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Why Can't I Stop Fighting in Front of My Kids?

By Melissa Chapman

“Why do you just step out of your clothes and leave them on the floor, do you think I’m the maid?” “If you put your used coffee cup in the sink, why can’t you just fill it with water and let it soak?” “You need to put that sweatshirt in the hamper; you’ve been wearing it for a solid week!” Yes, these are my statements -- no, not to my kids -- rather they’re ones I aim directly at my husband of 10 years. With each one my tone gets a bit nastier, eventually escalating into a guttural scream. Unfortunately 99 percent of the time that these barbs are hurled, my daughter and son are present.

I grew up in a home where the sound of screaming, arguing and a few plates being thrown, smashing into millions of smithereens, was almost as commonplace as breathing. I hated it. I remember my sisters and me hoping and praying our parents would stop, and even begging them to get a divorce. In my little-girl mind I couldn’t conceive of what would make two people fight so fiercely, fights that would result in slammed doors, silent treatments, air thick with palpable tension and one parent sleeping in the basement. Then I got married and I finally understood.

The endearing habits and idiosyncrasies that drew me to my beloved spouse are now the habits THAT IRK ME MOST. I knew going into this marriage that our fundamental differences would eventually bubble to the surface. But being swept up in the fairy tale of picking out which flavor of butter cream would top our wedding cake and the color of my bridesmaid dresses, the euphoria of being in love carried me through the first years of marriage. Once the newness eventually wore off, my patience -- coupled with the daily stresses of raising two kids -- wore thin and my spouse’s habits no longer seemed endearing. And as our lives have become more complicated and overwhelmed, our fights have followed suit. Yet there have been so many instances when, in the middle of a screaming match with my husband, I can almost feel my soul vacate my body, hovering over the two of us arguing. I will myself to just stop, knowing that our little kids are listening, soaking it up, and that in doing so we’re planting the seeds of this vicious cycle to continue.

I admit it; I am far from the perfect parent. Do I want to scream at my husband in front of my kids? The answer is unequivocally no. Do I find myself at times, seething and actively attempting to hold back the accusations? Yes. But there are also so many instances when my husband will do something to incite my wrath of fury. As selfish and narcissistic as it may sound, I (unlike the prodigal mothers I know) cannot sublimate my own feelings so as not to affect my kids’ developing psyche. As these instances of us arguing have escalated, my precocious 8 year old now asks the same questions I remember asking my parents as an 8 year old.

They start innocently enough? “Mommy, Daddy, are you going to get a divorce?” “Why are you fighting so much?” “Do you love me?” And truly I am just waiting for the other shoe to drop -- and hear my daughter ask us, as I did with my parents -- to just end our marriage. My 4 year old has begun to chime in with heart-wrenching statements like “When you fight you make my ears hurt.”

Of course I immediately diffuse my daughter’s anxiety and tell her, “I know it’s difficult to see mommy and daddy fighting but sometimes grownups lose their tempers and, just like you fight with your friends, sometimes adults fight, too.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband and cherish our shared history -- but day-in-day-out marriage with the same person is difficult -- the constant need to compromise, sublimate and sacrifice one’s feelings, beliefs and sometimes one’s identity. I don’t think I’m alone in my feelings, perhaps I’m more honest than most.

Still, I am an adult and should be able to control my anger especially when my kids are flat out telling me that my actions are detrimental to them.


Melissa Chapman writes a weekly column called Kids in the City for the Staten Island Advance and the blog, "This real mom wouldn’t be caught dead wearing mom jeans." She also contributes to Time out NY Kids and iVillage.

By Stacey Garfinkle |  May 12, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Guest Blogs , Relationships
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Comments


Melissa, we fight in front of the kids and I always feel terrible about it. It never escalates to raising our voices, physical actions or calling names. I think if I were in your situation, I would consider some couples counseling as well as counseling on your own. It would be an investment in your life and your family. I hope you get the help you need. It doesn't sound as if your marriage will fall apart but you may fall apart in the process and is that worth it?

Posted by: foamgnome | May 12, 2009 7:28 AM | Report abuse

"Still, I am an adult and should be able to control my anger especially when my kids are flat out telling me that my actions are detrimental to them."

Screaming at your husband for ten years - not good for your marriage. Screaming at your husband in front of your kids for their entire lives - not good for the kids and the family as a whole. You know it, hubby knows it, and the kids know it. Yet you continue the bad behavior. Worse, you justify the bad behavior with some really dumb excuses. Do you scream/bully at co-workers, other relatives, or friends? Is it some kind of power or power-less trip for you? Is it a way of getting attention?

"Of course I immediately diffuse my daughter’s anxiety " Don't count on it. You are raising your kids in an atmosphere of verbal and emotional abuse. Do you predict a happy ending from this mess?

