling Failed. I think you need your own therapist.
posted by Wordwoman at 8:11 PM on January 5, 2014 [9 favorites]

I'm going to go against the tide here and ask why it is so important for you to _not_ apologize?

Say "sorry", it's just a word, and costs you nothing.

If, on the other hand, your husband doesn't accept the apology gracefully (after being given a reasonable amount of time* to get over his upset then that is entirely his problem, and one that he needs to seek help for (and he's not allow to make you feel shitty for).

*this varies: for me, dropping my laptop would be an extremely stressful/scary moment for me (expensive hardware, priceless data, etc) and would probably result in an adrenaline rush that would preclude me from responding rationally for a while -- maybe as long as it took for me to ensure that it was still functioning, maybe longer. but leaving a dirty diaper somewhere? that's not worth a lasting grudge, even if it was part of a pattern.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:15 PM on January 5, 2014 [8 favorites]

This is how each of those scenarios probably would have played out in our house:

1. Cleaners missed a spot or two and I was responsible for supervising them. We'll, sh*t, I'd either stomp around a bit and then do it myself or call them and make them come back, but there wouldn't have been any apologizing to my SO about it nor would it have been expected.

2. Forgot to throw away a diaper and He SNAPPED about it, he would have probably gotten said diaper up the side of his head. Had he casually mentioned it, as in, "Oh hon, here's one you forgot to throw away." I would've said, "Sorry, let me get it."

3. We both would've said, "Holy crap, did it break? No, thank goodness it just made a little dent on the door."

Sometimes people get caught in a cycle of just too much stress and it makes you really crabby. While none of the scenarios you described sound pleasant or even reasonable, think about examining your lifestyle for ways to de-stress as a family. A young couple I know went through some similar problems and determined that stress and overwork we're playing too big a factor in their lives. Now they actively work to do some fun things like take the kids roller skating, or have dad's day out with the little boy, or whatever works for them, but it took some honest conversation before it got better. And it did get better; not perfect but lots better.

Please don't take this as victim blaming because it is totally not meant that way. But there are ways to solve problems besides just packing up your kid and leaving. If the pattern does escalate, or changes to more extreme verbal or physical abuse, then you will need to consider your safety.
posted by tamitang at 8:16 PM on January 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think your husband is majorly overreacting in a way that is indicative of a deeper problem.

If I was somehow involved in some mutual-bumping situation that resulted in someone else's laptop getting dropped, I'd reflexively say 'Oops, sorry!!'. Same if I signed off on (arguably) sub-par cleaning work, or got distracted and left a wet diaper on the change table for the next person to clean up.

However, these are such minor, almost-nobody's-fault, shit-happens kind of 'mistakes' that I would really not expect the other party to labour the point.

So yes, you should probably, technically, say sorry for these things. But, much more importantly, he should be waving your apologies away and forgiving you immediately. That's how loving partners treat each other.

I think you should have a calm, honest conversation about him with this, when you are both relaxed. Use 'I' statements: 'When you said that you can't imagine dating someone like me who can't be bothered cleaning their own apartment, I felt as if you were calling me dirty/lazy. It felt like a personal criticism, even though I think I did my best and the real estate agent was being unreasonable.' Make sure to listen as much as you talk. See if he admits to being overtired/cranky/under the weather/depressed/whatever. See if he is willing to take responsibility for not behaving in ways that are hurtful to you.

If he refuses to engage with you respectfully and constructively, then yes, you might need counselling. It sounds to me as if he is just really tired and stressed at the moment. No, it is not remotely okay for him to take it out on you. But I also don't think this is abuse, or that you need to consider leaving him, when you have a baby in the picture.
posted by Salamander at 8:21 PM on January 5, 2014

I'm totally on your husband's side. We have a toddler. Hear me out...

My husband has the thickest accent ever, plus a number of cultural behaviors that were freakin' ADORABLE the first few years of our marriage, but really frustrating when managing a toddler in the mix.

By the time our son was between one and two years old, his "mumbling" and lack of specificity when asked a direct question nearly drove me insane.


I'm prescribing extra child care, couple time, and maybe couples therapy.

I don't think your husband is abusive, he's the parent of a toddler. It's the most stressful shit EVER.

Get help. Don't be one of the many couples that split up during this time. So not not worth it if you were previously happy.

I empathize with you both!
posted by jbenben at 8:55 PM on January 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

There's a lot missing from this question, I feel. What is the state of your relationship like? How do you typically resolve conflict with each other? How have things been since baby and what kind of support networks do you both have set up? The individual situations, presented as they are from your perspective, are hard to assess. I sure as rsit wouldn't put up with that from your description, but I'd wager your husband's description would be different. In this context, being "right" is really not here or there; there are much bigger and important issues going on, clearly, and I hope you both can see that.

