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Tips for stopping cycle of fighting?


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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.

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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

    . 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.

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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?

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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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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."

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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...."

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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!

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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!

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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.

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Congratulations to you for sticking to therapy and improving yourself! its hard, but necessary for everyone to constantly work on ourselves. it never stops.

 

Your husband sounds like he is not ready for change or growth. Cause the truth is we can either hold on to our same old ways, getting the same old results or grow.

 

unfortunately, he has to decide that for himself and do the actual work. You've taken on a lot of responsibility to fix things and I wonder where is his effort in this?

 

I am a calm conflict person. I can express myself fairly well and will I generally walk away from a person with a crazy temper. I just don’t and won't let someone unleash on me over unfolded laundry or some other mundane task.

 

I've learned over the years, that a person committed to being aggressive as a fighting style it doesn't matter if it's c warranted or not. That is how they learned to deal b with conflict, emotions etc and it has worked for them in the past. That's c why they do it. When we learn something works we stick with it... that didn't mean it's right.

 

A lot of what you wrote would be deal breakers for me. But that is something you have to think about for yourself.

 

I think you need to learn how to drive. That's important for anyone to know how to do. It is your key to independence.

 

Secondly, I would try to find a way to tell your hubs he needs to put some work in both, the household and the marriage. He's not your father. Lording over you, he's your husband, what should be an equal.

 

He wants to be in this marriage, but does he see you as equals?

 

if you can't talk to him about this and come to a compromise and plan together, why are you in this marriage?

 

He can fix himself and control his temper. if he can't stick with a therapist, continues to make more excuses and blame you, you have to decide. Is that is good enough for you and your daughter?

 

Remember you're teaching her what love is, what marriage is, how a woman should be treated... you must be a strong woman to raise a strong woman.

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If your husband refuses to cooperate with you, lower your standards. Don't have a house that looks straight out of Pinterest. Do the bare minimum as opposed to having a spotless house. And, go with the flow. If something was forgotten, then you'll have to go back to the grocery store or let him do it since he takes care of errands. With repeated, unnecessary trips, eventually he'll realize that both of you need to update grocery lists as you run out of things.

 

It's a good idea to see a therapist and find out how the therapist can help you and your marriage.

 

I'm a neat and clean freak. My husband helps but I don't nag him to do everything. There are times when it's easier for me to tackle certain tasks while he does what he's good at such as home repairs, home maintenance, car repairs, car maintenance, mowing the lawn, tending to the flower gardens, always making sure both cars have a full tank of gas, always making sure both cars are cleaned, construction, plumbing, electrical, anything mechanical, computerized, etc.

 

My husband is not a great cook so I cook while he plucks herbs, washes produce, cleans up during cooking prep and cleans up again post-dinner. Or, while I declutter, clean and organize, he sells what I don't want. We work in unison based upon our strengths.

 

I like to make things. I'm creative with quilting, calligraphy, knitting, embroidery and artistic pursuits. He loves to fix things so we save a ton of money because we never have to hire contractors. He's very handy and has handyman skills.

 

I'm a mother of two sons. I say: Spend more time with your baby girl. She will grow up fast. One day, you will look back and ask yourself why you were so obsessed with maintaining a fastidious cleaning regimen instead of sitting on the floor playing with your daughter, reading to her, taking her on a swing ride, taking a walk with her in a stroller or having enjoyable family outings instead? Her babyhood and childhood are fleeting moments. Within a blink of an eye, she will be all grown up and you'll regret you didn't spend more down time with her when you had your chance. The dust can wait. Spend more quality time with your daughter and ditch the fighting because fighting is a waste of your time and energy.

 

As for your husband, have him redirect his ire by spending more time with his daughter and you. Have a picnic, go for a bike ride with a baby bike seat and learn to appreciate these priceless days. Stop quibbling and fighting because it's exhausting.

