Posted by fxckfeelings on March 19, 2015Share This Post
The issue of control—what you’re responsible for controlling (not much), whether it’s possible (not often), and what happens when you try (not good)—is a frequent topic around here. Our frequent negativity is due to the fact that people often try to control something they can’t, be it in themselves or others, while they should instead be trying harder to control their response to their helplessness. Fact is, the inability to control something doesn’t mean that you’ve failed, but that that something can’t be controlled, period, so redefine your responsibilities instead of pursuing the control you wish you had but never (ever) will.
Since my father died unexpectedly last month, I’ve found myself bursting into tears without warning, and I know it’s upsetting my children. We were all close to him, but he and I had a special bond, and his death has left a huge hole in my life. I’ve never felt anything like this before—he’s the first person close to me that I’ve lost, and lost suddenly—and I’ve never lost control like this in front of the kids. My wife says grief is natural, but I’m worried that I’m really acting crazy and scaring them, and I just can’t stop. My goal is to get a grip before I hurt my kids.
While the pain of grief, like depression, is uncontrollable, what you do with it isn’t; some people ease the pain with booze, hibernation, and/or memorial tattoos. It doesn’t make a lot of sense then that you’re beating yourself up for some tears.
You’re not making bad judgments due to your grief, but, instead of expecting to get rid of it or hide it, ask yourself what your goals should be to manage it.
Aside from the bigger mistakes listed above, grief can have subtler damaging effects, like pushing you to ruminate unnecessarily on your failures and missed opportunities. It can also cause external conflict, sparking fights with close relatives about who should have done what or why someone wasn’t close enough and didn’t patch things up before it was too late.
So, despite what you think, you’re not really letting grief do harm outside of the natural amount of harmful pain that comes with experiencing a profound loss. You had a great relationship with your father and you’re communicating well with your family. You’re not endangering your safety or scaring the kids, just being vulnerable in front of them. Given the way you feel, you’re doing a good job.
Indeed, by being openly vulnerable you’re showing the kids that certain kinds of pain are an unavoidable part of life and need never stop you from re-affirming your values, honoring relationships, and coming together. Continue to show them that you can talk about your father and share memories.
Stop beating yourself up when you’re already down. Remember, your tears result from love, so be proud of them, share them with your kids, and keep passing love from one generation to the next.
“Crying makes me feel like I’m losing it, but that’s just the helplessness of loss. I can mourn and still celebrate a relationship that leaves me and my family forever richer.”
I can’t stand to see my husband getting angry with the kids, particularly when I know he’s wrong. When I try to calm him down or get him to see reason, he doesn’t listen and I just feel more helpless. Our kids are almost adults (one’s starting college, the other’s almost done) and they tell me to just ignore his outbursts like they do, but I can’t stand by while he acts unreasonable and becomes a bully. In the end, he claims I don’t support him and I feel like I just want to leave. My goal is to get him to stop trying to bulldoze the kids and not be angry at him all the time.
While values are a major reason for opposing your husband’s parenting mistakes, they’re not really your only reason for speaking up. After all, you know your kids no longer need protection, and that confronting your husband does nothing but wear you out. There must be another motivation for continuing to confront him, and it’s your need to change him. As far as motivations go, it’s as common in marriages as it is futile.
Of course, it’s painful to watch a partner do something you consider wrong and say nothing; on a deep level, you may feel his behavior reflects on you and vice versa. Unfortunately, you have no control over one another’s behavior, and trying to control him doesn’t work, so this is a pain you should learn to bear.
Instead of trying to change him, learn to accept the fact that you’re partnered to a sometime jerk. Leave him if it’s truly unacceptable (which doesn’t seem to be the case), stay with him if your marriage is worthwhile, but either way, give up on making him better.
You can accept him without compromising your own principles. Write a polite statement for yourself about your reasons for believing his behavior is self-defeating, complimenting his strengths and proposing a better way to behave. Don’t criticize or provoke, just make it clear you’re not writing because you want to discuss the problem—that’s old—but to clarify your position about what’s best for him and the family.
Then let nature take its course. If you’re right, his outbursts will alienate the kids and leave him frustrated, but he already has the benefit of your opinion. Meanwhile, you have your own good relationship with them and no marital conflict.
However much you dislike your husband’s parenting, stop trying to force change and start letting him be while not minimizing your differences. Then, you’ll know you’ve stood up for your values without letting his behavioral problems become yours.
“Being around my husband when he’s being a jerk makes me feel embarrassed and helpless, but I know he’s not my kid and I don’t control him. I will learn to accept him while asserting my own views firmly and pleasantly. In the end, I’ll have less conflict and more influence.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname