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Ask Dr. Norman Brown Your Own Question

Dr. Norman Brown
Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1144
Experience:  Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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Its so amazing how things turn out. I have two beautiful

Customer Question

Its so amazing how things turn out.
I have two beautiful daughters that I love more than anything in the world.
I remarried a great guy 5 yrs ago and feel that I met my soulmate.
Yet, I feel like my entire life is in turmoil? Why do you ask?
Well lets see.
My kids are 20 and 15. pretty strong minded girls (they take after me of course),
However they are pretty spoiled. My ex-bought my daughter a $30,000 car for her first car and she doesn’t work so he paid for it in cash. My oldest daughter goes to college and my ex refuses to let her apply for loans because he doesn’t want her to have any bills when she gets out of college and of course I am paying ½ of her tuition. I also have to pay for ½ her car insurance because my ex doesn’t want her working while she is in school. WOW.. I know.. she has no responsibility and he sure as hell isn’t allowing her to earn her way for anything. Sure she works a day or two with her aunt and half the time she leaves early cause she was out partying the nite before.

Than there is my 15 yr old daughter.. She does spend her money very carefully. She has money from her birthdays and holidays as well as money that is given to her by her aunts and grandparents. Only problem is, she can get very nasty and constantly moody. You never know if its safe to say hi or ask her how her day was, because she will turn around and either say, leave me alone, or go away. And if you ask whats wrong that’s it, you better run away because she will flip out on you. Don’t get me wrong she is a good kid but can be sooo nasty and disrespectful that you want to choke her out.

Than there is my husband. He was never married before and doesn’t have any kids.
He fell in love with my daughters when they were younger and we all got along great. We decided to get married and I sold my house and moved into his house. Everything was great at the beginning.. It was tough at first because my husband had to basic rules in place. Some more reasonable than others but nonetheless they were rules, like clean up after yourself, your room and wash your stuff when done eating. However , due to the fact the kids kept saying they didn’t do that at dads house,
They thought they didn’t have to do it now.
At some point the battles began, yelling and screaming. No feet on the couch , no food in the living room, no food in the rooms, no friends were allowed over, no loud music or loud tv. Laughing too loud, too much noise, keep your voice down, .
The entire your not my father comment came out quiet often and of course when I intervened and the kids would answer me back, my husband felt the need to defend me., which in turn would escalate a small disagreement into the loudest shouting match along with name calling and disrespect.
If he would just learn to stay out of the arguments and mind his business when I talk to the kids and not comment on the punishments that I put out, it would be fine. With him I have to take away the phone, the computer the tv, take the door off the hinge, no friends allowed over. And if talked to the kids, his comment would be why are you talking nice to them, you shouldn’t even look at them. After how they behaved. You are weak. You have no backbone or control. You have to rule with an ironfist. Sooorrrryyyy. I don’t think we are running a prison camp. Just raising kids here.

And when I didn’t agree with anything he said, and I stuck up for the kids, I was told that I was a horrible mother and raised monsters and that if I don’t straighten them out I can pack my crap along my kids and get the F---- out of HIS house. I was told that I would never find anyone like him. That he always dated hot skinny girls. That I should consider myself lucky to have him and that I was fat and ugly. And of course lets not forget the infamous C word.

He at some point managed to make me throw my oldest daughter out of the house once she graduated high school. Never in a million years would I have done that ever. Right after she graduated he told me that she should go live with her father. He refuses to have her in the house when she doesn’t work and do anything in the house. I told him that number one he didn’t support her or give me money to raise her that I worked and supported my kids. But I was told that he provided a roof over both my kids and my head so I should appreciate what he has given me so if she doesn’t leave than I would have to leave because he didn’t want her in the house.. I was of course scared and she was going to college anyway so I convinced myself that he was right and told her to leave. She didn’t speak to me for almost 2 yrs. I missed her moving into college and all her exciting new experiences. It broke my heart but I understood that I betrayed her and she should have come first.

Now, my 15 year got along with him for a while, every few months they would have words and at some point I had the police come to the house twice and once of the officers heard him say to my daughter that if she didn’t straighten out she was ruining our marriage and it was her fault. The officer told him that he was wrong and didn’t know what he was talking about and that he should never say that to a young kid. After the second call, dyfus investigated us. Apparently my daughter recorded the argument between me and my husband and my ex played it for dyfus, she was so scared that she refused to come to the house alone to speak with my husband and brought a gentlemen with her. It was the most humiliating moment in my life.

This past summer my daughter told him to go away because she was in a bad mood and he got upset, came in the house and told me she has to move in with her father because he didn’t want her living in his house and being disrespectful. And if she didn’t go than we can both get out of his house.. so I decided to move in with my parents as soon as she was done with school. After all that, she decides to move in with her dad and go to school there. I moved out of the house and left my husband to make it easier for her and to start over, now I am alone living at my parents going out of my mind.

