How can I help my husband, and maintain my love and respect for him?
I have been reasonably happily married for 20 years to a military pilot. He retired 3 months ago, and for the past year has been working toward getting a job as a commercial airline pilot (sometimes I feel I pushed him in that direction, as he says I want him to do this for the prestige). My husband has always had a temper, but lately he is explosive. Little things, and uncontrollable situations can set him off, and items in his path get broken in fits of rage. Job opportunities in his desired career have been very slow in coming. I feel I have honestly tried to be supportive and encouraging during this period of transition, but I am dying a little bit every time he blows a gasket. My understanding is reaching thin. I have( wrongly) talked to my parents about this, as I am finding the need for support and encouragement after giving so much. I know it puts my parents in an uncomfortable situation. My husband has concerns about being gone regularly, I try and reassure ! him that we adapted for 20 years of military service, we can adapt for this. It honestly does not bother me. He is disrespectful and belittling when he gets angry. It makes me nervous, I am walking on eggshells, trying to keep the children in line, and making excuses for his behavior to the children. What else should I be doing? Not doing? I know transitions are hard, I am looking for a way to be more helpful, but not losing more respect for him because of his continued behavior. This transition has been hard for me too, I was born into the military life. How can I help my husband, and maintain my love and respect for him, and also maintain my sanity.? Thank you very, very much. L, signed leplass, age 40
Dear L Leplass, You have a legitimate concern about this situation and I am glad you are reaching out for some help. It is not wrong of you to discuss this with your parents. They are the ones that can support and encourage even if it makes them uncomfortable. It is never a good situation when one family member feels they have to walk on egg shells in their own house. No matter how stressed out your husband is, his behavior is totally unacceptable and it must stop. I have several things I would like for you to consider.
1. You must set boundaries for yourself and for your family. This means you must have a private meeting with your husband when no one else is around and where you will not be interrupted. I will give you some guidelines for this meeting however before you have this meeting I would like for you to read the following articles: Accepting Influence and Softening the Approach, Family Meetings, How to Fight Fair, Express and Own Your Feelings.
2. Guidelines for this meeting: Tell your husband you need 15 uninterrupted minutes of his time to discuss a family matter. Give him a couple of options for when you would like the meeting to take place and he can pick which option would work best for him. Have the meeting where no one else can hear the conversation. No children, no tv, no radio, nothing but the two of you on a one to one basis. Bring a timer to the meeting and set it for 15 minutes. Honor the time.
3. Start the meeting out with praise and admiration for your husband and all that he has done for you and the family. Acknowledge his hard work and dedication to the job and family. Tell him you love and respect him and want to maintain that love and respect however his anger is getting in the way. Use what you have learned in the articles I mentioned and soften your approach and choose your words carefully. Speak “I” statements and talk about how you feel when he loses his temper. Tell him what it does to your soul. Tell him how difficult it is for you to respect him when you see him “out of control” like this.
4. Set a boundary that you can follow through with and stick to if he loses his temper and gets out of control in the future. For instance: If his temper takes over then you and the children will immediately get in the car and leave for an hour. Or you will pack a bag and stay overnight at your parents. Or you will make a phone call to one of his friends and ask them to come over to the house. Think of something you have the nerve to do and then state what that will be and then do it the next time he acts out.
5. End the meeting on time and thank him for listening. Then go about your day.
Since your husband is a military man he understands rules and consequences if the rules are broken. You must set a rule/boundary for him and his behavior. You must respect yourself and your children enough to no longer tolerate such “out of control behavior”.
Yes, your husband is under a lot of stress. You can certainly acknowledge that. His ego is bruised and he is feeling bad about himself and taking it out on you and the children. He is allowed to have his feelings but he is not allowed to take them out on you.
Set up a support system for yourself. Get some professional counseling on this matter. You could talk to a minister, social worker, and the VA administration services. There are many organizations that can provide some good counseling and advice in this matter. Your first priority must be taking care of yourself and your children. You can only be responsible for yourself and your behavior. You can only change yourself. As you change and set more boundaries you will influence change in others. Please read our Change and Grow article as well as Create a New Beginning. I wish you well.
Please understand you have free will. This advice is given only in the realm of personal growth and self-help. This is not to be considered a substitute for therapy or professional counseling. We wish you well.