Asking strangers to agree with you (or not), it's not going to help overly: you are not married to us, and talking to your husband about this in a productive, safe, way should be your goal. If it feels unreasonable to you, that's enough for a talk; our opinions don't matter.
posted by smoke at 9:04 PM on January 5, 2014 [11 favorites]

The security deposit thing is the weirdest and most disturbing, to me. Was the baby already born at that point? Was there some other major drama going on that you aren't telling us, of which this was a side-bit? Otherwise, that strikes me as some mean ass weird weirdness.

The diaper thing. I know a LOT of guys who I otherwise had thought to be decent people who, upon having kids, suddenly got really nasty about the resulting mess or their wife/gf's resulting "slackings" in the domesticity department. It's not a good thing, so I would have to know the rest of the story... If it's a general trend, yeah, major red flag. But if it's something like "why the hell is there a dirty diaper on the couch, gross, get it out of here" "ummm, I've been up all night with this child, why don't YOU take it out, I forgot about it because I was too busy HOLDING A SCREAMING CHILD" well... that sounds.... very, very normal for a frazzled new-parent spat. Not super healthy, no, but within the realm of normal, in my humble opinion and experience. If this is as bad as you get I would frankly be counting my lucky stars.

The laptop thing, finally, sounds like the least of your problems. If someone roughly/carelessly bumped me causing me to drop something super-expensive, I would probably flip out as well, at least for a moment. I would totally expect them to say "OMG SORRY!" and be just as concerned as I to make sure nothing got damaged. If their attitude was, instead, "what's the big deal? hell no I won't apologize, I didn't do it on purpose, why are you making this a big deal" that would piss me right the fuck off, even if the rational part of my brain knew it was an accident, because dropping a laptop is not a "little mistake" in a lot of people's worlds - it's a Very Expensive Bad mistake, more in line with wrecking a car than breaking a glass (as someone above mentioned).

In sum, he sounds like somewhat of a dick who doesn't watch his words, and you sound flippant and cavalier about things that have potential to cost your family a lot of money that might be a bigger running theme we don't know about.

Part of his overreaction is probably his perception that you are unapologetic for making mistakes, and the cavalier attitude may anger him more than the mistake itself.

This is definitely how I would feel about it.
posted by celtalitha at 9:17 PM on January 5, 2014 [12 favorites]

I just want to add that I've never spoken to a new parent that I'm on close terms with that hasn't described conflict along the lines you've narrated. Children change the dynamic. This is True.

It's how you handle the changes that count.

Don't approach your husband like he's The Bad Guy. Approach him like you've both been under ridiculous changes and stress, and you both need help navigating new waters.


The laptop incident and the deposit issue are about money - which is HUGE stress for new families.

You guys are on the same team, but not in alignment.

Work on being in alignment. Enjoy these early years of parenthood.

I hope your husband gets on board. It's the right way for all of you.
posted by jbenben at 9:18 PM on January 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

If this is year 5 or 6 of your relationship, his behavior may just be sleep deprivation or new baby stress. If this is only year 2 of your relationship it *could* be the beginning of an escalation. Has he treated previous partners this way?

Though it sounds mild, this is emotional abuse. It may not last, but....

This behavior can be dangerous to you because over time you will internalize it. It needs to stop. I suggest researching the topics of emotional abuse and assertiveness training, and if you feel it necessary, as others suggest, consulting a therapist.

(At least one study has shown criticism of a partners’ personality correlates with divorce:
posted by pickles_have_souls at 9:21 PM on January 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

During times of high (and/or ongoing) stress, I am your husband except I am really good at keeping my mouth shut and just roiling with anger on the inside. But when I am scared, it makes me depressed and angry - so much anger, decaying into contempt - and small slights start to feel like last straws.

Anger is almost always rooted in fear, and if your husband is similar to me he's getting full-up on fear and frustration and it's coming out the little cracks. You may not be able to FIX the problem, but sometimes just acknowledging stuff that's going unsaid is enough of a pressure valve to stop the pressure against those little cracks.

(I'd be wall-eyed with terror and exhaustion if I was responsible for keeping a 1yo alive and developing into a productive member of society. That may be all it is, at the root. Maybe you guys just need a code word for "I see you trying right now and I appreciate it".)

I obsess over apologies and "slights" when I feel like my fear and simultaneous effort is going unacknowledged. I am in that place right now, this weekend has been - inside my head, but maybe just a little bit with the death glares - not my finest moment. So I feel bad for you, and I feel bad for him.

