Monday, October 03, 2011

Turning Down the Volume

I gave a recap of our horrible vacation here.

At the end of that one evening that started out with me trading shouts with my wife and her sister, my wife kept me awake begging me to get therapy and get drugged for my "rage". I calmly and quietly asked her if I had ever... ever... come out of the blue and just started yelling at anyone. She had to answer no.

It is true, my temper has been a problem for me in my life.

It was a problem when I was a kid, and I learned to control it by the time I was a teen. Now that I think about it, I think I got a handle on my temper about the time I started masturbating to orgasm. Coincidence?

Anger has never been a problem for me professionally. If anything, there are times when I should have displayed anger and didn't.

It hasn't been a problem while I drive (no road rage from me).

As an adult, it has never led to a physical fight or violence.

I don't throw things, hit things or people, kick things or people, push people, or break things.

I don't berate or insult others.

I scream... loudly and angrily... often I'm screaming questions... "Why did you do that? What do you expect me to do?" Or refusal, such as "I'm not going to do that!"

It was never a problem in any of my past relationships – I don't recall that I ever yelled at a girlfriend except perhaps with one who would have already been yelling at me. But sometimes with my family, and that now includes the family I have made, I yell. My wife has correctly noted it is when I think I should have control over something, but don't.

With the kids, it was "STOP [fill the in blank]!" I say "was" because when my wife sat me down to point it out and why it was a problem, I stopped.

Even when the yelling is a response to an angry or yelling statement from another adult, I shouldn't be yelling as often as I am.

But I refuse to drug myself when I know behavior modification can work.

My mind is the last thing that is mine.

I'm not sure I have a need for outside help based on something that happened under very unusual circumstances, and things got better after that, as least as far as I'm concerned. I haven't yelled since. But my wife would argue that it has been a pattern.

Maybe it is.

But I'd have to think that any decent therapist, before passing out drugs, would ask questions like:

1) Do you get enough sleep? (The answer would be no.)
2) What do you do to blow off steam? (Besides blogging, nothing.)
3) What do you do to unwind? (I don’t. I work, I take care of the kids and things around the home, and the only breaks come when visiting family that can keep the kids occupied.)

My wife has repeatedly said she has the life she's always wanted. But apparently that's not quite true. She married a man who is happy to earn the income so she can concentrate on being there for the kids, who takes the lead in taking care of the kids on days when I am home, who likes to be financially responsible, who doesn't abuse substances, who seeks to meet her needs and please her in various ways, who encourages her in her faith and generally agrees with her outlook on current and personal events, who does some chores around the house…AND who sometimes yells.

I told my wife I would probably yell a lot less if I did more things my way in my timing, so she should expect to hear "no" more frequently. She didn't think that was a good solution.

Now she's got my mother and one of my sisters telling me that going to see a counselor would be a good thing. But what my wife doesn't realize is that my mother and sister would want certain changes that would make things more difficult for my wife.

I'm wary. I think going to a counselor would be a waste of time (we don't have enough of it as it is), money (ditto... I don't care how much of it insurance covers... we're not saving enough), and there is always the risk that the counseling will do more harm than good.

My wife and I do a good job of talking things out.

I find writing therapeutic.

I don't have anything to say to a therapist. Like I said above, I could tell the therapist I yell too much and it is bothering my wife and kids. Then what happens after the therapist finds out I don't get enough sleep, personal time, or time with the guys? I have my responsibilities, and those aren't going to change.

Okay, so what about joint counseling? I'm wary of that for additional reasons. The fact is, I can't tell my wife everything that has been bothering me or has bothered me. That's why I write it here. I can't tell her because it will hurt her and much of it isn't going to change. Some of it can't be changed. I do need to tell my wife what bothers me instead of letting it build up inside me, as long as it isn't something that will hurt her AND that she can't change. Once something is said, it can't be taken back.

My wife accused me of resenting her and the kids. I love them. I genuinely like to be around them and enjoy them. But what I did not admit to her is that yes, there is some resentment there.

1) I'm pissed off that the house costs so much. It's energy inefficient, and that can't be changed without spending lots of money. The shower, the laundry water, and the kitchen sink all back up too often in no small part, according to multiple plumbers, because the flippers were monsters who didn't bother to do things to code. (Why did I pay for an inspection?). We need to redo the electrical wiring in parts of the house. The "walls" in parts of the house are going to need to be replaced. The place attracts ants and bees to the point we have to contract with a pest control company. I told my wife that if we were going to buy the place, we were going to be dealing with it as it was, because we weren't going to have a lot of money to fix anything, and she agreed. But here we are. So what? We're not going to move. So why talk about it? My wife has already told me that reacting to her saying something like "We need to get a plumber out here again" with anything but indifference or happiness (and then scheduling a fix) is going to feel like a personal attack on her, since she likes the house and picked it out. So I blow up when I realize it is going to be time to cut another check.

