My husband handles our kids childishly

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: My husband and I have been married for 10 years. we have two childen between the ages of 7 and 12. Over that time we have been through a lot in our relationship.He finally stopped drinking a little over a year ago and he has been doing very well with that. I guess I thought a lot of his behaviors and the way he treats others must be because of his drinking and I convinced myself that when he quit drinking everything would be so much better. He would finally be the man I wanted, a leader for our family..

He went to a program to help him stop drinking and it really was a wonderful program.they do not use the typicall 12 steps program but rather dig deep and figure things out. They tought him and myself that he drinking was a result of selfish behavior among a lot of other things and helped him learn how to deal with things.He came home happy,motivated,positive,helpful and just a well rounded individual.

Fast forward to today and the man you would see is the man I knew for so long with a drinking problem only one thing.. He doesn’t drink! He is insecure,immature,selfish,unmotivated,unhappy and just a downer to be around to be totally honest. Being a wife of a long time drinker I only have to look into his eyes to see if the man has had a drink so I know for a fact that he is NOT drinking. I have left the days of worrying about him starting up again, I really cannot imagine him doing that. But it has been used at a threat that if I ever leave him he will drink again beacause he only stopped drinking for me. I know it is untrue but he says it none the less.

So here is the problem or problems really. I feel like I am the only adult in the house. He rarely corrects the children unless what they are doing directly effects him. What I mean by this is that he doesn’t correct them to teach them right from wrong so that they will grow up knowing the difference but reather corrects them when what they are doing is bothering him in some way. He would not agree with that statement but it is my assessment none the less. When for instance my daughter jokes around with him and says something that hurts his feelings (something that she had learned by him doing it to her) he lashes out with a punishement like going to bed early. No talking just go to bed. Now if she hurts his feelings I have suggested something along the lines of.. “that really hurt my feelings that you said that, it was totally out of line. You cannot treat people that way because it is unkind. You need to appoligize, then brush your teeth and go to bed.” I understand he is a man and may not express himself as I would be something along those lines to get accross what we are trying to do.. and that is teach her to concider other peoples feeling before you say something so that we are not unkind to others.But that is not his goal.. His goal is to hurt her feelings as she has hurt his. Then she tried to appoligize and he would even let her get the words out.. He just said leave me alone. He will continue to be mad at her for days. Whenever he can get a jab in at her about it he will and she will retreat to her room when he gets home from work rather that dealing with him because it hurts her so deeply that she cries each time he rejects her. He will eventually get over it but it will be days of ignoring her and making comments before this happens.

I have spoken to him about it. I told him (when I was still calm) what I stated before about how we need to teach them right from wrong not just lash out because our feelings are hurt.. that when we are parenting we have to take out the emotions and teach. When I was rebuffed rather meanly I raised my voice. I still was not yelling but it was raised and i was not as kind..I said something like.. “You are not 5 years old you are an adult, grow up and act like one. You have to express yourself to her so she understand and stop holding a grudge for days. You are a parent…act like one.” and I left the room.. he responded with a snappy comback and we are not speaking.

I don’t know how to handle him or talk to him. It seems like everything is about him all the time. He doesn’t react to good grades from the children, he doesn’t react when I tell him something positive. We get this chilling “oh cool” from him.. thats it. No encouragement,no praise.. It drives me crazy. He has no goals, no dreams, no hobbies unelss you count an online video game that causes agruments. He doesn’t have any friends. I mean no friends at all. He doesn’t recieve phone calls exept his family and they complain to me that he doesn’t answer the phone. (I don’t know what the heck they want me to do about it) I just don’t even know what to do with him. I sometimes feel like leaving and I just don’t think it isn’t the right things to do.Leaving him isn’t going to change the way he parents them. How do I talk to him? How do I get him to understand what he is doing when he handles our children is hurting them not helping? How do I keep from going crazy? I just need some advice.. Please help

A: I wonder what happened to the guy who came home from the program? Your husband has reverted to his alcoholic self – without the alcohol. This is called being a “dry drunk”. He has stopped the drinking but he is doing all the alcoholic behaviors. Meanwhile, you are shouldering all the responsibilities of parenting and the children (and you) are being emotionally abused. I suggest you get in touch with the program that seemed to do your husband so much good and see if they have a “refresher course”. You could also look into whether they have a support group for spouses. Another resource for you is Al-Anon. I strongly urge you to find a group – whether or not your husband approves. Al-Anon has a solid program of practical advice and support for family members of alcoholics. Their website is http://www.al-anon.alateen.org

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 Nov 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). My husband handles our kids childishly. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/11/02/my-husband-handles-our-kids-childishly/

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