Help me cope with my anxiety about my wife's anxiety!
May 1, 2015 6:52 AM   Subscribe

My wife struggles with anxiety and paranoid thoughts about our marriage. She'll often start asking questions of me about where I've been, if I'm seeing anyone else, whether I want to leave her and whether I think I'd be better off without her. I'm used to this, and I know that these are just intrusive thoughts rather than what she rationally believes, but I'm about to go away for work and I can't stop feeling anxious about what might happen whilst I'm away.

A lot of you will be thinking "oh god, not him again". Sorry :). FWIW, my wife and I are mostly stable, now that she recognises that these are intrusive thoughts and not messages about what is really happening. She's not yet in therapy - she's very resistant to that - so when the thoughts flare up and really take hold, as sometimes happens, it can be exhausting for me to talk her down. But that's not what this question is about.

Sometimes, when she starts having thoughts about how I must be cheating on her, or about to leave her, or that I don't really love her, or [insert intrusive thought here], she'll go looking for proof that the thoughts are real. That has in the past included: going through my clothes, trying to find receipts for gifts for (nonexistent) mistresses; going through my office and reading my notebooks and journals, looking for evidence of unhappiness (any unhappiness is taken as evidence that I'm unhappy with her and my marriage), Facebook and Twitter-stalking my ex(es) to see if they're secretly in touch with me…

Things are pretty good though, and there hasn't been an off-the-deep-end episode like that for a couple of months (which is why she's resistant to therapy). Suddenly having to go away for work at relatively short notice, though, has caused a few problems. Firstly, it triggered some paranoia on my wife's part (which I assuaged in part by showing her the contract for the work that I'm doing, the hotel reservation and the itinerary from my client), and by having her write out a list of all her fears so that I could write down my responses to them - so she can look at that when she's getting anxious whilst I'm away.

The other thing that's happening though is that I'm getting anxious. I'm anxious that she's going to go through my things again (this is a hard boundary for me to maintain, since we've been together a long time and she's argued that if I have nothing to hide, etc., it shouldn't be a problem, but I've told her that this isn't something that's negotiable and that if she does it again I'm going to have to leave), or that I'll get a phone call from her mid-panic-attack and have to soothe her whilst hundreds of miles from home, or that in order to keep her calm I'll have to call her every spare minute (I'll try to call every night, but I'm in another country and working to very tight deadlines so that might not happen; I'll be texting her regularly though).

I can't not go, and my wife is adamant that she's not going to let the thoughts win, so given that the thoughts and feelings are her responsibility to handle, what are some strategies that I can use to handle my anxieties and irrational fears whilst we're apart?
posted by yasp to Human Relations (75 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Okay, it's clear you're not going to leave her, although I'm 100% certain people are going to recommend once again that you do, based on your posting history. So I'll just accept that you won't.

Jealousy and fears of straying, dare I say, exist in some measure in nearly all relationships since the dawn of time. I actually have some sympathy for your wife and don't think she's an abusive horrible monster.

But living with constant anxiety really, really just sucks. I think you should both go to therapy together. And take the usual advice for anxiety- a vacation (together), a spa day maybe, regular exercise, good sleep, all the sensible things I'm sure you've heard before.

In lieu of that, just call her every night before bed, you know, standard checking in with the wife at home stuff. Establishing a consistent routine would probably help her.
posted by quincunx at 6:59 AM on May 1, 2015 [5 favorites]

This is not anxiety. Your wife is trying to control you. Yes, I remember you from previous questions.

Your wife will not improve. You cannot help her. Nothing you do will ever be enough. This isn't about you.

Go on your work trip. Deal with the blowups. There's nothing you can do to quell the "anxieties" of someone who is abusive towards you. Unless she decides to get help and change or unless you decide to leave this is just the way your life will be forever.
posted by sockermom at 7:04 AM on May 1, 2015 [53 favorites]

Stop exhausting yourself by "talking her down." Tell her that you are not cheating, and that it is not your responsibility to manage her anxieties. Tell her that going through your things is invasive and unacceptable. Tell her that not having anything to hide is irrelevant when it comes to being treated like a criminal by your own spouse.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:07 AM on May 1, 2015 [20 favorites]

Also, your wife needs a hobby.
posted by quincunx at 7:11 AM on May 1, 2015 [4 favorites]

My heart breaks to read this.
I feel for you, I truly do.

I really think that you need to revisit the whole therapy question.
I would think that not going to therapy would be a deal breaker.
Someone not wanting to avail themselves of the help readily available is such a red flag, in my opinion.

She's paranoid and exhausting herself through all these actions to "keep the marriage together", but yet she won't do something simple like go to therapy and perhaps get some medication that would really keep the marriage together.

I think that you do need to take a stand when it comes to invading your privacy when you have done absolutely nothing to merit these actions.

Barring DTFM and barring therapy, I think you need to go on with your life, go to work, and deal with these things long distance as they arise.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 7:18 AM on May 1, 2015 [8 favorites]

You would have an easier time being a full time single dad. She sounds like a lot of work. Sometimes people have to face their biggest fears to know that they can handle more than they realized.

Look her in the eyes during a calm moment. Tell her that her that she is making her worst fear come true- she is making you unhappy to the point that you will have to leave her if she does not start therapy (including medication) right away. Assure her that you do love her and you want to stay but you can't live like this any longer and neither should she. She has to change. And if leaving her is the only way that she will change, you love her enough to do it. And then walk away.

If she threatens to kill herself, call the police. They will put her in the hospital where she can get the help that you both desperately need.

Also, get counseling for yourself. It sounds like you are in a co-dependent relationship. If you fix your co-dependent habits, it could help save her.
posted by myselfasme at 7:20 AM on May 1, 2015 [14 favorites]

So you've clearly communicated that going through your things is a hard boundary for you, and yet she is still doing it? I would feel anxious too, and I don't know what you can do for that. You and your boundaries are being tested and disregarded on an ongoing basis, a violation of trust and a prelude to being attacked for things that are realistically not happening. That is a recipe for anxiety. Until you are in a position where that is no longer happening, I don't know that your anxiety will go away.
posted by goggie at 7:25 AM on May 1, 2015 [4 favorites]

You're apparently not going to leave her. That's your choice, but you're going to have to live with the consequences of that. She's not going to change and in fact she doesn't want to change. So live your life. Go to work. Travel. Pacify her as much as you're comfortable with and then let the chips fall where they may. If you can't call her one night then you can't call her. She, and your marriage, are just going to have to learn to deal with it.
posted by lydhre at 7:28 AM on May 1, 2015 [15 favorites]

what are some strategies that I can use to handle my anxieties and irrational fears whilst we're apart?

This is tricky, because your fears are rational (e.g., it's reasonable to believe she might call you in a panic).

Restate your boundaries. You have nothing to hide, but her suspicions and snooping are insults to your character and will not be tolerated.

Be kind, but explain that you can't prioritize the role of pseudo-therapist, over your busy work schedule, simply because she has refused professional therapy. That was her decision, so if she panics while you're gone, you'll be sad for her but not able to engage in discussion.