2) I'm pissed off that I didn't make a point of finding out how much my wife's medical and dental bills would be before we married (I've never had a cavity, so it is hard to relate to the fact that her mouth needs constant work.) I wrongly assumed it couldn't be that big of a deal since she was making it just fine financially. I can't bring this up; it would hurt her to the core and there's nothing she can do about it.

3) I'm pissed off that I got more sex when I was unmarried, and that the woman who seemed to have as much drive and passion as I did, and had certain skills lost those things after she became my wife.

4) I'm pissed off that, much more than I expected, life as a husband and father has meant what I want, from little things to big things, has gone by the wayside. Of course I want to meet the needs of my wife and kids, and I am proud to do that. I just didn't realize that my needs weren't going to be met.

And I don't want to hear a laundry list, in front of a therapist, about what is wrong with me or what I do wrong. My wife already tells me. I don't need some third party saying, "She's right!" I believe her when it comes to just about everything. I do think my yelling has been a problem. I don't think it is as much of a problem as she thinks it is. I'm determined to get better.

I also don't need a therapist to tell me to focus on the good. See, I just wrote it. Focus on the good. Fine. But I'm still not getting enough sleep or other things that will help reduce my yelling, and no matter how much I reduce my yelling, chances are, there are still going to be times when I yell. My wife yells, too. Not nearly as much as me, but she does. Most people do. But even if it is two years down the line, the next time I yell is going to bring all of this up again.

It turns out that after the fight she immediately used her phone to buy a book and companion workbook on anger. I came home after working to find her reading them, and she wants me to read them, and I will. After the kids were in bed that night, she kept insisting that we were going to need counseling. I cited past success in modifying things and the books, and told her that unless she has something else she wants to bring up, I don't think counseling is yet necessary. My wife says there's nothing else… just this yelling stuff.

Things started to get better after the fight on the trip. They got much better when it was just our family again, and it got MUCH better after a long sleep

After I pointed out that I don't get violent, I don't make cutting remarks when I yell, etc., she finally said it was "the tone of my voice". I had to laugh inside and think about how I've heard Dr. Laura Schlessinger tell women who call and say the same thing about their husbands to ignore the tone.

Her family handled things differently. Again, yelling is usually not the way to go, and I should work more on that again. But handing my wife a drink and getting drunk along with her, which is what her father does, isn't a good way to handle it, either. My wife knows that, but since yelling apparently wasn't her father's thing, it bothers my wife more than it should.

But I will work on it. Obviously, it is possible for me to handle things without yelling, since I only do it with my close family - the people who deserve a better me the most of all.


  1. Curiepoint9:06 PM

    I feel your pain, man.

    The problem is that anything can be labelled rage or deficient anger management. This is because society has bred an attitude that anger is an invalid emotion, and that expressing it is counter-productive. I don't want to cast dispersions around, but perhaps your wife has bought into this thinking.

    At a deeper level, anger is a motivating force for change. Our government and nanny-state sociologists fight for a society that accepts anything and everything wholesale and without thought. One can argue that injustice exists, but without anger, there is no redress.

    I sense that your current situation is inspired by frustration at the behavior and attitudes of others, from which you cannot simply walk away. What other alternative do you have but to be angry and give voice to it? At least it's honest and direct.

    Don't give in to the idea of medication. Anger is not a bad or unjust thing. Don't succumb to making yourself more acceptable or pleasant just for the satisfaction of others...not even your wife and kids. Remember that anger is the feeling; what you do to externalize it is where judgement becomes more critical.

  2. She's told me that part of the book is about what happens to a person physically when they get angry. I can already guess what it is going to say. I should point out it is much the same thing that happens when I have to move a piece of heavy furniture.

  3. Curiepoint2:18 PM

    Moving heavy furniture...something that other people have no objections asking you to do.

    I thought the movie THX-1138 was strictly fiction. It becomes horrifyingly more real with every passing day.

    Can you imagine if the US government took this anti-anger stance at the time of the Pearl Harbor attacks? How about the founding fathers just being okay with unfair taxation?

    I agree, books that deal with this and similar subjects all do the same dance number, and cite physiological effects on the body. The thing is, pleasant emotional states have parallels with these conditions as well. Adrenaline pumping emotional states probably have similar effects, so stay away from that roller-coaster and don't watch the home team when they score a big victory...Don't get too amorous lest your passions lead you to activity that in turn could lead to sexual climax; it stresses the heart and raises the blood pressure, don't you know. Oh, and those feelings of passion and romance? They inspire the same physiological changes and stresses as eating large quantities of chocolate, and since chocolate is bad for you...well, you shouldn't chance it.

    Everything is bad for you. That's the stone end of it. I still maintain that people who denounce anger as invalid are just buying into the whole thought control/behavioral modification school of discipline.

  4. Curiepoint - interesting. Your points are very 1984. I couldn't agree with you more.
    Ken, the long and short of it is that your in-laws are a bunch of pratts. That's life. You had to spend a week with them, you're lucky you're still sane. I don't think you need anger management if this isn't an issue in any other aspect of your life. Has your wife ever suggested anything like this before?

