Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
May 1, 2006 6:39 PM   Subscribe

I have been in a troubled marriage for so long, I have lost perspective on how bad it may or may not be. Outside opinions welcome.

My husband and I have been married for 14 years and we have a 12-year-old child, who has some learning disabilities. He would never think of hurting us physically, but we live in a state of constant fear due to his emotional outbursts.

He is very angry about the lack of tidiness in our house. I have never been a tidy person, and he knew this when we married. We do have a housekeeper (1x/week), but there's a lot of clutter in our house. He recently told me "I am through with you as a person" as part of an outburst over the clutter. However, this drastic statement was not followed up on, although I told him how hurtful it was and tried to understand what he meant. Our stressful life together goes on.

When he helps our child with homework, he is very severe. They shout at each other. He doesn't seem to understand her limitations. He yells and force-feeds her information, and thinks that it's more important that she get a B in math than that she is a happy kid. She often asks me not to talk about her grades, or her losing things, to her father out of fear of how aggressively he will react.

We're never on the same page about anything regarding our child. He'll give one punishment to our child, which he has not discussed with me first, and they are usually so far beyond the infraction that I don't find them appropriate.

He's a workaholic, and in his time off he pursues a hobby on the internet that we do not share, though I do enjoy the real life manifestation of the hobby, which we do as a family a few times a year. I am very interested in playing and listening to and dancing to and writing about a genre of music that he does not like, so our time is very separate.

He comes from a verbally abusive family. His parents split up when his dad took up with his secretary, after a nine year affair. His mom totally lost it, and the kids that were still at home lost all respect for her. He was 16 at the time. I imagine he's still very angry, and feels a need to control his home environment.

On a recent get-together with his family, he browbeat our child so constantly that his sister intervened, pointing out that this was his only interaction with the child. She asked my permission before speaking with him, and after she spoke with him he insisted we leave and would not talk to me about why he was so upset with his sister.

My own family history includes my father dying when I was 6. We were very close, but he did spank me when I did something that was dangerous. My mother remarried when I was 11 and divorced after two years. Like my husband, my stepfather was very bright and could not stand my limitations as a child, which have continued into adulthood (i.e. messiness, having no sense of time). I was not privy to my mother’s relationship problems with this man, so I don’t know why they split.

We do however have a very hot sex life. Darn it.

But I am tired of feeling constant stress. My health is suffering. Our child could use some time when she doesn't have to worry about being yelled at over minor infractions. I've been yelling at her, too, lately about household messiness. Which is rich, coming from me--but I just get worn down.

We live in California, in comfortable circumstances. He works, I don't. As I see it, my options are:

1) to attempt to drag him into counseling with me, which I've tried but he fights
2) to separate, but I don't know what my rights are. Can I just ask him to leave the house and stay with our child? Do she and I have to go live in an apartment, and if so how would we pay for it?
3) to do nothing

I would welcome feedback from anyone who has been on any side of a similar situation, husband, wife or kid, or lawyer, or family member, or friend. This inertia is killing me, and my kid, and my friends. Help!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (62 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
1. See a counselor yourself, with your daughter.

2. Consult a lawyer as to exactly what your financial rights would be if you separate--it sounds as though it would be better for all of you.
posted by Cricket at 6:50 PM on May 1, 2006

Divorce him. Given the description you provide, I feel strongly that this is in your child's and your own best interests.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:00 PM on May 1, 2006

It is, of course, abuse. The situation has to change, especially for your child. Talking to the lawyer would be a good step so you know what is feasable, then it may be worth it to make a fair ultimatium, X needs to happen (counseling, decrease to elimination of abuse etc) or you need to start paying child support becasue we are leaving. If you think it may come to that it might be wise to descertly document the instances as they happen in case it comes down to a custody case. As well, if you DO make an ultimatium spell everything out overtly and follow through.
posted by edgeways at 7:01 PM on May 1, 2006

As a child, I was in a household similar to the one you describe, with a workaholic, emotionally abusive father. For many years my mother thought she couldn't leave because "it would be better for the children" to keep the family together. I can tell you that when there is verbal abuse, separating is much better for the children.

Therefore in my opinion you should separate. Looking into your rights first, as Cricket suggested, is the way to go.
posted by medusa at 7:02 PM on May 1, 2006

Your husband sounds a lot like my father-in-law who has managed to drive everyone except his wife away with his outbursts, control issues and general bad attitude, and we're all sure that his wife only stays out of a sense of duty or inertia. His kids all hate and resent him, we in-laws bite our tongues and put up with his taunts and insults. Your description of his interaction with your daughter sounds especially familiar, I've heard (and in a few cases seen) this exact thing. Anything redeeming about him has disappeared due to his inability to accept personal responsibility for his situation.

If you think your marriage worth saving, drag him, kicking and screaming, to a councillor. If you don't get him some relationship counseling you will most likely only succeed in making yourself and your daughter miserable and spare him the comfort of not having to make a personal effort to change for the better. If he is simply unwilling to compromise for the continued happiness of his marriage and family, I would suggest that you get the hell out.

IANAL, but unless you can prove abuse of a substantial nature I don't think you can simply make him leave the house without his consenting to go.
posted by lekvar at 7:02 PM on May 1, 2006

In the 1990s, an A.D.D. brother just about tore my parents' marriage apart. Learning disabilities can do that, especially when the schools are no help. "The kid's an albatross" was a he catch phrase. There was a lot of stomping out of the house and a lot of bad expertise coming in -- people from the school district terrifying them into thinking the kid was on the verge of becoming an "oppositional defiant" monster, doomed never to return, and that it was all their fault. The house was full of pressure and fear.

Anyway, 10 years later they're very happy and everyone's doing fine, all of this stuff is a distant memory. (Their own verbally abusive parents have passed on.) I guess my advice would be, recognize how much the L.D. kid and his troubles have become the defining part of your own troubles, and look at that separately from the issue of whether your marriage is worth it.

I'm no marriage counselor, but your household doesn't sound so different from mine, so I just wanted to offer testimony to an optimistic scenario for it turning out OK. In mine, it took faith that the kid would be OK down the road somewhere, even if he wasn't doing great at school. School isn't everything. (But after homeschooling and making up high school at a junior college, he's now blossoming, long after the years when it constantly felt like the end of the world.)
posted by Kirklander at 7:03 PM on May 1, 2006

This man is abusing your daughter. If you love your child, you will leave him. Period.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 7:11 PM on May 1, 2006

As a child, I was in a household similar to the one you describe, with a workaholic, emotionally abusive father. For many years my mother thought she couldn't leave because "it would be better for the children" to keep the family together. I can tell you that when there is verbal abuse, separating is much better for the children.

I was coming here to write pretty much the same thing. It's terrible to be a kid who 1) gets yelled at all the time for no reason by an angry parent, no matter what the reason or rationalization, and 2) sees the other parent staying in a situation where they (the kid) continue to get yelled at. Oddly, now as an adult I get along much better with the formerly yelling parent who has mellowed a bit over time, but I have a much dicier relationship with the parent I perceived as the apathetic parent, who was smart enough to know I shouldn't be getting yelled at and, in my eyes, did nothing. I'd like to forgive her, but I am finding it very hard to do.

