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Partners may evade responsibility by going out all hours and living like teenagers, or be incredibly bad tempered or depressed.’Mumsnet – the popular parenting site – is one place where frustrated partners allow themselves to vent.‘My boyfriend is a great dad, has a heart of gold, is great fun and loves me, but I am slowly being driven mad by him,’ writes one.‘He sulks if he doesn’t think I’m giving him enough love and attention; he sulks if I take the mickey out of him (although he is allowed to take the mickey out of me); he sulks if he feels put-upon to do any chores…and sulks if I have an opinion on something which might be different from his, and then voice it.’Another thread called ‘My Husband’s Sulking is Getting Me Down’ begins, ‘My husband and I had a bit of a disagreement over our son’s bedtime last night and because I didn’t say exactly what he wanted..has gone into a massive sulk…We have already had a major fall-out over his aggressive nature. ‘Maturity can speed up at any time of life,’ says Bristow.Each day brought either a row, a tantrum or some kind of sulk, and by the time our son was six months old we were barely communicating.All the qualities I’d loved in James – his boyishness, his free spirit – I now despised.Lucy had learnt how to keep life ticking along smoothly.
When I arrived home with our new baby, there was no food in the house, let alone anything to drink.’Although Lucy was delighted with parenthood, James struggled.
Even if you haven’t managed to grow out of that stage by two years old, there are plenty more chances during childhood.’Parenting is critical.
‘If parents helicopter in and sort things out whenever the tiniest frown appears on your face, you’ll be less practised in coping with life’s frustrations and managing your emotions,’ says Bristow.
‘If you never learn to master them, you may be fun and a breath of fresh air when all goes well, but when it doesn’t, you may fall back on tantrums, sulks, drinking, reckless destruction, manipulation – and it’s always, always someone else’s fault.’Relationships tend to bring all this to the surface.
If you’re single, you can glide through life on your own terms, fulfilling your own needs, in control of your own time. When you’re married, however, you have someone else to consider.‘If you’re emotionally stunted, you cannot perceive that others have minds of their own that can think and feel differently from yours,’ says psychologist and specialist in emotional literacy Dr Betty Rudd.They shirk responsibility, sulk and throw their toys out of the pram if they don’t get their own way.