Posted by: jezebel3 | May 12, 2009 7:39 AM | Report abuse

I come from a family of yellers and fighters, my husband comes from a family of soft talkers and evaders of all things contentious. It took years for things to settle down to where I don't yell and he doesn't evade, but we seem to be at a happy medium now.

That't not to say the man doesn't drive me batty sometimes, but it took years. The kids have heard us fight and the questions about divorce seem to come after they have heard about another family going through a divorce and our fights prompt the question. That's happened twice that I can think of.

I suppose couples counseling is a good idea if it is deemed necessary, but good luck finding that happy medium Melissa.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | May 12, 2009 7:40 AM | Report abuse

Another common reason people CHOOSE to fight. Is there hot make-up sex after your fights?

Posted by: jezebel3 | May 12, 2009 7:41 AM | Report abuse

Maybe if you spent less time on your blog and more time really looking at yourself, you might be able to solve this. It is YOUR reaction to him, not the annoying things he's up to, that needs to be fixed. I would recommend that you get yourself and your family into some kind of therapy. How sad would it be if your kids associate anger with love?

Posted by: moxiemom1 | May 12, 2009 7:49 AM | Report abuse

"Still, I am an adult and should be able to control my anger especially when my kids are flat out telling me that my actions are detrimental to them."

YES! So, learn to control yourself. Now.

This is one of the few areas where I'll admit to being totally judgmental. If you don't have enough self-control to stop screaming on a regular basis, you do not deserve to have a family. You know you are hurting them, and you need to cut it out. Get counseling, something, anything before you do more harm. Or worse, before your kids start viewing you with total contempt (as happened with me and my own mom).

Posted by: newsahm | May 12, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps I am just ignorant, but why can't these things be "discussed" after the kids are in bed? Any time two people are living together compromises need to be worked out and sometimes that is not an easy process. Still, in our family if I'm sick of my husband not doing something (or doing something I don't want him too) I will bring it up after the kids are in bed. Likewise, that's what he does with me. At first these "discussions" ended up with fights (and me in tears - I HATE conflict), but we have now developed a method where the irks and irritations often lead to actual productive discussions - sometimes nothing changes, but an understanding of motivation has helped ease the tension. In any case, I can't imagine having these arguments in front of my kids.

From my own growing up, I remember occasions of being in bed and hearing my parents fight downstairs - including on one occasion when my Dad left the house. It was scary, but rare. I have come to realize that sometimes my parents fight out of habit at this point, but as a kid I didn't grasp that concept. It was the long stretches between fights that allowed me to feel happy in our family, not the reassurances my mom gave right after the fighting.

Posted by: cqjudge | May 12, 2009 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Not defending this, but you do what you know. If all she saw growing up were raging battles, just how is she going to do otherwise without some self knowledge and a personal investment in a way to change. Agree on therapy for both of them. Especially if she's yelling at her husband for the same things over and over -- his passive/aggressive response to the yelling? Sounds like he's just as much a party to it. Sometimes you just have to look at it with an eye towards whether or not you want your kids to end up like this. We all know that first step...
And no, we're not perfect either. Two non-confrontational adults, same arguements over and over. But we set aside the fears, pour it all out, and fix it because it's best for US. And therefore best for our kids.
Good luck Melissa. And stop being the maid.

Posted by: StrollerMomma | May 12, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: cqjudge | May 12, 2009 8:38 AM | Report abuse


"Perhaps I am just ignorant, but why can't these things be "discussed" after the kids are in bed? "

The parents choose the behavior.

"that allowed me to feel happy in our family, not the reassurances my mom gave right after the fighting."

Comforting the victim after the abuse is a classic abuser move. So are the B.S. excuses. If the author was asking "Why Can't I Stop Beating My Kids?", and she is emotionally beating her kids, she might get it. The whole family needs help. Now.

Posted by: jezebel3 | May 12, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

"But there are also so many instances when my husband will do something to incite my wrath of fury."

"Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband and cherish our shared history -- but day-in-day-out marriage with the same person is difficult -- the constant need to compromise, sublimate and sacrifice one’s feelings, beliefs and sometimes one’s identity. I don’t think I’m alone in my feelings, perhaps I’m more honest than most.

Still, I am an adult and should be able to control my anger especially when my kids are flat out telling me that my actions are detrimental to them."

It is very clear that you need professional help to learn to deal with your "wrath of fury". You obviously know the yelling and screaming matches are bad for the kids, and you aren't able to control your temper. You need to get help because you know first-hand that growing up in this kind of an environment isn't good for your kids.

No, you aren't alone in your feelings. But you do need to learn how to handle them better. I hope you get the help you need. If you're not willing to do it for yourself, then do it for your children.