I concur that something needs to give, if not for you for your child. If you can't do that this instant, start making a plan to do it soon (save money, make contacts, etc.) I grew up thinking that my father would get so mad at me one day that he would kill me, despite the fact that he was never physically abusive to me. It's a lousy way to live. Get help, some sort of help.
posted by jessamyn at 7:13 PM on May 1, 2006 [2 favorites]

anonymous, thanks for speaking up.

Simply put, you cannot stay in this situation. No one is happy, and its an unpleasant place for your child to be. I urge you to leave for the sake of the child, if nothing else.

"How to leave" though, is the hard question. You need to consult a divorce attorney, and soon. Your attorney will be able to help you through the steps. It is even possible that you and your child will be allowed to stay in the family home and your husband will be asked to seek residence elsewhere.

You need, also, to seek counseling for yourself and your child. Do this even if you do nothing else.

You may be fortunate in that his family, or at least portions of his family (say, for example, his sister) will be "on your side" throughout this.

Divorce is not easy, but it is easier than living this way for another eight or ten years (at least). In certain cases, your request for divorce can even be a wake-up call to your husband that he needs to take the steps necessary to become a better man, a better husband, a better father.

Please ask around and find a good attorney. An attorney will be able to help.
posted by anastasiav at 7:15 PM on May 1, 2006

[trailing my first post...]

Now, I suppose some sort of rationalization is required, because I doubt the answer is written so plainly to every other person.

I am not a professional counsellor and I do not play one on MetaFilter. The reader henceforth assumes all risks.

You have described a man who is emotionally abusive. He is abusing a twelve year-old girl. She is a child at one of the most vulnerable times in her life. He is abusing her. The damage will be life-long.

You have had a taste of what it is like to be emotionally abused, both as a child and an adult. You know that your daughter is being placed at risk of becoming an adult woman who also seeks emotional abuse. You know how soul-crushing it becomes.

You can not rationally choose to raise your daughter in an environment that will put her on the same abuse loop in life that you have taken upon yourself. A loving mother can not wish that upon her daughter.

I understand the fear you face at the thought of divorcing this man. The unknown future is a scary prospect. It will undoubtedly prove a difficult path.

Nonetheless, it is the path you must take. I believe you will find that despite its challenges, it ends up saving both your daughter and yourself.

It is one hell of a first step. But it is a step that commits you to success: you must choose to sink or swim. I believe that if you enter this with a healthy mindset, you will succeed. It will be difficult, but it will wholly change your life.

If you sink, at least sink in a way that saves your daughter. She's within a few years of having the independence of mind and will to be capable of choosing to thrive at school and work. And, I should hope, to not put up with shit from men.

Your question was well-written. I get a sense that with the exception of relationships, you've got your shit together quite well and have a network of resources you can draw upon to help you through this experience.

Be good to yourself and your daughter.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:17 PM on May 1, 2006

Do you have any skills? If you leave him, you'll need to get a job of some kind. It would probably be better if you could find something while you were with him rather than having to scramble after the fact. You probably can get money from him, but I wouldn't want to count on it -- particularly where the child is concerned.

If you're working, who would take care of the child? Is she able to care for herself after school and before you'd get home from work?

Do you have people you can stay with who could help you if you left?
posted by willnot at 7:19 PM on May 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm not going to give you my overall point of view on this. I'm going to give you a point of view no one else probably will. So bear that in mind. This is one perspective for you to consider. I'm sure you'll get plenty of "just leave him" so I'm purposely going to craft a different type of response.

It sounds like your husband has some problems. Most people do. The problems you report sound, to me, like they have a high variance of interpretation. In other words, you perceive that he browbeats your child, but you may have a bias of perception that exaggerates that. You sound different and no doubt approach problems differently. You may not like his manner or way of dealing with his child, and this disagreement may or may not be worth splitting.

When you say "they yell at each other" during homework, I think "that's not good." But I also think: "is the child getting yelled at and crying?" If not, then maybe there's nothing horribly wrong. Yes, parents can drive children very hard. Don't forget that this is one form of attention. If the child is not exhibiting signs of psychological damage, and if, as you say, there is no danger of physical harm, then I think it's only wise for you to slow down and figure out how much of this is just you disagreeing with the way he communicates.

I come from a family that yells and my father was very tough with me as a kid: loud, scary, authoritarian. He never hurt me, though, and he took good care of me in the big picture. We now have a very close and loving relationship, and we still yell at each other. Yelling is not the end of the world (though some people think it is). Your child may love him fiercely despite the volume of their interactions. It's possible that you pity her disproportionately because of her condition, and see his interactions with her as abusive because of that. Perhaps he thinks you don't challenge her enough and treat her like an irredeemable invalid. I don't know. I'm just guessing that there's a certain level of perception at work here. It's so hard when all you get is one side of the story, anonymously.

Your disapproval of his way of treating others is definitely an issue you guys need to talk about and find a solution for. I wouldn't argue that. But I am not 100% convinced from what you wrote that he is a bad, bad man and you just need to scoop up your kid and run.

For one thing, I have a hard time imagining how you can have a great sex life with someone who is truly abusing your child. I dunno... life is strange. But there are some odd points in your story. I would suggest that you take a step back and try to put BOTH of your points of view into perspective, and decide what is your perception, and what is objectively not acceptable for anyone to live with. It sounds like you came here for outside perspectives in an effort to do just this. So good first step.

A counselor may be able to help. It sounds like you've got a viable relationship to work with in there, somewhere. If splitting up is the right thing, then perhaps counseling will lead you to that, too. It's not inconceivable that your husband could tame his temper, though.

Give it a chance. If it takes threats of divorce to get your husband into counseling, that's what it takes. Just beware: fiery tempers don't respond well to threats.
posted by scarabic at 7:21 PM on May 1, 2006

We do however have a very hot sex life. Darn it.

This is so out of place with the rest of the post that I'm not sure how to respond, if at all. I think, anon, you would benefit from intensive counseling in order to figure out why you are still sexually attracted to an abusive husband and father. This all seems very Jerry Springer.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:28 PM on May 1, 2006

On a recent get-together with his family, he browbeat our child so constantly that his sister intervened, pointing out that this was his only interaction with the child.

As one example, in this sentence you seem to be saying: "Look! Even his own sister thinks he overdoes it!" as an appeal to an outside authority.

It reminds me of my brother, who is constantly bugging his son to say please, say thank you, answer grandma she's talking to you, put your fork down on your plate not the table, sit up straight, ask before you stand, blah blah blah.... it's super-irritating because it's the only time I get to see the kid, and it's filled with nagging and "browbeating." I often ask him to relax and give us all a break for fuck's sake, and we have argued about it. But the kid's not being abused. He's being raised. My brother is a loving father, but he can still bug the hell out of 3rd parties who observe his parenting style. That doesn't mean his wife should leave him.
posted by scarabic at 7:29 PM on May 1, 2006

Ask your husband two simple questions:

"Does he like who he is when he yells at your child?"

