Marriage On The Mind

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By Rebecca Teti

Thursday: Marriage

(Join each day’s Coffee Talk discussion: Mon: Parenting; Tues: Open Forum; Wed: NFP; Thu: Marriage; Fri: Education; Sat/Sun: Changing Roles)

Struggling in your marriage? Have some relationship advice to share? Have a marriage success story to share? Have a man/woman question? This weekly thread is the place to do it.

Come on in and join the conversation!

Rebecca Teti


  • Lets start by saying that my husband does not have the most suave people-skills. And I don't hold that against him - its him. But I don't know how to gracefully handle his awkwardness when it involves the kids. For example, we both value teaching our kids manners, but lately he has begun COMPLETELY ignoring our three-year-old unless she begins every request with "please." Its like he doesn't "get" that she's still using good manners if she says something like (in a very sweet voice), "Oh, Daddy! I would just love to go in the backyard! Can you open the door for me?" Silent treatment until she repeats the WHOLE THING with "please" (she can't just tack "please" on at the end when I say, "Honey, what's that special word you use?" She has to use it in a complete sentence because my husband thinks its a cop-out/whiney-sounding to just tack it on later.) The thing that gets me is his inability to accept a sweet tone of voice as polite! And this is just one example. Another is that he cannot handle a lot of up-close-and-personal (I NEVER initiate cuddling or touching - most of the time it bothers him. I wait for him to initiate. Again, no big deal (once I figured out that it was not personal)... but, again, it is driving me CRAZY to hear him tell the kids, "Please don't touch me right now! I need some space!" when they run to him for a hug. Of course, the kids look at me with a "huh?!" look. I don't know what to do or say! I've been trying to sort-of smooth things over, "Well, Daddy's done a lot of *hard* work at work today & he just needs some time to rest" etc. But the problem is the suddenness of his announcements. He can be playing with the baby (sitting on the floor by him) and then our toddler runs over and jumps on his back enthusiastically and gets repremanded! It makes me want to cry and cry. Thoughts anyone?

    Posted on Feb 21st, 2013 at 6:09 AM by anonymous

  • anon: I wish I had an answer for you . . . I can understand your frustration! Have you tried having a frank conversation about the social differences between children and adults and the need to change his expectations? This was a huge adjustment for my husband: right after we were married we watched a family of six for the weekend and my husband gave the 3 yo the task of wiping down the countertop--after watching her sit on the counter and wipe in the same place and play for 15 minutes he pulled me aside and said, "Should I send her to time out?!?!" LOL He was a stay at home dad for 5 years and he now laughs hysterically at that story! The difference being that he was around our little ones (4 ages 5 and under ) for 5 years . . . The implied point being--can you go away for a weekend (or a week) and leave him with the kids so that he can get a better understanding of the ability of the kids and thus maybe gain some better parenting skills? The other option would be to go to a parenting class (like Love and Logic--often offered through the school district or the county extension) not so much for the parenting side but so he can understand the capabilities of the different ages.

    Posted on Feb 21st, 2013 at 1:12 PM by Lisa

  • I don't know if this will help any but my husband doesn't really like the kids jumping on his back either. It was ok with just one but now there are 3 little ones jumping on him and getting hurt if they fall off his back so jumping on back is a no-no now. Maybe talk to see if there is some boundaries that he can explain to you and it would help you understand him better. Like maybe he's got a bad back or doesn't want bombarded with all the kids wanting attention at one time (although mom deals with it all day so it doesn't seem that bad). etc. With the 3 year old and saying the whole phrase-has it helped to explain where you stand and that it is acceptable for you to add the please at the end?

    Posted on Feb 21st, 2013 at 6:22 PM by Re: Anonymous

  • Anonymous - Most moms parent differently than dads. It doesn't mean the moms are right and the dads are wrong. They are just different. Since only moms read this blog only the mom's side is usually represented and supported here. But try to understand that dads need to do things their way without being corrected by the mom. None of the things you mentioned are life or death. Kids are resilient. They can handle more than we think and eventually they come to expect that their dad does things differently than mom. I would calmly explain to the kids when your husband isn't around that dad needs more personal space than mom. Don't apologize for him or indicate he is wrong, just that he is different than mom and they need to honor that. Unless the dad is doing something abusive (slight hurt feelings is not abuse) there is no need to stop him - just explain to the kids that everyone is different and theses are dad like and dislikes.

    Posted on Feb 21st, 2013 at 8:26 PM by Monica (momof2)

  • I agree with Monica(momof2) that there is certainly room for "mom and dad are just different" - we have plenty of that around here too. And it's also true that dh and I have had to rein in our kids who could jump on us just fine at 1, but can really hurt us at 6! But it does sound to me like the parenting class or something would be a good idea too; silent treatment is a crummy thing to do to anyone, but a 3 y-o won't have any idea what is going on. If she were an adult, he could have adult expectations of her, but she's learning and she can't learn with no prompting on his part. If he wants a term for it, it's called "shaping": encouraging good tries from a beginner (like adding "please") so that they don't get discouraged and will get stronger at the desired behavior. Also, he needs to model what he wants ("Please ask me something by saying 'please' first.") since no one, least of all your kids, can read his mind, nor will they behave better than you do. Part of the reason I'd agree with the parenting class suggestion (you could both go, if he might feel picked on if you suggested he go alone) is also b/c you said that overall, his "people skills aren't the best", so that says to me that this isn't so much just a bit of a difference in parenting style as it is him really not knowing how to handle young kids since even handling adults is complicated for him.

