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Carolyn Hax: Guy who berated spouse over butter would like his second chance now

1 week ago 22

Dear Carolyn: My husband and I separated due to a disagreement 10 months ago. As always, I picked up our son after work and then fixed dinner — my responsibility because my husband says he needs to decompress after work. I used the last of the butter making the mashed potatoes, and my husband berated me for 15 minutes for not having any butter to put on top of the potatoes. As I was cleaning up, it occurred to me how often this happens. If things are not perfect for him, he blows up at me. Before the baby, I spent so much effort ensuring that everything was to his liking, but since the baby, I can’t keep up.

I tried to think of what he ever does to make me happy and came up empty.

I tried to talk to him about this, but he kept twisting it that I was mad at him for wanting butter on his mashed potatoes. I insisted on counseling, and that’s what he kept telling the therapist. She told us therapy wouldn’t work if he was going to stonewall like that. He laughed about it on the way home, saying he showed her.

I took our son and moved out. My husband told me, “Come back when you grow up.” That was two months ago.

Since then, I’ve realized how much easier life is without him. I just have to care for my son and not scramble around trying to make everything perfect for my husband, so there’s actually a little time for me. My husband finally realized I’m serious and is begging for another chance, saying he’ll treat therapy seriously and do more for our son, but I don’t want to try again. Is that awful? Do I owe it to our son and my husband to make myself try again?

— Better Without

Better Without: You owe it to your son not to try again with someone emotionally unwell. Such gloating control and mental abuse is unhealthy for anyone in its range.

Great that your husband’s willing to “treat therapy seriously,” or says he is. But they’re different things, and neither is the try-again point.

First, he may just miss being fed.

Second, he could mean it but still never grow enough for a good enough marriage — one you’d want to be in and want your child to learn from.

Third, he may do all the work and become Santa Claus, and if you don’t want to move back, that’s enough.

If you want to return, then treat his reversal as his very very firstest step of the minimum steps before you’ll even discuss it:

1. Admitting he needs therapy. Solo, not couples. For serious emotional problems that make him unhealthy to live with.

2. Doing all the hard work.

3. Learning that if any of this work is to get you back, then it’s still about him, not you.

4. Being the best, maturest single co-parent he can be. Understanding it’s his only functional path forward.

5. Proving — over time and under duress — that having things “to his liking” is no one’s problem but his or his paid staff’s.

This is information only, not a nod for reconciling. You owe your son a healthy home, not one with his father in it. Solo counseling for you might help.

A reader’s thought:

· You’ll notice he didn’t consider his behavior a problem when he was hurting you, but his behavior finally started hurting him, so now it’s a problem! You should ask him why he didn’t take your unhappiness seriously before. I’d love to know the answer.

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