You have to talk about it, but you kind of have to catch him on the upswing if you don't want to doom that talk to ending badly. If you are able, maybe try to frame it like hey, you are stressed like whoa and I acknowledge that and let's come up with some constructive ways that nobody has to feel that bad.

I would lose my shit right now about the dent in the door, because the door represents SO MUCH MORE. We might somehow get a ding on our permanent record and will have to live in a shack made of cardboard and milk cartons in a mud puddle and our child will miss school because of all the mud and DOOM DOOM DOOM. But there isn't actually that much of a permanent record and landords gonna landlord and the earth keeps turning, it's just hard to remember that sometimes. As a couple, it's okay to come up with a strategy for those days - during a quiet, non-doom moment - so that when they come there's a vocabulary and a plan. You do need to talk, and find ways for him to not brick up the doom so badly that it starts coming out the cracks, but if you can pick a calm moment to do it, it'll work better.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:21 PM on January 5, 2014 [13 favorites]

An overreaction that is out of character can be a sign of deeper stresses. I still remember (with no small amount of shame) the day I had just finished repairing a broken popup lawn sprinkler, then turned on the water to make sure it worked. Moments later, my wife (at the time) got into her car, opened the windows, backed out, and -- despite my shouts to stop -- cut the corner, snapping the newly repaired popup lawn sprinkler. I was so furious, and yelled at her. The truth was, it wasn't the sprinkler I was angry about; it was simply my breaking point for what I had been seeing as a pattern of careless, thoughtless behavior on her part, that indicated a lack of respect for me. Which was, ultimately, a large part of what was going on -- but we didn't make the mistake of thinking the lawn sprinkler breakage itself was the problem. The problem was that I felt her contempt, and I had been trying to ignore it rather than addressing it head-on.

So I recommend you sit down in a quiet moment and ask him what's really going on,
posted by davejay at 9:21 PM on January 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

Is your child a bad sleeper? I know a lot of people get much more snappy and argumentative when they aren't getting enough sleep, and it sounds like this is a change since you became parents. Could also be that parenting is stressful in general, sure, or it could be just that maintaining a marriage is tough.

I think Tanizaki gave you a good answer. It's important to see both sides of a marital conflict, which is difficult to do from an internet question (and part of why couples' counseling could be helpful).

The way you characterize these conflicts, I can see you may be downplaying the elements that upset him (like the title of the question, it's sort of a sarcastic joke at your husband's expense, which implies that your husband is being ridiculous because he got upset about a tiny dent - but it is unclear whether this is actually what he was most upset about). I can't analyze your relationship from reading this question but this could be a pattern to consider in your own behavior, if you find it rings true, that could be exacerbating an initial reaction. I have myself both snapped at my husband when he did not deserve it, i.e. "how could you leave the bathroom sink running the whole time you were brushing your teeth when you know that drives me crazy!!!?" and I have also noticed myself reacting to him being upset in ways that are condescending or minimize his concerns at times, "so, now you're going to be all negative just because I was trying to do something helpful around the house and it backfired, great". He could respond to the bathroom sink incident by escalating the conflict, but what he usual does is kiss me and say something like "sorry, I will humor you, wife, I know how you feel about running bathroom sink." If he defuses the situation instead of making me more angry, I tend to apologize soon afterwards - "sorry I got angry about the bathroom sink. I was just in a grouchy mood."

To me, leaving out a dirty diaper by accident is not a big deal at all, but he would never do something like that because he's much more neat than I am. One thing that has helped me in being married to someone with a quite different personality than I have is understanding what upsets him isn't always what upsets me, and being sensitive to that has really helped things run smoothly if I can remember to do it.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:22 PM on January 5, 2014 [8 favorites]

I asked my ex-husband to leave our home about 6 months ago. Today I walked into the kitchen and a cabinet door was open and I laughed and closed it. Seven months ago, my stomach would've tightened and I would've been anxious for 30 minutes over it because my ex-husband hated it so much when I left the cabinet doors open and he would've made a huge deal over it. He did the same thing as yours does with the diapers - the diapers that I alone changed.

Now I know it's because he was trying to control every single thing in his life, including me. It's hard being a single parent but much easier than being a parent in an emotionally abusive relationship. Please get your own therapist and work this out (couples therapy might just end up being him finding ways to get the therapist to blame you too). Memail me if you want to talk. Hang in there.
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:23 PM on January 5, 2014 [30 favorites]

Also, what Lyn Never said.
posted by davejay at 9:23 PM on January 5, 2014

I also agree with Lyn Never. Like, when I see the bathroom sink running while my husband is toothbrushing, it doesn't mean just that to me at all. Number 1, it means he never listens to me, because I've told him about how much I hate that like a bazillion and one times. Number 2, he doesn't care about the earth/environment because he refuses to conserve our planet's precious resources, and this is why we're actually a bad match and probably shouldn't be married after all.