Then go. Call/text her when you can (more, "thinking of you" or "just saw this cool thing" than "how are you holding up?"--she's not a victim here). If there's fallout, it can be dealt with after the trip; you'll have done more than adequate preparation and are allowed be at ease with that.
posted by whoiam at 7:28 AM on May 1, 2015 [11 favorites]

Also, I honestly don't mean to be rude or pointlessly antagonistic here, but are you getting off on the drama of this situation to some extent? I have to think you're getting something from this- perhaps some part of you enjoys being a martyr? A lot of people actually feel more alive and less bored with some amount of stress in their lives- it's why people wait until the last minute on deadlines to give themselves a push, amongst other things.

I sense perhaps some of that here. Drama doesn't make things deeper or more real, and there are far far healthier ways to achieve a sense of fighting against something or doing something deep and pleasantly exhausting in your life.
posted by quincunx at 7:30 AM on May 1, 2015 [14 favorites]

Give some serious thought to how you will manage your own anxiety, and ask her to do the same for hers. And I think whoiam has the script for what to do on the trip itself.

But I really want to add....

Your wife seems to have a big issue with obsessive thinking. That is something that an SSRI or SNRI antidepressant might help with -- enough to see what it's like to live without the immediate stress/pressure of those thoughts, and maybe pursue additional treatment.

If she's unwilling to try therapy and you're unwilling to make therapy a dealbreaker, do you think she'd be willing to at least try something like that? I usually wince at a GP writing a script, but this seems like a situation where it might do more good than harm...
posted by gnomeloaf at 7:31 AM on May 1, 2015 [5 favorites]

You have to set some boundaries. She has to learn how to deal with her own thoughts and emotions at least some of the time. I've struggled with this and was very like your wife at one point, I think. My boyfriend (now ex but for different reasons) had to set boundaries for me such as no calling him at work with drama, and no keeping him up until 3AM discussing things endlessly. It helped me realize there was no drama so important that it couldn't keep for a few hours.

So I say, tell her you'll call her before bed every night (or in the morning and before bed, or whatever seems reasonable to you) and stick to it. If she freaks out and goes through your stuff again, then I'm sorry but you have your answer.
posted by fanta_orange at 7:32 AM on May 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'll get a phone call from her mid-panic-attack and have to soothe her whilst hundreds of miles from home, or that in order to keep her calm I'll have to call her every spare minute

You are not responsible to her mental illness issues that she is not taking responsibility for managing. A marriage should be a mutually beneficial arrangement which means supporting each other but also taking care of yourself. Your wife, for whatever reason maybe good reasons, is not taking care of herself. It's acceptable and appropriate for you to set up boundaries with her about this.

1. You do not have to soothe her during her panic attacks. You can be sympathetic and understanding but also prioritize the things that you need to be doing. "I am sorry you feel bad but I am at work and I have to go"
2. You do not need to call her every spare minute. In fact you can be mildly unavailable because you have other priorities in your life that you need to prioritie.

You can't control your wife. Your wife should learn that she can't control you. You have set up a hard boundary (her not going through your things) and now you are trying to control the situation so that you don't have to enforce the pre-set-up boundary that you laid down. It's not your job to keep your wife from going through your things. It's her job and you can support her in that. This is a mess, as I suspect you already know.

If she won't go to therapy, you need to. Learning to create boundaries with irrational people is the only thing that is going to get you through this. You're acting like you are in a situation where you don't have choices, but realistically you have a lot of choices that your own anxious mind is not letting you pick which is making your life terrible.
posted by jessamyn at 7:33 AM on May 1, 2015 [33 favorites]

I've told her that [her invading of privacy] isn't something that's negotiable and that if she does it again I'm going to have to leave

This is the answer. Stand by this. Print this out on a card and keep it with you as a reminder that you, too, are a person with valid needs and that there are some things that cannot be compromised on for the sake of marriage.
posted by nicodine at 7:39 AM on May 1, 2015 [11 favorites]

Here's a terrible idea for the long run that, in these circumstances, might be worth it in the short run given how the anxiety over this trip is affecting you both: ask her if she'd like to accompany you. If she says yes, work together to find activities, transportation etc. so she'll be independent from you; she needs to stay busy and have a good time at the destination while you have your meetings or whatever. If she says no, then you can remind her that you extended the invitation.

Bribery option: invite her on the trip, but point out that it's not always feasible due to money, work activities or whatever $Reasons and then extract a trade. You're going to try doing the trip together if she tries doing therapy.
posted by carmicha at 7:42 AM on May 1, 2015

I tried to stick to the question about the trip, but a million times, this (from Major Matt Mason Dixon):

She's paranoid and exhausting herself through all these actions to "keep the marriage together", but yet she won't do something simple like go to therapy and perhaps get some medication that would really keep the marriage together.
posted by whoiam at 7:43 AM on May 1, 2015 [12 favorites]

You need to sit down and have a discussion about expectations for communication while you're away. You'll agree to check in with her at X time and she'll agree to come up with a plan for managing her intrusive thoughts in such a way that she's not texting/calling/contacting you to assuage any paranoia she may have while you're away.*

Then you take a deep breath, and you go on your trip. And when the anxious texts and calls start coming in, you'll have to take another deep breath and count to ten and not respond until the time you agreed to respond. Rinse repeat. Take a deep breath, and remind yourself that your wife is a capable adult, and believe that she can find a way through her pain.

* Speaking as someone with GAD: this is not really a reasonable expectation of an untreated/unmedicated person with severe anxiety, which is why your wife needs professional help to manage her disorder. You wouldn't expect someone with cancer to just figure out how to get better on their own. I apologize if this sounds harsh. It's the voice of experience.

I'll add that your efforts to reassure her in the throes of paranoia are certainly well-intentioned and loving, but it's the nature of anxiety that external reassurances undermine serious remediation. Please re-read that sentence until it sinks in. The anxious person must find a way to self-soothe or there cannot be any improvement. Again, I'm sorry, but this is a hard truth that both of you need to accept if things are ever going to get better. I wish you both the best.
posted by trunk muffins at 7:44 AM on May 1, 2015 [10 favorites]

Your anxiety is based on reality. Your wife his has gone through your stuff before and seems to think it was perfectly justified. And she's likely to call you and demand you explain things. Unless you fix the root situation, you're just going to have to deal with that.

At minimum, your wife needs to go to her doctor and get some meds for her panic attacks.
posted by zennie at 7:44 AM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

there hasn't been an off-the-deep-end episode like that for a couple of months (which is why she's resistant to therapy)

Mental issues are something that you have or don't have, like pneumonia. They're something that require ongoing treatment and care in the long run to take care of. They may or may not ever get cured, but it's not something that can be shown to be over with a few months with no major problems.

Part of what a good therapist does with things like anxiety is detects when there's small shifts back into problematic ways of thinking so problems can be averted before they get to the off-the-deep-end part.

