My Husband Forgot He Was A Father — The Question I Asked To Remind Him

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father carrying young son on shoulders

My husband is angry I am leaving him.

He withholds food money. I have made myself financially vulnerable as a stay-at-home mother. My family and friends bring food for my children and me.

"I know dad’s mad at you," says my son. "But what about us? We live here too?" 

Out of the mouths of babes.

RELATED: To My Father Who Should Have Been There

Actually, not quite because my son is a teenager. But he is still a child reliant on his parents.

It hurts me to hear his words. The recognition that a child understands his father is willing to hurt him to hurt his mother. It’s unnatural.

I get so upset I ask my husband a question.

The kinda words any misbehaving spouse should hear.

To call them out on their BS. To address their adolescent, inappropriate, selfish, manipulative, controlling, immature and outrageous antics.

The type of behavior that is not only abusive but not befitting a parent.

I’ll get to that question in a minute.

First, let me explain other ways my husband forgot he was a father during our divorce. These are some highlights because there are far too many to mention.

A sheriff’s deputy pulls into our driveway.

It’s been three months since I retained a lawyer. The same son is at home with me. We both move towards the front door. I am shaking as I open it.

I fear the worst only to be served with a warrant in debt for a bill my husband didn’t pay because I was divorcing him.

"Are you okay?" I ask.

"No," says my son. "I thought something bad happened again."

He sits down at the kitchen table and places his head in his hands.

"Mom," he says. "What’s the matter with Dad?"

We are both shaken. It’s been a little over a year since we lost my beautiful, sweet, handsome, brave nephew. The sheriff’s deputy approaching our house brought back memories of two Navy men delivering unimaginable heartache to my sister.

I’m getting to that question I asked my husband.

Our lives spin out of control.

RELATED: How Absent Fathers Feel About Not Having Been Involved In Their Children's Lives

My husband continues to forget he is a father.

He withholds things, has things turned off, threatens foreclosure as cars circle our cul de sac, says he won’t send our son back to college, and so very much more.

My other son says, "Dad is trying to be right. He’s not trying to be good."

My children are struggling.

Because their father has forgotten he’s a father.

I can tell my youngest son misses his dad. I call my husband. He’s unphased, once again he forgets he is a father.

He tells me he goes to the games and drives to carpool sometimes. I remind him the only reason he does some of the carpools is he’s left me with a ten-year-old car that two mechanics have said is unsafe to drive.

He tells me I wanted to leave him, I need to get my own car.

I implore him to spend time with our children. 

I tell him he lives a few miles away, he doesn’t ever come to take them to dinner, ask them to spend the weekend with him, or anything.

My husband is unable to absorb their pain.

He’s forgotten he’s a father. He’s a bitter and enraged spouse. It supersedes everything in his life.

His goal is to punish me for daring to leave him. He justifies it by saying I have caused this because I wanted a divorce.

Here’s the question:

"When are you going to decide you love our children MORE than you hate me?"

It’s the kinda question every poorly behaving divorcing spouse should be asked.

RELATED: What It Feels Like For Your Child When You Divorce

There could be a few accompaniments to it.

When are you going to grow up?

When are you going to do the right thing?

When are you going to act like a parent, not an angry spouse?

It’s not a surprise that my husband failed to answer my question. He was incapable of it.

He was too off the charts to be rationalized with. And of course, he wholeheartedly believed his own distorted thinking.

That our children deserved to suffer because I had caused it.

Do you know the only thing worse than a badly behaving spouse? The other spouse reacts to them.

My behavior digressed along with his. I was in the fight of my life to protect my children. The more my husband acted out, the more they did. The more they acted out, the more I reacted to them as well.

I didn’t need to be in control.

But our lives were out of control.

I long ago gave up on the man who forgot he was a father.

It turns out it was probably best for my boys that he didn’t come looking for them very often. Because he wasn’t the best influence.

I can’t believe there was a time I begged him to spend time with them because now I don’t believe it’s a great thing. That doesn’t mean they’ve completely given up on him even though they say they don’t want to be like him.

They love their father.

Even a man who forgot he was one.

That’s the power of a parent and exactly why it shouldn’t be abused.

RELATED: 4 Critical Differences Between Being A Father And A Dad

Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. She writes bout love, life, relationships, family, parenting, divorce, and narcissism.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.