And then I realize how I'm catastrophizing about a bathroom sink that was running for 1 minute and I feel pretty dumb.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:27 PM on January 5, 2014 [14 favorites]

No matter how annoyingly clutzy you can be, it's up to him to not snap at you. As a father and your partner he should know that. Tread carefully here, ok?
posted by bleep at 9:37 PM on January 5, 2014

My "sink running" thing was, and is, sharp, dirty knives dropped into the sink basin. Since I was (and am) the one doing the dishes, I'm the one who has on more than one occasion reached for a plate and gotten stabbed in the finger or palm by a knife hiding under the dish.

This is relevant because only two people in my entire life have cavalierly continued to drop dirty, sharp knives into the sink basin despite my oft-repeated requests that they not do it: my now-ex wife, and the person I started dating after my marriage ended. My interpretation (at the time) of my ex-wife doing it: she either doesn't think about or doesn't care about the possibility that I might get hurt through her actions. My interpretation of my girlfriend doing it: exactly the same. But my reaction was/is light-years apart: I shook my head with small annoyance at the girlfriend, but got really resentful at the ex-wife, because it was part of a larger pattern of behavior (and also new twins and sleep depravation, as a stress factor but not an excuse.)
posted by davejay at 9:38 PM on January 5, 2014

If I were to write up a list of the things my ex flipped out about, it would look similar to yours and would likely be just as easy to dismiss, because they were such ridiculous little things, like buying the "wrong" bread. So I spent years trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, because I figured, like most people in this thread, that he was really stressed out about something else and he was just expressing it badly, and I spent years prioritizing his needs and his worries and his wants because of how angry he got when he was "stressed," and so I spent years slowly giving him all the control in the relationship and completely ignoring my own needs and worries and wants, while his anger grew and grew and grew no matter how accommodating, helpful, understanding, or "obedient" I was.

Only you can know if your husband's anger is causing you to walk on eggshells, to be afraid to bring up your own concerns or talk about your own needs, or to change your life or personality to avoid triggering him. I feel that people in this thread are picking at your examples and not paying attention to your indications that this is a continual thing (the diaper thing being an "eg," the mention that you've been fighting for the last few weeks, the fact that it's been going on for at least a year), but it's possible that I'm projecting and the posters minimizing things are right. It's likely worth talking to your husband about what's going on, but if he minimizes his behavior, puts all the blame on you, or otherwise doesn't take responsibility for his part in this, I'd consider this a serious situation.
posted by jaguar at 9:39 PM on January 5, 2014 [20 favorites]

Addendum: in emotionally abusive relationships, people act like this a LOT. I completely agree. I've been in an emotionally/mentally (and at the end, physically) abusive relationship where this behavior was the norm and it piled upon piles. HOWEVER. Here's a little story. When my (second) child was three months old, and I had been running on 3 hours of sleep for months on end, I flipped my shit with his dad over ..... drumroll... using the wrong conditioner.

I kid you not. Daddy used my (super crazy expensive) conditioner on the two kids in their bath, big gloppy careless handfuls of it, I found the bottle that I had wracked myself with guilt and indecision over purchasing in the first place (because I wasn't working, was freaking over money, Daddy was terrible with money and deeply in debt and I was counting every penny to make up for his inattention etc) half empty in the shower one day, and I went berzerk. If you had a secret camera in my bathroom at that moment, it would be allllll over YouTube with everyone telling you how Crazy McCrazypants this chick was and how every man on earth should be running for their lives. The bigger issue of course was (A) this woman reeeeeeeaaaaalllly needs a good 30 hour nap, and (B) I was twisting myself into knots trying to make the bills add up as a stay-at-home parent while he hid expenses, told me I was being way too serious and critical every time I tried to bring up budgeting, and I ended up putting groceries or electric bills on my credit card every month because we couldn't make it till payday; I was upset because I couldn't buy myself a small nicety like expensive conditioner while he spend more than that on lunch every day with his colleagues. (And hey, he moved out in January and I'm STILL paying off that credit card.) So call me a cynic, but there's usually a backstory.

