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Thread: Tips for stopping cycle of fighting?

  1. #1
    Gold Member leseine7's Avatar
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    Tips for stopping cycle of fighting?

    Hi all,

    I've posted here before - around a year ago - about stress in my relationship with my husband since our daughter was born about a year 1/2 ago. We've had our ups and downs, but since COVID it's just been a nightmare and we have nearly split up many times. I'm not totally sure what the right thing to do is.

    Somewhere around Jan I started seeing a therapist after he refused to. I realized I cannot force him to see someone, even though I was deeply concerned about the amount of conflict in our relationship. Therapy was a wonderful help for me and I was able to really get a handle on so many things - not just relationship-related issues. For a time, that helped, but I felt like day after day starting around March we could not avoid fighting. Most of the time, I just feel like I cannot please my husband. He comes from a home where his mother is such a neat freak that the minute you leave the room, she's already cleaned up your place, the table, and put everything back where it originally was. She is the Belgian Marie Kondo (my husband is Belgian). I admire this quality in her, because try as I might - I cannot excel to that level of tidiness.

    But, I really do my best - I make charts, I clean the house top to bottom on designated days of the week while our daughter naps, I meal plan and prep with my husband, I make lunches and breakfast. I've noticed that I actually tend to do a lot more of the chores around the house, but this doesn't bother me. My husband takes care of the drop-offs of our daughter at daycare (when safe), or to doctors' appts, or he runs the errands. This all makes sense because I can't drive and he can.

    This all to say - I am not perfect and I sometimes forget things in the business of life (just like he does - just like everyone), and can't always make time for every single details, but I do my best. I can honestly say I am striving every day to be a better person. A better colleague at work. A better mother. A better person, a better wife. All areas seem to be going okay but my husband and I.

    I don't know how to explain this except to say that I feel overly criticised and when I repeatedly ask him to try to focus on what IS getting done and not to "keep score" of the number of times I've forgotten to write down when we're out of a grocery item, or forgot to fold the laundry right away, he honestly doesn't seem capable of this. The cycle is that he'll "joke" almost every day about how "Oh, Mom forgot to do that again..." or "why did you move that there? What are you thinking?" The jokes are confusing to me mixed with genuine arguments around how little I do for the home and marriage. Then I won't react positively to the "joke," and he will get angry and roll his eyes and sigh that I don't understand his humour.

    Then, I'll confront the jokes to try to understand what it all means, since it gives me a weird feeling, and he'll suddenly spill the beans that he feels totally alone and like he's running everything and has no help from me. Then I react by getting upset because I feel like I'm constantly on a hamster wheel of trying to get everything done so that he'll be satisfied.

    I recently achieved a promotion at work and I'll admit that I am busier as a result, but I block my schedule to be home right at 5:30/6pm. I take half a day off Tuesdays to be with our daughter. I make sure to take the time to take care of as many chores as possible in the hours we have - yet I still can't please him.

    I eventually blew up because on my side, while him having someone to take care of the house and home, feed him, etc., is a sign of love - mine is how we speak to each other and how we treat one another. I feel like just asking him to be a little bit nicer is impossible for him. I just want us to take some quality time together even if it means there's a night where we don't have all the laundry and dishes done ASAP. We never let things pile up and our house is as spotless as it can be with a toddler, but I can't meet his standards and I feel worn out. When I told him it would be nice for me if we could have a date night - even if it's from home and only once a month given COVID etc - he was super defensive and asked why I haven't planned one (I've tried many times, and he was always too tired or didn't think it was necessary.)

    I feel helpless. He says he loves me and wants to be in this marriage, but I feel like I'm his employee or something. I just want to feel comfortable at home and not always be worried about if I've done all the chores - especially since I feel like I'm non-stop doing them to begin with.

    One final note is about therapy. We had a bad fight a month or so ago and he reacted in a way that disturbed us both. (Major rage response - no physical violence but threat to harm himself) I exited the room and he sat and cried and promised to go get help ASAP.

    Well, he started going to therapy and didn't like the doctor he was paired with and has refused to go back.

    So I just feel trapped and concerned and freaked out, and our daughter has witnessed so much more conflict in her short life so far than I ever would have wanted. I need tips on how to stop the cycle - I am not looking to divorce right now, I am looking at finding a new therapist for myself, but need a lot of advice on this. TIA.

  2. #2
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    I'm terribly sorry you're going through this. I can relate to all the juggling and especially now (our son is 11.5 but doing virtual learning so sometimes he's also 1.5 like your daughter). Here are my takeaways. He's a perfectionist and beats himself up I bet so he does the same to you -not right. You are NOT going to be able to please him so quit trying. I honestly would, when it's safe hire a cleaning person -he won't be satisfied either but let him do the hiring/firing, etc.

