By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT
You know that line from Fiddler on the Roof when he asks her after being married for 25 years??? “Do you love me?” They had an arranged marriage, but have been together so long they have grown to love each other. He knows it. She knows it. But he wants confirmation, he wants to put it on the table so to speak.
Lately, after 7.5 years in my life, I’ve been asking my twins if they love me, but for all of the wrong reasons and it is not working out so well for me…or them.
My kids do the same thing every night – or at least they are supposed to; eat dinner, take a shower, brush their teeth, put their clothes in the laundry, etc. And every single night they fight us on that – especially me it feels like. Inevitably, they start getting upset and crying and inevitably I get frustrated and start yelling, becoming the man and father I least want to be and most despise in myself.
I’ve been wondering why I am losing my patience so much. Certainly work is stressful, though much less so than it has been in the past year. I am not sleeping as much because I am waking up earlier to go bike riding, but shouldn’t exercising make me feel better? And our life is stressful, but no more so than it has been in the past several years. Basically, I don’t think I have a good excuse for behaving this way.
Except that I’m not really feeling like my children love me. My wife’s sister is staying with us and all of a sudden I feel like I’m ranked third or even fourth (sometimes they would rather be with themselves than with me) in my own house with my kids. Before I know it, they start acting out and I start getting so angry.
Even on the nights when I come home from work determined not to yell at them, something always seems to happen. It makes me feel so helpless, so hopeless, and I become so hateful of myself. Aren’t I a better man than this? I had always thought so.
Fundamentally, I think the problem is I don’t seem to feel loved by my on children. Maybe it is because my wife’s sister gets so much more attention and they would rather be with her than with me. Maybe it has a lot to do with my own childhood and not feeing loved there and it carrying over to my present – especially when you factor in Mother’s Day, one of the hardest days of the year for me because my own mother hasn’t talked to me in decades I can see how I would feel not loved and that when they pay less attention to me, it makes me feel less loved.
To make matters worse, when they behave badly it is confirmation to me that they don’t love me, that they don’t care about me. If they loved me, they would be behave better. If I loved them, I wouldn’t yell at them they way I do. It is becoming a vicious cycle with neither of us winning. If someone yelled at me frequently, I wouldn’t want to be with them either.