For me personally, it was more of a "good god, I've gone nuts, something needs to give here" wake-up call, where I started drawing some long-overdue boundaries ("I will not put household expenses on my credit card anymore"). We soon broke up. Because I am *not* actually an emotionally abusive person, under any other circumstances, I recognized my Crazy and started to adjust the environment and stressors that spurned it before it got worse. I feel like that's a key distinction. We all (ok, the vast majority of us) have our moments of Crazy, and our choices of how to move forward with that. Your husband may not be so self-aware - or he may just flat be a jerk. We, on the Internet, have no real way of knowing.
posted by celtalitha at 9:41 PM on January 5, 2014 [15 favorites]

Hmm, I'm not sure that his behavior is necessarily abusive. It can be deeply infuriating and very very stressful living with someone who regularly breaks/damages common (expensive) property and who has a lower standard of hygiene than you do. Like the kind of upsetting that means you can never relax because you never know when you're going to have to shell out big money to replace/clean/fix something pricey and necessary. Or try and do some daily activity but be unable to because of mess/hygiene issues. After a while things that are, on their own, well, small stop being no big deal and become part of a pattern of breaking/failing to clean up that you are so wound up and on edge about you escalate to GRARRRR RAGE really quickly. It is absolutely maddening when the breaker-of-things minimises the effect their action has on you. Particularly if they repeatedly say they 'didn't mean to' or 'just forgot' as though this is somehow the point. For the non-breaker/cleaner upper (Me! Can you tell?) the point is that once again you (Or... My sweetie in this case...) have failed to take reasonable preventative steps to avoid breakage/mess and I will have to deal with the fall out.

So. That said. It is OK to be angry when someone's actions affect you negatively and unfairly. It is NOT OK to be mean to the less-careful/messier party when expressing anger/upset. If your husband is mean (and it does sound like he is being), I think he should apologise for the meanness and grarrr. And, um, you could apologise for the cleaning oversight/diaper/bump. Because - partners!

At a time when you're both fairly chilled out could you bring it up with him? (Baby I'm sorry about [incident] but you hurt my feelings when you said [mean stuff] and I'd like to talk about how stressed we both are. Is this part of something bigger? Are you upset with my behavior generally? Because we can talk about that and I can make an effort to do some things differently but I'm not OK with you [calling me names/saying you wouldn't date me etc] cos that shit HURTS.)

If he minimises his hurtfulness and refuses to discuss it and keeps on being a meanie? Well, that's abusive.
posted by t0astie at 12:33 AM on January 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

Is it necessary in a marriage to apologize for innocent mistakes like dropping a laptop?

Yes. It's common courtesy to give a small apology for doing things like this, even if in the end nothing "bad" happened. The laptop didn't break, sure, but dropping it still warrants an, "Oops! I'm so sorry about that. I'll be more careful next time."

That said, your husband sounds like he's being a bit of a jerk. I can't say why, though I suspect it might be the stress of major life changes. He certainly needs to learn how to handle his stress more maturely, but honestly I think both of you could benefit from therapy (both solo and together). I can't imagine being in a relationship where I didn't think it necessary to apologize for mistakes, even small ones.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:58 AM on January 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

My husband accidentally knocked my laptop off a table and it broke. He apologized ("Agh! I am SO sorry!"), and then that was that. I didn't harp on it or 'blame' him in any way, because it could have just as easily been me or the dog who knocked it over, it just happened to be him in this instance. It was an accident - negligence on his part by walking absentmindedly; negligence on my part for not having the laptop squarely on the table -- it wasn't intentional and it wasn't reckless (e.g., he wasn't drunk or playing sports inside). He also understood that some of the money we were saving for other purchases had to be rerouted for a new laptop purchase.

Sometimes accidents are accidents. Sometimes shitty things (like annoying landlords) are just shitty things. It sounds like your husband is ascribing your intention to these things, which is making him upset/unreasonable [causation/correlation problem: Bad thing happened; Wife was involved in the process leading to bad thing; therefore wife caused bad thing]. Regardless of whether this meets your or someone else's definition of "abuse" it is at the very least upsetting to you and having a real impact on your life. If he's tired, or mad, or sick, or sad, or any other emotion, that is fine. He's allowed to feel those things. But he's not allowed to be an ass to the people who are close to him. He needs to learn to process his emotions differently.

