I’m starting to wonder if my husband’s having some sort of midlife crisis making him act like some crazed dictator with his own family. It started when our three adult kids – all in their twenties, quite normal and pleasant people – came home for lockdown. To begin with, it was sort of blitz spirit and everyone pulled their weight. We agreed that chores needed to be shared and personal space respected. My husband, who’d taken early retirement just before lockdown, assumed the role of chief cook and organiser of online shopping, cleaning it with antiviral wipes as it came through the door.
The first four weeks were great. We hadn’t been together like that for 10 years and I was aware of the kids really making an effort. My husband was rallying everyone for movies, going for walks with anyone who needed company and just generally being a supportive presence. He made cocktails, bought lovely treats online and we all settled happily into a new but surprisingly nice life.
Then one night he got strangely irritated by someone leaving greasy water in the kitchen sink. Not a big deal. Could have been any of us. I emptied the water and cleaned out the sink while he ranted. The next day our son suggested a takeaway for dinner and his dad then launched into a lecture about how we weren’t made of money. He even carried on when our son put vouchers down in front of him and quietly said he’d planned to treat everyone. That night I asked my husband what was up and he was snappy, saying he was sick of being taken for granted and we ended up in a furious whispered fight.
Since then, he’s basically never stopped moaning at them. Whingeing about them drinking in the house – everyone was drinking in the house – not helping enough and acting as if he’s surrounded by recalcitrant children. The older two have moved back out and the youngest one is so fed up she’s also looking for a flat, although she’s a student and can’t really afford it. He’s issuing orders constantly on everything from jobs to sex lives – “Don’t think you’re shacking up here with your boyfriend”. It’s spoiling family life in a big way.
I’m getting it too. In the past we had a lovely peaceful life but now he tells me how to drive, how to stack the dishwasher – when did this become important? – and recently even how to do my job. It’s not advice, it’s hectoring, and it’s caused quite a few fights; but he’s not listening.
It’s worse for the kids – he was a fabulous dad when they were small and when they were teenagers, happy to spend hours with them, listening to them, generally just being there. They could talk about anything. Now they tread carefully, quite often using me as messenger because no one knows what will set him off. Last week he said he wished we’d never had pets as the kids never helped, which is nonsense – even now the older two are always delighted to take the dog for a week or two.
When I said that, he started yelling at me for always taking their side. At first, I was surprised, then sad; and now I’m furious. We’re stuck with this horrible, controlling bully none of us recognise.