"Does he work better/faster/smarter if someone yells at him?"

If he answers yes to either/both, seek counseling and legal help.
If he becomes thoughtful, there may be something worth saving and only counseling may be necessary.

Realistically, he see himself as "right" and you, the kids, and everyone else as "wrong." If he concedes that there may be a better way to live harmoniously with the family, then he should be open for a positive future.

He needs to see your parental guidance as important (actually more important than his), as you're the parent that's around the kids most of the time. He's a secondary parent, and his immediate reactions are like parenting by phone - you can give guidance, but that's no substitute to being there.

As you've said, he's tired, overworked, goes to the internet (vs. spending time with his children) for his spare time. Regardless of the sex (which, likely is angry sex; part of your attraction to him is just that.)

He (and to a lesser extent) you have created creatures (children) who will learn that this method of child rearing is how they ought to raise their own children.

Counselling is definitely warranted; you should absolutely talk to a women's shelter for emotional and legal advice.

But most important in my eyes is that you might have something worth salvaging. It's easy enough to find out his intentions (and yet protect yourself at the same time.)
posted by filmgeek at 7:31 PM on May 1, 2006

All of my comments, above, address the way he treats your kid. Perhaps you should leave him because you don't like him at all. You don't need to prove he's abused your child to get permission to leave him. If you don't like being married to him, you are justified in leaving anytime.
posted by scarabic at 7:31 PM on May 1, 2006

Definitely go to a counselor, with or without him. Here is a list of resources in California that may help you.
posted by hooray at 7:36 PM on May 1, 2006

There have been some good replies here so I won't say much, except this: please, for pity's sake don't read too much into the fact that you have good sex with this jerk. Sex is a mad, mindless beast - or at least it can be - and should never be any sort of deciding factor in whether or not you stay with someone who is behaving so abominably towards you and your child in other areas.

Some people have great sex with hookers, you know? How much does that mean?
posted by Decani at 7:42 PM on May 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

I was coming here to write pretty much the same thing. It's terrible to be a kid who 1) gets yelled at all the time for no reason by an angry parent, no matter what the reason or rationalization, and 2) sees the other parent staying in a situation where they (the kid) continue to get yelled at. Oddly, now as an adult I get along much better with the formerly yelling parent who has mellowed a bit over time, but I have a much dicier relationship with the parent I perceived as the apathetic parent, who was smart enough to know I shouldn't be getting yelled at and, in my eyes, did nothing. I'd like to forgive her, but I am finding it very hard to do.

Whoa. We have the same parents.

What I'm seeing is that you let him browbeat your daughter. You're not defending her. You're not even defending yourself when he tells you he's through with you as a person. You cannot be passive with this behavior. Pull whatever resources you have from family, friends, and coworkers and make plans. Make contingency plans if those fall through. Start getting your finances in order. Start scoping out lawyers. This is not healthy. This is not right. Go. Now.
posted by pieoverdone at 7:43 PM on May 1, 2006

I cannot tell (either from personal experience or from your description) whether your husband would simply find other issues to become "very angry" over, but given your comfortable circumstances, a couple of short-term small-picture strategies come to mind; increasing the times per week that you use housekeeping services, and hiring a tutor with learning disability experience who can work with your daughter on her homework. Maybe such assistance could help him to be more patient with her on family outings too.
posted by PY at 8:07 PM on May 1, 2006 the sense that, if struggling through her homework is exhausting and stressful for both parents, reducing that load may free up energy for more positive interactions with her.
posted by PY at 8:14 PM on May 1, 2006

Don't mistake "having two parents" for "doing what's right for the child."
posted by Ironmouth at 8:31 PM on May 1, 2006

In no particular order...

* If I was paying for your stay-at-home lifestyle, I'd be pretty bitter about your failure to keep a tidy home. There's a reason that stay at home mothers are called home-makers. Whatever else happens, I think you should learn to clean up around the house. It only takes a few minutes a day, and a couple of hours once or twice a week to keep most houses very tidy. I mean, really - you have have professional help and you still can't get your house in order? Even when it's upsetting your husband to such a great extent that he threatens to leave you over it? Just what would it take to get you clean?

* It's very hard to address much of what you say with only one side of the story, perhaps rather than abusive, he's just loud, or perhaps he really is terrifying to be around, I have no way of knowing how realistic your view of the world actually is. This makes it hard, as scarabic already said, to address much of this. You'll have to be the judge here.

* I think children should be challenged, that your child has a learning disability might be justification for changing the sights to a more realistic B rather than an A. Living with a disability, your child will have to get used to working harder than other people in order to achieve. There's no reason learning can't be fun though, and it's a shame your husband is apparently taking a too-strict approach, but this is better than not caring. He works your kid hard because he wants his child to succeed.

* I think that having great sex is a really important part of a relationship, so it's wonderful that you've already got this down.

* AskMe is notorious for suggesting that people cut and run, this has become something of a joke to many people, so do read what you see in this thread critically. And I think it's really great that you're trying to work on things - it's obvious that you are or you wouldn't have asked the question to begin with.

Now, I say work on it. And when you're doing that, I think it's important to consider the possibility that your husband mightn't be the sole cause of all the problems in your relationship. If you do decide to work on this more, and I really hope you do, take a good look at what you can improve in yourself as well as what you'd like to change in your husband.

Remember that the easiest way to institute great changes is by using the thind end of the wedge technique, get the little things changed first, and sneak the big things in when no one is even looking. This will be hard with your husband, as he's clearly been living a certain way for his whole life. But wow great would things be if you taught him to speak in a softer voice?
posted by The Monkey at 8:53 PM on May 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

Also, I think PY's suggestion for getting a tutor to help your child would be a great idea - even without the other problems you're having with your husband.

(And I meant "thin end of the wedge", of course.)
posted by The Monkey at 8:56 PM on May 1, 2006

I think Monkey should get a checkmark for best non-mainstream expression of opinion so far. I think Monkey has a rational skeptical view, ie. does not paint her as a Jerry Springer case. In the latter case, we are being gamed, and I prefer not grant OPs the benefit of the doubt. The woman Monkey describes is sincere and could well live next door to me.

I take the OP at face value, assuming no significant distortion of reality on her part. I can accomodate that and counter the "I have a hard time imagining how you can have a great sex life with someone who is truly abusing your child" opinion with this fact: a whole lot of people develop unhealthy relationships that are based on childhood abuse. It is not at all beyond reasonable to assume this woman is a smart and loving parent who nonetheless is sexually attracted to horrible men.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:10 PM on May 1, 2006

I spent four years in a relationship where I was afraid of my partner's anger. From that, here are some thoughts:

Shouting, per se, or him getting upset sometimes is not bad. You feeling afraid of him, and him not being willing to deal with you in another way, or go to counseling about it is bad. That plus major parenting decisions being made without consultation starts sounding like complete disregard for your feelings.

