I could use some input from those of you with experiences in this area. I have been married 26 years, have 3 kids. Our marriage has been non-existent and painful for many years. In a nutshell, after many years of marriage counseling, personal counseling (hers and mine), $10,000 brain scans, Retrouvaille, spiritual warfare prayers by a priest, etc our marriage is still non-existent and painful.
Various counselors have said she has severe OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder - severe fear of germs, hoarding), her own counselor said OCPD (obssessive compulsive personality disorder), our marriage counselor for 4 years has said she has a combination of BPD/NPD (Borderline/Narcissistic Personality Disorder). After many, many years of loving and forgiving her behaviors unconditionally and all the above, there still is no marriage relationship. We just cohabitate and her general demeanor is anger, resentment and coldness toward me for revealing/discovering/helping her face these ailments.
A priest who counseled me said people with these disorders generally do not change unless the pain of not changing is greater than the pain of changing. He said he is concerned about her soul in that “she cannot really love God if she treats you the way she does”. He asked if I was ready and willing to giving her a loving ultimatum that “I want to be married, but if there aren’t any changes I will seek divorce”.
He said that she knows how to manipulate me so that I cannot bluff this. If she doesn’t make an attempt to get the real help she needs then I need to follow through. He suggested waiting a few months before filing for annulment because he has seen several couples that got a civil divorce and that is what woke up the one spouse who got the help they needed. Then they remarried legally before they got an annulment.
I gave her the loving ultimatum and that got her to finally agree to being prayed with by a priest that she previously rejected. He came over to our house, heard a deep confession from each of us, led us in forgiveness, then prayed spiritual warfare prayers for us. He asked us to go back to another counselor to continue the forgiveness. While I will follow through on this, her behaviors have not changed at all. Still cold, resentful, emotionally abusive and very, very controlling.
Anyway, that is a “short” summary of the background. My question is around annulment. How many have gone through with annulment with a spouse that personality disorders? What information was provided to show that these issues existed before the marriage that impacted your spouse to fulfill their marital obligations? Any other pointers you would give me?
Prayers, of course, would be greatly appreciated.
I am worn out from all the anger, rejection, loneliness, emotional abuse, controlling behavior and can’t live the rest of my life this way.
My sister was married to a man who had a personality disorder that continued to escalate with unacceptable behaviour. We were all very uneasy about her marrying this man. I was one of those able to report strange behaviour prior to marriage. He beat his dog with a chain to make it drink a bowl of claret; and he cold-bloodly made a pass at me soon after becoming engaged to my sister, basically if you or anyone has noticed behaviour that was disturbing, they can give that as part of evidence. My sister did receive an annulment and later happily married in the Church. You may not like to question family or friends, but if you were to you might find out concerns they may have noticed…or you yourself.
I pray that God will allow you to know His wishes regarding you both; and that He will help you in any way possible. I ask Him to help you to remain buoyant despite all you are enduring…and if possible to change your wife’s heart and ways. It cannot be easy for her to live with herself, any more than for you to live with her as she is. God bless you both.
We all know there is benefits to trials. The loneliness, coldness and rejection I experience in this marriage has helped me understand, in a very small way, what Jesus experienced in the garden. My experience has helped me appreciate what he went through for love of us.
In prayer I have pictured myself with him in the garden comforting him and thanking him for what he did for us.
As for my wife, I know she is tormented by issues in her childhood that have come out in counseling. Through reading many books, prayer and counseling I view her as follows: there is a hurting little girl laying on the ground crying. Around her is a tall brick wall to protect the hurting little girl. On the outside is her as an adult wearing a suit of armor and she is angry. The adult role is to protect the little girl, but the wall prevents her from being healed.
I have tried EVERYTHING to reach her, have forgiven her thousands of times, tried to do nice things, stopped enabling her behaviors, tried Retrouvaille but she refuses to use the techniques because it requires her to listen to me, etc and so on. Not even God will heal her if she doesn’t want it… the free will thing.
My emotions vary from feeling sorry for her to feeling immense loneliness, rejection and coldness. These disorders have defense mechanisms that are to “protect them” from facing pain. These include never accepting responsibility (everything is my fault), projecting her faults on me, her mind actually changes memories to avoid dealing with reality), controlling most things in our home (no one can wash dishes,clothes or arrange things but her), she “splits me out of existence” and virtually ignores me, when she wants to talk it has to be now, when I need to she says later or avoids it. There has been NO intimacy of any kind for years and hardly any our whole marriage.