    Posted on Feb 21st, 2013 at 9:32 PM by Anna

  • Of course most men don't have good people skills in the opinion of women. Mine doesn't. Certainly a parenting class can help. A communication class can help. Even I can use those things. But if he doesn't want to go (and he probably doesn't) I would leave it alone .

    Posted on Feb 22nd, 2013 at 5:38 AM by Monica (momof2)

  • A couple of things jump out at me: his general social awkwardness, his sensory defensiveness to touch and his rigid rules. Do you think he could be a little autistic or at least have a little sensory processing issue? My daughter is autistic and knowing so many autistic adults your husband, from the way you've described him, sends up some red flags. Not to label him but knowledge is power. He may truly not hear your daughter's "sweet tone" because he's not processing "tone". Does he speak with a generally flat affectation? If this might be the case you need to change your expectations. As far as touch goes you can teach your children to respect daddy's boundaries by explaining to them that God made everybody wonderfully different and that means some people like to be touched a lot and to others it is very uncomfortable and that when we love someone we want to make them comfortable and then you can all come up with ways for them to feel loved that don't include so much physical contact, maybe he can read them a book while they sit on the floor? Or you can buy them some sensory stimulating objects (like a bilbo?? chair) to use while he reads to them. As to the politeness rule, that is on your husband. You need to set educate him about reasonable expectations and then set a new rule with him that you all can follow. Once he's assured there is a rule it shouldn't bother him so much.

    Posted on Feb 22nd, 2013 at 6:52 AM by Becky Le

  • Wanted to add a personal observation re: touching. As I mentioned my daughter has autism but she is sensory seeking. In retrospect I can see that my sadly soon to be ex husband is probably also autistic and is sensory defensive. He NEVER played rough on the floor, rarely gave hugs, in general there was very little physical contact between him and the children and my oldest daughter (not the one with autism) REALLY resents him for that. She always yearned for a close father/daughter relationship and my husband's "awkward people skills" combined with his lack of affections sent a message to her that she was not loved or valued no matter what he said. This is why I say knowledge is power. If my husband had been able to communicate his feelings and his needs and I had been able to respond to them in ways that understood that this was not personal and that certain things were truly out of his control then we might have been able to save our marriage.

    Posted on Feb 22nd, 2013 at 6:59 AM by Becky Le

  • This is really enlightening and fascinating, Becky Le. I looked online and I feel he might maybe have a little bit of the aspergers symptoms. He does not have all the sympotms listed, but there are a good handful. It is kind of nice to know it may not be him being inflexible but really something he can't help and that we just need to honor. I will try to structure-up the evening and see if that helps him feel more relaxed at home / know what to expect / know what his "role" is. Its like he sees himself as a puzzle-piece & if he doesn't fit *perfectly* into the situation he feels awkward, starts to panic, etc. I have not really applied this understanding to the home, though. I will try to cut out a better "niche" for him with more defined boundaries and help the kids understand that Dad needs more space. I know this is not going to eliminate hurt feelings, since my husband basically does not handle people deviating from what they have "always done." Ex, some nights my daughter says she's too sleepy to give goodnight hugs and she just wants to go to sleep. He replied with, "You either hug me every night or you never hug me at all." It was SO UNCOMFORTABLE!!! My daughter cried, but hugged him. I wanted to say some really bad words and slam a few doors, and when she looks tired at ALL, I say "run and give Daddy a hug and I'll get you ready for bed a little early!" But maybe this is not just "him," but due to an underlying issue. Relief!

    Posted on Feb 22nd, 2013 at 7:58 AM by anonymous

  • I just wanted to say "I'm sorry" to Becky Le about your upcoming separation...prayers to you and your family! Also, I really feel like I have a lot more information about this that I can apply to my own marriage because of Anna's and Becky's replies! Thanks!

    Posted on Feb 22nd, 2013 at 11:20 AM by Donna L.

  • anonymous, your response makes me think even more that a parenting class (I'm not personally familiar with Love and Logic, but I've heard good things; Boys Town also offers Common Sense Parenting in various places) for you both would be wise. For you, it might help you clarify "this is truly important" vs. "vive le difference!" For example, my 3 y-o son responds quite well to dh's no-nonsense stance, like telling him sharply to "knock it off!" It's not my style, and I tend to cajole so as to get more pleasantly through the store/not wake the baby/whatever, but ds can get that mom and dad will handle things differently - and he seems to like that and to really do poorly if dh or I try to be like the other parent. So it seems to me a class might help you be able to see clearly (it's hard to when you're that close to a situation and when it's such an emotional thing!) what is really an issue and what to let go. For your dh, a class might help him to feel like he has a handle on things and less likely to react like a kid himself. I mean, something like "always hugs or never!!" doesn't work with kids - the only predictable thing about a 3 y-o is the unpredictability - and it might help him roll with things better if he understands a bit more about child development and has some specific strategies. Also, books by Dr. Ray Guarendi could be helpful b/c he's very much a fan of individual parenting styles, but is also quite practical and to-the-point. The Ames and Ilg child development books might help too (they're basic titles: "Your One-Year-Old" etc.). I'd steer clear of the Popcak books (just in case, since those are popular for Catholic parents); I like them for some things, but I think they'd add a bit too much to your worries about "damaging" your kids and neither you nor dh needs that. Good luck!

    Posted on Feb 22nd, 2013 at 2:51 PM by Anna

  • Despite the odd comments from "unknown"...I appreciate that you ladies are open with the struggles we all have to be the best wives & mothers that God calls us to be! What a blessing this site is for Catholic women to be able to come & share!

    Posted on Feb 22nd, 2013 at 9:30 PM by another mom