"'I am through with you as a person'.... although I told him how hurtful it was and tried to understand what he meant."
"I imagine he's still very angry, and feels a need to control his home environment."

Maybe you just included these to make sure we knew you're a thoughtful, reasonable person. But what I did was to give my partner more understanding and compassion than I gave myself. I know what you mean about "constant stress." I made some bad choices while under that stress. Life choices got shaped around escaping or minimizing his anger. I imagine this is affecting your and your daughter's lives in the same very deep way... I didn't quite realize the costs for myself at the time.

Getting out was a long process. I began somewhere near where you sound -- I knew I wasn't being treated right, but I kept putting up with it and felt unable to leave. It took me about a year of counseling. That put me in a position where a really bad outburst from him was enough for me to end things. All to say, it's a long process, and you have many more logistics. But you can do it. For me, it was baby steps. Leaving was too big for me, but counseling wasn't... The small actions you take because you value yourself and your child enough to insist that you get treated right will eventually snowball. The easiest way to not be scared of someone's anger is to get them out of your life.

Our physical relationship was fine too. Doesn't mean anything. Obviously, you want a good physical relationship and to feel safe, not walking on eggshells.

Random thought: adult ADD is associated with bad time management and messiness.

My email's in my profile if you want to discuss.
posted by salvia at 9:13 PM on May 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

As far as I can tell, the sex is the only thing you are staying in the relationship for. It's the only positive thing you said about the marriage in your post.

But I found the remark about your sex life so inappropriate in relation to what was happening to your daughter, that I strongly suggest you examine yourself ruthlessly to see what buttons you may be pushing in your husband to keep him angry so the sex will be good.

My personal impression is that there is a strong S&M component to this story - as in you like sex with an angry and controlling man, he likes sex with a frightened and submissive woman.

But to maintain this at the expense of your daughter's sanity is selfish in the extreme. She comes first at all times.

You cannot change another person. You cannot change your husband. You can only change yourself and your relation to your husband. And giving your daughter a calm and nurturing home should be your first priority.
posted by Nicholas West at 9:17 PM on May 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yes, like scarabic I'm taken aback by the cries of "abuse!"

You have not mutually agreed on your expectations for your child or your approach to parenting. Perhaps he sees himself as having to be tough on your daughter because he thinks you are slack. Having to be the stern one may be making him all the angrier.

There is nothing wrong with unilateral action IF it is in accord with a mutual understanding. I don't discuss discipline of my daughter with her mother, my partner, or her stepfather, but we all agree on a general approach and trust each other to do the right thing.

You are describing a marriage where you don't share values and don't share respect for one another. It may well be that with someone helpful facilitating you can reach agreements on some things and compromises on the others.

Please keep alive the possibility that he might mellow out into a more tolerant and pleasant human being if you can negotiate ways for collective needs to be met. I second the calls for counselling - family therapy, even. Separation should be the last step, not the first. Your husband sounds like a tightly wound, unhappy man whose shoulders are just not quite broad enough. He might be relieved at the prospect of laying down his burden.

So my pitch would run: I am unhappy. You are unhappy. Our daughter is unhappy. We cannot carry on like this. I want us to get help as a family.

If he doesn't got for it, then you can look at separation. Separation need not be the end if he will co-operate with you.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:18 PM on May 1, 2006

Oh yeah, "I am a messy person."

That's cool. But EITHER you persuade him to be more tolerant OR you compromise. You can stay a messy person, but you can be a messy person who spends five minutes per day picking up shit and putting it away. If both of you feel that your behaviour is a crucial, unchangeable, non-negotiable part of your identity then this relationship is doomed. But quite likely so are your future ones.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:23 PM on May 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

But I found the remark about your sex life so inappropriate in relation to what was happening to your daughter, that I strongly suggest you examine yourself ruthlessly to see what buttons you may be pushing in your husband to keep him angry so the sex will be good.

Hmm, I do know a guy who dated a girl who admitted she would provoke him in order to get good 'angry sex' out of him.

Anyway, the people here saying the girl is being abused, please. They're punishments that the OPP describe are what she considers 'excessive', but she hasn't given any specific examples, so we don't know if they're excessive or if she's just excessively lax.

Also, AskMe seems to judge sex quality as the central criterion of relationship quality, so by those metrics this one must be worth keeping.

It would be good if you could get him into couples therapy, though.
posted by Paris Hilton at 9:33 PM on May 1, 2006

It's a shame the OP can't reply easily because I really want to know more about this (re counselling) "which I've tried but he fights."
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:46 PM on May 1, 2006

This is not to be considered legal advice, but, California is a community property state, which means (with a few limitations) everything he earned during the marriage is half yours. You should, however, see a competent divorce lawyer as this can get complicated.
posted by bananafish at 10:00 PM on May 1, 2006

If I was paying for your stay-at-home lifestyle, I'd be pretty bitter about your failure to keep a tidy home. There's a reason that stay at home mothers are called home-makers.

Yet it's interesting that they're called "stay-at-home moms" and not "stay-at-home housekeepers." Or even "stay-at-home wives." Her "job" in this scenario is raising her kid, a kid with a learning disorder to boot, and not being a maid for her husband.

I've never been the primary parent for a 12-year-old with learning disabilities severe enough for the school district to be threatening her with major psychological disorders to come, so maybe I'm grossly overestimating the time and energy that requires, but I'm guessing that 35-40 hours a week wouldn't be overstating the time commitment too much, assuming you're also taking care of the shopping and meals for the family, and you don't get weekends or evenings off.

Which is not to say that you shouldn't try to find some sort of compromise on the state of the house, if it's possible to do so. But you also shouldn't have to listen to crap pronouncements from outsiders about the easyriding leech-like life you supposedly lead as you put in the equivalent of a full-time job (and probably then some) of RAISING YOUR CHILD.

Nice that that generates so much respect here. If it only takes "15 minutes a day," why can't her husband handle it?
posted by occhiblu at 10:18 PM on May 1, 2006

You're a grownup and can make your own decisions about what you can stand. Figure out exactly how this is affecting your daughter, who doesn't have the power to leave. She is at a critical point for figuring out what male-female relationships are supposed to be like based on not only how her father is treating her, but how he is treating you. Does your husband really want to raise a daughter who will grow up to believe that excusing/accomodating angry behavior or bullying is to be expected of her if she wants a man to love her and share "hot sex" with her? If this is really as severe as you say it is, she is learning to forgive/ignore far too much. If you can't get him into counseling with you, at least get some counseling for your daughter (who might have self-esteem issues with the L.D. even without a frustrated parent).
posted by availablelight at 10:20 PM on May 1, 2006

Also--in the eyes of a child, silence is consent. If she is really feeling oppressed by his anger towards her, I'm willing to bet that at some point--if you don't at least acknowledge what's going on--she will begin to feel betrayed by you as well for not defending her. If not now, in her 20's....
posted by availablelight at 10:24 PM on May 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

If I was paying for your stay-at-home lifestyle, I'd be pretty bitter about your failure to keep a tidy home.