Posted by: dennis5 | May 12, 2009 9:10 AM | Report abuse

I agree with jezebel and moxiemom. It takes counseling and a lot of hard work to learn how to fight fairly. It works and it's worth it!

Posted by: snuggie | May 12, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

We try to limit our fighting in front of our kids. I just don't think it's healthy for them to listen to and/or watch.

On another note, I have decided that men are physically unable to put their coffee mugs in the sink and fill it with warm water. Or better yet, why not rinse it out real quick and put it in the dishwasher???????

Posted by: LBH219 | May 12, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Your husband sounds like a real clod -- if he doesn't know when to change his clothes or put a coffee mug in a dishwasher after 10 years of nagging, kick him out. I'll bet he can't even refill the toilet paper holder. Yes, you do sound selfish and narcissistic. You grew up in an abusive environment and the cycle is continuing with your wretched marriage. Frankly I wouldn't want to be married to either of you. Bite the bullet. Pull the plug. Get a divorce. Then you can really fight in front of the kids.

Posted by: Baltimore11 | May 12, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Melissa, when I read your column, I could see a little of myself. My mother grew up in a family where her father regularly berated his wife and some (but not all) of his children. My mom did a great job breaking that cycle. When she was angry or frustrated, however, sometimes she would yell. It didn't happen every day, but probably once or twice a month. As a result, I learned that behavior, and I can struggle with reacting appropriately to frustrating or angry moments. But I am an adult, and I know how harmful it is to other people to react out of anger or frustration by yelling. I had to learn to take a break, and also gain some perspective. Really, what is it about the coffee cup and sock incidents that make you so frustrated? You feel it's more work for you, so talk to your husband about it when you are calm and ask him to make an effort to pick up his socks and take care of the coffee cup. And remember, there are probably little things that you do that your husband would like to change.

A few days ago, the discussion was about how parents manage their everyday lives of work and parenting. I commented (as others did) that it takes teamwork. That teamwork involves honest and frank communication. If those conversations are charged with high emotions, they will not be productive discussions.

Please reevaluate your behavior and the impact it has on your family. You will be a happier person if you learn to change how you react and deal with frustrating moments. I wish you all the best.

Posted by: SilverSpringMom1 | May 12, 2009 9:46 AM | Report abuse

"But there are also so many instances when my husband will do something to incite my wrath of fury."

Leaving a coffee cup in the sink incites "fury?" Wearing a sweatshirt for several days in a row makes you "furious?"

Actually, no, not all married women are constantly sublimating their rage or biting back screams over stuff like this.

"day-in-day-out marriage with the same person is difficult -- the constant need to compromise, sublimate and sacrifice one’s feelings, beliefs and sometimes one’s identity. I don’t think I’m alone in my feelings, perhaps I’m more honest than most."

Not really. Plenty of married people don't feel this way at all.

If you know that your behavior is making your kids this anxious, then figure out a way to stop it. At least quit patting yourself on the back for being so "honest" about what marriage is like.

Posted by: Lizzie3 | May 12, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Sounds like you need marriage therapy. I see no reason why you should carry on like this in front of your kids. My parents never did nor do my husband and I speak like that to each other. My husband's parents fought a lot like that and still do and we have decided when we have kids we won't even let them go over there if they can't control themselves. Your home life is supposed to be a refuge for the family from the rest of the world. Doesn't sound very safe and relaxing to me. Do yourself and your kids a favor and go get professional help or get divorced.

Posted by: sunflower571 | May 12, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Grew up with a yelling parent. Lots of work to overcome this.

Two separate issues - parents yelling in anger in front of the kids versus parents having a disagreement in front of the kids. The first one is damaging. The second is not. I wish my parents had known how to peacefully discuss and resolve differences in front of me. It would have been a valuable lesson to learn.

Posted by: ishgebibble | May 12, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Another thing-I don't get the people who are excusing her because her parents acted like this. That should be enough reason to change and should have made her wiser when picking a spouse. My husband saw the way his parents fought his whole life and consciously doesn't want to be like that. I also have a SIL who says the same thing-you should learn from your parents mistakes not repeat them.

Posted by: sunflower571 | May 12, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

If my husband and I have some kind of issue that can't wait (which generally involves something with the kids), we go into the bedroom and shut the door. 99% of the time, we discuss this in a rational way so the kids are not hearing yelling and screaming behind that closed door. We simply want to make sure we are in agreement without the kids listening in on the issue at hand.

We are lucky, in this case, that we don't have the kids full time so we can find time to 'argue' without their ears listening in.

We have certainly had arguments in front of the kids. Very rarely 'knock em down drag em out' but still obvious that we aren't agreeing. Even these disagreements upset the children. I don't think we need to shield the kids from every disagreement or how do they understand that you can disagree and still love each other?

