What to do when your husband hates being a father?


What pressures are on your husband (even some you don’t feel)? Twenty years ago, I felt trapped–two small children living in a small apartment, neighbors yelling at us to “shut those kids up,” trying to make it on a junior officer’s salary, etc. I used to take walks asking God why he would do this to me, and I eventually realized I was doing it to myself. My children were growing up and I wasn’t sharing the joy of that with them and my wife, just being miserable at what I didn’t have. Thank God–I mean that literally–I put away my selfishness and started enjoying the challenges He sent me. Two more children and twenty years later, I couldn’t be happier. Your husband’s prayers and confessions will help, but he has to let it. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, in the end there are two types of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done” and those to whom God says “Thy will be done.”


Sanctaparenta and tomch,

Your points are well taken. We definitely disagree on discipline quite often and yes, it’s hard not to speak about him negatively at times to others, as you have all witnessed :frowning: I admit to playing a part in all of this to some degree. I wish I could do the right thing all the time like I’m supposed to, but I wasn’t raised with good relational skills either, so often when I open my mouth, the words I want to say just aren’t there. It wasn’t modeled to me when I was a kid. I’m not blaming my parents, it probably wasn’t modeled to them either, but the bottom line is you can’t give what you don’t have. I know wrong when I see it but I can’t always find the way to make it right.

I remember reading in the Little House books a while back how on rare occasions Pa would raise his voice and begin to say an impatient word in the children’s presence and Ma would immediately say, “Charles!” And everyone knew what that meant, and Pa immediately relented. She didn’t need to say anything else. I think I need to be more like that. That, to me, is an example of a good wife. Correction without humiliation.

(And of course, this holds true in my parenting beliefs too. Children are people too and don’t handle humiliation or unfairness or agression well either—and that’s a hard pill for adults like my husband to swallow sometimes because they are so small and defenseless and so easily taken advantage of. We grew up in the Dobson generation (if I can call it that) and it’s hard to let go of something that has become such a part of you like that).

He has read so many articles and books for me I just think he’s had it with that kind of stuff. We do need a third party, someone other than a secular psychologist, someone who has a deep Catholic faith who can be an advocate for me to him, and for him to me.

We talked the other day. I totally blew up at him (thankfully my daughter was asleep and didn’t hear it). He was really at his wit’s end with an illness that just won’t go away, frustrations with his boss, irritation because he hasn’t been sleeping well, and on top of that a daughter who isn’t yet potty trained and wants constant attention from both me and him. He was running out of gas, but he was being cruel and I had to call him on it. But I did it all wrong.

Later we reconciled and I think I was able to discern from our conversation that he is having a real problem with faith, though he doesn’t even recognize it. He believes in God and all, at least on a logical level. But he doesn’t apparently believe that God really cares about him or wants him to be healthy again, that God just wants to test him and test him and test him and never give him any consolation or rest. It’s just probably the biggest test of faith he’s ever experienced and yet he doesn’t see it that way yet. He’s too busy being miserable. I don’t know what the answer is, why he can’t trust, but I know I’ve recently experienced a test of faith in recent times, not so serious or long-lasting as this, and that’s why I recognize it as such. I shared my experience with him, but I don’t know how much of it he really believed or took into himself. We’ll see.

I’m definitely not going to threaten him with separation or kick him out or call him names or anything. Why beat him when he’s down? We need a counselor and we need to get some more joy into our life. I wish we had a bigger family with lots of fun family traditions to sink our teeth into, but we have only one child and both of us come from small families, and neither of our families have a real desire to do any such thing. I think it would help us to forget our miseries. Thank God it’s Easter and time to celebrate. :slight_smile: Jesus gave us a real-life opportunity to share in his suffering this past weekend, and now it’s time to cast that off and rejoice. I hope I can think of something to do other than sit around in a quiet house all week.


When you have choosen to enforce your well, and have drawn a line in the sand, that its you and the kid against DAD, what hope is there?

The two of you need to “Blend” how to raise this child, two of you made this child, now its time for the two of you to raise it…Sounds like he wants too, its just tough fighting MOM and Child…so he has given up…

your statement:
“I’m definitely not going to threaten him with separation or kick him out or call him names or anything.”

Really tells the story, of who has the power, maybe you need to look within to resolve this situtation…

What happens in a couple of years and this child figures out how to play Mom against Dad? IF the two of you arent on the same page now, its only going to get worse.


I think a lot of families have to deal with mom and dad not agreeing on discipline. I am going to comment in general here because I don’t know you personally.

My dh reluctantly welcomed our first child. Let’s face it, babies cramp man activities from golfing to computer gaming. He was almost as reluctant with #2. It’s hard for men to embrace the sacrificial nature of parenthood. He actually enjoyed the arrival of #3. In our initial plans (ha ha) we talked about sterilization after three. However, we were learning the Church’s teaching about that around the same time as #3. Dh genuinely enjoyed the arrival of #4 and #5 and (God help me) is praying for twin boys.