 

Find joy in life. Look at the big picture and what's important. When your daughter is grown, you'll have too much time on your hands for house work, meal planning and the like. Concentrate on what's important which is your precious family life. Change the way you think and you'll become a much happier, secure person.

 

Also, have a heart-to-heart talk with your husband while your daughter is asleep for a long time. Tell him that you need to be treated with respect including respectful way of speaking. Tell him that if he wants to remain in this marriage, he needs to treat you with respect, kindness, consideration and softness. Tell him it's team work all the way. Tell him that you don't want to fight and it's time to be selfless in order to keep the peace.

 

And, being a better person isn't about who does the most chores on time. It's about learning to let it go even if the dishes pile up once in a while. Your daughter will always remember quality time spent with you and her father and she couldn't care less about dirty dishes.

 

Set your priorities straight. Family first.

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Going to be harsh and blunt here. If you want to stop the fighting, the answer you don't want to hear is leave. Since you don't want to/aren't ready yet, here is what you can do:

 

1) Stop catering to him and his foo issues. You can't fix him and you are absolutely correct - you (or anyone really) can never please him. He is an abusive sob and he will always find reasons to be unhappy with anything you do because whatever you or anyone does, he will always move targets. His goal is actually to be in control and his version of control over others is to always be displeased with whatever is being done.

 

2) Boundaries. Firm, hard boundaries. Trying to live up to his mother....OP...how dare he ever compare you to his mother and ....equally unhealthy on your part to look up to what sounds like a disordered psycho control freak. STOP. Figure out what YOU want, what YOU are willing to do and NOT do (emphasis added on what NOT do) and also give him chores to do and stick to it. I can pretty much guarantee you he'll have a raging tantrum and if that doesn't make you cave in, he'll get passive aggressive. Maintaining boundaries and enforcing them is going to be exhausting and will feel like you live in an active war zone, but if you want to get on top of the fighting, you will have to persevere until he yields. It will be hard, it will be exhausting for you since you are a giving person who wants to please, but you will have to unlearn that and get tough and stay tough forever if you want this marriage to work. Basically, you'll need to put on the proverbial pants and take charge and be unrelenting in enforcing boundaries.

 

3) Grey rock - google the term. Whatever bs, guilt tripping, blame shifting nonsense he tries to throw your way - you don't react. He screams that you are a terrible mother, your response is a calm and cold "sorry you feel that way" and nothing else. No emotion, no reaction, just turning it all around on him. If that's how he feels, that's on him, not you. Sounds simple in theory, but very very hard in practice not to defend yourself when under attack, especially volatile, absurd, and unreasonable attack.

 

4) Accept that he is a walking personality disorder and that they don't get better. There is no cure and his tears and promises are crocodile tears. What you see is what you get and unless you become proficient in the above boundaries and grey rock.....things will never get better for you, but they will get worse. The therapist he rejected told him what he doesn't want to hear. Sure, he might find another one who is willing to be softer, just be quiet and listen and take his fees and bs him, but again and with emphasis, there is no cure for a personality disorder even when the disordered wants relief. Overall, though, they are manipulative enough to simply get away with it and live quite comfortably being who they are. Which leads to my final point....

 

5) If you want the fighting to stop and want him to actually respected you (right now he doesn't....see raging fits), he has to fear you on some level. He has to fear that you will bring on the consequences to his behavior which will lead him to lose something he actually cares about - be it money, social status, access to child, etc. You want peace, you will need to figure out what it is and leverage it.

 

Now....do you really want to live in this madness for another 20, 40, 50 years? Is this really acceptable to you? Do you want your child to grow up like this? Sometimes leaving isn't the worst thing you can do....staying is.

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I endorse what Dancing Fool wrote, 110%.

 

I'd just like to add a bit...he does it because he likes it. And that's why he won't stop. He enjoys seeing you cower, rush to obey him, perhaps beg, plead and declare your love for him. It gives him a woody to see you like that. It makes him feel like a big powerful stud. So, why would he want to give that up?

