Controlling Husband Pouts for Days and Weeks at a Time

Reader’s Question

My husband and I have been together for about 11 years. We have raised my daughters from a previous marriage as ours. Their father is out of the picture, and they call him Dad. When my husband gets angry at any of us for any reason he goes into the bedroom for days or weeks. During this time he helps with nothing around the house, but he still goes to work and acts fine to everyone outside the household.

The girls are good kids with what I consider normal teen age difficulties — arguing with parents, thinking of friends before parents. They never get in trouble in School or out of School. Get good grades. All in general good kids.

The reasons for his behavior have ranged from:

  • He thought I dressed too sexy for work. No longer an issue — I am unable to work due to MS.
  • He thought I talked on the phone to much to friends — I have discontinued almost all phone conversations with friends when he is home.
  • There were some of my friends he had issues with — they are no longer my friends or only come over when he is not home.
  • One night we were at a movie theater both my daughter and I had our feet on the seats in front of us (no one was in those seats). He told my daughter to put her feet down, she did not, he got mad at me saying I should have made her put her feet down.
  • We have a yearly isolation over my 17-year-old wearing a bikini. His rule is she is only allowed to wear one in our own back yard when he is not home and no company is over.
  • Clothes and gifts I purchase for the girls. He doesn’t feel they deserve any gifts; like this Christmas (with his agreement before) we got the 17-year-old a cell phone; now he is angry about it.
  • I won’t allow him to (what I consider to be) over punish for mistakes the girls make — e.g., grounding for 3 weeks from friends, phone, computer for raising voice at him.

He never sees the good in anything. When he gets home from a long haul (a truck driver) I try to be sure the house is spotless, I look nice, everything is taken care of, he has a hot meal waiting but he still seems to find something wrong and its anyone’s guess what will send him into the bedroom.

I really need help with this as I said I have MS and during these times he doesn’t assist me at all, I have to depend on my daughters. One day they will be grown and moved out and I am worried about my future.

Psychologist’s Reply

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Your husband has a controlling personality. Controllers only accept their view of how something must be. When their control is challenged or ignored, they actually feel entitled to punish those around them for challenging their control. Controllers are totally self-righteous and are not concerned with the normal standards for behavior, values, activities in children, or opinions of others. Controllers typically focus on controlling their families and often try to isolate their spouses from anyone who might provide support or a different opinion. With his behavior, he will make sure that friends and relatives don’t visit or contact you when he’s around for example. Controllers also keep the entire family “walking on eggshells” — fearful of his next outburst or pouting episode. They often use simple offenses as a reason for doing nothing around the house — as though you have violated one of his rules and must now suffer the consequences.

In your situation, your family lives two separate lifestyles — 1) When Dad is home and 2) When Dad is on the road. With his temper tantrums, pouting and isolation he’s got the family trained regarding what they can and must do in his presence. While you have tried to keep him calm (clean house, hot meal, etc.) — those behaviors actually don’t matter much as if he wants to pout or retreat to the bedroom, he’ll find something wrong on purpose — giving him a justification not to help. This is very childish behavior. If a teenager throws a temper tantrum each time you ask him to take out the garbage, eventually you stop asking him which is his goal in the first place. His pouting tantrums are working for him…just not for the rest of the family.

Being a controller is a personality. I’ve described controlling behavior in my article entitled Identifying Losers in Relationships on this website. He is not likely to change. In fact, when you mention no longer working, having MS, and having teenage daughters — his behavior and attitude has likely increased over the past few years. Stress and responsibility amplify our normal personality — for better or worse. Under the stress of being the sole breadwinner, being out of the home, etc. he has likely been more controlling than ever.

To deal with the situation, you are already protecting your daughters and have developed the two lifestyles — something very common in these families. Recognize and help your daughters recognize that his behavior should not be taken personally. If he decides to pout — let him pout and give him no special attention. Special attention is for people who participate in the family, not those who hide in their bedroom. We can use the same corrective behavior with your husband that we use with children who misbehave. Allow him to be upset with you (it will then bother him more than you). Slowly develop your own independence.

As for your future…he will likely always be a controller. When the children leave the home, his behaviors will likely decrease as he has no more control over them. However, he will likely still use the same childish behavior when you confront his controlling and selfish behavior. The departure of the children will also decrease your stress level as you will no longer be in the position of constantly defending and protecting them from his behavior and attitudes.

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