My Husband Would Feel Fury and Frustration

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A separated woman recalls teasing and insulting her husband in front of others.

Reading Gint Aras’ The Butt of the Marriage Joke, about wives who make fun of husbands online, got me thinking and remembering. Posting tasteless memes seemed like child’s play compared to what I used to unleash on my partner.

I am a separated 32 year old woman. I used to bash my partner verbally, in his presence and with an audience. I was the purveyor of silly jokes about men and husbands, thinly veiled attacks directed at him. I would call him an idiot, incapable, clumsy, forgetful, ungrateful, you name it.

On some level, I sincerely believed I was funny.

♦◊♦

I started doing it with high school boyfriends. People would laugh. For a teenager, it was a great defense mechanism to hide her fears and inadequacies, and when people laughed (sometimes uncomfortably) I felt better.

Perhaps it was fine for a child to do this. But I grew up to become a mommy and a spouse. I never really moved over to think of myself as a partner, a member of a couple. I brought all my ammunition with me and used it. A lot. It was me against the world and against him.

I realized I had agreed to get married when I didn’t want to. But I couldn’t face that. Had I faced it, I’d have been forced to do something about the situation.

We didn’t communicate well in private or public, and I used the audience to attack him at almost any chance. The most ironic thing is that I was studying Communication Science and knew better. I was getting out of hand. He tried to talk to me about it, and my sisters asked me to tone it down but I just could not be bothered. I really didn’t care.

I recently asked him how he would feel when I used to go at him like that. He said, “I’d feel fury and frustration.”

◊♦◊

Of course, these were the same emotions that used to overwhelm me as well. I never fully realized, until I wrote it out for myself, how angry, frustrated and helpless I felt during the early years. I felt voiceless in my situation and blamed him. Looking back, I realized I had agreed to get married when I didn’t want to. But I couldn’t face that. Had I faced it, I’d have been forced to do something about the situation. We had a baby and were living together, so there was no way out. I felt trapped and scared, and I lashed out. It wasn’t just the verbal assaults, but my mood would swing and I’d withdraw emotionally.

I wish I had been truthful with myself earlier and had the guts to confront my situation and make a mature decision instead of cowering away. I look at wives who pick their husbands to pieces. I wonder how happy they are and what they are hiding. It’s true that people have different ways of communicating. I still wonder at the end of the day what point is being proved. If I had truly loved my partner, I would never have picked on him this way, in jest or otherwise.

Humour is supposed to be funny. Sure, we have a sick part in us that will laugh at wigs flying off in the wind; in my culture, we have tribal jokes thrown around. In American and British culture, stand-up comedians peddle racist, sexist and elitist jokes—sometimes satirically, sometimes not—and we consume them because we all have similar secret feelings. Deep down we know it’s just not decent or polite. These are expressions of our self-consciousness.

At the end of the day, too much damage is done under the guise of “humour” in interpersonal relationships. I look at the harm I have done over the years and it pains me. But I have learned my lesson.

 

This article is a response to the Marriage Section’s Call For Anoymous Submissions.

Photo by Patrick Doheny

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About Lindile

Lindile is an author from Southern Africa.

Comments

  1. Adrian says:

    That is some pretty nasty, abusive behavior. I think it’s good that you recognize that, and it sounds like you’ve talked to your ex, who is the only person who really needs an explanation.

    You seem to be convinced that you’re taking responsibility for your behavior, but the way you cloak it in talk of your difficult circumstances or the general truth that people often go too far with “humor” seems like an effort to explain it away. Maybe not.

    In any case, you chose to dismiss the feelings of another human being for your own gain, and you did it repeatedly over a course of years. It’s something you did; it didn’t happen to you.

    • Yeah, another case of ‘ I know I did wrong, but it really wasn’t my fault. Circumstances in my upbringing you know. Besides, he made me marry him when I shouldn’t have.’ I just wonder if the author has ever actually apologized to her ex?

      • How do you get “He made me marry him when I shouldn’t have” from “I had agreed to get married when I didn’t want to?” Seems she’s owning that choice…

        And when someone takes ultimate responsibility for wrongdoing, that means they’re not allowed to look at the other factors at play, like where the bad behaviors came from and how culture reinforces them? It’s not an excuse, it’s a wide view of the situation.

        Context is NOT irrelevant to responsibility. It is by looking at the context of terrible actions that we learn how and why they happened, how to prepare for or avoid the same mistakes in the future, and learn to recognize the warning signs in others.

      • Heh, I don’t read it that way at all.

        This, to me, sounds like someone who has done the hard self-analysis and put in the effort to change (and, it seems, successfully), and is now choosing to share their lesson with the rest of us. She’s not giving us an excuse for what she did, she’s owning her own emotional baggage.

        A part of recognizing our wrongs and learning to be better is unpacking why we are the way we are. Understanding what drove us enables us to find better ways of handling our negative emotions, and is part of what enables us to change.

