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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
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Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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My husband very harshly criticizes my 16 yr old son, mostly

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My husband very harshly criticizes my 16 yr old son, mostly just to me though, and mostly when he is drunk. (He was physically abused as a child by his mom; constantly rotating between his mom's, dad's and grandparent's homes) Most of the criticism about my son is focused around our son not dating yet, not wanting to take up hunting and sport fishing, and also my husband's perception that our son should be more physically muscular and more focused on his sports. But get this....our son is an elite-level champion swimmer who is getting ready to go to USA Swimming Junior Nationals! Our son is an "A" student, has never been in any trouble whatsoever, and never talks back to my husband (I'm the one who gets the normal teenage sass and eye-rolls LOL). When my husband does directly berate our son to his face, he sits and says nothing and lets him have his rant. Again most of the time he rants about our son's "shortcomings" to ME privately and NOT directly to our son. My husband also criticizes me a lot for my shortcomings (sometimes valid I have to say!). But he does go over the line a lot and recently in a restaurant 3 strangers overheard him berating me and approached him telling him that he should not talk to me that way and that they thought he should leave the restaurant! It ended up in a fist-fight. No kidding! We are in our 40s for goodness sake! Outside of this stuff, and especially when he is not drunk, he's a really great guy and I know that he loves and cares about us. We have been married for 23 years. Some interesting facts; My husband IS an alcoholic no question. He even admits that. My husband DOES NOT/HAS NOT EVER physically abused our son. He would never even spank him as a child - I had to do all of the discipline. My husband has in the past hit me. He did this before we were married but stopped and has not done it in 20 years. He quit that with no counseling whatsoever, however, this was shortly after getting a job for which he probably would have been fired if he was caught abusing his girlfriend/wife. He still has that job/career. What's your take on this? Yikes, right? Thanks in advance for your insight.
Hello, I'd like to help you with your question.

It sounds like your husband may have some unresolved issues from his childhood that he needs to address. Instead of dealing with his feelings however, he may be using alcohol to cope as well as lashing out at your son verbally. Even if his criticisms are said to you most of the time it could be overheard plus it shows up in his attitude. This all tells you that he has not resolved his emotional issues from childhood.

Although he has never hit your son, he is still hurting him just as much with his words. Criticizing your son for "shortcomings" is a way for your husband to feel better about himself at the expense of your child. Although your son has learned to try to ignore your husband's words, they still hurt him and his relationship with your husband. Instead of getting praise he is hearing how bad he is. That damages his self worth and esteem. Your son seems to be able to overcome this abuse and still achieve great things, but being emotionally abused can affect you in many ways, some hidden. And your son could grow up to hurt his children in the same way if he is unable to cope with what he has been through.

Your husband would benefit from seeing a therapist. But it takes insight and the desire to realize that your behavior is hurting others in order to change it. If your husband will not admit to the problems he has, then he is unlikely to change. In that case, you may want to consider therapy for you and especially for your son. While it is not great that you have to listen to your husband's abuse, you have more power than your son does in the situation. He may be more damaged by this as a result and by seeing a therapist, he has a chance to work out the damage and feel better.

To find a therapist, talk to your doctor and/or your son's doctor for a referral. Or you can search on line at

I hope this has helped you,
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TherapistMarryAnn and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Thank you very much for the positive rating and bonus! I appreciate it.

My best to you and your family,