How to cope when husband uses bad parenting and doesn't care?? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 19 Old 03-19-2013, 07:26 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi there,

 

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.

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#2 of 19 Old 03-19-2013, 07:46 AM
 
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  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? 

 

Yes. He's already acting like you are. Do it. Don't let him be involved in bedtime for six weeks. (Just to get new habits started--not forever.) If you take over and get them to sleep earlier, he will see that you are right. 

 

I don't know what to say about the video games. My first thought was that you should sell the big one and lock the little ones in a drawer somewhere--maybe in the back of the car, so you can have them for trips? But that requires really facing him down, and I suspect that it will be easier to rule with an iron fist on one issue. Bedtimes are much more important than video games in their behavior, IMHO. 


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#3 of 19 Old 03-19-2013, 07:49 AM
 
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Hugs, Mama. I am so sorry you're going through this. Honestly, I read a lot of positives in there: your DH feels a responsibility to the kids (bedtime, etc) it is just coming out in a way that doesn't help you, at all.

It is clear that you both love each other -- you mentioned a couple of times that his wishes are a big concern for you. You want him to feel heard. And, of course, you deserve to be heard, too.

You know, you do have some magic words already. Could you consider showing him what you wrote?

When I have had communication problems with my DH, I have said, "I really feel like the third party objectivity of a counselor would help here, but I know that would be hard for you. Could I ask you to sit and listen to my deep concerns as you would if we were paying someone?"

For us, giving a problem that level of care and mindfulness really makes all the difference.

I want to say more but kids are super wild. Blessings to you.

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#4 of 19 Old 03-19-2013, 11:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you both for your replies.  I suspect that if I asked my husband to read this, he would feel really bad for a day, say he really wants to work with me, and then go back to doing what he does, which is the problem.  I think at heart he knows he's wrong, but for whatever reason he can't seem to maintain any kind of structure for more than a few days.  I know a lot of it is because he works so much.  He's finishing school next fall, so I'm hoping after that he'll be able to become more conscious of what he's doing. 

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#5 of 19 Old 03-19-2013, 12:17 PM
 
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I see a lot of myself in some of that behavior. I have had beliefs about how things should be with the goal of not being a control freak like my mom nono.gif. So I was permissive because I couldn't think of an immediate reason for making people do stuff beyond "because I said so" and when they were little, I felt like any choice I made that upset them was automatically bad. Plus I was tired all the time from being a 24/7 parent. Plus I'm kind of lazy.

 

But then without limits (not that I had none, but not many) they could hit my threshhold for chaos and be too wound out to be reeled back in quickly. I would be at my limit because I hadn't taken care of my own needs, still not wanting to exert control, and again kind of lazy, so I would overreact with yelling or barking orders. Then guilt and more permissiveness to make up for yelling or barking orders. I eventually did learn to structure our time and redirect stuff before chaos ensued, but I'm still fairly disorganized and lazy.

 

My exhusband still doesn't parent in a teaching-and-discipline sense. Our kids are older so they're not really running amuck physically (he wouldn't be able to deal with that and didn't take them alone when they were at that stage) but homework doesn't get done, people don't get taken places to get what they need. That kind of stuff.

 

So there's the explanation for the behavior -- some pesky belief about what a good dad looks like may be interfering with his rational ability to be an effectively good dad given what kids need and what parents need.

 

The breast behavior, I don't know how to address. I utterly failed at it (pun intended biglaugh.gif) and his disrespect for my body had a lot to do with our marriage ending. (Yes, it went way beyond comments and nonconsensual groping.) I know that I couldn't be with a partner who behaved that way now; I would rather be on my own. I would not want my children to witness that behavior. I'm not sure how to change it though -- I was in a violent situation with someone who had a belief that he was entitled to do what he wanted with my body. (I heard "I should get to..." about various sexual things. Not "I want to" but "I should get to.") It may not be that here; could be that he believes that you enjoy it and are flattered by it even if you tell him you don't like it." I doubt I've been helpful here; hopefully just validated your dislike of his behavior?

 

When do you want bedtime to be? I think I would just put them to bed when I wanted to and have that be that.