Now, all the drama begins, he told me that he went out on dates. I wasn’t even gone a week. I am totally upset and have such confused emotions. I have him begging me to come home that he truly loves me and misses me, than I have my family telling me to buy a house and be on my own, I have my 15 yr old hating me because I will not move back where my current husband lives so she can be with her friends. I have my ex husband telling me that if go back with him he will take me for the maximum child support he can get.

What the hell is going on… don’t I have a say on what I want to do? Everyone keeps throwing all this ultimatums at me and I am feeling soo boxed in that I don’t want to wake up in the morning. No one has thought about my feelings or about what I want.. no one has bothered to say, do what makes you happy. We will stand by you no matter what. The decision has to be yours. But when I say I am going to go back to my husband I get reamed like no tomorrow.

I just want to pack up my stuff and run. The hell with my family and husband. The hell with my kids and the ex. I just am soo fed up I don’t know what else to do.

What am I doing wrong? I am a good person. I work hard. I have become so weak and please everyone soo much that I lost who I am.. I don’t know how to get me back.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 4 years ago.

You sure are in way over your head, and my gut churns just to imagine what your life is like. But after I simmer down a little, I start to realize that your exhusband's threat is not as dramatic as it sounds. And your parents don't own you just because you're currently in refuge there.


Your first priority to resolve is your standoff with your husband. He says he misses you and wants you to come back, now that he's gotten rid of your second daughter. He's got a problem with naive rigidity and possessiveness over his house and leaving you with no power of your own with the excuse that it's all his territory. That has to change, and the best way to do that is to tell him you will come back to live with him AFTER both of you have had enough couples therapy sessions to get some agreements worked out about how you will SHARE decision-making power when you are living together.


It is often a bad start for a marriage for one partner to move into the other's homestead without some pretty serious adjustments in the homeowner's territorial expectations. His rules and reactions to your daughters should be discussed and negotiated as part of those adjustments. Whenever possible, many therapists would urge new couples to buy or rent a new house together, so that there aren't any unfair power levers in the marriage contract, and you both start out on equal footing.


He's likely to accept that he needs to bend his rules to accommodate your personality and your love for your girls, since he's been unmarried so far for very good reasons: his rigid authoritarian personality style is first among them.


You'll need a therapist who can direct your interaction masterfully, so nobody with less than 5 years consistent experience in marriage therapy should be considered. They should have very specific training in couples therapy, and not just "cognitive-behavioral" or "psychodynamic," but "family systems" oriented and/or "emotionally focused couple therapy." You can interview several prospective marriage therapists over the phone and tell them that you will have to confront your husband's authoritarian household attitudes and you'll need a strongly supportive director for that effort.


You might need to get a few sessions of women's assertiveness training solo or in a group before you are ready to approach this issue. But if you are still drawn to him by loving feelings, then your marriage has some pretty good stuff in addition to all the ultimatums.


Now that both girls are away, you two have a chance to rebuild a loving bond. But that doesn't mean you need to let him chase away your younger daughter as a price of getting a husband back. That needs to be included in your therapist-led negotiations, and your daughter might need to be invited in for some sessions with both of you.


Your exhusband sounds powerhungry too. Did you have your words stuck in your throat when it came to wielding your power in relation to him also? Did both of these men have more money and professional power than you and push you around with that?


That's enough for tonight. I look forward to what you have in response. You will not get out of your family role as pacifier/placater (but feeling brutalized) without a powerful mentor and guide as therapist for this best-shot attempt to renegotiate and restart your second marriage. And you can name it a "Restart" when inviting your husband to join you and commit to making the therapy work. That by itself should be a big enough challenge for him to make him think twice or more about whether he's up for the (secretly scary/embarrassing) ordeal of submitting his petty-tyrant kingship to an arbitrator/referee that knows more than he does about making a marriage healthy and rewarding, and a blended-family parenting healthy and rewarding too. Your exhusband has no role in this therapy, tho his leverage over your daughters might come into play if the sessions extend far enough into restarting the blending choreography too.


If you don't hire a couples therapist with prestige, skill, power and confidence you won't succeed in restructuring your husband's authoritarian lifestyle. Can you assert yourself to your own father without triggering a "my way or the highway" battle? With your therapist as trainer, you might start your assertiveness practice with your father, and then find that your husband isn't as hard to budge as you've thought. You'll also get a challenge even motivating your husband to go to counseling with you, because most men are "dead set against any dumb therapist messing with their heads" because they're privately feeling shame if they can't solve all your problems by themselves. So they'll try everything they can think of to avoid having to show up "incompetent to fix their own marriage." And they haven't a clue about how to do that.


Enter the therapist as expert and lion-tamer.


Norman Brown, PhD, PhD, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist


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