Wow. Something about that strikes me as outrageous. Maybe it's because we, none of us, know enough about this woman or her situation to judge why her home is messy, or how messy it is, or whether her husband is being unreasonable. That's without getting into the argument over whether it's fair for her to be charged with the entire responsibility of raising a child, keeping the house clean, doing the laundry, buying the groceries, cooking the dinner, et cetera.

What we do know is that she posted this with tags "emotional abuse" and "verbal abuse." If she feels she is being abused, she probably is. And should begin by seeing a counselor. Or, if that is not an option, seek out the family doctor, or minister or rabbi, or friends and family.

I grew up in an abusive home -- where my mother, like so many others, stayed because she didn't know how to make it as a single parent and because she didn't think it would be good for me to grow up fatherless. In truth, it was far worse for her and for me that she stayed.

To anonymous:

What does it feel like when your husband yells? Better yet, what does it feel like the rest of the time? If you find you're dreading the good days because it means a bad day is around the corner, you are almost certainly in an abusive situation.

That doesn't mean divorce is the only option. There are a million possibilities. But the one thing you cannot do is let things continue as they are.
posted by brina at 10:31 PM on May 1, 2006

Not to be too flippant about your situation, but if my wife was a stay at home mom with one 12 year old, and the house was constantly cluttered and dirty, I would be contantly pissed.
"He knew this when we got married" is a lame excuse for making your husband and child live in a packrat home.
Seriously, grow up. You can't commit to being on time and de-cluttering because it gives you a sense of control.
You have that control, and you're miserable about it, because it's a sick sick way of living.
The good news is you still have a couple of years to try and show your daughter that people can change, and that she's worth it to you to change for (hopefully your husband will see this and want to get in on the love, too).
If you clean your house, and fully de-clutter, it would be a gesture of love toward your family, and it would be a bargaining chip to get him into some family therapy with you.
Get some communication going between the 2 of you and settle on a consistant manner of raising your daughter and stick to it.
If he sees you putting the effort forth, and he still won't get into some family counseling with you, then you need to start the separation process and hope they award the child to the one who can't grow up and clean and de-clutter instead of the one who yells sometimes.
Seriously, get a garbage bag, and just start throwin stuff away, RIGHT NOW. put it in a bag and throw it in the garbage, the for real garbage thats outside, too. dont play.
posted by BillBishop at 10:34 PM on May 1, 2006

So she either gets Bs OR she's a happy kid? Will she be a happy kid if she gets below average grades? I'd be surprised if her grades improve as she gets into junior high and high school.

There's something weird going on here, and I don't know for sure that it's the husband. Probably it's a package deal. It sounds like you and your daughter are us-against-him, with you guys as the passive victims. I hope that's not true, but that's how it's coming across.

IANACounselor, but it sounds like counseling for all might be in order; if the husband won't go, you should go without him.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:41 PM on May 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

Anyway, the people here saying the girl is being abused, please. They're punishments that the OPP describe are what she considers 'excessive', but she hasn't given any specific examples, so we don't know if they're excessive or if she's just excessively lax.

I don't know if I would swing so far the other direction, but there are some dubious moments in this post, such as how the punishments the husband metes out: "are usually so far beyond the infraction that I don't find them appropriate."

The thing there is that she finds them inappropriate. That's all we know, and we can't tell if they're grounds for charges of abuse, grounds for divorce, or just differences in parenting style. We don't know that the husband's methods are objectively inapproprate (such as: against the law, matching symptoms of any mental disorder, or detrimental to the child in any way). They're so excessive she finds them inappropriate. What does that mean?

There's so much room for interpretation on this one that I can see no other conclusion than that this thread will go on forever. Hopefully, anon. will glean some kind of decent sanity check before it becomes too insanely acrimonious.
posted by scarabic at 10:43 PM on May 1, 2006

availablelight's take on it is my first take on it, too. I believe first and foremost you must ask yourself -- ruthlessly -- what kind of relationship you and your husband are modeling for your daughter. Does your relationship with your husband (and each of your individual relationships with your daughter) show her how to be a strong, self-respecting, self-reliant, responsible, loving, stable person? Are you showing her to see herself as an equal to others? Are you showing her how to stand up for herself? To be treated respectfully? To show kindness and tolerance for herself and others?

Being able to answer "yes" to those questions is infinitely more important than the quality of your sex life will ever, ever be (and I say this as someone who is a true believer in the importance of good sexaual chemistry). And so if you can't actually answer "yes" honestly to all that, I strongly think you need to seek counseling -- at a minimum for yourself (no matter if your husband won't go) and possibly for your daughter as well. Only with some clear professional help can you really begin to see if the marriage is indeed salvageable AND if you indeed wish to salvage it.

In my opinion, your marriage sounds profoundly unhealthy, but you've got to be the one who finds the means to make that call once and for all, and to take full responsibility for making the decisions that will speak to your child's best interests (and to your own happiness and sense of self-worth). If all that can be accomplished while you save your marriage, then do it; if all that can be accomplished only by leaving your marriage, then do that. But none of us can say definitively which is the right decision. (Similarly, none of us can actually say definitively what the problem is with your husband. It could be that he's an abusive prick with a personality disorder who will never change; it could be that he's a fundamentally decent man who's deeply unhappy himself and, if the chips were down, would want to try to save things. Given what you've written, frankly, either scenario seems plausible to me.)

Above all, it's clear that you're in a lot of emotional pain, not to mention feeling the physical effects of tremendous stress. It's an isolating, exhausting way to live -- and every day that it continues it deepens an unhealthy environment for your daughter. It doesn't have to continue. There is no quick answer or solution, but please take the first step and make a promise that you will seek out counseling first thing tomorrow.
posted by scody at 10:57 PM on May 1, 2006

You know what? My house was constantly cluttered and my mom was a stay at home mom, and it annoyed my dad, but she didn't "LIVE IN A STATE OF CONSTANT FEAR" of him, and neither did I. Holy shit. If the woman is right about this, everyone's advice that she just suck it up and be more neat is so exactly the wrong advice.

My take on the tone of the email (total speculation) is that she edited out the drama and fear that have given Mefites sympathy for other posters in the past. Sounds to me she's thinking of his side of things.

And one side comment about "funny that the sex is okay" is going to derail the thread into speculations that her entire life has been set up for some BDSM sex scheme???
posted by salvia at 11:39 PM on May 1, 2006

Two seconds later, the all caps seem like a bad idea.
posted by salvia at 11:50 PM on May 1, 2006

I'm piling on with another recommendation to clean your house, literally. Well adjusted adults don't live in a constant mess. That's so a basic a tenet of adult behavior, that it forms part of a diagnostic observational checklist for home health nurses -- if they see significant changes for the worse in a person's state of housekeeping, they're obligated in some programs to make note of it, as an item in assessing whether a person can continue to live independently.