I'd sit him down and say "When you do X, if makes me feel Y." If he tries to gaslight your feelings, stay firm. Something like "It doesn't matter whether it's reasonable -- I feel Y" can be helpful. Your feelings are a fact and are not negotiable. You can ask him why he reacts the way he does, but he may not know. I don't think it's unreasonable to request that he see a therapist (on his own, possibly in addition to couples counseling), and/or to make that an ultimatum.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:07 AM on January 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

#1 rule for being in a relationship (besides, like, "don't get into the relationship merely because you are serocompatible and want one of his/her kidneys"): TREAT YOUR PARTNER AT LEAST AS WELL AS YOU WOULD TREAT YOUR BEST FRIEND. Would your husband snap at his friends that way? FUCK NO, because why? Because they would not REMAIN his friends if he pulled that crap. It doesn't matter how klutzy/accident-prone you are... that kind of meanness isn't permissible.
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:11 AM on January 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

I am ADHD and have been effectively married for 27 years to a high strung clean freak. Two important things have worked for me. One is to be aware of my wife's stress levels and when they escalate into abuse. I tell her it's unacceptable. I have to make a clear distinction between what's my behavior and what is their stress/emotional reaction. I'd like to say that I've never apologized to get them to stop escalating, but that wouldn't be true. In any case, neither of us are easy to live with and that's the beauty of marriage. Somehow we make it work.
posted by Xurando at 7:43 AM on January 6, 2014

The best predictor of the strength of a relationship is respect. If you don't respect your partner, or if you feel that he doesn't respect you, chances are your relationship will fail.

Think about this. Do you respect your husband? Are his concerns your concerns? Do you feel that he respects you?

Your husband is clearly on some kind of trip. It may be that he's emotionally abusive, or sleep deprived or in physical pain and testy. What happens when you bring it up? Not as a fight, but in a discussion.

It's important that you both have a conversation about this. "I feel stressed and picked on when you point out my mistakes. It's one thing if it's something big and while I understand that my actions sometimes frustrate you, I want to feel loved and appreciated and your nitpicking about small things make me feel unloved and unappreciated."

Hopefully this would lead to a productive discussion. Ask for what you want, "I am telling you right now, that as long as we have children, the housekeeping is going to be lacking. If you have a problem with this, then we need to hire a maid because I'm busy and you're busy and something has got to give."

What you may discover is that your husband is unhappy in the marriage and this is a symptom of his unhappiness. It sucks, but there it is. You may discover that your husband equates your apparent non-concern for things he considers to be important evidence that you aren't interested in the marriage.

You say you fight a lot. That's not helpful. Do you have good discussions, where you feel heard and respected and he feels heard and respected? If not, there's not a whole lot to save here without some serious changes in your relationship.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:44 AM on January 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

After thinking about this one, in addition to my early reply, I found myself wondering if there isn't something that is bothering him about [something else] that he's stuffing inside. Then it explodes out in other ways. He might always be the "nice guy" but lately dammit he's ready to explode.

So in a non-heated moment talk to him about this.

Also read jenben's comment. It only got 4 favorites so far but it's a good one.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:00 AM on January 6, 2014

Part of his overreaction is probably his perception that you are unapologetic for making mistakes, and the cavalier attitude may anger him more than the mistake itself.

This, from Tanizaki, has already been re-quoted, and still I think it bears repeating.

I agree with those saying a lot of the picture is missing.

-We don't know the division of labor in your home, but people seem to be assuming you do all of the housework. Is this correct? If so, has he demanded it?

-The "wouldn't date you" comment seems very mean without context. It might still be mean but quite different if you'd said something about finding someone else, for example (I'm not saying you did anything of the sort; just saying why it's impossible for strangers to tease this out).

-In the early days when your husband found your klutziness charming, were you more likely to offer unprompted apologies to those impacted by mistakes? The theory that your husband wouldn't talk to friends that way seems right, but would you withhold an apology from a friend if you were late, broke something, etc.?

I tend to be on high alert for abusive situations, and I would hate to see this situation get worse for either of you. I am not dismissing your concerns. If your husband is berating you, calling you names, freezing you out, or anything at all along those lines (even the silent treatment is cruel), yes, that is abusive. But your question sounds more like he's expressing his frustration at your unwillingness to apologize.

So in answer to the question, it might be necessary to apologize for mistakes when failure to do so leaves the other party feeling dismissed or disregarded. Maybe he is demanding apologies, but maybe he is begging for them, albeit in a not-so-tactful way.

Both of you are under immense pressure with jobs and a baby. Playing the blame game will not make this better. Sarcasm and dismissiveness won't help either.

For what it's worth, I'm an over-apologizer, and I balk at the fact that so many more women are this way because of cultural norms. But one last thing:

It's not like he doesn't make mistakes, probably just as many as I do, but it's just not in my nature to get angry about them.

I lived with someone who felt the same about himself. He couldn't see that his anger was partly tempered by my unprompted apologies, and that if I'd been dismissive or defensive about mistakes, he may have been more inclined to get angry. It's very possible your husband is frustrated enough now that he doesn't offer such apologies these days, but is there a chance he did in the past, and that he sees that as a normal social function?
posted by whoiam at 9:56 AM on January 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Alternate take on apologizing/not apologizing for small mistakes:

Just because it's not in your nature to get angry about things like that doesn't mean it's not in his nature to get upset by things like that.

