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 he 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.
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.)
Seeking balanced friendships
Dear Abby: I was wondering what is the appropriate level of give and take in a friendship? I notice that in some relationships I am always giving and never receiving, where in others I am always receiving. How do you know when a balance is reached?
– Jake in Albany, Ga.
Dear Jake: There is give and take in all healthy relationships. A “balance is reached” when you can give without feeling used and take without feeling guilty that you’re being given too much.