See some of the answers here. This isn't exactly the same, but the "I'm better now, no need for treatment" part is.
posted by Candleman at 7:56 AM on May 1, 2015 [7 favorites]

You are hurting your wife and making her life worse and worse. No, not by any of the things she thinks you are doing, but by continuing to cater to her irrational demands and by not leaving so that she will get the help she needs. You think you're being a prince of a husband, but all you're doing is ensuring that this drama cycle will continue for years and years just like it already has continued for years and years.
posted by MsMolly at 8:05 AM on May 1, 2015 [44 favorites]

what are some strategies that I can use to handle my anxieties and irrational fears whilst we're apart?

It seems that your anxieties and fears are not actually irrational, though, since your wife has gone through your things before and I would say that it is very likely that she will do so again.

I think that the way that you are trying to allay her fears is actually feeding them (eg. the list of her worries and your responses to them). I think that it would be better to keep it simple. If she calls you and accuses you of cheating, say something like: "I am not cheating on you, and I am not going to cheat on you. I value our relationship." Because let's say that one of her fears is that you will cheat on her with a colleague. Your answer might be "Don't worry, my team is made up entirely of men". Her response might be less reassured and more, "Oh, okay, he won't cheat on me now. But what if a really beautiful woman joins the team in two weeks?"

Your wife absolutely needs therapy. Maybe worksheets or workbooks of CBT exercises could be a first step if she is so resistant to the idea of going to an actual therapist.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 8:12 AM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's interesting that her paranoia is episodic. This really sounds like a biochemical phenomenon that could potentially be alleviated by medication. Due to my own issues I have read a lot about Dopamine, which can induce paranoia, obsessive thoughts and/or addiction if levels are too high I heard a story on NPR recently about a woman who has Parkinson's and a drug she took to increase her Dopamine caused her to be a gamling addict. She said it was so bad that one day she went out for milk and on the way home stopped at a Casino and played the slots for hours, with the milk sitting right there next to her getting all warmed up and ruined. She could not stop herself. Her Dr. took her off the drug and within a couple of days she had zero urge to gamble and never did so again. So, this dopamine thing is a real problem for some people. Fluctuating levels can be caused by environmental factors like diet and her genetics are also going to affect this, like they do for pretty much everything--a cascade of events coming together can cause mental havoc like debilitating paranoia.
Would she be amenable to medication without therapy? My experience with psychiatrists is that they don't do much in the way of therapy if any at all, but do require periodic checkups.
I don't think your wife is a monster and you love her for lots of reasons. I bet she is really amazing in a lot of ways. But this problem is BIG and I'm in the camp that says it's not within your power to fix her. Tell her that you won't leave her, you love her and then let her be. She needs to learn that you cannot do everything she expects her to do, the end.
posted by waving at 8:15 AM on May 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Your anxiety is not irrational. It is the direct consequence of living a life dictated by someone else's irrationality. You can't fix this, yasp. You can't fix her.
posted by something something at 8:17 AM on May 1, 2015 [11 favorites]

I think most of us know this relationship fairly well by now, based on the questions you've asked. It's quite a memorable one, at least for me. It seems like most of us also share the sentiment that you are not being treated right.

It seems like you've asked so many similar questions about this relationship, and gotten so many good answers, and yet are still missing the root issue and cause of all this misery. This question still makes it a "you" issue when it shouldn't be. You are reasonably worried because she still doesn't see it's wrong to invade your privacy. If it's not wrong to her, why would she stop looking through all your stuff? Your worry isn't general anxiety, it's reasonable concern.

I'm an anxious person too. This became more apparent when I got into a relationship. I recognized this, and to save my boyfriend from my paranoid thoughts, I went to therapy. She has to want to change and accept help. If she's refusing therapy, then it seems like she still thinks she doesn't need help. The excessive reassurance and comforting words from you only feeds into her anxiety, it doesn't make it better. She has to be able to change these thoughts herself, not just call you each time.
posted by monologish at 8:21 AM on May 1, 2015 [4 favorites]

hasn't been an off-the-deep-end episode like that for a couple of months (which is why she's resistant to therapy).

Let me just say that my life markedly improved after I realized that the off-the-deep-end episodes that only happened every so often were the problem that needed to be treated, not things that I could just work around when they happened. Take it from someone who experiences this from the other side-- for every "off-the-deep end episode" that you see, there are lots of little episodes that your wife is keeping under control.

Your wife has a condition that she absolutely refuses to treat, akin to an alcoholic spouse who refuses to give up drinking or a compulsive gambler who keeps spending the rent money on slot machines leaving you to pick up the slack.

I don't think you should leave her, but I do believe you should think long and hard about what kind of living arrangement you should have with a spouse who has a persistent issue that she apparently prefers to keep and demand that others endure the consequences of rather than treating.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 8:25 AM on May 1, 2015 [9 favorites]

Also, you keep mentioning therapy in your previous questions, but (and maybe I haven't read through them carefully enough) I don't see any talk about medication. That needs to be a necessary tool as well, if only to give your wife a taste of what life is like without that kind of anxiety.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 8:31 AM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Here are a couple of links about Dopamine causing abnormal behaviors, including paranoia.
Parkinson's Drugs Can Be A Gateway To Sin
What Are the Effects of Too Much Dopamine?
posted by waving at 8:41 AM on May 1, 2015

Your anxieties about how she will behave while you are on this trip are not irrational; they are totally rational based on her prior behavior.

It's good that she is now recognizing that she is having irrational, intrusive thoughts. She would probably benefit from medication or therapy, but apparently that's not going to happen any time soon.

I think that, honestly, you need to expect that she is going to behave badly, and focus your energies on figuring out how to preserve your ability to work. I would tell her that you are going to speak with her twice a day at specified times. Then set her number to a silent ring and DO NOT REPLY outside of those times. Let it go to voicemail, whatever--but stick to those specific times for contact. If you want to text during the day, if she starts blowing up your phone with accusations, tell her that you need to work and you'll speak with her at your usual time, set your text alert to silent, and get on with your day. Your ability to do your job should not be held hostage to her need for reassurance.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 8:42 AM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

Your wife's behavior toward you is really inexcusable, no matter what excuses she makes to you for it. If she is treating you as untrustworthy because of bad past experiences with other people, she needs to learn to separate her past from your present together. If an actual mental disorder is causing her to constantly question your relationship, it's good and generous of you to you want to stick with this and support her, but her situation is not going to improve unless SHE decides to improve it-- she needs to meet you halfway-- it is her responsibility to agree to seek counseling and/or medication to help her manage her anxiety so that it's no longer ruling your relationship. If she is treating you this way because she is a controlling, abusive person who wants to micromanage the way the people in her life behave, then she is unlikely to change, it is not your responsibility to change her, and you deserve better.

I'm speaking from experience here. I've been in a relationship with someone who didn't trust me and constantly questioned me. It was exhausting and I am very glad I got out. When you're inside a relationship like this you get so used to this sort of treatment that you start to forget it's NOT NORMAL. It's not normal for one partner to constantly accuse the other partner of lying or cheating. You should not be expected to put up with this level of stress. The problem is not that you need to control your anxiety over her anxiety; the problem is that her accusatory behavior is ruining your relationship, and one way or another, it needs to stop.
posted by BlueJae at 8:46 AM on May 1, 2015 [4 favorites]

yasp, please leave her. My heart breaks when I read your posts. You deserve better than to be in such pain. She doesn't want to get better. Please don't destroy your life staying with someone who can't, won't, doesn't want to stop hurting you.
posted by thereemix at 8:54 AM on May 1, 2015 [8 favorites]

You Are Not Responsible For Other People's Feelings.