Whenever my husband would make a mistake with regard to something of mine (shrinking wool clothes in the washer, throwing out things that I needed, washing a pair of pants that had my pedometer in them), he would never apologize. "It's wasn't my fault/I was doing you a favor" was his rationale.

That's all fine and dandy, but it still didn't change the fact that my wool skirt/pedometer was ruined or that. I just needed him to say "I'm sorry", not as in "I'm sorry I did XYZ", but as in "I'm sorry that something I did ended up with you being upset." Him not apologizing made me think "I don't care about your feelings."

So I explained that, and yesterday, when he threw out a Christmas card I wanted to keep, he apologized.
posted by Lucinda at 10:00 AM on January 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm of two minds with this question. On the one hand, OF COURSE you apologize when you mess up, even if it was unintentional! Why not? You do not need to do a crazy "I am the worst person ever!!" apology, but if you caused someone pain, why would you not apologize for it? "Whoops, sorry I forgot that diaper!" "Oh no, is your laptop okay? I'm so sorry I bumped you!" etc. That's it. It's like...if you step on someone's foot by mistake, their foot hurts just as much as if you did it on purpose, so you say you're sorry. When you are hurt by something, there is nothing more infuriating than someone saying "Well, I didn't MEAN TO!" Hm, well, too bad, I am hurt anyway so what does it hurt to acknowledge that fact and give a brief apology?

On the other hand, it sounds like your husband is majorly overreacting, and sometimes getting mean. As to whether this is emotional abuse - I don't think it's possible to tell without a further picture. If it is really only these three incidents (or these plus occasional others), then I think he's someone who occasionally snaps/overreacts, which is pretty common especially when people are stressed. A conversation about how BOTH of you can respond to stress (you taking accountability for mistakes, even unintentional ones, and him focusing on removing himself from the situation and cooling off rather than snapping at you) is warranted. If it's happening all the time, then it's a more serious problem and you guys may want to consider couples counseling or more serious option.
posted by rainbowbrite at 10:23 AM on January 6, 2014

I wanted to add two things to my previous answer:

1. "I'm sorry" can have multiple meanings. In some cases, where you are the cause-in-fact of a negative event, it can mean "I apologize for my actions that caused this negative event." In other cases, when some external force has caused a negative event, it can mean "I empathize with your sadness over the occurrence of this negative event."

2. It took a long time to transition from an emotionally abusive relationship with my previous partner to my current relationship with my husband. Often statements my husband would make would be interpreted by me as blaming or accusations or putdowns, when in fact they were benign statements. [For example "We ran out of paper towels." would be interpreted by me as "Way to go melissasaurus, you had ONE job, to get the paper towels, how could you be so irresponsible, etc." which would lead to "I don't love you anymore" in my brain; because this was how it would go in my previous relationship; but all my husband was doing though was mentioning that our current state of paper towel ownership was equal to zero, there was never the followup except in my own mind.] I had just been so conditioned to reacting to my partner's emotions and being at fault or responsible for those emotions that I internalized the process and was doing it to myself. So many needless arguments resulted from this. Once I realized what was happening, I had to tell my husband each time, right away, without letting it stew, that I interpreted his statement as blaming me or whatever else the feeling was. Then he could explain that, no, this was not the case. We both were able to improve our communication in this manner, and I was able to retrain my brain away from the PTSD-esque state it was in as a result of my previous relationship. Now a statement is just a statement without all of the extra baggage.

I don't know if either of these things is relevant to your situation, but maybe it can help you.
posted by melissasaurus at 10:26 AM on January 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

I really find this question perplexing. As others say above, the picture painted is one of being an absolute shitbag even if it isn't emotional abuse (which, taken at face value, it is). On the flip side of that, I have a hard time imagining someone who has found themselves slowly immersed into being emotionally abused parsing about whether an "apology is necessary" in small situation.

So if you are really in a marriage this one-sided and crappy, I apologize for my skepticism and hope you find a course of action that is best for you. You do not deserve to be treated poorly and abused for the minor transgressions that are simply part of being human.

That aside, my gut tells me that this is a really one-sided question that was written to help you feel like it's okay not to say you're sorry when you make a mistake. Why wouldn't you say you're sorry? What's the big cost?

It's not okay for your husband to lose his shit when (if) you bump him and make him drop something. Not if you dent something and it's going to cost the two of you money you can't spare, not if the laptop explodes into a million pieces. Being shitty to your loved one is crappy, being consistently shitty to them is awful.