 

Reading over this, I'm struck by how very unhelpful it probably is to hear from a mom who doesn't have to live in a house with a dad who parents differently and is difficult in other ways. I do remember what that was like, and I'm glad I don't deal with it anymore, but I while I can describe why I think it happens, I don't really know how to change it because I don't know how to change people if they don't want to change.
 

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#6 of 19 Old 03-19-2013, 12:27 PM
 
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It is really really confusing to kids to have one parent do everything one way and then on nights and weekends have one do another. it sounds like he is chosing to do the parenting so he has a reason to be snotty to you and the kids. This whole situation sounds weird. He undermines you, pverrides you but doesn;t want to actually do anything and is mean when he does the things he told you you couldn't too too weird.

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#7 of 19 Old 03-19-2013, 12:37 PM
 
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Why would it be better for the boys to have their father at home? Is he showing them how to be a good man, a good husband or a caring and involved father? Better for there to be no model than a poor one, I think.
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#8 of 19 Old 03-19-2013, 01:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I really appreciate everyone's comments here - they are genuinely helpful. 

 

As far as why I think it's better for dad & I to stay together, I've thought about it a lot, and I think it's the best choice.  I feel able to mediate some of the chaos created by my husband by being stronger myself and just sort of taking over.  My kids absolutely adore their father - and that may be because they view him as the big hero who lets them do what they want, but for whatever reason, they absolutely love him.  My 8 year old, especially, thinks and talks about him all the time.  I think if we were not together, my 8 year old would be devastated - I can envision him becoming an extremely angry young man.  I saw this happen with my brother after my mom left my father.  My dad was extremely verbally abusive and volatile (far far far worse than my husband), and as kids we all knew my mom was leaving him because of HIS behavior.  But my brother really suffered without my dad there, and ended up having a lot of anger and emotional problems.  He's in his 30's now and has been in rehab about 6 times and is still really angry.  Not that this happens in every case, but I don't feel like my situation has reached a point where the risk outweighs the benefit.  I'd at least like to give him the opportunity to finish school and see if we can work to make things better. 

 

I also don't mean to make it sound like the entire experience with my husband is negative.  He gardens with the kids, sets up the tent for them in the summer, and always participates in family trips and activities.  He makes them these great fancy breakfasts every weekend.  And I do love him.  I just wish he could understand that children need SOME structure.  And they need sleep to be healthy.

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#9 of 19 Old 03-19-2013, 01:49 PM
 
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I don't know the situation, but I just wanted to throw out the possibility that your brother had such a negative reaction based on abuse suffered - even if he made your mom leaving the scapegoat (that actually happens to alot of kids - they identify with the problem parent and blame the other - maybe because it's their best outlet).  He could even be repeating behavior he witnessed, the anger that was modeled for him as a kid.  It might not actually be because of her leaving - if anything, maybe she didn't leave soon enough.  Again, I don't know the details of your situation, but had to throw that out there, if it's factoring into your decision about what's best for your sons.  Leaving is usually the best thing you could do for a kid in a volatile household like you grew up in (and maybe here, but that's obviously in your court). 


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#10 of 19 Old 03-19-2013, 02:14 PM
 
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I see a lot of things you want to change about your husband. But you can not change him. It is not possible. No one can change anyone else. You really can't. The only person that can change your husband is your husband, and only when and IF he really wants to change. Otherwise it will be a one day or one week thing, and then it will go back to normal.

 

What you can change is you. You can change yourself. And/or you can change your reaction to your husband. 

 

An example. I really, really, really needed my husband to be supportive of me when I was in labor. He is really incapable of that and "failed" miserably. For my second birth I knew he would never change, he would do the same things, which would be very harmful to me. So I changed my reaction to him - I found the support from someone else and did what I needed to do regardless of his opinions, and told him, kindly, but very firmly, what I was going to do. This behaviour continues today - when one of our kids is very ill, I do not ask if he thinks I should take them to the doctor. I say I am not asking him, I am telling him that I am taking our child now. Does he want to drive, or not? That is the extent of his options. 