That is the best and biggest thing I got from therapy during my divorce. If someone is upset [yes I may have /caused/ the upset, but maybe not, and either way the cause is not the point here, the reaction is] - I am not responsible for "making everything all better" I cannot control how someone else feels. I cannot wave a magic wand and make things better. I cannot fix someone else. You can apologize, show her itineraries, give her access to all your accounts, call her 20 times a day, spend hours on the phone talking - and none of that *fixes* what is wrong with her. None of that *helps* her. She has to help herself. She has to own her feelings, understand that they are HER feelings, and address them HERSELF.

The flip side to this is that I am responsible for my own feelings, and am in control of those feelings. Yes, its cliche, but at times it really is as simple as saying "I am not going to be angry about this, because a, b, c" or "I am not going to feel anxious about this, because my anxiety is unfounded and is just a trick my mind is playing on me"

You don't have to make everything all better. All you can do is do the best you are doing, and let the chips from that fall where they may. You're not cheating, you're [clearly and unfortunately] not planning to leave her, you're doing everything right. You are doing all the right and good things. When she is anxious about those things, it is not your responsibility to fix it or to make her anxiety go away.

Saying sorry 100 times didn't work? How will the 101th time be any different?

Giving her access to accounts and showing her your itinerary and journals hasn't assuaged her concerns? How will continuing to do it suddenly make it better?

My blunt advice is to stop trying to fix it, let her anxiety destroy her, and then maybe you'll be in a position where you'll believe what everyone here has told you for years - leave her. Or maybe she'll hit rock bottom and get the help she needs and repair herself. But you propping her up by removing all the healthy boundaries adults in relationships have, by bending over backwards to make her feel better about her own anxiety, by continuing to do the same things you have done for years is not helping. If you keep doing the same thing and expecting different results, you're sorely mistaken.

Good luck man. Feel free to memail if you want. I have very much been there with 'anxiety about someone else's anxiety.' I truly do understand what you're saying. And the best, maybe the only thing, that finally helped me was letting go of it and focusing on myself.
posted by ish__ at 9:13 AM on May 1, 2015 [7 favorites]

This is really what therapy is for. The only way to get through this is for her to either go to a therapist or for her to use therapeutic techniques on her own. Maybe a self-help book would help her, like Feeling Good or Stop Obsessing?
posted by capricorn at 9:18 AM on May 1, 2015

You are pretty determined not to leave. That's ok! What you need to do is think about alternative arrangements for your marriage in the meantime. It may involve you guys having separate living spaces in the home or even different homes altogether. But you definitely need to think about these things and come up with a long term solution rather than continuing to ride on this merry-go-round where the scenery keeps repeating itself.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 9:27 AM on May 1, 2015

yasp, your posts break my heart so much that my friends and I have very sad conversations every time there's a new one. You can't change other people. You don't deserve to be treated this way. Your fears are not irrational, they are a perfectly rational and natural consequence of the environment you have been living in. It's okay to leave.
posted by Jairus at 9:42 AM on May 1, 2015 [9 favorites]

I can understand your unwillingness to leave, but I think you really need to push her to seek therapy ASAP. If she refuses to seek either therapy or medical treatment for her anxiety, there is no way this situation is going to improve.
posted by Librarypt at 9:44 AM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can tell her that if she can't keep the medical issues, that she is refusing treatment for, from interfering with your ability to do your job that you use for food and shelter, that you will have to leave her. Because jobs are important.

This will resolve your anxieties to the extent you can make peace with following through if need be.

I used to be cripplingly anxious. I only got better when I accepted that other people couldn't make me not anxious, by and large.
posted by PMdixon at 9:46 AM on May 1, 2015

...what are some strategies that I can use to handle my anxieties and irrational fears whilst we're apart?

I think that this was your real question. For a temporary fix, does she have any friends or family that she is close to? So for example, if she is close to a sibling in another state, or a friend in another state, what if she goes on a vacation when you are working (or vice versa, the person visits). I think that anxiety can be mitigated by having a person focus on another, however briefly.


Now for the part that you didn't ask, which everyone else is jumping up and down about. I agree with everyone else that at the end of the day, medication and/or therapy are probably the only solutions for your wife.

I do remember your previous questions, and your wife would start but quit therapy.

I don't want to go through all of those previous questions now, but I think that I noticed in a previous question she did go to couple's counseling with you, but refused the personal therapist.

Because this is an extreme condition here, and she might need to be walked step by step to allay her fears to even get treatment (ie, maybe her fears are irrational in terms of the medication adverse events, or she doesn't know that there are options with medications that have short half lives vs days, etc).

But my thought of a possible solution to all of this is:

1) You find a therapist that can work with you and would be willing to work with both of you at some point. I would also pick someone who is very skilled and knowledgeable about the management of anxiety (ie, what medical options there are, CBT, etc.) - in my opinion, not all therapists are, so I would interview people for this. Only if they are knowledgeable, have treated people, don't go with the person for now.

2). Discuss the problems with the therapist. At some point, now go in with both you and your wife together. Your therapist can slowly address the barriers that she might have about treatment.

3). If I were in your shoes, I would not stay in this marriage unless she starts to make some attempt to manage this, whether it be therapy, medication, whatever. They might not be effective for several months, but if she takes no steps - do you want this to be your life for the next 30 years?

I realize that this is probably not the way that therapy is supposed to be done at all and people will jump all over this. But I am suggesting because there are some barriers, which might be anxiety-related, that seem to be preventing her from even seeking treatment.

There is a lot of misinformation out in the world, too, especially about psychiatric disorders and the treatments. So even if she seeks it out, it might help to get this information from a professional.

Best of luck. You have been in my thoughts with some of those previous questions. I really hope that both you and your wife find happiness.
posted by Wolfster at 9:46 AM on May 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

If she doesn't want therapy, maybe you could leave her some books on therapy or healthy relationships. Or DVDs.
posted by gt2 at 9:53 AM on May 1, 2015

I've told her that this isn't something that's negotiable and that if she does it again I'm going to have to leave)

This is a pointless boundary to have in this situation. If she is not going to go to therapy, she is not going to get better, so you might as well leave her now. If you are not going to leave her (which I really don't think you will), you might as well give her unfettered access to your personal life. Let her dig in as much and as often as she wants to assuage her paranoia (spoiler alert: it won't work for long). It sounds bizarre and terrible and unhealthy, but then again so does your marriage. I'm sorry to be so harsh, but the bottom line is unless she is ready to eagerly and productively embrace therapy, there is no reason for you to stay. She is not going to get better on her own.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:54 AM on May 1, 2015 [14 favorites]

If you set a boundary and don't enforce it, that's not actually a boundary at all. If you've told your wife you'll leave if she goes through your stuff... You need to leave if she goes through your stuff.