So, clean the joint up. You may need to get people to come help you do it, beyond your 1x a week housekeeper. You're basically looking for a few days of high level organizing, from a person who is good at it, will challenge you item by item if necessary, won't mind you not liking them personally, and won't like you or want to hang out later, but who will get your house organized and cleaned out, period & paid. If you learn any life lessons while working with them, great, but the important thing is to get help to crawl out from under the clutter.

If necessary while doing this, consider renting a nearby storage location, and hiring some movers for a day to move as much of the clutter as you can't bear to part with to a nearby storage location from which you can, over time, organize, pack and perhaps sell off excess items. Don't bring stuff back from storage unless it's called for by some other family member.

Clean and polish the house, floors to ceilings. Finish up with a few vases of fresh flowers. The idea is to present yourself and your family, as quickly as possible (certainly within 2-3 days at most) with a very clean and organized place to live. And more importantly, to have done it as your own idea, because you want to effect some positive change in your living situation, and help your family.

And then not screw it up.

Stop shopping, as the less you drag home, the less you have to organize and dust. Quit excusing yourself with a lame "I'm a messy person." If you feel you have personality issues, tackle them from your new clean environs, with appropriate professional advice and help.

I'm betting the change in the emotional life within your home will be so overwhelmingly positive, that you'll wonder how you ever could have lived the way you describe your life now.
posted by paulsc at 1:04 AM on May 2, 2006

I'm surprised by the declutter mania and nasty critism of the poster's housekeeping. I am a stay at spouse and parent. I work every day, spending 6 hours or more on housework, laundry, shopping, bookeeping for my spouse's business, cooking, yard work, animal care etc. That's not including child related chores like driving, volunteering at school and working on homework with our twelve year old. My house stays quite neat and tidy. However, were I to cut down to 4 hours of work per day, it would not remain so. Running a household is a tough job and looking after a child, especially one with special needs, is a tougher job.

By the way, some of the happiest homes that I've ever visited have been cluttered and untidy, while many immaculate abodes seem very cold and unwelcoming. A total lack of clutter implies to me a sort of emotional distance, an ability to detatch personal meanings from objects.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 2:25 AM on May 2, 2006

My two suggestions:

1) Stop thinking about this situation as one in which your husband should do x, you shouldn't have to do y, etc. I honestly believe that if one of my parents had swallowed their pride for just a while, they could have done what it would have taken to fix their marriage. For example:

he knew this when we married

Is completely irrelevant. The only questions that matter regarding this issue are "Would it help matters if I got the place cleaned up" and "Do I have what it takes to get it done? If not, what do I need and how am I going to get it?". "Should" and "shouldn't have to" will get you nowhere here.

It might sound like I'm saying that the situation is your fault . Actually I'm saying that it doesn't matter whose fault it is. The situation just is. The only important question is if you can do anything to make it better.

2) Read Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. It sounds like a silly book, and some of it is written in kind of an irritating way, but I honestly believe that if either of my parents had been prepared to follow the advice in this book they might still be together. Unfortunately after so many years of "I shouldn't have to fix it, it's her fault" it was impossible for either of them to shake off that perspective.

Good luck. By posting here you have started to take charge of the situation.
posted by teleskiving at 2:46 AM on May 2, 2006

"I'm surprised by the declutter mania and nasty critism of the poster's housekeeping."
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 5:25 AM EST on May 2 [!]

I, for one, didn't intend my comment above to be nasty criticism of the OP. Indeed, I hoped it would be a set of constructive suggestions, that taken together, would provide a short term action map for getting out of the rut in which the OP finds herself.

My methodology is pretty much taken straight from A & E channel's "Sell This House" which is, I think, down the path the OP is on anyway, if she doesn't get going with some short term action plans, as she's asked us for plainly. And while I take your further point, alltomorrowsparties, that "... some of the happiest homes that I've ever visited have been cluttered and untidy, while many immaculate abodes seem very cold and unwelcoming. ... ," I think the OP could contrast that with the candid videotaped comments of people touring cluttered, unattractive houses on the linked TV show, to get a real world perspective on what really poorly organized space does to people, subconsciously.

Anyway, nothing snarky intended. No harm, no foul, I trust.
posted by paulsc at 3:15 AM on May 2, 2006

I think the messiness might be a symptom (of depression specifically), and not some sort of willful statement or moral bankruptcy. I am not a counselor of any sort, and I join with others in suggesting that you see one (for yourself, not for the marriage specifically). I struggle with messiness myself, and I've found that when I feel good and stable, the place stays picked up, but when I'm experiencing a setback, it gets worse. I'm bipolar so I tend to notice certain things like this as I cycle.

Anyway, just throwing that out there. You're not a bad person for being messy. You just don't have what you need to get started. Step 1 (on the messiness front anyway) is to figure out what it is that you need, and Step 2 is to get it. Step 3 would be of course to do the cleaning.

Best of luck. When thinking about your situation I wonder / worry about to what degree real or imagined economic dependence on your husband might make it harder for you to leave, if leaving is what you determine is right for you.
posted by beth at 5:28 AM on May 2, 2006

Find a therapist for your daughter. Its going to take a while for you to sort all of this out for you and your husband, but your daughter needs someone to listen to her, help teach her healthy emotional behavior (which it sounds like neither of you can do right now amidst what's going on in your marriage) and, if necessary, be a neutral third-party advocate for your daughter in whatever eventual intervention (counselling, divorce, etc) happens in your marriage. It's a critical time in your daughter's life, and it's clear you love her enough to recognize that you can't give her exactly what she needs right now in terms of emotional support. Find someone who can help provide that for her.
posted by judith at 5:31 AM on May 2, 2006

I have been in a troubled marriage for so long, I have lost perspective on how bad it may or may not be.

for this reason alone, you need counseling

one question you really need to ask yourself ... why is this the relationship you want? ... trust me on this, you may not like the answer and it may be very hard to admit it, but you need to know ... because if you leave him, and don't have this question answered, you will soon be repeating history

whatever you decide to do, you must realize how you have contributed to the state of your marriage ... get beyond wrong and right ... try to understand how the dynamics have happened

he has obvious problems ... so do you ... if you didn't have them coming in, you certainly have them now ... and your daughter needs a better environment than what she has

first step - figure out yourself and your role in all of this

housework - this is not the real issue

divorce law - at the least, it's very likely that you would be able to ask him to leave and you keep the house ... this is very commonly granted at the first hearing in a case ... but whether you'll be able to afford living there in the long run is another matter ... also, if you don't have money for a lawyer, your husband will have to pay for your lawyer

i'm not a lawyer, of course ... you need to talk to someone who is, if you decide on this
posted by pyramid termite at 6:13 AM on May 2, 2006

If you consider keeping the marriage together as a possible option, then the first step is couples counselling and individual counselling.