 

So, what can you do about the bedtimes, the games...? Not what can you change about him, which you can't, but what are your options? Accept his gaming behavior, that if you are not home for 3 hours that is all they will do? Or plan some other activity for them during that time period, for example in good weather go out to the forest or have a play date? Something else? My husband would let the kids, mine are 6 and 8, play on the computer all weekend. I accept it some of the time, but then when it is too much, for me, instead of getting mad at my husband, I give options. For example, I can say they have had too much computer, we are going to either go out to the playground, or rollerskating, or they can play with their lego train. And let them pick. They don't want any, they want the computer, but I just say computer time is over, they can chose one of the three options, or come up with their own option.

 

I disagree with the poster that says to not allow him to do bedtimes and to sell or lock up the games; it is very passive-agressive behavior. Unless you discuss with your husband calmly ahead of time, that 3 hours is too much, and since that does not change you will sell the games. And use the money to buy some other more open-ended toy. 

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#11 of 19 Old 03-19-2013, 02:21 PM
 
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I really appreciate everyone's comments here - they are genuinely helpful. 

 

As far as why I think it's better for dad & I to stay together, I've thought about it a lot, and I think it's the best choice.  I feel able to mediate some of the chaos created by my husband by being stronger myself and just sort of taking over.  My kids absolutely adore their father - and that may be because they view him as the big hero who lets them do what they want, but for whatever reason, they absolutely love him.  My 8 year old, especially, thinks and talks about him all the time.  I think if we were not together, my 8 year old would be devastated - I can envision him becoming an extremely angry young man.  I saw this happen with my brother after my mom left my father.  My dad was extremely verbally abusive and volatile (far far far worse than my husband), and as kids we all knew my mom was leaving him because of HIS behavior.  But my brother really suffered without my dad there, and ended up having a lot of anger and emotional problems.  He's in his 30's now and has been in rehab about 6 times and is still really angry.  Not that this happens in every case, but I don't feel like my situation has reached a point where the risk outweighs the benefit.  I'd at least like to give him the opportunity to finish school and see if we can work to make things better. 

 

I also don't mean to make it sound like the entire experience with my husband is negative.  He gardens with the kids, sets up the tent for them in the summer, and always participates in family trips and activities.  He makes them these great fancy breakfasts every weekend.  And I do love him.  I just wish he could understand that children need SOME structure.  And they need sleep to be healthy.


Then just tell him that the kids are not getting enough sleep with the current routine and that they need to go to bed earlier. That you understand his want to be involved in their routine but he just does not get home early enough. 

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#12 of 19 Old 03-19-2013, 03:28 PM
 
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I disagree with the poster that says to not allow him to do bedtimes and to sell or lock up the games; it is very passive-agressive behavior. Unless you discuss with your husband calmly ahead of time, that 3 hours is too much, and since that does not change you will sell the games. And use the money to buy some other more open-ended toy. 

Oh, no, I was advocating openness, not passive-aggressive behavior. It's not passive-aggressive to say "I'm doing the bedtimes for six weeks." Passive aggressive would be to do them without saying anything, or to complain about how he does them without confronting him. 

 

I think she should stick up for herself here. I am never in favor of sneaking around.

 

She asked "should I rule with an iron fist?" I think yes. Yes! That is my answer. If she has to raise her voice, so be it, but my guess is that once she speaks her piece and says how things should be, that's how they'll be, and she won't have to yell at all or complain again. I think an iron fist in a velvet glove, but overall, insist on what you want. 

 

I did not advocate selling the games, I just mentioned that I'd considered that. She didn't want to have them in the house and really could have put her foot down more firmly, but now she's got to pick the hill to die on, as many people say here. I think that hill is bedtime. You may disagree. I do not think she should do a calm discussion of "do as I say or I will sell" if she doesn't want them there at all. You have to pick what you think you can do and not put yourself in a position that you won't be able to sustain. 

 

With my only child, the best way to reduce screen time has been to substitute other activities. But, I have had to say no to screen time at certain times of the day when his dad lets him have the screen time, and he has been OK with that. And he has no siblings to play with, and my house is boring, and he's not athletic, and you know what? It's fine. IRON FIST, BABY. 


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#13 of 19 Old 03-19-2013, 03:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm going to start tonight by starting the bedtime routine earlier (we usually do 7:45 or so, but I'm going to push it back half an hour).  I think if I can have the lights out when DH comes home, it may help.  Though he's turned them on in the past, so we'll have to see.  I know I need to stand up for myself.  So much of the time, I end up not necessarily passive-aggressive, but just feeling oppressed and hopeless.  I know I have to pull myself together for the kids' sake, because if he's not going to do it, I need to. 

