My wife of many years, and mother of my two children, is having (perfectly understandable, given the context) mental health issues that are making my life miserable. I want to handle this as lovingly as possible, in a way that will best protect my kids – please help me weigh my unpleasant options!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I (middle aged guy) have been married to my wife for a long time, and we have two wonderful kids (middle school and elementary school age). My wife’s upbringing was suboptimal, to put it mildly. Lots of abuse and abandonment and substance abuse and emotional manipulation. As a result, she understandably has a few issues to work out. I've been in therapy for a little over a year to help deal with the fallout (depression and a not-so-fun panic disorder I've recently developed), and my therapist is pretty convinced that this is some sort of complex-PTSD type stuff on her part, or some "Cluster B" issue in any case.
The therapist said I'm dealing with a "live hand grenade with the pin pulled", which I think is an apt description. Countless family gatherings and otherwise peaceful evenings have been marred in excessively dramatic ways by my wife, and I have a couple of (non-immediate) family members who flat out refuse to deal with her. In the past there's been breaking of furniture/doors and I've had large objects thrown at me (that sort of physical violence hasn't happened for several years, so I'm not in imminent danger). The worst of this started a couple of years ago when she stopped taking antidepressants (cold turkey – ugh) that were prescribed by her GP. These outbursts are targeted at me, for the most part, and while I have no doubt that they affect the kids they don’t usually occur in their presence and I think I’ve been able to mitigate the effects to the extent that I can. The kids actually seem to be thriving socially and academically and I’m really proud of them, but it takes a lot of energy on my part to provide a counterbalance to the intermittent turbulence.
Things started looking better this summer, when she finally agreed to go see a therapist herself. The outbursts have been less frequent, and she has apologized afterwards acknowledging that she was out of line. I can live with that – with some progress being made, and some acknowledgement that the situation needs some work. As long as we're making progress towards improvement, I'm more or less OK with the situation. She initially had two appointments per week, which is when things were best, but recently backed down to once per week and I immediately noticed a change for the worse.
Now, it turns out, that she’s firing her therapist for some pretty flimsy reasons (she’s a “stupid c—nt”, for example, which seems like classic splitting). I’ve been really upset about this for a couple of weeks, and took the plunge and confronted her, as gently as possible, about it this evening. The result is all-out war in our house tonight.
So I don’t know what to do. If she refuses to work on stuff I feel like I have to DTMFA, but my primary (read: only) concern at this point is the kids.
If I leave the marriage, she’ll have more time alone with them and I’m afraid they might get more of the brunt of her outbursts without me there to smooth things over. On the other hand, I might be happier (depending on how she decides to handle separation) which would make me a better parent and role model. If I stay we maintain the status-quo, which involves me being constantly hyper vigilant to signs of impending outbursts and thus anxious and depressed, but at least I’d always be around as a buffer for the kids.
I really, really, love my wife. The good times are great, and in my ideal version of this story I’d wave a magic wand and take all her pain away, so that we could truly enjoy life together. But the “magic wand” in this case involves a lot of work on her part, which she apparently might not be up for.
So, in a nutshell, what the hell should I do here? I’d especially like to hear from people who have gone through similar situations – on either side of the equation. If you suffer from BPD, Bipolar, or Complex PTSD I’d love to hear your thoughts about how much I should (continue to) try to hang on to this relationship – keeping in mind that It’s not just about the one-on-one marriage relationship I’m talking about, but preserving the family unit. Throwaway e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org for those who prefer to respond off-site. Thanks so much for reading all this…