 

The only solution, as DF wrote, is to stop giving him the big woody. Stop reacting the way he's gotten to expect you to. It will take a while and probably a lot of tantrums (as DF wrote) but if you can get through however long that lasts you MIGHT be able to build a new dynamic where he isn't the boss.

 

Personally I wouldn't be up for it, marriage and child or not. I wouldn't want to expose my child to that kind of life.

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I don't support divorce unless it's absolutely necessary so I can understand your stance and not having reached that point yet. I also don't think you're at that point in your marriage but the level of passive aggressiveness and negativity coming from your partner needs to stop. It did cross my mind that he may be overly critical of you because he is insecure. Insecure individuals are usually not ever content with their space or with others. I dealt with a lot of insecurity in my marriage and wasn't able to sustain the level of negativity coming from my partner. I think you have to think twice about your own mental health as well as that of your partner's.

 

In the working it out stages you'll look for answers like his upbringing for why he is the way he is. It's rationalization on your part for your feelings of inadequacy and unease. Be careful that this doesn't reach levels of emotional and psychological abuse. He agreed to getting help so work together on finding counselling or therapist services. If you're both tight on a budget there are professionals that work on a sliding scale too or may be 100% subsidized. How easy or realistic or convenient is it for both of you to book an appointment and find childcare for your daughter? Commit to doing this together. Not all couples have that luxury or where two people are open or committed to working through their issues with a third party.

 

I personally think your husband himself feels inadequate. People who are stable and confident in themselves don't behave in nitpicky or condescending ways. He wouldn't be constantly finding fault with you if he feels secure as a father or husband. For your marriage, try and uncover what those issues are with help from a qualified professional or open up the discussion more. This has to be 50/50 and he has to be willing to commit to acknowledging his feelings or this pattern won't stop.

 

I think half the battle is already won (so to speak) when YOU realize that this is unhealthy. You are that other 50% so don't stand for it and if your gut instincts are telling you something is imbalanced or off in your marriage, pay attention and don't let it slide. Be very careful as the years can add on and this can snowball. Hope you both are able to work through this together.

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I also endorse DancingFool 110%

 

"Now....do you really want to live in this madness for another 20, 40, 50 years? Is this really acceptable to you? Do you want your child to grow up like this? Sometimes leaving isn't the worst thing you can do....staying is."

 

And Bolt 110%

 

"He enjoys seeing you cower, rush to obey him, perhaps beg, plead and declare your love for him. It gives him a woody to see you like that. It makes him feel like a big powerful stud. So, why would he want to give that up?

"

 

 

He doesn't wish to seek help for his issues and fell out with the first doctor he consulted (probably didn't much like the mirror that was held up to him!).

 

And what Lambert said:

 

" Is that is good enough for you and your daughter?

 

"Remember you're teaching her what love is, what marriage is, how a woman should be treated... you must be a strong woman to raise a strong woman."

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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.

 

This really does not look good, unfortunately. Mean spirited jokes, rolling of eyes--all signs of contempt. I don't know if you can fix contempt.

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My ex husband was like this.... read "ex", not current... and that's one of the reasons he is my ex.

 

I know how scary it is to think of living your life without him in it... You may think you need him but you don't... I encourage you to visualize yourself being successful with or without him, and make a plan for how you might function no matter what happens... because even though you spend all your time being codependent with him, that's no guarantee that the relationship will last forever.

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This really does not look good, unfortunately. Mean spirited jokes, rolling of eyes--all signs of contempt. I don't know if you can fix contempt.

 

I was going to touch on this.

 

The greek definition of sarcasm is 'tearing of the flesh' So when someone close to you uses it repeatedly in a passive aggressive way to get their point across, it crosses over the line to abuse. That and rolling of the eyes. Thats disdain. . .or contempt.

It's all an attempt to wear you down.

 

Sorry. . I was in an emotionally abusive marraige. I learned all this the hard way. Alot of what you describe is pretty textbook

 

You've got some great advice here. Stay in therapy. Do it for yourself and your child.

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