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Pushed To The Brink

by Anonymous

My husband and I have been married for 8 years and have 3 kids. During this time, he repeatedly does things that make me angry. I will come home from a 10 hour shift and there will be food and trash all over the table, floor, stove and counters.

I have tried talking to him about it many, many times. I have tried discussing this rationally with him and letting him know how it makes me feel but he does nothing to change his behavior. After 8 years, I have long since reached my breaking point. I rant like a madwoman and throw dishes in the sink (breaking them), when I come home from a long day and the kids are still in their pj's, the house is a mess and my husband is laying on the couch sleeping or playing on his computer.

He then treats me like I am insane and tells me I need counseling that I have anger problems and he sees nothing wrong with what he is doing. We have tried marriage counseling twice and no one has been able to help. All he seems to want is for me to be "medicated and happy" while he continues his demoralizing behavior. Any suggestions?

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hello, and thanks for telling your story on this site. You have every right to be angry about what your husband is doing (and not doing). Every adult in any household is responsible for doing his/her share of the work that is to be done, but some have gender roles confused and think that it is a woman's work. That is just wrong, and that's why you're angry.

While you have good reasons for your anger, it's also clear that you don't like how you're expressing it. It makes it all too easy for your husband to shift the focus off of his behavior onto yours, which of course makes you even more angry. So, let's figure out some things you can do where you can make your situation better instead of worse.

First, I want you to get a mental picture of the part of you that is angry. Make sure the image shows just how angry you are. Then I want you to let it speak--that is, write as if you were that angry part of you. Let it flow out until there's nothing more to say, and don't hold back or be reasonable. The point is to express pure anger in this exercise.

Then picture the image again and say, "I know you're trying to protect me, and that's why you're so angry. I really appreciate you trying to protect me, it's just that your methods are making things worse. So, I'm going to help you by protecting myself in some other ways that work better. You have a place here inside me, but you're not in charge."

The idea here is that you are accepting your anger, but claiming authority over it.

Now let's look at some healthy ways for you to take care of yourself.

I want you to try shifting your focus away from what you don't want to what you do want. Your focus is on what you don't like about your husband, which is understandable. However, that isn't doing you any good.

Try this:

1) Begin writing every day about what you want. It would go something like this: "I want a healthy, responsible husband who does his part in our home. I want a husband who respects me and wants me to be comfortable and happy in our home."

2) Then think about how good it would feel if you had exactly that. Imagine coming home to a clean house and a husband who is doing his part. Relish those feelings, even though all of this is only in your imagination.

3) Now write the above affirmations again, but in present tense, like this: "I have a healthy, responsible husband who does his part in our home. I have a husband who respects me and wants me to be comfortable and happy in our home. My husband is a good man who deep inside wants to do the right thing. The more love he feels from me, the more love he will feel from me. He really wants me to be happy and content in our home."

4) To help yourself to believe these positive things about your husband, think back on all of the things you love and appreciate about him. Remember why you fell in love with him and chose to marry him.

5) Write every day about what you appreciate about your husband, regardless of what you may be angry about.

You will find more guidance about these journaling processes on this page.

What you're doing here is protecting yourself by focusing on and thereby creating what you truly want. If you are successful in doing the above exercises, I think you will find him slowly getting better. "What you pay attention to grows" so pay attention to the good qualities in him instead of what you don't like.

One more thing, that is very important. Get more selfish (in a healthy way). Go hang out with your girlfriends, go for a walk in the park, go buy yourself a massage, or go shopping or to a movie after work. Since it doesn't feel good to walk into a dirty house, just go somewhere else once in a while.

It is very important that you find ways to feel good. That will help you to do the above exercises, and it will help you manage your anger better also.

Lastly, every time you think of your husband, have fun with a fantasy of him cleaning the house and taking care of the kids. Use this as a stress management tool, no matter what he does.

You contacted me, not a divorce lawyer, so I assume you want to stay married to this man. That's why I'm recommending these things. You deserve respect and love. Demand it, but not with anger. See it in your future, and make up your mind that one way or another, you will have it.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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