You're anxious because you already know how awful this is going to be for both of you. The only way to make it less awful is to just not do it. Don't try to talk her down because you already know it doesn't help. So just... don't. If she can't handle not dissecting the minutiae of your life every minute of every day, leaving is an option available to her as well.
posted by sonika at 9:57 AM on May 1, 2015 [6 favorites]

It sounds like you never resolve anything with your wife, it's just that she exhausts herself and needs to catch her breath before she flips out again. So there you go, that's how I can calm you: it will stop like it always does, until it starts again. Take comfort in the predictability of your misery. Another comfort: you said that you would leave her if she goes through your things again, and you also sound pretty sure that she's going to go through your things. So hey, after this trip your misery will be over, because surely you wouldn't issue an ultimatum unless you were going to follow through, right?

I don't mean to sound cold. My factory setting is codependent, and I have to work hard to engineer the manual override. I was in a similar situation myself and it was always, "if she does this again I'm out." I was really really good at convincing myself that she didn't actually do that, she only did something similar that was not the same. I remember one night I was sitting in a room crying at about 4am when I actually said out loud, "Why does she keep doing this to me? Why does she keep doing this to me?" When I said it out loud it hit me that the real question was, "Why do I keep doing this to me?" I felt a profound sense of agency I hadn't felt before. I realized I was staying out of choice, and that meant I had the choice to leave.

A lot of you will be thinking "oh god, not him again". Sorry :) Don't apologize to us. That's what you should be thinking. None of us are choosing to live with this. The draw to stay is real and it is intoxicating, and since it's all you know it's hard to imagine anything else, and it doesn't feel like there's anything you can do. You have choices, though.
posted by good lorneing at 10:02 AM on May 1, 2015 [21 favorites]

A lot of you will be thinking "oh god, not him again". Sorry :).

I see good lorneing above also picked up on this... I'm not thinking "oh god, not him again," I'm thinking that I feel so, so sorry for you because for the past two years you have been asking us how to handle your thoughts of suicide and placate your abusive wife, and all of your questions have been basically, "How can I change what I'm thinking and feeling so I can make this all better?"We keep telling you that you can't. I know it seems like an impossible, unimaginable answer to hear.

This time you ask us about what strategies you can use to calm your anxieties and irrational fears. There is no magic strategy because your anxiety is well-founded and your fears are entirely rational. Please, listen to all the caring advice on this thread, much of which comes from painful experience.
posted by chickenmagazine at 10:26 AM on May 1, 2015 [23 favorites]

I just read a book about a civil war, so forgive me if this seems like an inappropriate analogy. But, to me your question is like somebody in a war zone asking, "What's wrong with me? I feel so unsafe all the time and I feel traumatized and anxious. What are some strategies I can use so my irrational fears and anxieties go away?" And obviously, if you're in a war zone, there's nothing wrong with you, and you can't use some kind of mind trick. You're fearful and anxious because people are shooting guns and dropping bombs right where you live. Your problem isn't the fear and anxiety, it's the situation. You fix the fear and anxiety by getting out of that situation, not by changing yourself.
posted by chickenmagazine at 10:31 AM on May 1, 2015 [10 favorites]

You seem to have joined Metafilter precisely to get advice on the strained relationship you had with your wife because of her anxiety disorder. Two years later, today's question is almost identical to that of two years ago. This should tell you something.

You need to treat your wife's acute paranoia/anxiety as the medical condition that it actually is. You wouldn't have gone to the Internet to seek remedy if she had cancer, right?

Well, the same applies here. Unless you understand that she is ill and needs PROFESSIONAL help, expect to be back here on the Green for many more years.
posted by Kwadeng at 11:00 AM on May 1, 2015 [11 favorites]

I've been thinking about this all day, thinking about how small I was in my relationship when I was with a man like your wife, yasp. I've been thinking about how I posted this question anonymously to Metafilter - before things got really bad, before the firearms and the suicide threats and the majority of the physical assaults - and about the answer I got from meese, a user that I owe a great debt to because of this comment:

You are in a situation where the person you are just can't fit with both your boyfriend and your relationship to him. So you're begging and pleading for us to help you find more ways to shrink down, to become smaller, to find ways to squeeze yourself into that tiny little space left around him.

Yasp, you're in a situation where the person you are - the lovely, complete, amazing person that you are - cannot fit with your wife. So you are asking us to help make you smaller so that you can still exist, like a person - so that you can go to work, so that you can sleep at night, so that you can just fucking be, which is your right as a human being, your goddamn right - and what we're saying to you is, "No. We can't help make you smaller." You're as small as you can get and frankly it doesn't fit you well, because now you're having trouble just simply being - you can't even go to work without being afraid (and believe me, I know how that feels).

You need to go on a business trip, something you have to do for your job, something that normal people with jobs have to do sometimes, and you're scared.

And you're right to be scared. I know how you feel. I have been there. I was scared out of my wits when I traveled. I was scared when I went to meetings, for Christ's sake. I used to teach a class on Monday afternoon and every Sunday at about 3 PM I'd start to get nervous. Anxious. And like clockwork, every Sunday evening, for the entire time that I taught that course? Every Sunday, without fail, we'd have a blowup. A big fight. A screaming match about something not related to my job, not on the surface, but very related to the fact that I was going to be away from him for three hours on Monday afternoon, doing something that had nothing to do with him. That was the problem. That I was doing things with my time and my life that were not in his orbit.

Once I figured that out everything clicked into place and I got out of his orbit permanently. And yeah, it hurt like nothing I can describe. It was the hardest thing I have ever been through in my life, and I have not had an easy life by any means. But this one, leaving a man I loved who treated me like garbage? This was the hardest. Growing again and un-shrinking myself was not easy. I am still doing it! I left him three years ago and I still struggle with this stuff, sometimes daily.

Leaving will not be easy, but if you stay, you need to be prepared to continue shrinking. And people do not want to help you shrink. We want to help you grow and thrive and be your self, your whole self.

Best of luck, yasp. I hope that you can find the strength to walk away. It is not unloving to walk away. It is the only option you have left at this point - not just for you, but for her.

When I left my ex he actually looked his demons in the face for a few weeks. It was the only time that I ever saw a glimmer of hope for him, hope that he could change and stop being who he was: an abusive man. That glimmer went away and he's out there in the world somewhere still, doing this exact same thing. Living in Hell. And thank God that I am not by his side.

And yes, it's sad. Sometimes I cry for him. I loved him and I wish him well, I really do. I do not love him anymore (and oh boy how amazing that feels to be able to say honestly!) But I can wish him well from over here, safe in my cocoon, with a loving pet and a boyfriend who treats me like an equal and who would never in a million years even raise his voice at me, with an amazing job and a successful career and awesome friends that I can text with and stay up on the phone late talking to and go to movies that our significant others don't care for with and have expensive dinners and too much wine with and I have a life now, a life that doesn't revolve around a toxic person and a sick system.

I hope you can find the same.
posted by sockermom at 11:49 AM on May 1, 2015 [58 favorites]

I started writing a long, detailed comment but I deleted it all because none of what I said really matters. The heart of the issue is that your wife needs to be in therapy. Full stop.