My husband had/has a really bad temper. This showed up fairly soon after we got together. I finally told him that he either figured out how to control it or go to counseling. If he couldn't do that, I was out the door. He managed to figure out how to control them on his own within a month or so. Change is possible for people with bad tempers. I can't say he had gotten rid of his temper but at least he has it under control.

Now if I could only get him to communicate about issues so we can improve/fix them. He is very uncommunicative so we tend to spend more time ignoring the issues than actually resolving them.

Posted by: Billie_R | May 12, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

He is very uncommunicative so we tend to spend more time ignoring the issues than actually resolving them.

Posted by: Billie_R | May 12, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Uncommunicative and bad tempered. Wow! What in the world made you fall in love with this guy? "Ignoring the issues" is a recipe for disaster and a bad example for the kids. What a mess.

Posted by: jezebel3 | May 12, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I agree with sunflower. Family history is not an excuse. If anything, the poster has been given a blueprint of what not to do.

I grew up in an emotionally charged situation. Mom said and did terrible things to anyone who happened to be in her path when the whim for cruelty struck. And even though I sometimes have the urge to say or do similar terrible things, I control myself. I know how much my mom's self-indulgence hurt our family, and I will continue to do everything in my power not to hurt my family the same way.

Posted by: newsahm | May 12, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Jezebel,

As I am sure many people have experienced (men and women), the person you dated somehow morphs into a different person after the vows are said.

When we were dating he used to talk my ears off ALL THE TIME. Happens far more rarely these days. He was a bit quick tempered (as am I) while we were dating but it didn't dawn on me that his quick temperedness was any different than mine and it is a rare day indeed when I move into a raging bad temper.

He had many good qualities when I married him and still does. And rather than bashing him for having a temper, lets congratulate him on getting it under control when he realized it was damaging relationships with loved ones. Many people seem to be incapable of doing that - including the writer today.


Posted by: Billie_R | May 12, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I have a horrible temper, and used to let anger and frustration drive me into wall-punching, stomping, room-wrecking fury. My dad did the same when I was a kid, and I think on some very deep level I was proud of being so physical with my frustration because my beloved dad was that way, too. I never hurt anyone or anyone else's things but my own, but I did scare and appal my husband.

Then I had my son, and I simply vowed I would never be physically angry again. No more temper tantrums. Ever. That vow was as serious as the one I made when I married, and I've kept both. It isn't difficult anymore, now that I've practiced other more productive ways of dealing with frustration and anger.

At some level, I think people who scream and berate and throw things believe it really is okay, that they are either justified or that it shows their passion. At least I did, until I realized how truly un-okay it was. Once I got that through my thick skull I stopped cold turkey.

Posted by: mamabean | May 12, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

You can do better, for yourself, for your family. It's not easy. But it's worth it.

You know when you're getting mad, you can choose to respond differently.

"Honey, I know it's one of my annoying yet beloved quirks, but could you please let me know when (insert action) you will complete this? It really helps me out. Listen, I am a little worked up, I need (estimate time) to (go for a run, do something else), would you please keep an eye on the kids so I can give myself a time-out?"

In the meantime, whether it's intentional or not, he's getting something out of winding you up. At least some of the time. Martyrdom? Not-crazy daddy who may or may not be helping with keeping the chaos at bay?

You may find it useful to do a spreadsheet of daily/weekly/monthly/yearly chores, the approximate time it takes to do it and who does it. You may be underestimating how much time and effort he is putting forth, you may not. The both of you can work on that.

It can be eye-opening and useful.

My mother was like you, but worse. I should've been taken by child protective services to get away from her direct aggression, and from his not intervening on my behalf (AND winding her up). We're good now, and have been since my early 20's. Why? Because she started therapy when I was very young and while it certainly didn't seem to help me much at the time, I knew she was SERIOUS about changing her reactions to situations.

Mind you, she was abused as a child herself and has borderline personality disorder (but is one of the few who realized from a young age the something was "off" about herself and wanted to change), so I know it's not easy. You are probably a lot better than she was, but clearly there is room for improvement.

My parents are still married and mostly making it work. 41 years next month. It can happen, but you gotta DO something.

You'll be happier and healthier, so will your kids and hopefully your marriage too. It can be better than it is right now.