 

I do want to say that if I felt like my husband was being abusive, I would definitely leave.  It's more like he's a chronic...jerk.  It's like, I feel like if I were to divorce him, I'd put "spousal jerkiness" down as the reason.  I know I can't change him.  I actually have a masters in counseling, and I always think, "Ok, if someone told me this story, what would I think they should do?"  And I have no idea.  So I appreciate everyone's support here.  Thank you.

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#14 of 19 Old 03-19-2013, 03:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh, and also to be clearer, he doesn't do any of the creepy boob grabby stuff in front of the kids. 

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#15 of 19 Old 03-19-2013, 04:23 PM
 
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I know  a lot of the parenting and overall issues i have with my partner are me not standing up for myself. Over the last five years I have been so concerned with keeping the peace that i have kind of become a door mat and now that I am trying to stick up for myself he feels like I am attacking him all of  a sudden. Its just trying to transition away from that that we are having a hard time with.

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#16 of 19 Old 03-19-2013, 06:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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truedat.gif  EXACTLY. 
 

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#17 of 19 Old 03-19-2013, 06:57 PM
 
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I'm going to start tonight by starting the bedtime routine earlier (we usually do 7:45 or so, but I'm going to push it back half an hour).  I think if I can have the lights out when DH comes home, it may help.  Though he's turned them on in the past, so we'll have to see.  I know I need to stand up for myself.  So much of the time, I end up not necessarily passive-aggressive, but just feeling oppressed and hopeless.  I know I have to pull myself together for the kids' sake, because if he's not going to do it, I need to. 

 

 

You actually have to say something to him about the bedtime. Something like, "Do not turn the lights on when you go to kiss the kids goodnight." Do not try clever non-verbal signals, handkerchiefs, colored flags, fans, and so forth. 

 

I get why he wants to wake them up again, to have fun with them and have time with them. That doesn't make it OK for him to stop them from sleeping. You might have an argument on your hands when you first say something, but if you can get everyone in the house to sleep a little more and be less grouchy, it will be worth it. 


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#18 of 19 Old 03-19-2013, 08:44 PM
 
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If he's like *my* husband, you need to say "keep the lights off ", otherwise he'll 'mishear' what you said. But that wouldn't stop my husband from turning the lights on, anyway, because "I'm their dad, and I have a right to see my kids".

I hope the OP's husband responds better!
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#19 of 19 Old 03-20-2013, 01:31 PM
 
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Another thing if you aren't already, is bring things up immediately and every time when he backs out on something. I don't mean if he lets them play for 70 minutes when you agreed on 60 minutes, but when it's 3 hours vs. 1 hour, say something right away as soon as you are out of earshot of the kids. I may be misinterpreting, but it sounds like you are waiting awhile and then having the "big talk" and that he may follow it for a day or so, but then goes back to his bad habits. There is nothing wrong with the "big talk" it just usually doesn't work well by itself, especially when it sounds like your partner is not being respectful of you.

And I would definitely set a bedtime at least for school days, maybe you could have a slightly later bedtime for the weekends and have him do bedtime on those days?

And don't give him the out of being stressed from work anymore. We all have stresses, if it is too much for him, he needs to change something. Maybe that means having you do more of the parenting right now, maybe that means he see a therapist, maybe he tries to cut hours (probably not feasible, but you never know!), maybe more exercise or unwinding time, maybe he needs a guys night out or a date night with you, etc. But it isn't fair that his stress means he ignores the family rules you've both agreed to because he can't deal with whining/complaining, that is part of being a parent! And it isn't fair that he is not treating you with respect with his rude comments about you enjoying time to yourself (Why wouldn't you? Does he think you should be sitting there bored waiting for him? Does he think you don't deserve to have some unwinding time?). Call him out on this BS right away, let it be awkward, he should feel bad about being such a jerk!

Katie trekkie.gif - Married to Mike 06/02/01, Mom to Sydney Anne born 11/21/09 and Alice Maeryn & Oliver Thomas born 04/24/13  hug.gif 

 

 

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