I work as a secretary in a doctor’s office and would anticipate coming home to spend time with my husband and children. However, my husband doesn’t seem to share these sentiments, which has soured my enthusiasm.
He works hard as an accountant, which is commendable, but he seems more wedded to his job than to me. He often comes home after 7 or 8 o’clock at night, which means that the children don’t get to spend any quality time with him. By that time, he is understandably ravenous, but has the nerve to complain that dinner is dried out and overcooked. Well, what does he expect? The children and I eat at 5:30! And since he doesn’t have the courtesy to let me know when he’s coming home late, I keep his food warm – for hours! Perhaps I should keep it in the refrigerator and warm it when he walks through the door. However, occasionally he does appear at 5:30, so his dinner has to be ready by that time.
He claims that when he works overtime, he is so busy that he doesn’t have the time or focus to let me know. But, the law of nature is that when food sits in a warm oven for too long, it will dry out!
Unfortunately, Ben is in such a dark mood when he gets home that we wind up arguing. I’ve told him numerous times that quarreling in front of the children is unhealthy and frightening for them. But he doesn’t seem to be able to control himself, or perhaps he doesn’t believe me that it can have severe repercussions for them. Is there anything I can do to change this negative dynamic?
Dear Unhappy Wife,
It sounds like you have your hands full! You have Ben’s dinner ready for his possible 5:30 homecoming, and then either keep it warm or rewarm it when he actually shows up. Instead of greeting you cheerfully, he growls, which probably makes you wish he would do an about-face and rush back to the office!
What happens after his initial negativity? Do you respond in kind, igniting the embers into a full-blown conflagration? As unpleasant as it is to hear complaints, especially the moment he walks through the door, one-sided criticism can’t become an argument unless there is a response, which then triggers a snowball effect.
I can only imagine how hard it would be for you to suffer through these confrontations in silence! And yet, that is what I would advise, due to your understanding that parents shouldn’t argue in front of their children. Children need to see peaceful interactions to feel secure. It rocks their foundation when they see the people who they love most at odds with each other. And when their safe haven becomes ugly, how do they feel? In addition, how do impressionable children learn? Of course, the answer is by example. Do you want to teach them that when someone says something negative, the correct response is to retort in kind? Or would you rather model restraint and self-control? And even empathy, such as, “Wow, Ben. Sounds like you had a really long, hard day. You must be exhausted and hungry. What can I do for you?”
My other suggestion regarding the overall problem is to speak to Ben in private and share your feelings. Tell him that you feel hurt when he explodes the moment he comes home. Explain your concern about exposing the children to unpleasant interactions and gauge his response. If, after repeated efforts on your part, things don’t improve, I would advocate therapy. Even if Ben refuses to go – and if it comes to that, I hope he doesn’t – it might help you to get some new tools in your arsenal and have a listening ear.
But let’s think positively. Maybe Ben will react well to your new attempts when he comes home, and perhaps he’ll treat your transparency with love and empathy – and your marriage will blossom!
Wishing you a better journey as you navigate these hills and valleys,