  5. Thank you to both of you.

    My wife has not mentioned getting therapy and drugged before. A few months back, she sat down with me and talked with me about yelling, with the focus on yelling at the kids. And she did have a point, and I have stopped yelling at the kids. THAT is one of the many reasons I know we can deal with this without therapy.

    Since the trip, I have had no interaction with her family. I'm actually hoping we'll go over to her parents' for a family dinner again soon, because I know my kids love seeing their grandparents, aunts, and uncles. My wife and I have an agreement, prompted at her request a long time ago, that if the drinking gets out of hand there we'll take the kids (and ourselves) out of there before it gets to the point of anyone being drunk. So, such events are "safe". Given their reactions to my poor handling of the stress of the trip, my plan was to be as quiet as possible, rather than being my usual joking self (joking about current events and such... nonoffensive stuff).

    Anyway, the sister who yelled at me and received yelling from me has done the usual thing of bringing her kid along with her while visiting my wife and kids about once a week while I was out. That's fine by me. My kids enjoy their cousin.

    I try to put myself in my wife's shoes. What we had spent a stressful week with MY family amd we got into an argument and one my siblings, like my brother, yelled at her? I just can't imagine keeping her awake asking her to seek help for yelling back at him. Rather, I would have turned to my brother and told him it wasn't his place. Actually, there's no way I would have subjected her to the overall conditions in the first place.

    She doesn't want to ever go through anything like that again, either.

    Overall, I very much enjoy coming home to my wife and I enjoy her company. And thankfully, she's been noticing my behavior has been good ever since the trip. Perhaps after a few more months like this, she'll see that I don't need medication.

  6. Curiepoint7:50 AM

    I have been where you are, Ken. The last woman I was with got into the habit of calling everything and anything that disagreed with her world-view an aspect of my "anger". Don't even get started on my views of MRA or MGTOW.

    It became an impossible situation where I could not really talk about anything without her proclaiming anger. I spent a lot of time walking on eggshells, avoiding jokes that she didn't find funny, or expressing a point of frustration at work, or indeed anything at all. I spent a lot of time weighing every thought, every feeling, and I turned to such things as meditation and the Bible, as well as regular church attendance. I went the therapy route, including couples therapy with her, and on and on.

    I am not going to say these things did not help, but from her perspective it wasn't enough. I grew exhausted and felt caged by these "rules" of engagement. Ultimately, we parted ways. Keep in mind that she was the love of my life and yet we cannot be together.

    This is a tough road to walk, Ken. Find ways to tone it down to be sure, but know that anyone...and I do mean anyone...can still call it not enough. Good luck to you.

  7. I just learned this a couple weeks ago: The thing about anger is we really do usually have EVERY RIGHT TO BE ANGRY.

    Emotions and appropriate expression thereof is like 75% of my teaching job (18 mos-3 years). Anger is usually a justified emotion, given whatever unjust situation has occurred.

    Realizing, just mentally, that I don't have to argue or fight for my right to feel angry, that anyone, given this situation (whatever it is), would be angry, helps me personally stay calmer.

    With the little ones, I acknowledge their anger ("Bob took that toy away and I can see that made you angry") but try to train them to use appropriate means to solve the problem ... really it's all just practice for my own life, trying not to go frikken crazy, use my words, express the emotion without exploding on people.

    "Take a deep breath and use your soft voice, Ken. Soft voice," is what I'd say to you. :)

    You are probably a really good husband and I think your wife should give up wheat to cure all her problems; just saying ... maybe look into it. We all have room for improvement.

  8. Thank you, all of you.

    Curiepoint, I know what it is like to have to walk on eggshells. I was engaged (I was young... it was only my second real relationship... she proposed to me, essentially) to a woman who was hypersensitive, insecure, and overly dramatic. She'd break up with me and then demand we get back together, engagement and all. I thank God I never married her, and your history is a good reminder. I did learn some things from that experience, and I appreciated subsequent relationships, and appreciate my wife, for NOT being that way. That woman, years later, told me she was finally diagnoses as bipolar. (Like soooooo many others these days.)

    Most of us have our sensitive spots. But if someone constantly has to walk on eggshells around a partner, it isn't a match and the partner might not be ready to be with anyone at all.

  9. Curiepoint9:14 AM

    What is worse is when those sensitive spots are detected by the other and they are the places where they pick up a sharp stick and poke.

    I likened that elationship as being akin to Extend the metaphor of the bratty kid sister, only mommy is replaced by the counsellor. You will never be given the chance to honestly express your opinions. She will be able to blather about what bugs her, and you will be shamed into silence. Honesty is the hallmark counselling? Your anger, which is honestly rendered, will be the tool by which the counsellor screws you over.

    That's my experience. I am betting it's the norm of such practices.


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