Most people, friends, counselors, priests are amazed I have lasted this long. I don’t want a divorce, but I realize I can’t change her, only she can. If she doesn’t get healed or true help, I couldn’t live with her 7 days a week during retirement. My faith has kept me in the game. Life is short relative to eternity, so I want to do God’s will and have avoided dealing with this tough issue. Now I realize, via the priest, that for her eternal soul, I may need to force the issue and in fact have.
My mother is schizophrenic. She has periods of depresion, anger, violence, halucinations, visions, paranoia, uncontrollable spending and generally disagreeable behavior. Most of her anger is focused on my father. She also has periods of gentleness and is a fantastic grandmother. All her grandchildren love her immensely, although they are sometimes scared by her “weird overprotection”.
You don’t mention the ages of your children or their relationship with her.
Throughout my life, my relationship with my mother varried tremendously from me wishing she were dead, to feeling rejected by her, to tolerating her, to pitying her, to loving her and appreciating her care for my children. I understand the draining emotional tormoil you are under. I am sorry for you and your pain, and I will pray for you.
I can only tell you that my father did not divorce my mother. And I am glad for it. He said he took a vow for better or worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. . He sacrificed his life and happiness for ours. No matter how weird, sick, and unlikable my mother can be, she is still my mother. If my father was not caring for her, then one of us children would have to do it.
My life would be aweful if I had to go to 2 houses for holidays, and hear about the pain of divorce from my mom, and bare some of the financial burden since she is unable to manage finances, and on and on… I am sorry for your difficult position. I can not judge your decision making, nor can I even know if your situation is similar to ours. I am writing this post to make sure that you take your children and their needs into account. To divorce or not will impact them for … well, for ever.
My prayers to you. I’m just slightly ahead of where you are on this path. I have obtained a civil divorce from a man with NPD. I just couldn’t subject my children and myself to his increasing abuses any longer. Just before I filed for divorce, I had to call the police on him because he charged at my daughter and I had to put myself in between them to block him from getting to her. All she did was roll her eyes at him (and I’m not completely certain of that because she hated to look him in the eye). But, as for the annulment, Father or the diocese requires that the divorce be final 6 months before they will start the process. I can begin in November.
I know that God can heal anyone, but they have to want it. I finally got to the point where I was counseled by a priest to give her a loving ultimatum that I want to be married, but that I need to see some changes in behavior (less emotional/verbal abuse) and a desire to work on our marriage or I will seek a divorce.
I do not want a divorce, but he helped me realize we can’t have a marriage if I only want it. He also pointed out that people with these disorders will not change unless the pain of not changing is greater than the pain of change.
The ultimatum at first did not have a positive effect until weeks later where she finally accepted some spiritual help that she previously refused. A priest came over our house. Heard each of our confessions for an hour each. Then led us in forgiveness prayer and then said about an hour’s worth of spiritual warfare prayers. Very powerful.
I am following through on his recommendations of trying yet another marriage counselor. I leave this in God’s hands. My wife is still cold, resentful, takes no responsibility for her behaviors, etc. The priest helped her see how her childhood traumas caused her to put up a wall between herself and God and her husband who love her and want to help her.
I thanked her the next couple of days with a nice card and flowers that she rejected… that hurt. We are now waiting to start with the new counselor. I don’t expect much, but I know God can work if we let Him. So I am following through with this priest’s recommendation.
I have reached out to her in many ways since this session, yet I have’t seen a mustard seed of effort to reach out to me on her part. Some of you who read my recent posts are probably now getting more of the picture.
My faith keeps me in this marriage and not wanting to give up. AT the same time I have learned NOT to be an enabler by avoiding painful discussions that she would rather avoid. Those that deal with spouses with these issues understand. Those that don’t, I hope you never do.
LRH - Please make sure that your counselor specializes in personality disorders. Before I divorce my husband, we went through several counselors. The one one that gave me any hope was very experienced with personality disorders. Of course, my husband only went a couple of times and refused to go again. That was my last hope and so I proceeded on with the divorce. I was afraid that the verbal/emotional abuse was about to cross the line to physical and I couldn’t allow that.
It seems there are several people that deal with family members with personality disorders. Here is a summary of notes from a couple of books I read that describes the behaviors and reasons for these disorders. This helped me understand. I truly believe that if my wife can be helped, it is by her willingness to be healed of those things in her childhood that contributed to this. God can heal but she has to want it.
Notes on Disorders of Fear: BPD & NPD
Understanding Personality Disorders
A personality disorder is an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectation of the individual’s culture, is pervasive and inflexible (unlikely to change), is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment of interpersonal relationships. (pg 25 SWE)
Those with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) & NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) are driven by a constant and deeply motivated drive to find safety in their lives by avoiding things that trigger their terrifying fears. Both perceive a threat from the judgments of people around them, one that is so great that it is terrifying to them. Even insignificant statements or events may signal or trigger a terrifying change in the BP or NP’s behavior. Many of the characteristics and behaviors of these two disorders of fear are overlapping and even overlap with other mental health issues.