But are you writing yourself a pass from apologizing for things you didn't mean to do because they're accidents? Are you not taking ownership of your mistakes and then devaluing your husband's reactions by saying he doesn't have any right to his own anger? Because there's a difference between saying that someone should react with love and respect to their partner's mistakes and saying that they don't have a right to any negative emotions at all.

You can't control his actions but you can control your own. If this is not an emotional abuse situation and instead one where the two of you have staked out territory that has led you into an escalating feedback-loop ugliness (he thinks you're refusing to take responsibility and try to do better so he's loud and shitty at you, you think he's being loud and shitty for no reason so you won't offer token apologies and declare this is as good as it's going to be and I have every reason) then you should try to break the loop.

Personally I think you need to find time for counseling. You've clearly gotten into this situation and aren't able to change it - you're not even asking here for how to change it, you're asking if you're right or wrong. IMNSHO you need to stop caring about right and wrong and start caring about fixing it. That's true whether you're being emotionally abused or not.
posted by phearlez at 11:00 AM on January 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

As far as these particular incidents go, your husband needs to shut up and take some responsibility.

I'm not going to say "emotionally abusive" because it could easily be "stressed out and being a dick."

Either way, this particular behavior is on him and not you. However, my guess is that there's more to the story here (how's your sex and married life outside of this?).

Also, what @jbenben said.
posted by cnc at 11:46 AM on January 6, 2014

I think this is a common dynamic in relationships where one partner has mental health issues they aren't addressing.

You're being disorganized but 'trying your best'. Your best being struggling through ADHD rather than seeking medication, therapy or other things. Eventually you become so at home with being ADHD, you decide that it's really great you only forgot one wet diaper, or got so excitable you barely dented the floor rather than bust an expensive laptop.

Now you take it for granted that ADHD should affect not just your life negatively, but also your partner's and your child's life. You think it's so obvious that you have ADHD, you refuse to even apologize when it affects your larger life.

Sometimes it's hard to articulate all of that, or even be aware that's the underlying factor. But I'm throwing that out there to chew on.
posted by politikitty at 11:54 AM on January 6, 2014

You'd be surprised how much less clumsy and forgetful I am when I'm not surrounded by people who are just waiting for me to 'fuck up' so they have an excuse to berate me. You are not the (entire) problem here.

If it were me, I'd get couples counseling - because whether you decide to stay in this relationship or not, you've got a child to raise together and it can only benefit everyone to learn ways to relate to one another that don't make you miserable.

Best of luck to you.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:02 PM on January 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Mod note: This is a followup from the asker.
* He definitely does half of the housework and child care, except I did more when I was breastfeeding with the middle-of-the-night feedings.

* I have my ADHD under treatment, but I couldn't take my medication when I was pregnant or breastfeeding.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:57 PM on January 6, 2014

Seconding what phearlez says. I was brief in my own mention of the blame game, because I'd already gone on quite long, but really, this concerned me:

Is he being unreasonable, or am I?

Things are rarely so black and white. So long as one party is set on proving the other wrong or "winning" an argument, everyone loses, and I do mean everyone including children. I realize your son is very young now, but patterns can live on, so please nip this one in the bud (it does seem like you're trying to by seeking advice, so kudos, seriously).

Therapy/counseling can be great, but I'm also very sympathetic to the impracticalities when it comes to work, child, etc. If you can go, please do. Emotional abuse is terribly damaging, and I didn't mean to downplay that fact. If you are afraid, seek help immediately. Wishing you well, really and truly (I wouldn't keep coming back to this question otherwise).
posted by whoiam at 3:01 PM on January 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

It doesn't sound like this is about you, personally. Maybe you are the originator of the triggering action (cleaner supervising, laptop jostling, whatever), but there is something deeper internally that is going on with your husband and he's projecting that internal stress outward when something disturbs his calm. You're just the most likely to be the trigger because you're around a lot. It's probably unconscious on his part. He might feel jerky after but then he would feel more jerky and awkward to admit guilt so he wants you to be the guilty one.

Step back from the small squabble. Unfair as it is, don't take it personally. Everybody has a bobble now and then and you shouldn't have to work to justify yourself for accidents. Shit happens. You're going to need to talk to him (not argue), maybe with a counsellor, to ferret out the larger underlying problem and make sure your husband knows you and he are on the same team versus whatever stressors come into your combined life. Right now he's attacking you and ignoring his issues.

The less personally you take his snippy attitude, the easier it will be to get to the real problem (whatever issue is on his mind, or hey, maybe he's actually a huge jerk) and take action to resolve it.
posted by griselda at 11:52 PM on January 7, 2014

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