Posted by: Skowronek | May 12, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

skow: my dad basically thinks HE'S fine and it's the rest of the world that has issues. I think he has some sort of personality disorder, but he's in his 70s and, well, clearly he doesn't care, so it's never been diagnosed, etc.
Mom finally left when I was in college. He actually stopped speaking to all of us (kids) because we were still speaking to her. It's weird, cause she passed away before I met my DH, and my DH doesn't get it. He thinks I made up all that stuff about the divorce, etc, cause my dad will talk about my mom so nicely and lovingly...as if there was never one ounce of animosity there. So DH is entirely confused.
We live with darling dad being who he is, it's not the easiest, but for me, well, I don't live near him, so he comes to visit once in a while.
So, he's the one who has/had the temper, would throw tantrums all the time, etc. My sisters don't think there was anything wrong with it - oldest is abusive to her kids/husband, younger one married dear ole dad. It's so great.
I definitely have a temper, but have learned over the years to be better and better. not perfect, but hoping to get better and better...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | May 12, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

You need counseling, and some ground rules, like no humiliating your husband in front of the kids. (are you kidding screaming about a cup in the sink, sounds like it's about something much bigger than that)
All adult compromising conversations take place when the kids go to bed. Etc.

I'm stunned by your article, I've been married for 15 years and this doesn't go on in our house. My husbands childhood was a nightmare, but he doesn't use that EXCUSE to act abusively to me or the kids.

Maybe you should take up running to get rid of some of your aggression.

"Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband and cherish our shared history -- but day-in-day-out marriage with the same person is difficult -- the constant need to compromise, sublimate and sacrifice one’s feelings, beliefs and sometimes one’s identity. I don’t think I’m alone in my feelings, perhaps I’m more honest than most."

Marriage,Parenting even life isn't easy, but it's your life, your marriage. If your as unhappy as you sound you really should talk to someone for your own good. Take a good look at your marriage and life and see if your really happy, if not it's up to you to do something about it. A marriage, a family they are hard work and their are trying times, I work to, but screaming at your husband in front of the kids, constantly, is inexcusable!! You and your spouse are suppose to be a united front, what are you going to do when the kids get older and have big problems, like drinking, sex, drugs, driving etc. Your suppose to support each other, show the kids what love and a family are. They learn by living it, think about what your teaching them, you really need to talk to a professional. Good luck.
Think of how they feel, be selfless and do it for them.

Posted by: beachy2 | May 12, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

"If you don't have enough self-control to stop screaming on a regular basis, you do not deserve to have a family."


The self-righteous are out in spades today. So this isn't your challenge? Goodie for you. It's easy to point a finger when someone is honest about her relationship and parenting challenges.

For those of you whose challenge is, "how do I stop jumping to conclusions about neighbors and friends and teach my children not to be judgmental hypocrites", seek counseling as promptly as you are advising the author of today's blog to seek it for her challenge. She's at least honest.

Posted by: anonfornow | May 12, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Melissa, please realize that becoming furious because you found a dish out of the sink is not within the bounds of normal. It's not even close.

You are in need of some serious professional help. And I don't mean "couples counseling".

The problem is you, Melissa, and there is no way to fix your marriage or the damage you are inflicting upon the children you are supposed to be caring for, until such time as you can stop flying off the handle when you think your hubby didn't change his shirt often enough for your liking.

Get help. Please.

Posted by: afsljafweljkjlfe | May 12, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

She's at least honest.

Posted by: anonfornow | May 12, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

And she's abusing her kids and husband. Another classic defense of an abuser. The prisons are full of 'em. Honesty is the FIRST step. You get the brass band and the medal when you STOP the bad behavior, not make excuses for it.

"It's easy to point a finger when someone is honest about her relationship and parenting challenges. "

Child/spousal abuse is a "relationship/parenting challenge"? Who knew?
Why not call her brave? The title of this blog should be "Why I Won't Stop Fighting in Front of My Kids".

Posted by: anonfornow | May 12, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: jezebel3 | May 12, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Time? Money? Sex? Parenting? Inlaws? I've concluded that these catagories only make up about 20% of what a marriage is all about.

The other 80% is dedicated to dish and laundry management!

Or perhaps I've been reading this blog for way too long.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | May 12, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

jezebel, your definition of child and spousal abuse is highly selective. It doesn't include condescension or belittling of others with different opinions -- behaviors of yours that your late husband doubtless experienced. Take out the log in your own eye before you point out the speck in your neighbor's.

Posted by: anonfornow | May 12, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

jezebel, your definition of child and spousal abuse is highly selective. It doesn't include condescension or belittling of others with different opinions -- behaviors of yours that your late husband doubtless experienced.

Posted by: anonfornow | May 12, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

LOL!! It's the Net! LOL!
My husband died, he didn't divorce me. LOL!

"Take out the log in your own eye before you point out the speck in your neighbor's."

Oh, brother. One of those.

Posted by: jezebel3 | May 12, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

No. Nonononono. Yes, the day-to-day grind of being married to the same person can be frustrating at times. But "fury" over a dish in the sink or a dirty sweatshirt? That's not just being "more honest than most." There's something seriously wrong -- and it's not about the dish.

