Dear Abby: My husband is a hard worker, a good provider and a good dad. However, he’s angry all the time. It has been this way for as long as I can remember. He is aware of it, and always promises me that when this or that settles down, things will get better, but they never do.
When he sees something on TV or reads something in the paper that upsets him, he can say really vile and violent things. Often when he thinks things the kids and I do are not good enough, he borders on being verbally abusive.
His friends say I’m a “saint” for putting up with him, but lately all I feel is tired out and worn down by it. I have spoken to him about this numerous times, and it improves for a few days, then it starts all over. I’m not sure how much longer I can last.
He reads your column, and I’m hoping he’ll see this and realize how bad things really are. I have asked him to go to counseling, but he hasn’t been willing. Do you think there’s anything I can do besides leaving that will make him see what he is doing to me and the kids?
Ready to Leave
Dear Ready to Leave: Your husband may be a good provider and a hard worker, but I seriously question whether he is as good a dad as you would like to think. Children need their parents’ encouragement and approval, as well as their patience and counsel.
When they are given a constant barrage of angry putdowns from a parent, they begin to internalize it. They think such behavior is normal, which means they will repeat it in their relationships when they are older. Or, they may think they deserve to be treated that way and choose mates who treat them like Dad did. Kids with low self-esteem also tend to choose friends who are like themselves, which can cause even more problems.
There is something you can do besides leave right now. Make an appointment for YOURSELF with a licensed psychotherapist and take the children with you. That way, your husband can foot the bill while all of you get your heads straight and you make up your mind if you’re serious about leaving. (Alternatively, he can finally admit he needs help with his anger issues and schedule an appointment for himself.)
Dear Abby: I’m engaged to be married soon, and I’m concerned about a commitment my fiance, “Jeff,” made to his older sister “Beth.” Beth is planning on having a child through a sperm donor and has asked Jeff to be a “father figure” once the child is born.
He has doubts about the wisdom of her plan to parent a child alone, but he doesn’t want to hurt her feelings and is flattered to have been asked to fulfill such an important task. He agreed to do it without discussing it with me. Beth is very nice, and Jeff’s family has embraced me and I don’t want to cause trouble.
Jeff and I plan on having several children of our own, and we also plan to move out of state in the next few years. I am wondering how this commitment will affect that possibility.
I am uncomfortable with Jeff making a lifelong commitment to serve as a father figure to another person’s child, especially when he hasn’t established what it entails. I’m worried that this will cause conflict in our marriage if he goes through with it.
Am I overreacting? I know I need to discuss this with my fiance. How do you suggest I proceed?
In the Midwest
Dear Unsure: You’re not overreacting, and I agree that before this goes any further, you and Jeff need to talk. Open the discussion by telling him that you’re not comfortable and why. Suggest he talk to his sister and find out EXACTLY what she meant when she asked him to be a father figure.
He also needs to tell her he may have spoken too soon when he agreed, because he had not first discussed it with you and that the two of you plan to leave the state in the next few years. She needs that important information because it may alter her choice about who should fill that important role.
To My Asian Friends: Today marks the first day of the Lunar New Year. It’s the Year of the Horse. The horse is a symbol of traveling, competition and victory. May it be a winning year!
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.