Couples counselling: All of the questions that people have been asking, all of the suspicions about "something weird is going on here", couples counselling will seek to address. It might be hard to convince your husband to go, but do try. If he doesn't feel good about going, give him an incentive. For example, he'll put himself through going to counselling, and in return you'll put yourself through trying really hard to at least make a dent in the house's clutter and maintain it.

You might see this as unfair or an unhealthy bartering system (or you might not), but all it is is putting work into a relationship.

Individual counselling: He might not want individual counselling at all. He might want it after finding out how exploring issues in couples therapy makes him feel. Or hey, he might be open to having from the outset. It's a whole different dynamic to couples counselling and for that reason it'll be a lot harder to influence whether he goes or not. If he goes to couples counselling on a regular basis, consider yourself lucky and don't pester him about individual therapy for himself.

As for you, get some individual counselling. Insight into your own issues and personality will give you some much needed clarity.

Looking at your 3 listed options: Option 1, try even harder. Maybe he fights because he's thinking "Yeah it's easy for her, she wants to go, she doesn't have to sacrifice anything". If he is thinking that, it's not conducive to a healthy relationship but it is very human. Sacrifice something yourself if it gets him there the first several appointments.

Option 2, a lawyer can answer this. You will likely end up having to get a job to take care of daily expenses, whether you stay in the current house or not.

Option 3. You're not happy, don't do nothing about it.

The aim of all of this is to make living better for you and for your daughter. If reasonable attempts to make this happen within the boundaries of staying married are unsuccessful (one of you is either not receptive to improving things, or one of you decides outright that you don't want to be married to the other person), the next step is to try things outside staying married. That is, separation or divorce.

But first things first. Counselling. Good luck.
posted by teem at 6:51 AM on May 2, 2006

Just a data point: I grew up with a father incapable of just shutting the hell up and being nice to me. He picked, he sniped, he corrected, he controlled, and he was a sarcastic bastard the entire time. I was an insufferable shithead probably into my late teens because my primary means of communication with other people was picking and sniping and correcting and being sarcastic. When I was 15, I asked my mother to leave him, and she said she couldn't because she didn't have any work skills and anyway, why couldn't I just let it roll off? He's only like that because his own father was like that, but worse, and life's not fair anyway so I should just suck it up and deal.

I wasn't abused, but it sure didn't make my life any easier. I was taught a lot of really awful behavior (you should have seen some of the winners I dated when I was a teenager) and while I don't dislike my father exactly, I'm not interested in spending any more time with him than I have to, which means I hardly ever see or talk to my mother either.

I would tape record him for future revenge-like satisfaction, just in case, and then see if he'll go to counseling. You should go regardless of what he does. If he won't, either leave him or come to terms with what you are teaching your daughter. Like other posters have asked: why is this the relationship you keep chosing to have? Why is it the relationship you want your daughter to have with him and with you - is it serving a purpose in your life to be her protector? Because it did for my mother.

Sex can be super-hot when the participants don't know or particularly care for each other. Grudge sex is especially tasty, but that doesn't mean a steady diet of it is good for you.

As for the housekeeping, a clean house might create calmer inhabitants. I am not naturally neat myself, but I sure feel a hell of a lot better when I do manage to put things to rights, especially in the rooms where I spend most of my at home downtime. I don't know if there's an easy solution to that issue for you, it's just that I know that the clutter/anxiety connection is true for a lot of people.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:04 AM on May 2, 2006

On the messiness issue - I think we should just leave that be, except to note that we don't have enough data to make a judgement.

It may be that the poster is a total slob and the husband just wants to meet a generally accepted standard of 'clean and neat'.

On the other hand, it may be that the poster is no more/less messy than 80% of us here, and the husband is totally OCD about never wanting a speck of dust or anything out of place.

we just don't know. What we do know is that "there is a lot of clutter in our house". Clutter means different things. Clutter does not equal dirt.
posted by anastasiav at 7:14 AM on May 2, 2006

I'm surprised by the declutter mania and nasty critism of the poster's housekeeping.

Me too. I can't fathom the idea that people would respond to this woman's situation by saying "Hey, clean the house!" My wife used to stay at home and write, and the house was neat if not spic-and-span; now she goes to work and I stay at home and edit, and the house isn't nearly as neat, but we get it tidied up for visitors, and really, who gives a fuck? And if your answer is "her husband does," her husband is clearly an abusive asshole (unless she's making the whole thing up, which is an unproductive assumption for dealing with an AskMe question), so who gives a fuck?

And those of you who can't imagine how sex could be hot with a Bad Person have led very sheltered lives.
posted by languagehat at 7:56 AM on May 2, 2006

Anon is clearly not happy in her marriage and kudos to her for posting about it! BUT... she is clearly very angry and trying very hard to be rational and objective.

I would like to join those asking Anon to take a long hard look at herself and her behaviors. I adore my mom but her household was so messy and dysfunctionally so that it was more OCD (obessive compulsive disorder) than it was "messy". 10 sessions with a behavioral therapist (a good one) can make a huge difference. The fact that your husband says he is "through with you as a person" I would take as "I am at the end of my rope and nothing I do or say about how I want to have the state of the house you take seriously". I urge you to get help (probably behavioral therapy and professional cleaning help).

Now would be a very good time to take charge of things and make some positive changes for the future. And honestly, there is no better model you could provide for your daughter, however this does nessesarily not mean leaving your husband. See below in my post for suggestions on changing things in yourself and with your daughter. If you can bring peace into yourself and not be stressed, you will greatly help your husband to do the same.

I would suggest four things:

First, don't leave your husband. The way you describe the situation, its like you live in two different worlds. Not once do you describe either of you trying to bridge the gap. But you married this man for a reason, and I presume that you love him. It sounds very much like you are not on the same page as regards to your values and that you need to create time for you both to relax and talk and that he, like you, is very very angry. I have no idea if the marriage can be repaired and renewed, but I think to mindlessly call for separation is silly and childish.

Second, I would agree that you should get counseling, but I will add a twist. I've seen a lot of couples go into counseling with counselors who have a very strong individualist orientation. From my personal experience, whether the marriage lasts is highly dependent on the kind of counselor you pick. Pick one that focuses on repairing the marriage , not satisifying the needs of the individuals or validating your and your husband's anger and assert your "feeling of being wronged". I strongly suggest you consult a counselor in your religious tradtion - they tend to be very good at helping the whole family. If you are Jewish, go to a wise rabbi (ask around if you don't know one), if you are Christian try your pastor, or ask for a pastor who is known to be wise. Another thing you may want to do (which would be very very good for the whole family, especially your daughter) is to go spend some time with the folks at Deer Park Monastery (they practice in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hahn, which is a Buddhist peace tradition. Through their practice they have brought all kinds of groups, e.g., Palestinians and Israelis, together in peace). It sounds like everyone in your family is very angry. You can go there and stay for a week. The monks and nuns love children and are wonderful with all children, but especially special needs kids, and you should definitely request one on one sessions with them. This will give you lots of time to breath and relax and for both of you (you and your husband) to be in a differnt atmosphere and see each other with new eyes. If your husband doesn't want to go, take your daughter and go.