    The way my husband "cleans" if I let him do so would never meet my standards. I am not a neat freak. Not even close. He would be too slow -like wayyyy too slow - and he would need to be reminded constantly. No thanks. He's offered many times to help clean and prepare food other than for himself but unless I were to train him -including in certain basics - I wouldn't enjoy training or reminding or waiting the longer time, or or or. It's not his strength at all. But. He is very good at many things I am not good at. I have a drivers license finally but also don't drive -except since March my son and I have not been in a car and I've done 99.9% of the shopping that I walk to so he's not having to drive for us the vast majority of the time.

    But it's about the mindset -to me what's healthy in a marriage is - you recognize each others strengths and weaknesses in child care and running a household. You don't divide up equally, you divide up relatively fairly. You accept that if someone does something and doesn't do it your way either accept it or do it yourself. Or hire someone. If you feel resentful then it's not "fair" and do some self-talk and/or partner talk.

    But. Even though I can be critical -including of myself -wow I try so hard to curb that. Wow it's so hard during Covid. I have to self talk a lot. Like "ok he still didn't check if my new phone is insured, but he [list in my head all he did do]. It's essential I think and your husband is missing this essential piece about being a team. I don't hold in resentment -I self talk and count my blessings and do not go to him or "nag" as a first thing. I try so hard to raise stuff as a last thing and to raise it directly and calmly and with good timing.

    Also he and you need to be flexible. This covid stuff especially can be like a moving target so that while I may have to be online chasing down wipes on a particular day on another day we have to decide if it's safe to have maintenance come to fix something. Tons of stuff like that. And now virtual learning thrown in.

    If he cannot compromise, be flexible, self-talk, be self-aware of his critical tendencies then it doesn't matter at all how often you clean or straighten up. You are not a better wife or mother because you clean so much. Or cook so much. You will be a better wife and mother when you can make sure basic needs you've agreed to take care of are met most of the time, when you are a person who is not walking on eggshells in front of your toddler who absorbs it all like a sponge, when your toddler can see you two joking around and lightening up as much as possible.

    You're wasting time you could be with your daughter with all that cleaning (unless you teach her like I did with my son how to throw stuff in the dryer and giggle uncontrollably "there goes...... daddy's underwear!!!!!" Also toddlers are so messy. They're supposed to be, It's normal. Making a toddler be neat all the time is stifling her development. She needs to safely explore and make safe messes. I remember when my son was about 4 we were trudging home from the market, his stroller filled with groceries and we came upon an office building where you could press a button to open the door automatically. I knew he'd love the magic and knew we weren't supposed to so I whispered to him that we were going to do that then RUN. He totally got that it was naughty. We had a blast. Do not miss those little moments of being naughty and making huge messes you do NOT clean up right away (like dump trucks full of cheerios dumped on the coffee table, rinse repeat). Tell your husband it's essential for her development. and your sanity.

    I have so so much more to say. But I have to do some juggling here. Please feel free to PM me or ask questions. I am sending you hugs and support. I hear you.

  3. #3
    Platinum Member SarahLancaster's Avatar
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    Since both of you work, why on earth does it fall upon you to do all of the household chores? What about splitting the chores down the middle? What about telling him that you can no longer deal with his criticisms and that it must be addressed or else you don't see a future together?

    Maybe it's time for you to stop taking his criticisms and stand up for yourself?

  4. #4
    Platinum Member Andrina's Avatar
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    Great advice from Batya33. I once had a friend who was scrambling to keep her house in order but I noticed it was at the expense of how much time she spent with her son. I said to her, "When your child is an adult, do you think he's going to be fondly reminiscing that, 'My mom kept the house so spotless.' Or, 'My mom always took time to play Legos with me on the floor and read me the best stories.'

    What would I do in your situation? I'd tell him to try another therapist, because I'm not going to live the rest of my life being treated like this. Sometimes it's best to react in a way you've never reacted before. Instead of engaging in a discussion when he criticizes, briefly remove yourself from his presence. Put your child in the stroller and take her for a walk around the block--something like that. Let him know how it feels to miss you, and what life might be like without you. And reacting in a new way sometimes takes them aback. They might be afraid of what you'll do next, since you're not repeating the same old pattern.

    Is there a medical reason you can't drive, or you've just chosen not to. If it's not medical, if I were you, I'd get my driver's license. You need to be independent, especially if you do eventually divorce, and it might be his decision even if it wasn't your choice. This change might also give him a clue that you're making changes and you're not some stagnant person willing to be a doormat to his unreasonable expectations.

