This is going to be long, so thank you in advance for taking the time to read it.
My husband and I have been married for almost 9 years, and have 3 boys - ages 3, 5, and 8. I also have a 19 year old daughter from another relationship who lives with us. I am really at the end of my rope with my husband's parenting - to the point that it's ruining our relationship. I'll start off by saying that I am not even considering divorce - though I often think that when my kids are grown, I might choose to leave - mainly because I imagine I will not be able to stand my husband by then. I know this sounds harsh and sad, but it's the truth. At this point, though, I think as negative as I feel about him, it's better for the boys to have their father at home.
In our family, I am the only one who sets limits, ever. Probably the biggest issue right now is that I feel very strongly that I don't want the kids using "screens" very much - I'd like them limited to an hour a day. I also didn't want them to have video games, especially at their ages. A couple years ago, my husband just completely overrode me on this issue and bought several handheld Nintendo games. I was very upset, but tried to manage the situation by limiting their playtime. My husband, however, would claim he was only going to let them play for an hour, and if I left the house and came back 3 hours later, they would all still be playing. We have had the same issue with videos - I cannot count on him to EVER limit how much they watch. My husband and I had agreed that we would not have a video game system hooked up to the tv. So this past Christmas, he just went out and bought one (for $300!) without asking me, then told me he would return it, then kept it long enough that it was past the return limit. He then announced to the kids that it was a Christmas present, hooked it up to the tv, and they've been obsessed with it ever since. Not only is it all they want to do (of course), they scream and cry while they play if they lose and get really angry with each other. At one point, my 5 year old hit my 8 year old in the head with the controller (I took their privileges away at that point). They don't play anything violent, so it's not that. I find the whole thing extremely unpleasant. And so I'm put in the position where I am constantly the "mean" one who tells them it's time to turn things off. If I tell my husband I'd like to have a 'screen free' day, he'll agree but then let them watch screens or play games anyway, and then say it's because he's stressed and doesn't want to hear them cry.
Another huge issue is bedtime. DH works and goes to school several evenings a week, so he doesn't get home after 8:45 several nights a week. He insists on being involved in putting the kids to bed, which would be ok, except he will literally read them 5-6 books or turn the light on and start playing a board game. As a result, most of the time when he is there, they don't fall asleep until 10 - but sometimes even 11. On top of that, he isn't even cheerful about doing this - he feels like he "should" and talks to the kids in a nasty voice the whole time. I offer constantly to take care of bedtime myself, but he refuses. I feel like he is crossing a line here where the kids are not as healthy or alert as they could be because he is keeping them up.
When DH isn't being completely permissive, he is annoyed with the kids and can be mean. As an example, he let my 3 year old try to pour his own orange juice from a full gallon jug. When he spilled it, my husband flipped out and told my son "You are making my life not fun!" in a really nasty voice. He tells the kids he's going to spank them (though he doesn't actually follow through). He has no patience and will snap at the kids over anything. Which is, I think, why he would rather just let them sit in front of screens or buy them toys and candy (which he also does all the time). Every time we talk about it, he says he's sorry and that he's just stressed because he works so much - which I believe. But when I try to parent the kids so he can relax, he won't accept the help. They don't seem scared of him when he gets mad - in fact, they seem to react to him like he's their big brother (which is really what he seems like most of the time).
This has been going on for several years now, and have just gotten worse and worse. I've tried talking to him over and over agian. We went to counseling a few times, but it's so hard with him working and going to school for him to get to an appointment. (We also don't have insurance to cover it, or I'd probably go myself). His response is always to say that he really cares about me and really cares about the kids, and is willing to stick to the agreements we make about how we want to parent - then he simply doesn't. I have been consistently calm and respectful in trying to talk to him - my husband told me the other day that he could only remember 3 times in the last 8 years that I got really angry and yelled. I've been flexible and willing to compromise. HE SIMPLY WILL NOT FOLLOW THROUGH. I can maintain some sanity during the week when he's at school, but I dread the weekends when I have no ability to parent at all.
I could write another whole thread as long as this one about how he treats me. He won't let me put the kids to bed, but then resents it if he comes in the room and I'm reading or watching a movie, and makes some really sarcastic comment to me like, "Wow - I hope you're enjoying your personal time!" then stalks off. His way of giving me "affection" is to make constant sexual comments about my boobs (or try to grab one). But as I say, I could write another post about that. But I think this just illustrates how little respect he has for me as a human being - or at least that's how I feel. And again, he'll claim he's endlessly sorry and loves me so much, blah blah blah - then will do the exact same thing 2 days later.
And things were not like this for the first couple years we were married - I thought we were going to have this healthy life with wooden toys and kids reading and playing outside, and loving parents who taught them how to be compassionate human beings. But now my family is turning into everything I never wanted it to be. I am sad or resentful all the time, and don't know what to do. Should I just start ruling with an "iron fist" or something, and refuse to even consider what my husband wants? Anyone have some magic words that would make him care about what I think? I'm at my wits end, and just cannot believe this is my life.