Marriage requires sublimating your feelings? Sacrificing your beliefs? Even your identity? Seriously? Who said? Since when? Yes, we all make tradeoffs on a day-to-day basis, for the good of the other, for the good of the family. But who you are, and your own innermost beliefs? Hon, I'm not giving those things up for anyone. And yet, you say it like it's no big deal, as though of COURSE that's what marriage is all about. Nonononono. No one should EVER ask you to give up that much of yourself, for anything. THAT's where the anger comes from.

Please, please, please go to a counselor. It sounds very strongly like you are living a role, trying to be what a wife should be, what a mom should be. But that's not who you are. And so this overwhelming fury is coming out over all of these little meaningless things, because you don't dare voice the really big scary thing. But continuing to vent over all the little stuff is never going to fix what really matters. And you are taking your kids down with you. Seriously. There is nothing -- nothing -- you can say afterwards that makes up for putting them through this.

Please stop kidding yourself. Stop telling yourself you're just "more honest." Stop pretending you can "make it up" to your kids with a kind word later (did that work for you?). Stop pretending that you just can't help yourself -- because you can, or else you'd be fired from every job, in traffic accidents every week, and likely in jail for assault. You do this because you can get away with it. Because your kids are too little to stop you, and your husband isn't man enough to. And if they won't stop you, you need to stop yourself. Go to a counselor, NOW. You deserve better than this -- and so do your kids.

Posted by: laura33 | May 12, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

"The self-righteous are out in spades today. So this isn't your challenge? Goodie for you. It's easy to point a finger when someone is honest about her relationship and parenting challenges."

Read my other posts in this thread. Controlling anger and the urge to scream/say hurtful things _is_ my challenge. The difference between me and the OP is I actually make an effort to control myself. I can count on one hand the times I've yelled at my husband in 10 years of marriage, and I've never done it within earshot of the kids. It's difficult, but the effort is both necessary and worthwhile.

Ill admit to judging the OP. She's clearly not trying very hard to control herself, and she hides behind a veil of "honesty" to excuse her behavior. IMO, that's not acceptable.

Posted by: newsahm | May 12, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

as i looked through the postings, i was wondering how long it took before someone was outraged that the husband didn't live up to Melissa's standards of cleanliness.


it didn't take long.

good for her husband for sticking around. if i was married to someone who screamed at me every time i didn't do the dishes i wouldn't last.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | May 12, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

This is emotional abuse. And even if not directed at the children (yet), it is already doing serious damage. Please seek help immediately. I lived with an emotionally abusive father and it takes a huge toll on children. The op is not being honest, as she refuses to recognize the abuse and tries to make excuses for it.

Posted by: Ga_gal | May 12, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

do you think her husband is reading this?

ouch.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | May 12, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I certainly agree that the author needs to get some kind of counseling for the behavior, which is abusive to the children and overall not helpful.

But as to the underlying triggers, boy can I relate. There just does come a time in relationships where the ordinary tics of the other person can drive you nuts. And it doesn't make a lot of sense, rationally, why should it matter about the coffee cup that much? But somehow, it does. I am not at all a yeller but I seem to always get to a point in a few years with someone of getting thoroughly sick of some mannerism or habit of theirs, whether it's clearing their throat, eating a certain way, telling the same joke, whatever. My response is just to kind of grind my teeth and say nothing and feel like I am sick of them and wish I weren't there. Does anyone know how you push past this stage? I could really use an answer to this.

Posted by: catherine3 | May 12, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know how you push past this stage? I could really use an answer to this.

Posted by: catherine3 | May 12, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

This might be a really crazy idea, but how about talking about it?

Posted by: dennis5 | May 12, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

How do you get past it?

Understand that your dislike of your partner's mannerisms is the expression of deeper frustration in your relationship. Get to the root of what's really bugging you and discuss the issue.

Since men can't read minds, they usually find it pretty helpful to know when they're annoying their partner to such an extreme.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | May 12, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

I like the counseling suggestions, but can we make them more gently please? This isn't as doom-and-gloom *serious* as most of the posters are making it out to be.

Been there, done that...

Yeah, screaming, throwing things, breaking and smashing things, flipped over a coffee table once with a kerosene lamp on it (no, didn't burn the house down!), running out the door, and just kept running and running, away from the arguments/fights. And more. Ugly, hurtful.

Family/marriage counseling is about figuring out why both of us reacted to each other's little quirks so strongly, and it often did go back to our childhoods, something a parent or other important figure had done in the past that was hurtful was being remembered and replayed in the marriage.