    Perhaps be stronger in your convictions if you haven't. Tell him you're doing such and such instead of a chore that day because it's more important to you. And if he wants the chore done, he'll have to do it himself or hire someone. If he starts balking in front of your child, tell him not to argue with you in front of your child and you can have the discussion when she naps or goes to bed, then put earbuds in and listen to music. I'm just giving examples of changing things up, because the best way to change someone else's behavior is to change your own. Good luck and let us know how it goes.

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  6. #5
    Platinum Member LaHermes's Avatar
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    Yes, SarahL.

    That's more like it!

    "What about telling him that you can no longer deal with his criticisms and that it must be addressed or else you don't see a future together?

    Maybe it's time for you to stop taking his criticisms and stand up for yourself?"


    OP, I am not surprised you feel like his employee. And please stop the "striving", as if this is some harsh schoolmaster you need to please. Also, you are not in the army, so you are not answerable to a drill sergeant. Geeze, folding the laundry RIGHT AWAY. How about half an hour later?!

    I do realise that Covid and its restrictions has people set on edge. But IMO here is the heart of the matter:

    "while him having someone to take care of the house and home, feed him, etc., is a sign of love - mine is how we speak to each other and how we treat one another."



    So, basically, for him love is having a domestic employee. I regret to say he thinks he has married mommy darling and expects her utterly daft standards from you.

    Your health will suffer if you carry on like this, OP.

    You asked in your op:

    "I'm not totally sure what the right thing to do is."


    I think you do.

    You are entitled to be comfortable in your own home.

    "I just want to feel comfortable at home and not always be worried about if I've done all the chores - especially since I feel like I'm non-stop doing them to begin with.
    "


    Unless there is some reason why you cannot drive, please start (now!) to take driving lessons. And don't ask him, just tell him you have booked driving lessons.

    Finally, don't blow up at him, or react to his nonsense. When he starts the ranting and raving tell him in a level voice: "You need to get a grip before you drive us both mad."

  7. #6
    Platinum Member smackie9's Avatar
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    -When he says something that offends you or is upsetting, bring it to his attention, tell him that his comment make you feel bad, and to not say things that way. If there is something you want to discuss, lets do it now.
    -Don't yell, don't be hostile, or show angry...be soft, calm, but firm, strong eye contact....do not look away or say something under your breath.
    -If he rolls his eyes, point that out too...tell him that's stonewalling. It makes you feel belittled, and what you say has no value.
    -If an argument is about to start, stop, and say you need a break, then walk away. Come back 10 mins later, discuss the issue.
    -Try not to use trigger words like "You need to..." or "You better just...." Say "It would be a great help if you...." or "Lets try it this way then....." or "What do you think of....."

    When communicating, drop the negative tone...I know we all do it, I have to catch myself sometimes because of the level of frustration.

    I do agree with the above post..."change someone else's behavior is to change your own."

    When you get back into therapy, this is something you can work on, and how to deal with his behavior.

    Lastly, he needs to go back to a therapist....just say, "Sorry that you had such a bad experience. I know it's hard to trust a stranger when you are discussing things that are private, but not all therapists are the same. Lets help you find one that is more suitable." If they don't work out, lets keep looking...I really want this to work for us...."

  8. #7
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    Why is he not cleaning the house, too? How does he help with your child?

    Why haven't you stood up to him? Get into some marriage counseling.

    Sounds like your husband didn't want to hear the truth from the therapist. Your husband sounds abusive.

    This is such a toxic environment for you and your child!

  9. #8
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    "He's always had a tough spot when it comes to home stuff. he gets restless and hates to clean, and I actually LOVE to clean, so I am the one who usually scrubs the fridge, organises our pantries and closets, irons, and so on. It's a relaxing thing for me, and it helps me feel like my home is in good shape when life gets nuts. But it's almost like, because he doesn't see me sweat over dishes, he doesn't realize that I am doing these things. Because I don't mind and don't complain about getting up three times a night to nurse our baby girl, it's like he forgets I even did it. I'll sometimes be nursing her while he's working on something in the house, and he'll turn and say, "Enjoying a little relax moment?"


    OP, you have allowed a lot of bad behavior. This is ridiculous. He must do his part!

  10. #9
    Platinum Member LaHermes's Avatar
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    I have to endorse you Holly.

    Sadly, this type of behaviour tends to escalate.

    OP remarked:

    "yet I still can't please him.
    "



    You are not a geisha, OP, you are a hard-working woman holding down a job and doing a myriad of other chores.

    What a put-down.

    I'll sometimes be nursing her while he's working on something in the house, and he'll turn and say, "Enjoying a little relax moment?"




    But you know LaS, there were intimations of what was to come before you married.

    And remember, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
    Last edited by LaHermes; 09-06-2020 at 01:32 PM.

  11. #10
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    "-Sometimes it's best to react in a way you've never reacted before."
    Love this, Andrina.

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