As many of you know, we lost #4 last year. Dh wrote a tribute for his website that included…

He taught me, more than anyone else could have, what a sheer honor it is just to be someone’s Dad, and how to better love my other children. And he honored me more than I deserved by imitating everything. He helped me fix bikes, helped vacuum floors, and shaved. He loved shaving so much I gave him his own razor–one of mine. We shaved together on the way to church. And like me, he went jogging. How many one-year-olds have to be chased down because they’d leave a playground full of equipment just to go jogging? And he loved God. That’s where his imitation of me paid me the highest compliment–when he’d sit next to me with his head bowed and hands folded in prayer.

Dh has grown into fatherhood. It didn’t just pop out with baby #1. We still argue that he is more aggressive and not so demonstrative with loving affection. He loses his temper and hollers. It’s a rare dad that doesn’t (back me up here dads).

Still, it is sad that he says that about your DD. It may be that she is already playing you two in an innocent toddler way. This will definitely bring out the hostility and resentment in dad. If he does love you so much, share that with DD. Daddy is so loving sometimes, isn’t he? Do you know what he did for us today? Also, back him up when you can. Daddy’s right, you shouldn’t paint the bathroom with toothpaste. Didn’t daddy already say no about having candy for lunch?, ETC. This shows DD that you respect daddy and so should she. It will take a while if the problem has been developing for a while.


AnnaTherese, I am wondering, does your husband have a consistent method of discipline that you are interfering with? The reason that I ask, is that some of the advice that you are getting is geared toward that assumption.

I hope that your situation is not like mine was. With mine, my husband would not have any means of disciplining. He would just explode, and what he would really explode about was that I was not being hard enough on the kids. I was later able to realize through counseling that this was due to the fact that his father was largely absent in his life and his mother was physically and emotionally abusive toward him. So, when I was not acting in the way that he thought a mother should act, he became irate. I am not a yeller, and he always would yell at me to yell at the kids. He was more upset that I wasn’t yelling than he was at the kids for whatever it was that they were doing.

I had read books and wanted to come up with a plan for discipline, so that we were on the same page. He wasn’t interested, and his outbursts completely undermined any of my efforts at consistent discipline. I put up with this for too many years. I finally got my wake up call one day when we came home from Mass, and he completely lost it that my son had watched a new DVD without first asking permission. He went nuclear about that, but it was the fact that I “defended” him by saying he had asked me for permission that made him totally lose it. He grabbed a screwdriver and was yelling about how he just wanted to stab us all and held it up to my face and two of my sons. He was so angry, that I was really believed he just might do something.

So, what I am trying to do by giving you some examples from my life is to try to give you a better idea of whether or not you are undermining his authority or whether he is just angry and without a plan.


Thanks dranzal. I think you made some excellent points. I think you hit it on the head when you said that some dads really just have to grow into fatherhood. I can really see that now. It may take a while but he’ll come around. This is likely a test of my faith too, because I’m just dying to have another baby, but we can’t do it right now with him like this. We’ve been trying and God isn’t ready yet. So this is probably why.

In fact, I was talking to a friend of mine a few days ago who does nutritional healing and I was telling her about my struggles with trying to have a baby. She said 9 times out of 10 you aren’t really infertile and you don’t have any health problems (you may have health problems, but they aren’t necessarily causing the infertility). Almost every time it’s because there is an emotional or spiritual problem. Something inside of you just can’t let go and allow God to do his work. When she said that, I knew that’s exactly what it was for us. I’m too impatient to wait for God’s timing because I don’t want my daughter (and me) to be lonely, and my husband is “being open” but crossing his fingers behind his back all the time because he is so stressed out as it is. No wonder I can’t get pregnant. :rolleyes:


Yikes! I would certainly agree that something desperately needs to be done in a situation like this. Such behavior is inexcusable. Yet I also wonder what happened to cause such an outburst. Some anger problems are results of mental illness, and others are due to ever-increasing bitterness to the point of explosion. In the later case, it would be wise to see what is causing such bitterness, and try to resolve the issues. (obviously!)

I’m speaking in generalities – I’m sure there are exceptions – but I think most fathers are “leaner” on love, and heavier on the “consequence/action” aspects of discipline. Most mothers, on the other hand are “heaver” on the love, and give generous “second chances.” This is the way God made us. There’s nothing wrong with a “normal” disciplinarian father, or a “normal” tolerant mother… That’s how we’re made.

Mature and balanced parents will recognize these “normal” differences in parenting style and not attack their spouses for being “wrong”. Wives should encourage husbands to show more love, and husbands should encourage wives to show more consistency. We ought to strengthen and encourage each other rather than criticize the different parenting “specialties” of our spouses.

