"We Keep Tearing Each Other Down"
His Turn"I Was Convinced We Were Finished"
"For years Nikki has told me to leave every time we have a big fight. This time I took her at her word," said Steve, 35, a handsome man who looked as though he hadn't slept in days. "When I walked out that door two weeks ago, I was convinced we were finished.
"Now I'm confused. My kids are beside themselves; Jeremy called me at 1 a.m., crying and begging me to come home. I don't want them to have the same kind of childhood I had, with parents screaming and fighting all the time, but Nikki and I can't seem to stop ourselves.A Good Father, A Good Husband
"I'll admit that in some ways I've been a jerk, totally immature. I had no idea how to act, what a good husband, let alone a good father, was supposed to be. I didn't understand why Nikki couldn't clean house when she had a 2-month-old who slept most of the time. But I did not march in and sneer at her. She always thinks I'm being malicious when I'm not.
"Nikki's diatribes go on forever -- and she doesn't care if the kids hear. I refuse to fight in front of them, so when she doesn't stop, I walk out. We never resolve anything because of her animosity. If I don't do exactly what she wants, she explodes, 'Get out! Get out! I want a divorce!' Because I didn't bring in the groceries? Because I play golf on the weekends? Give me a break. Her reactions have seemed so out of proportion that I've never taken her threats seriously. I see now that I should have.
"I also realize that I was a jerk about counseling. I didn't like the first therapist we saw and I agreed to go the second time only to get Nikki off my back. But I'm uncomfortable talking about personal problems to a stranger. My family didn't believe in therapy.