Once we both began to understand each other's triggers or buttons, it was a whole lot easier to hear behind the anger, the request (maybe plea) for love and respect, and "please don't hurt me like Mommy/Daddy did". And understanding why my husband's raised voice put me into a such an unreasoning panic (Dad always started screaming before he started hitting, and his "spankings" would be considered abuse today, no question, even though it was pretty much viewed as discipline back in the 60's) gave me the first tool I needed to stop panicking. He wasn't going to hit me or beat me, and I knew that intellectually, but I had to train myself to *think* that when the feelings of panic were starting. DH had to learn *why* my panicky escapes would set him off, and why he'd respond to my attempts to run away by physically trapping me in the house - it was bringing up all his abandonment issues around his father's suicide when he was a small child. We were in a near-perfect, deadly embrace.

We were in counselling on a regular schedule for about four years. And after that we went back for "fifty thousand mile tune-ups" a couple of times over the next 4-5 years.

And we'd both been divorced previously, so I know that the time and effort of getting divorced again would have been less than what it took for us to stay together and fix what wasn't working right in our marriage. It was sooooooo worth the time and effort to get it repaired though! And as an extra bonus, learning about each other, and learning how to cope with our traumatic histories, gave us tools for dealing with our extended family, too. We can get along with nearly everyone now, nearly all the time.

And finally, I disagree with "never argue in front of the children". Because children need to see that adults can disagree, and how we can work out our disagreements in a loving and respectful manner. If they don't see us model it, how will they learn to do it in their own lives and marriages?

Posted by: SueMc | May 12, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

SueMc, thanks for your story. I think it offers helpful perspective about how things can improve dramatically by working together and being willing to see past the surface issues.

My own opinion is that each person has a set level of anger and happiness, which is pretty much their "normal." I am fortunate to have a very high normal happiness and a quite low normal anger level, which makes it pretty easy for me to treat people well.

Obviously that isn't true for this OP. As others have pointed out, though, there's nothing acceptable about treating your loved ones like crap because screaming obscenities is the first thing that pops into your mind. Obviously we don't all allow that initial impulse to actually be expressed, or there would be a lot more assault arrests than there are.

Posted by: newslinks1 | May 12, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Where is OP's response to the comments?

Posted by: jezebel3 | May 12, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know how you push past this stage? I could really use an answer to this.

Posted by: catherine3 | May 12, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Spend more time in the bedroom with your spouse. I promise it will help you get over the minor annoyances.


Posted by: SilverSpringMom1 | May 12, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Wow Melissa, this just sounds terrible for everybody in the family.
If you are smart and honest enough to write about your behavior so clearly I'd say you're also capable of improving the situation.
My mother in law is ALWAYS angry at her husband, and it's usually about stupid stuff. But not really. What she's really upset about is his general laziness around the house, his smoking (which is killing him), his stubborness and unwillingness to make changes that will make life easier for her and better for the whole family, the fact that she makes the majority of the sacrifices. It's really not the dirty coffee cups. I don't know what you are really ticked with your husband about but I'm guessing it's so big that you are afriad to discuss it for fear of a marital explosion. The sweatshirts are the benign easy target here. Maybe get some counseling, even if just for yourself, to get a handle on this. Once you have a better understanding of where the anger is coming from you might come up with a positive way to deal with it.

Posted by: pinkoleander | May 12, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for sharing a heart breaking story. I think we began to go down that path shortly after our twins were born. I developed the very bad habit of muttering under my breath. It was poisoning our relationship and I stopped it before it escalated. I can think of one bad fight where I stepped over the line. The underlying problem was that we'd agree to some course of action and then my wife wouldn't follow through. It felt like a small betrayal. We still have a lot to work through, but a lot to build on as well.

There's a lot of condemnation coming down on Melissa's head. It seems, however, that there may be a degree of passive aggressive behavior on the part of the husband. Unless this is a matter of every little thing setting her off, some relatively minor changes in behavior would ease the tension. Why hasn't that occurred?

If a marriage requires one to compromise, sublimate and sacrifice one’s feelings, beliefs and sometimes one’s identity. there is something seriously wrong. I hope that the couple gets the counseling they both badly need.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | May 12, 2009 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Just reading this article brought back vivid memories of my own parents fighting like this. They went through a spell of really bad fighting for about a year, and it was the worst year of my childhood. I remember stocking my closet with juice boxes and pretzels so I wouldn't have to come out of my room to eat if things got bad that night.

I vowed back then that I would never do this to my own children, and so far, so good. It helps that I married the nicest man alive. He has quirks, but none that make me want to scream (at least not after six years of marriage).

I'm going to sound like Carolyn Hax here, but I think you and your husband should consider some marriage counseling. You know how awful this is for your kids (you went through it, too), yet you still can't make your household a peaceful place. I think you owe it to your kids (and to yourself) to try to work on this directly and make your home a warm and peaceful place for your family, and that includes you.

Posted by: stuntmonkey | May 12, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Let's try a little experiment. Imagine if this article were written by a man. Yes, I know, AS IF. Indulge me.