I feel for you both, because I understand your wife's anxieties to a certain degree -- I've felt similar ones at times -- but ultimately nobody else can do anything to help her deal with them. She needs to help herself. And if she won't do that, you need to help YOURSELF by enforcing the boundaries you've already set, and getting out of the situation.

I wish you luck.
posted by darkchocolatepyramid at 1:05 PM on May 1, 2015

I'm going to bypass the whole issue of leaving and the arc of the relationship etc that everyone else has addressed well.

My suggestion would be to come up with a specific plan that you discuss with her ahead of time. The list of fears with responses seems like a great example if you are going to go this route, because it pre-empts the problem before it reaches you. I don't think you can do quite the same thing for the panicked phone call, but you could definitely have a plan in place. Tell her "I suspect at some point you're going to get very anxious and call me in a panic. Right now you know that in that state your thoughts are not rational, but at that time, they will seem like they are. Because the thoughts are not rational, I think we can agree that there is no point in my arguing with you about them. I'm not going to argue with you about them. I want you to be ready for that. When you call me in a panic [don't say if, say when], I'm going to call you back when I have an opportunity, and I'm going to say 'This is that situation that we talked about. I'm not going to argue with you now. If you keep trying to argue with me, I'm going to have to go and we'll talk again later.'" Then hold fast to that.

To repeat what's been said - the fear isn't her doing these things, it seems like the real fear is that you won't be able to hold on to your boundaries. Because if you do hold on to the boundaries, you'll be able to deal with the situation when it presents itself. Think it through fully beforehand. Discuss it with her but not ad nauseam, just factually and then move on. Practice doing it, in your head, or out loud by yourself if necessary. Then do it! Good luck.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 1:07 PM on May 1, 2015 [6 favorites]

I don't doubt how much you love and care for your wife and how much, in a certain way, she cares for you and the fact that she must have a lot of truly lovely qualities. But you do see and understand that she is manipulating you, right? You do realize that she's treating you really badly and getting away with all the childish behavior she possibly can? And that that's not the hallmark of love?

It sounds like you are really wound up in being her caretaker. You talk above about assuaging her fears (your words) by showing her your texts to prove you are not leaving and mentioning the effects of her behavior on you "as gently as possible."

Would it help you to know you are worthy of a better relationship than this? And capable of being an equal partner in a healthy relationship? Like imagine a very nurturing and stable and "together" woman - That could be your life partner. You might have serious doubts about your worthiness and your ability to be in a great relationship but I promise you you are selling yourself short.

You can't control her behavior. By being as sweet as possible about her B.S. you are giving her a carte blanche to avoid responsibility for her behavior and actions and to put it on you. It sounds like leaving her would indeed be very difficult if as you mentioned she's made you swear on "her life" that you won't leave which sounds like a threat of some sort. But to be honest, that makes it all the more urgent that you take care of yourself and thereby give her the space to take care of her own extensive issues.
posted by mermily at 1:27 PM on May 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

Your wife's fundamental sense of insecurity has been built up over her lifetime into a deeply held set of beliefs about herself, people, and love. From the sounds of things, there is nothing you can do to reassure her, short of never leaving the house. Even then, you'd be suspect, unless you cut off your internet connection, and never spoke to any reproductive-aged woman. Even then, you'd have to protect her from the women in your past (from ghosts!). You'd have to protect her from any minute of inattention that might feel like betrayal or abandonment to her. You'd have to predict what those might be. That is impossible, so you'd just have to devote most of your conscious awareness to your wife. There's no end to it. That is, in a real way, sacrificing your life to something that may be treatable. (It also may not be.) I agree with everyone that she needs to take serious steps to get serious treatment (not Relate), and stick with it seriously, and that you should take your life back if she doesn't.

I think for this trip, what you can tell yourself is that you know that there's nothing you can do to reassure her completely. You will fail at that. You know she'll panic, and call and text. You can only establish and stick with your boundaries and mitigate the behaviour in the ways some have advised above. Accepting that you will fail, and reminding yourself that the problem is within your wife, might help you detach enough to feel less responsible for quelling her fears.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:02 PM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

please leave her. this is no way to live for either of you and certainly not sustainable.
posted by kinoeye at 3:48 PM on May 1, 2015 [4 favorites]

You are a very, very patient and loving husband, and your wife desperately needs therapy.

Would you really leave her, if she went through your stuff again? I doubt it, frankly. I think you are in love with this woman, and you know she is wrestling with mental illness. But if she goes through your stuff again, perhaps you can use that as an ultimatum: either she sees a therapist, or you're leaving.

If she has a panic attack while you're gone and you have to talk her down over the phone, you can handle it. It's far from ideal, but it happens sometimes. Perhaps that could also be used to show her just how desperate her situation is.

So, tell yourself that if something goes wrong while you're gone, this can serve as the catalyst your wife needs to go to therapy. If she does fine while you're gone, great. But if she has a breakdown while you're gone, ultimately that could be for the best.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:01 PM on May 1, 2015

Her anxiety is bigger than her own body, and now it is taking over yours. What happens when you run out of room for it? What will have to give, inside you? How long do you think you have until that happens?

When the panicked calls come, and you are able to return them, tell her this. Ask her these questions. Tell her that you need to focus on your work, and she needs to focus on coming up with a reasonable set of answers. A plan. Because what you both have been doing thus far is failing, and you are out of ideas.
posted by argonauta at 4:51 PM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

You have a major business trip and you are spending your time going through a list of your wife's fears and proving you are going?

Dear yasp, this is no way to live. Here is how your wife can handle this, the next time traffic is slow, the day you are talking to a friend (you have some still right?) and he opens up about a serious issue and you stay out 45 min late talking to him, your cousin's diagnosis of cancer that gets the whole family paranoid about moles, and the rest of your life...therapy and treatment.

There are no magic bullets and no way you can spend your whole life mitigating every curve ball. I beg you not to make your life as small as your wife's capacity to cope.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:59 PM on May 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

The other thing that's happening though is that I'm getting anxious.

Man, you're not getting anxious, you're just as trapped by your anxiety as your wife is, and you're acting every bit as self-destructively. I don't mean your concerns about how your wife will behave during your trip - as many other people have already said, those are perfectly well-founded based on past experience, and not irrational at all.

However, the exact same behavior that you describe your wife constantly engaging in with you, you're in fact exhibiting in your relationship with us, here. Over and over again, both of you ask the same implicit question, and no matter how many times you get the same answer, you continue to be controlled by your irrational fear that the opposite is true. Your wife is afraid of you leaving her, and you're afraid that if you set real boundaries with your wife, and then enforce them by ending your marriage when she doesn't respect them (as you know perfectly well she never will), you'll be responsible for her killing herself as you've mentioned in past questions that she has threatened.

You've talked many times before of your wife begging off from therapy using flimsy excuses, and how you're in therapy yourself. And yet, the fact is, in the nearly two years you've been asking questions here, for all of your therapy, you have made no real progress at all - or rather, you have made some progress in your past attempts at leaving her, but have immediately undone that progress by rejoining your marriage. I think you need to change something major about the way that you're approaching therapy, and consider changing therapists.

