Saturday, May 06, 2006

Ask Me Gets Personal

From AskMetafilter:
How to cope with an angry mate
May 5, 2006 10:38 PM
Does anyone have any insight into living/coping with a mate who has unpredictable angry outbursts and a mean streak? Not a first marriage for either of us. . . 3 kids that are mine(2) and ours(1). Thought he was my long-awaited dream come true.

Our relationship seems to have devolved over the past year as financial stress has increased; we've been together for 18 months. He never, to my knowledge, has lied to me, but there were money issues from his past that he didn't tell me about. I put my name (and my good credit) on a mortgage. . . long story short, the house was lost, my credit blemished and he has been unemployed for 6 months. I am very angry with both him and myself. When we argue -- or even just try to discuss something seemingly safe -- he can suddenly reach a point where he doesn't seem to be hearing my words any longer and he gets mean, derisive, verbally abusive. He does have depression, has for years, and he takes a high dose (200 mg) of Zoloft. We have been in counseling, but I don't feel that it's making a big difference. My own feelings of self-confidence and self-worth have plummetted. I have been trying very hard to make this relationship work, more and more for the reason that I don't want to put my older kids through any more trauma than necessary. I do love my husband and, lest I make him sound like a beast, he is highly intelligent, fairly insightful, usually thoughful and very frustrated about not being able to land a job. Could his depression explain his Jekyll & Hyde behavior? Does anyone out there live with a mate who's got characteristics like this? Any advice?
posted by anonymous to human relations (9 comments total) [!][↑] No other comments.

I'm one of those guys like Alvy. [Read alvy's comment at ask.metafilter, above] I tend to internalize my anger and choke it back until I erupt on the people I love. (Usually, ok, invariably, my irrational rage is directed toward my wife of thirteen years.)

I have felt the same frustrations that your husband feels. I feel many of them today. I've just gone through a rough patch with my wife, and I'm happy to say we've come out stronger and better. At least we listen to each now, which is huge.

Before, I would rant and scream and get red in the face and my wife would coolly turn away and not acknowledge me and it made me batshit crazy. Later, she would fume and pout and throw stuff and I would play it off, thinking tit for tat.

We both realized that we were playing into each others' pathologies. Her script (you know, the "how-families-behave" script that you have in your head by the time you are ten) read that Dad drinks and yells, Mom covers and fluffs. Much older siblings provide role models. So her reaction to my bad behavior was to compensate by being superresponsible and attentive. But she hated me when I got like that, so she had to walk away. My script, however, says that everyone yells and points, all sulk, truce is called, things are hashed out. I'm an only, and everyone exists for my amusement. So my reaction to her bad behavior to was to play mind games and reestablish the status I'd previously held before losing my shit the last time.

Actually talking thorugh all this with my wife took:
a) appropriate herbal supplements
b) dinner at a nice restaurant
c) enough alcohol to prime the pump, not enough to drench it
d) pointlessly epic argument when we got home followed by sweet sweet love
e) learning to enjoy grudge fucking. It's really helped my marriage.

Let me clarify (but that was really cathartic to write, thanks for asking). Let's say you wake up in the middle of the night. Outside, a car and driver and moving vans with crews of movers are waiting silently. Your husband is sound asleep, and you know he will sleep soundly for hours yet. The driver of your car has all the papers you need to make the divorce legit and final and fair. All you have to do is sign them, amending them as you see fit. You have your pick of places to live, and your housing is guaranteed. You will never see your husband again on any occasion not of your own choosing.

Is this an opportunity, or a temptation?

If it's a temptation, keep him and take the good advice offered above. If he's a smart guy with a good heart, he'll shape up. If it's an opportunity, then your heart and your head are telling you to go, and all that remains is surmounting the very real difficulties of sorting out a marriage in court.

Loving him unconditionally won't make him a better husband. It may make you a better wife. But it won't make him the man you're supposed to love unconditionally. Discovering the capacity in oneself for unconditional love is revelatory and crippling. It's supposed to be that way.

Also, if he's a reasonably intelligent person who's out of work, I can find him a job waiting tables tomorrow. He'll bring home anywhere from $50-$100 a day.

1 comment:

Jon said...

It was like looking in the mirror.

Finally at age 46 (last year) I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Knowledge of the condition, and the right meds, and I'm a different person around my family.