"“Why do you let the gas tank get to empty, do you think I’m your chauffeur?” “If you put your pantyhose on the shower curtain, why can’t you wring them out first?” “You need to stop using my razor; I always cut myself after you’ve used it on your legs!” Yes, these are my statements -- no, not to my kids -- rather they’re ones I aim directly at my wife of 10 years. With each one my tone gets a bit nastier, eventually escalating into a guttural scream. Unfortunately 99 percent of the time that these barbs are hurled, my daughter and son are present....

I knew going into this marriage that our fundamental differences would eventually bubble to the surface. But being swept up in the hot sex and being able to get it every day, the euphoria of being in love carried me through the first years of marriage. Once the newness eventually wore off, my patience -- coupled with the daily stresses of raising two kids -- wore thin and my wife’s habits no longer seemed endearing. And as our lives have become more complicated and overwhelmed, our fights have followed suit. Yet there have been so many instances when, in the middle of a screaming match with my wife, I can almost feel my soul vacate my body, hovering over the two of us arguing. I will myself to just stop, knowing that our little kids are listening, soaking it up, and that in doing so we’re planting the seeds of this vicious cycle to continue....

I admit it; I am far from the perfect parent. Do I want to scream at my wife in front of my kids? The answer is unequivocally no. Do I find myself at times, seething and actively attempting to hold back the accusations? Yes. But there are also so many instances when my wife will do something to incite my wrath of fury. As selfish and narcissistic as it may sound, I (unlike the prodigal fathers I know) cannot sublimate my own feelings so as not to affect my kids’ developing psyche. As these instances of us arguing have escalated, my precocious 8 year old now asks the same questions I remember asking my parents as an 8 year old....

Don’t get me wrong, I love my wife and cherish our shared history -- but day-in-day-out marriage with the same person is difficult -- the constant need to compromise, sublimate and sacrifice one’s feelings, beliefs and sometimes one’s identity. I don’t think I’m alone in my feelings, perhaps I’m more honest than most."

Still feeling sympathetic? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Posted by: MDH3 | May 12, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

SueMc is right, the doom and gloom and horrible remarks towards Melissa are over the top. Thanks Sue Mc for your very honest post, people should take a lesson from it.

First, Melissa seems honest in her writings but we still have limited information. It would have been nice to get some feedback as the day went on but I can see why she didn't reply to some of the remarks.

Comments such as "Maybe if you spent less time on your blog and more time really looking at yourself, you might be able to solve this" or "If you don't have enough self-control to stop screaming on a regular basis, you do not deserve to have a family" are out of line. How many people hurling the insults today are completely honest about your behavior in front of your children? I know some here think they are practically perfect in every way, and I hate to burst your happy little bubble, but you are not. Telling people they don't deserve a family is harsh and unnecessary.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | May 12, 2009 9:49 PM | Report abuse

MDH3, I think you're my soul mate. Thanks for your honesty. I completely understand where you're coming from, and I feel the depth of the pain that you're putting into words. I at least am not too proud to admit that I have been there.

But after witnessing what I've seen on this blog today, I have decided that I would never submit a piece of writing to be judged by the likes of you guys -- all the self-righteous judging, all the people who seem to have these perfect lives and perfect marriages, telling the rest of us that we chose badly and probably married for the wrong reasons or maybe just weren't as 'lucky' as you were. (I don't know about you but I didn't have hundreds of potential suitors to choose from, allowing me to only choose the one who respected me and my needs and my career and my house and so on and so forth. Sometimes we compromise a bit. That's life.)

I found myself mulling over today's conversation in the car -- and wondering about those who are arguing that:
1. the OP doesn't have the right to fight
2. the OP doesn't have the right to yell
and
3. the OP doesn't have the right to get angry.

It's the third group I'm having the hardest time with -- because I'm enough of a feminist to believe that sometimes (often?) when people are angry it's because they're being oppressed, and sometimes one needs to yell and get angry when one senses real injustices being done. I found myself thinking about all the "nice" women we've seen on TV who never yelled and never got angry -- June Cleaver and Edith Bunker come to mind. I'm not sure that passivity and smiles in the face of injustice ARE the best approach -- even if you're doing it for the sake of the children. I'd rather my daughter learn that women aren't maids nor are they house elves. I'd like my daughter to learn that it's OK to get angry when others aren't pulling their weight in the household and that she has the right to do so. Women have been silent for too long.

Posted by: Justsaying4 | May 12, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

MDH3 - Yes, I would have sympathy for the husband/father in such a situation. And I do. We don't know all sides of this story.

Justsaying... This blog sadly attracts a lot of venom. There was a recent guest post from the author of the Mamabird Diaries about having trouble naming her daughter. Many of the comments were equally ugly. And it was about nothing!

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | May 12, 2009 10:41 PM | Report abuse

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