God’s design is to have both a mother and father in then child’s life, so as to balance these “specialties,” and give the child an appropriate blend of “love” and “consequence/action.”

In a “normal” family (without mental health issues…) one of the worst things a spouse can do is undercut their spouse. Instead, show love and support, realizing that your spouse has some skills and abilities that you don’t have (and vice versa).


Tomch, I completely agree with you. I just wanted to share my example about what it is like in a family that is not “normal” since a lot of the time what is good advice for dealing with a normal husband is not good advice for dealing with a mentally ill husband. I spent too many years dealing with my husband as if he were normal – not speaking up to him, not arguing with him. I am hoping the OP’s husband is in the normal category, but if not, a lot of normal practical advice just isn’t going to work.


I’ve read (can’t remember where :o) that we see our Heavenly Father the way we see our earthly father. If our father was distant then we temd to view God as distant. If our father was angry then we tend to see God as Angry etc. However, if we see our dads as loving, providing, correcting etc then we tend to see God that way. It doesn’t mean that if our dads were any of the negative things we can’t have a good relationship with God but it makes it more difficult.

Has anyone else heard of this? maybe the OP could suggest her husband read the book (if it was in a book).

My husband never hated our daughter, but he had alot of trouble with the time that I was spending with her and that left me too tired for him. I was also working when he was home so we were doing a baby-sitter tag-team. Which means we weren’t seeing very much of each other.

My friend’s husband had alot of trouble once their baby came too. He made comments about how when he was a child he didn’t have X, Y or Z and how lucky his kid was, but deep down he was jealous that his child “got” something (parental attention) that was very good and he didn’t.

So, from those two examples and what the OP has said about her husbands family makes me think that he has some family of origin work to do. Maybe the OP could help by trying to understand what her husbands life was like as a child. Other than that she could bring it up to his therapist (they will usually listen to you as the spouse but won’t talk candidly with you unless a waiver is signed).

And above all, Pray for him.


I’m kinda in the same boat as you are, so I certainly sympathize with those who are dealing with mental illness of a spouse.

In my situation, it helps me to realize that my wife often can’t help her responses - it is hard to remain bitter at her for something she can’t help. As for you… do the best you can with parenting on your part, and give the rest to God. He loves your children even more than you do.

Funny as it sounds, my new Catholic faith has also helped tremendously in learning how to cope with an “un-normal” marriage. Baptists do not have a well-developed understanding of suffering. They just ask God to “take it away!!” Catholics have more of an “acceptance” of suffering, and realize that it’s one of those tools that God uses to perfect those He loves. I’m still learning about this, and it is so rich.

I recently read “Prayer for Beginners” by Peter Kreeft. A quote from page 100 (chapter dealing with suffering) that helped me a lot:

If you truly love someone, you do not love him as a means to the end of your own happiness. What you love is not your happiness, or your freedom from suffering, but him, and his presence, and one-ness with him. Insofar as sufferings are part of that oneness, they are embraced too, and even loved – not for themselves, of course, but for the context they are in, like the villains in a great play or the dark shadows in a great painting, or the cacophonies in a great symphony.


That sounds rather damaging to your child. Make it clear to him that you have a commitment to your daughter just the same as you have a commitment to him. While the daughter poses no threat to him, he poses a rather serious threat to the child.

I think that makes it rather clear who comes first.


AnnaTherese, growing up is very hard to do. Your husband has the weight of the world on his shoulders (job, illness, faith, kids) and it’s so easy to take it out on the most defenseless. Your are right to seek help - perhaps Catholic Charities in your area? They have good counselors.

Children hold a mirror up to us - we see in them the good and bad in ourselves. And, they seem to have a knack for putting us in situations we don’t know how to deal with or don’t want to deal with. They pull us out of ourselves. That is really hard sometimes. Seems like you guys are right where you need to be to grow.


AnnaTherese, growing up is very hard to do. Your husband has the weight of the world on his shoulders (job, illness, faith, kids) and it’s so easy to take it out on the most defenseless. Your are right to seek help - perhaps Catholic Charities in your area? They have good counselors.

Children hold a mirror up to us - we see in them the good and bad in ourselves. And, they seem to have a knack for putting us in situations we don’t know how to deal with or don’t want to deal with. They pull us out of ourselves. That is really hard sometimes. Seems like you guys are right where you need to be to grow.


Good advice above.

This is NOT normal or healthy and cannot be further tolerated by you. For me, this would be a deal breaker. Either he agrees to get professional help immediately or you need to find a safe place for you and your daughter to live. This will require tremendous strength and courage from you. If you think you can’t face your role or take responsibility for turning this situation around, consider how you’ll feel knowing the consequences will be borne entirely by a 3 year old child. Time to find your inner “mama grizzly” and get busy protecting your cub from a dangerous predator.

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