Third, you need to recognize that you need to change. Regardless of what your husband does, it sounds like you need to majorly change your own behavior if you want your family to be happy. Begin there. If you are not stressed, it will take a huge load off your entire family. The more I write, the more convinced I become that the folks in the Thich Nhat Hahn tradition could have a dramatic and helpful impact on you and your family. Incidentally, the folks at Deer Park can give your daughter lots of good coping mechanisms for dealing with an angry father (be sure to tell them what is going on in your family). You could start by looking at a few books: True Peace: Ending Violence in Yourself, Your Family and Your Community. There are many others. Also the website of deer park has many great suggestions for mindful living and dealing with anger.

Finally, you talk about the interaction between your daughter and your husband as if you are a passive observer. You are her mother. Even if you just hug her after every fight with her father and say "I love you" you will be bringing positive forces into her life. Being active in the situation does not mean that you need to start yelling too. You don't need to escalate the situation but instead to create peace. You could begin by breathing mindfully, just being aware of your breath. And do this whenever you are stressed. If you teach your daughter to do this and breath with her after every fight with her father, then you will help her greatly.
posted by zia at 8:07 AM on May 2, 2006

On preview, most of the other askmefi folks are focusing on confrontation. I think you need to focus on taking the stress and anger out of your household.

Another thing you should look at some the writing of Thich Nhat Hahn on talking with kindness and love in the face of anger. You should definitely read the boths or talk with one of the monks or nuns, but a loving response begins by listening (to either your daughter, your husband, or yourself) with love.

Listen very closely. Listen and breath. As you listen watch your breath. Doing this will help you to be calm and loving as you listen and not to get angry yourself. If your husband/daughter doesn't want to talk, you might begin by saying, "My darling, you seem very unhappy. I don't want you to be unhappy. Please tell me about your unhappiness so that I can understand and help." And then you must listen very closely. And just by listening you can begin to transform the situation.
posted by zia at 8:24 AM on May 2, 2006

what scody said, more or less.

I can't fathom the idea that people would respond to this woman's situation by saying "Hey, clean the house!"

well, some of us can't fathom that getting laid is a solution for clinical depression, either.
but I totally second that hot juicy sex with nasty unethical people is indeed a sad, confusing reality of this modern world -- sometimes you just have to decide how much crap are you willing to take in order to continue enjoying that hawt sweaty action
posted by matteo at 8:49 AM on May 2, 2006


My mother stayed "for the kids" and thus I grew up with an angry father and a screwed up view of my self-worth. If only I was more athletic, then daddy wouldn't be so mad all the time, etc. I begged my mom to leave numerous times-- not to divorce him, but to leave and show she would stand up for herself and for me and my sister. She finally left four months after I married and it was too late for her to forgive and work through things. (It took a miracle for me to turn out relatively healthy-- a miracle and seven years of therapy.) Their divorce was final in January and she has never been happier. She is her old self again-- I never realized how much of her joy and personality had died because of the anger.

Please leave. Make a plan-- Mom's plan started over a year ago. Call a divorce lawyer and ask for help making a plan- where will you go, when will you go, what will you take, etc. Count on never going back, so take your photo albums and family-of-origin heirlooms. Then wait for an opportune time-- when he's gone for his high school reunion, business trip, fishing trip, etc. And make your move. Be careful-- do not tell him where you are going or have any contact with him. He will be totally unpredictable and may come after you, so don't tell your friends where you are, either, so they don't have to lie.

Things will really suck before they get better-- be prepared for your daughter to be angry with you, etc., but it WILL BE WORTH IT.

All of this is to say, LEAVE. You MUST protect yourself and your daughter. You can't imagine what this is doing to her, and you don't know what it's doing to you, too. Forget the sex life-- it is a lie to think that it is good, if your hearts aren't aligned as well.

If you want to talk more you can email me through my profile. Best to you, and lots of courage. YOUR soul is worth fighting for-- there is nothing noble about staying in an abusive situation.

posted by orangemiles at 9:56 AM on May 2, 2006

for what's it worth, what jessamyn said could've been my biography too. the "apathetic" parent for me was amazing, as if to try to make up for what the other parent was like, but i'll never completely get over that the first parent let the other one treat my sister and i the way they did. i have a lot of conflicted emotions. i'm not saying leave necessarily, but i'm also piping in because of the few responses here saying it's just child rearing. it's not child rearing when, as jessamyn mentioned and i too felt, the kid ends up afraid the always-angry parent might go off and hurt or kill you. seriously. as a kid i really thought it might happen. that's not normal, or ok.
posted by ifjuly at 10:03 AM on May 2, 2006

He comes from a verbally abusive family. His parents split up when his dad took up with his secretary, after a nine year affair. His mom totally lost it, and the kids that were still at home lost all respect for her.

Whether you stay or leave, is there a way to explain to your husband that he's probably turning your daughter into the same kind of woman his mother was? Your daughter's interaction with him will strongly shape her interaction with future partners. Does he want her to partner with an angry overbearing person who treats her like she's stupid? I can't imagine any father wanting that for his child.
posted by occhiblu at 10:05 AM on May 2, 2006

He recently told me "I am through with you as a person" as part of an outburst over the clutter.

Note that feelings/expressions of contempt are about the biggest red flag there is for a marriage in trouble.
posted by availablelight at 12:21 PM on May 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yeah, that level of contempt indicates far deeper issues than just some understandable frustration with a constantly messy house. And speaking of which, anyone who thinks that cleaning the house is the solution is missing the point by a mile -- the mess (both her inability to deal with it and his anger over it) is a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself (yes, even if Anon has always been messy and even if Anon's husband knew that when they first got married). Completely aside from the major parenting issues (e.g., browbeating a child so seriously that other family members have to step in to stop it), between the two adults in this household there are profound levels of anger, frustration, contempt, stress, and possibly depression going on here -- if the house was made immaculate this very minute, it wouldn't address all that.

Good luck, Anon -- and if you haven't done so already today, I'll say again that I strongly suggest you seek out counseling for yourself and your daughter, regardless of whether or not you think your husband will take part as well.
posted by scody at 12:48 PM on May 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Personal experience: get out. I let good sex and occassional good times keep me in a bad bad relationship with my wife for wayyyy longer than I should have. Well, that, and wanting to do "the right thing" by staying in the marriage. It was NOT the right thing. My daughter was browbeaten and walked on eggshells, as did I. As soon as I took my daughter and left, my daughter said she felt like a weight was lifted from her, and her self esteem and happiness shot up amazingly.

It's true: in a relationship like this, you lose all perspective of "normal." My recent experience leaves me with little patience to see others put up with being mistreated. But, if you still want to give it a shot, go to a good marriage and family counselor regardless of whether he goes. The counselor can help clarify how things are, and help you find the next move.

Feel free to e-mail (in profile) if you want to talk. I am happy to share more of my experience if it will help you.

Be strong!
posted by The Deej at 3:44 PM on May 2, 2006

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