Here's another thing I don't quite get. You have described, in great detail, the many different ways she is obsessively devoted to monitoring every aspect of your use of the internet, especially as it pertains to anything that might cause you to leave her, and the many different occasions and ways you have enabled her in this. And yet, here you are, asking these questions about your marriage, and by now, literally hundreds of people have told you that you need to leave her, with the implicit assumption that they were doing so in confidence to you.

I have to ask - have you told her about the yasp account and these questions by now? Has she been reading these questions and our answers too this whole time, and using them to reinforce her anxieties?
posted by strangely stunted trees at 6:00 PM on May 1, 2015 [30 favorites]

I don't know if this has been covered, but have you ever cheated on your wife? Even a long time ago? That is the only answer that makes her behavior make sense to me. I acted similarly when I attempted to stay with an ex who had cheated. It was poisonous all around. But I think the responses would be more sympathetic to your wife if there was a history of mistrust for a reason.
posted by celtalitha at 6:35 PM on May 1, 2015

strangely stunted trees has completely nailed this. Please, please think about that comment. Both of you.
posted by rtha at 7:53 PM on May 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

She's not yet in therapy - she's very resistant to that - so when the thoughts flare up and really take hold, as sometimes happens, it can be exhausting for me to talk her down. But that's not what this question is about.

Well. That is what the question is about.

Why do you want her to go to therapy? I assume this means you believe she has some agency, some capacity to improve. Therapy patients/clients go to therapy to feel better. That's their agenda. It's a perfectly legitimate one. Therapists help people get better. That's their job. It's the only reason they exist. It's why they do what they do. Therapy is successful when the patient no longer needs the doctor to feel better because they are better.

Anxiety and paranoia are painful. The more severe the anxiety and paranoia, the greater the pain. People in pain will take the fastest, easiest and nearest route available to stop being in pain. The more acute the pain, the more desperately someone will grasp for whatever is closest and fastest to feel better. They'll go first to what they know, through experience, works. It's not manipulative, lazy, sneaky, or's what humans do. We all do it.

What she has not learned is that she, herself can make herself feel better faster and easier than anyone else. Why should she learn this? She has you.

Why should she learn to manage her anxiety herself through the help of a therapist when you're willing to do it for her? Why should she learn to talk herself down when you'll do it for her? As long as you keep managing her anxiety for her she can feel better without doing anything. As long as you make her feel just-enough-better she doesn't have to: learn anything new, do anything new, tolerate bad feelings or rely on anything but you to get her through a bad moment.

If you hire an amateur to do a professional's job you will get amateur results. You are the amateur. She needs and wants to feel better. You do that for her. No need for a therapist. Now you have a wife who feels just-enough-better to not get herself some help to actually get better. You are a husband who won't leave, change how he relates to his wife or affirm her ability to get herself better. Why? You seem to be saying it's because she doesn't freak out often or badly enough to make you so miserable that you're willing do anything differently.

You both feel a bare minimum of relief, but neither of you are getting any better.

I can't not go, and my wife is adamant that she's not going to let the thoughts win, so given that the thoughts and feelings are her responsibility to handle...

It's kind of bullshit to agree to take care of her thoughts or feelings for her while you're home and then up and decide it's her responsibility to do it for herself when you have to be away. It's almost as if you want her to stay sick, but you'd like to take a vacation from it every now and then. Now you want us to reassure you that you deserve a vacation. You want us to tell you how to take one and still do right by her and yourself.

No. She doesn't know how to swim. You don't get to dump her alone into deep waters just because you're tired. You've been together 15 years. You've been in individual therapy, you've been couples therapy. You've had plenty of time to take her to the pool and practice her swimming skills but have chosen not to. This means you have to go out of town and make sure she doesn't drown.

I'm sure she's exhausting, infuriating, scary. You signed on to keep her emotionally dependent on you, this is the price. The time to renegotiate is not before you leave or while you're away. Do it when you come back.
posted by space_cookie at 8:48 PM on May 1, 2015 [5 favorites]

I think you are addicted to the drama and anxiety and all the rest of the horrible stuff this incredibly toxic relationship produces for you. I think you are using meta filter to further this addiction. I for one will no longer help you do that. This is the last answer I will give you regarding your relationship with your wife.

Leave her. Do not start another serious relationship for at least a year. You need to detox from all those crazy emotional coctails. Go to therapy and get better.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:56 PM on May 1, 2015 [13 favorites]

I haven't waded through every one of the OP's previous questions and answers, but I did a quick scan and it sounds like there has indeed been a lot of drama. That being said, I think this may be one of those cases when Ask Metafilter can get a bit too harsh and DTMFA-ish. I think this guy's wife is struggling with mental illness, and she desperately needs therapy. I'm not going to assume that she, or her husband, or their marriage, are beyond saving. But it's painfully clear that she really needs therapy.

Yasp, you know what the folks on Ask Metafilter think, and you can do what you want about that. But your wife is clearly suffering and she's dragging you through hell too. Do everything you can to get her into therapy. If she simply will not go, it's time to end this. If she's that desperate to stay with you, she needs to do what it takes to make this work.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:19 AM on May 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

That being said, I think this may be one of those cases when Ask Metafilter can get a bit too harsh and DTMFA-ish. I think this guy's wife is struggling with mental illness, and she desperately needs therapy.

I would counter that AskMe is often too quick to characterize "you need to get out" as DTMFA. Fleeing a burning home is not the same thing as moving. Yes, his wife needs therapy, but that is absolutely irrelevant to his request for advice about what he can do. He can no more make her go to therapy than I can make my cat poop. Definitely is wife is sick, but this is not "ooooh, would you leave her if she had cancer?" This is, "ooooh, would you leave her if she had cancer and refused treatment and then everyday woke up and berated you until sundown blaming you for the fact that it was spreading and she was dying and there you were apologizing like crazy for giving her cancer and making it spread all over her body?"

OP, you have asked the same question for two years showing almost no progress. In each of these questions you have made it clear that you want what's best for her and that you love her very much. And yet every single thing you are doing is harmful to her. If you want what's best for her then at the very least separate from her (like, the kind where you actually don't talk, not the kind several posts ago where you go on a long weekend to call her every 14 minutes and text a bunch) and give her an extended period of time to work on herself. Here's the amazing thing about separating from your wife: if the two of you want to get back together, you can! If one or both of you doesn't, you shouldn't have been together! It's a really worthwhile exercise.

And I 100% WalkerWestridge that you are using this account as another means of furthering your own illness - yes, you are exactly as sick as her. I am guessing this is the one place you can go and hear anyone - and lots of anyones actually, even better! - telling you that you deserve better. The thing is, I feel stupid for posting. I feel stupid for taking the time out of my day to reply to this thread because I know that I can no more compel you to make good decisions for yourself and your wife than I can compel my cat to poop. Do you plan on posting here an 11th time to find-and-replace an old post with a few new details?

I do hope, sincerely, that the next time you post you can update us and proudly say that you have done what is best for your wife, that you have removed yourself as an enabling force in her life and have given her the freedom to take control and make the decisions that are best for her. She deserves it.
posted by good lorneing at 6:27 AM on May 2, 2015 [22 favorites]

"From the sounds of things, there is nothing you can do to reassure her, short of never leaving the house. Even then, you'd be suspect, unless you cut off your internet connection, and never spoke to any reproductive-aged woman."