  2. wellokaythen says:

    Thank you for admitting it and starting to own it at learning from it. The next step I recommend is to try to find some empathy for your ex, not just ask what he felt but try to put yourself in his position. I hope more people will come to this level of awareness before more people get hurt.

  3. Not buying it says:

    No worries, according to the existing & enforced gender paradigm or narrative specially here in the west & ever expanding to the rest of the world, he is the man therefore you are the victim here too, after all he convinced you to marry him against your will & without realizing that he is responsible for your agency of self reliance, it’s an ugly part of patriarchy & men are responsible for it , it sucks !!! So no worries again as a male he definitely deserved what he got & how you treated him, thanks for reminding me as a male what me responsibilities are & way I should stay single.

  4. “On some level, I sincerely believed I was funny.”
    Wow- and on some level every person who ever back-handed a sweetheart across the mouth probably believed it wasn’t so bad and that they had it coming….
    I sincerely hope you seek help before dating again- what you did was abuse…

  5. Brandon says:

    I’m not gonna come down on you. I don’t think any good can come from that. Only more hurt that in turn gets passed on to others. One thing that bugs me about this article though is how blunt, vague, and non-linear it comes off as and left me thinking “Whatever that means” at several places. As a result I’m not seeing what the lesson is supposed to be (I mean it’s pretty obvious using humor to be mean and hurtful to other people is wrong) and that probably means the issues this behavior stemmed from aren’t 100% resolved on your end, or they are resolved and you just didn’t disclose what the issues were and how you fixed them.

  6. Ashley says:

    One must own up to their faults in order to improve self.

    I learned this early on and was lucky that I was able to change things that held me back and caused others to be unhappy.
    However, while there is reasons I was like I was. I don’t use them to justify its good to acknowledge the causes so you can work on preventions though.
    I don’t really read this as you trying to justify your actions. I think you know they was wrong regardless of the reasons why.

    You can change and be a better person. Its hard but its worth it. :)
    :)

  7. This reminds me of how my mother treats my father, and to some degree, my brother and I. For some reason she seems to think being female makes her completely harmless, and therefore it’s suppose to be ironic that she’s taking all these shots on teh menz. But it’s been so consistent that it’s turned into emotional abuse. I’ve also noticed other girls and women doing this, as well as some I’ve dated. I’ve decided, now, that being single is easier. With years of watching my mom humiliate my dad in front of her friends, and my brother and I, I just can’t imagine why I’d want to invite that into my life. Popular, mainstream culture seems rife with women having to humble men, always having to be “their better half”, getting the boys in grown men’s bodies to behave and grow up, and so fourth. No thanks, not for me. Ever since I could remember, I can remember women trying to get me to give up my “macho ego”, trying to use bullying and shock tactics to teach me to be more humble, part of which included gender based humiliation. But, seen as I was just a little boy, I didn’t actually understand what any of this “battle of the sexes” stuff was. I didn’t understand why my mother, and a number of other women were behaving the way the were. Needless to say, it did not leave a very good impression on me in terms of what I could expect from grown women.

    • James, wonderful story.

      While you may not have a good impression of what you “can expect ” from grown women, you have the power (and responsibility to yourself) to declare exactly what you DO expect and what you will not accept. This moves us from feelings like a victim to feeling like a man in control of our own journey. Can’t change them – only ourselves.

      Ditto for any woman in the same situation James described.

  8. I’ve got two points – unrelated.

    1. Instead of bashing the author for her obvious crimes, try this point of view. Picture her as your wife who, after 10 years, is JUST NOW seeing her own baggage and emotional issues (tip of her iceberg).

    She’s hurting for hurting others, wanting to change, and needing some understanding and acceptance to help her along. Imagine her wanting your forgiveness and how to learn to let go of her baggage and resentment. Assume she wants to learn better how to love you and accept your love in a respectful way. *This is the REPEAT story I hear from men ALL THE TIME* when they finally realize the emotionally disrespectful, condescending, and judgmental damage they have been inflicting on their wives for years. Some of them have wives who give them a chance and choose to accept their new efforts to reconnect on a whole new level. Others simply can’t trust and can’t forgive and just leave. This seems to be what happened to the author. The behavior is absolutely inexcusable, but it is forgivable when someone is committed to learning and changing.

    2. The story illustrates the severe lack of “testicular fortitude” in the author’s husband and thousands of men these days. On the *very first day* a man hears a woman (wife, sister, mother, daughter) speak like that he must shut it down – not sulk away like a little boy. A great man NEVER accepts behavior like that from anyone and will immediately dismiss them from his company until they shape up. If they “don’t care” as the author stated, they kindly open the door and set ‘em free. A great man doesn’t ever treat others like that and refuses to keep company with anyone who does. There are better women out there who deserve them (you). Seriously, men need to step up in the face of destructive attitudes and behaviors like that. It starts with REALLY grabbing your nuts and understanding your own masculinity.

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