I seriously wonder if you asked her if there was ANYTHING you could do that would possibly reassure her enough. Cutting off your penis and handing it to her on a silver platter, perhaps? She sounds absolutely determined that you will cheat on her, to the point where you might as well cheat on her because you're already a convicted cheater.

She's not going to change and in fact she doesn't want to change. So live your life. Go to work. Travel. Pacify her as much as you're comfortable with and then let the chips fall where they may. If you can't call her one night then you can't call her. She, and your marriage, are just going to have to learn to deal with it.

Yup. You pay and pay just for existing anyway.

Do you plan on posting here an 11th time to find-and-replace an old post with a few new details?

Probably. I'm sorry you're in pain, dude, but as long as you hang in there with her, nothing will ever get better for long. And speaking as one of those people who gets to hear about shitty abusive partner behavior fairly regularly, it just makes us all sad to think that you're in this hell and it will never end because you're determined to stay no matter what she does to you.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:50 PM on May 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm really sorry you're going through this but as others have said, ultimately the only way to relieve the anxiety is for the situation to change because you are not the problem here. Your wife is abusive and I'm kind of shocked people are like "but do you like the drama???" or "medicate the problem away." Your wife certainly does need help, and she is mentally ill but that doesn't excuse her abusive behaviour whatsoever--I don't know why it would and I don't think the response would be the same if the genders were reversed. As a result I feel uncomfortable suggesting things like couples therapy etc (although I'm glad you are in therapy) even if they are valid suggestions. I 100% agree with jenfullmoon. If you can't leave her, disengage from her as much as you need to deal with your anxiety. She won't accept your support or get help anyway, so you need to do whatever you need for yourself first and foremost.
posted by hejrat at 11:00 AM on May 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm going to go in a slightly different direction and say that your anxiety might well stem from the fact that you have a few completely incompatible situations that are going to come to a collision.

You've told her you'll leave if she goes through your stuff again.
You are going away and know that she'll go through your stuff again.
But you don't want to leave.

So therefore, when you get home and find out she's been through your stuff again, there's this big question mark hanging over the What Next?

I can't tell you What Next. But that's the heart of what's driving it for you. You're afraid you're just going to capitulate - and also worried that you might actually leave this time, and don't know what comes after that.

If you have time with your therapist before your trip, maybe you could work with them to figure out the What Next.
posted by RogueTech at 10:34 AM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]

So... I left my wife yesterday, after (as predicted by many) she went through my things again whilst I was away — upended my office and left it looking like it had been burglarized. I'm staying with my sister, whom, it turns out, my wife had asked to spy on me (my sister refused).

Pretty wiped out, but moving forward as best I'm capable of. Lawyer on Monday.

Thank you all. I wish I'd seen things clearer sooner, or at least found some spine sooner.
posted by yasp at 12:09 PM on May 9, 2015 [32 favorites]

You're going to be ok, yasp. Good luck to you. And - hats off to you. This is hard but this is your one, precious life and GOOD FOR YOU for grabbing it back.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:43 PM on May 9, 2015 [4 favorites]

yasp, I am so sorry, but also really proud of you. I hope you can look at this as a first step toward setting up a healthy, sane life for yourself.
posted by something something at 12:51 PM on May 9, 2015 [7 favorites]

Yes, what something something said.

This part is not the easiest part but it only gets better after you make this choice and don't go back. I promise. Leaving a man quite like your wife was the hardest thing I've ever done but it is also the smartest, most rewarding, and best thing I've ever done for myself.

Take care. Remember you can call the domestic violence hotline if you're freaking out at 3 am and you need to talk to someone. I did that many times as I was leaving, for months, and those people are the best. You don't have to be in a physically violent situation to call them. They will talk to anyone who is in a toxic relationship or anyone who is leaving one.

All the best.
posted by sockermom at 7:39 PM on May 9, 2015 [8 favorites]

Hi. I get panic attacks from anxiety as well.

They are treatable; I'm on a combo of medication and therapy for mine, and they're a lot better. If your wife (soon to be ex wife) were to look into treatment options, she too can find possible relief. But it's her choice.
posted by spinifex23 at 3:19 PM on May 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Woah, yasp! Echoing something something and sockermom here. I am so sorry to hear about what you returned home to, but I'm glad that she helped make a hard decision a little easier for you. The next many months are going to be pretty difficult, but when I was in a similar situation the one thing that I immediately took solace in was the silence and calm; I hadn't felt either for well over a year. I hope that at the very least you're able to take that in. You deserve to make a long series of decisions in your own best interest, and I hope that you're able to do that.

Kicking yourself for not having a spine sooner is an attractive outlet, and I'm not going to say that I didn't, but it will get better when you start looking forward and thinking about everything you can do now without justifying yourself - which, from what I can tell, is everything. Seriously, I spent the first two weeks cooking things she didn't like and felt like a badass motherfucker for it. Everything you do for yourself now is you sticking up for you.
posted by good lorneing at 5:13 AM on May 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

My heart clenched a little at your update - like many here, I've read your posts over the past few years and have wondered how you've been doing. I think you absolutely did the right thing in leaving, and I'm really happy you're taking this major step in well-deserved self-care, but I'm genuinely sorry that things had to be this way.

For what it's worth, sometimes I find it helpful to acknowledge that a situation flat-out SUCKS, and that even though you're doing what is unquestionably the best thing you can do, it still just sucks that things are the way they are. Even while you continue to take the best care of yourself that you can, I hope that you give yourself space when you need to, to mourn or to rail at the universe for a little bit.

You're on the right track here. Wishing you strength and happiness.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:01 AM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

OMG, you left?! Congratulations on taking that step!

Best of luck to you in dealing with this. made a huge step here and I don't even know you, but I'm proud of you.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:08 PM on May 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh man! Good for you! I hope that you are able to finally have some peace! As others have said, this will be a difficult time at first but it will get better and easier until one day you wake up and realize that you can be happy again. If you had stayed it would only have gotten harder and harder and darker and darker. I will pass on some good advice I got when I left an abusive relationship... don't get seriously involved in another relationship for at least a year. You've got to give yourself time to recover and heal. You've been through hell. Take all the time you need and remember that it's going to keep getting better from here on out.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:45 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

yasp, I am so happy to hear this and so proud of you. This will be hard but you've done the right thing. Take care of yourself now and be safe.
posted by thereemix at 12:54 PM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Don't beat yourself up for what you haven't done. Congratulate yourself on what you have. It's going to be a tough process, but things are going to get better from here.
posted by Jairus at 9:28 PM on May 31, 2015

yasp, I came back to see if there was any followup, and I teared up when I read your comment here and on another recent thread. I am so relieved and admire you for having the strength and commitment to get out. Please don't beat yourself up about how you should have done this sooner. You are doing something really difficult and necessary and it takes time to get there. Best of luck!
posted by chickenmagazine at 6:21 AM on August 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

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