People with BPD feel the same emotions other people do. The difference is that they feel things more intensely, act in ways that are more extreme and have difficulty regulating their emotions and behavior.
BPD’s may feel the need to control because they feel so out of control themselves and frequently accuse others of trying to control them. Those who must control everything fear being vulnerable due to a fear of being exposed or shamed. Control is a way to insure no one can ever shame them.
They are very hypersensitive to anything that threatens their feeling of safety. They find safety within circles of people where they are perceived without fault. Powerful fears are unleashed by anything that might suggest or reveal the slightest flaw to those people.
NP’s believe themselves to be flawed and they dread and fear the discovery of this by others. They strain every muscle and expend every shred of energy to maintain their appearance as flawless. They work extremely hard to be perfect. Everything must be done to perfection.
If as children they were grossly mistreated for small errors in behavior, and if they were ignored or sometimes rewarded when they behaved perfectly (according to someone else’s standards – usually their parents), they may develop a basic dynamic of feeling safe when others perceive them as perfect, and feeling very, very threatened when they think others will perceive them as deficient.
NP’s have a common reaction to a threat to their image. They react by discrediting, demeaning, derogating, and possibly destroying the person who challenged their image. For those unlucky enough to be behind closed doors with a threatened narcissist, the fear can erupt into violent rage. They seek to maintain an image of perfection among the people who surround them. They are often considered wonderful and successful people. They are devoted to what they do and excel in all aspects of it.
Their reputations are built, in part, on the way they treat others. They may be very generous, patient or cooperative. They have to be, because they need to be perceived by those around them as perfect. Any suggestion of imperfection is intensely frightening to them.
When a person becomes closely associated with an NP, especially by marriage, that person was part of the “other” world of the NP with which they tried to maintain the perfect image. As a spouse, the person becomes part of the NP’s “inside” definition of self. When this happens the dynamic changes completely. Before, the NP made strenuous efforts to behave perfectly toward the person, and asked only that the other person support this image. Now the NP views the spouse as part of his/her projected self-image. If is no longer important how the person views the NP; it is now imperitive that the person also present an impression of perfection to those “outside”.
Without knowing it, the now “included” spouse is suddenly held to the same impossible standard that the NP holds for him/her self…. “perfection”.
The need for approval from the person they married evaporates; everything becomes secondary to maintaining the image of perfection. Any behavior or public visibility that suggests anything less is intolerable. Imperfection in the spouse now also becomes an imminent threat to the NP and all measures to achieve control become necessary. Intimidation, criticism, manipulation and rage can all be employed to ensure the spouse maintains the proper standard of behavior. The standard itself is an impossible one. There may not be anything that can be done that meets the NP’s definition of perfect.
At home, where no one “outside” can see, any level of emotional violence or abuse can be used by the NP to control the other. But in public, the NP’s behavior is constrained to within socially accepted limits. In public, the spouse will be treated with consideration and courtesy. The brutal raging, anger and controlling behavior is reserved for private settings.
BP’s and NP’s use defense mechanisms to alter their reality to make it less frightening to them. Defense mechanisms are subconsciously controlled deviations from the normal way that events are perceived and remembered. The BP/NP alters the reality in their mind to make it less threatening. These defense mechanisms are not rational processes. They operate at the sub-conscious level. They alter the functioning of the mind to protect the person from the threat. To maintain their reality, they continually distort our reality to match theirs.
Dissociation – Altered Perception
Disordered abusers often recall things completely differently from healthy people. They do this with complete conviction. In most cases the abuser is not lying. The are absolutely convinced of their recall. This can be extremely confusing to someone living with the disordered person. They can remember events or what was said completely differently from the way it actually happened. Another common defense mechanism is when the person completely buries an event in their subconscious to where they do not recall it any more. This is common with trauma victims.
Denial is simply the assertion by a disordered person that something is not so, when ordinary observation or common sense confirms that it is so. Dissociation blocks the recall of events. When this altered awareness is expressed as reality, we see denial.
NP’s act aggressively to avoid any suggestion of a flaw. Rationalization is an assertion that argues that the flaw doesn’t exist, or if it does exist, that it isn’t the NP’s flaw. Rationalization also argues that the flaw is the responsibility of anyone other than the NP.
In projection, a disordered person perceives their problem (an event or quality) to be present in another person rather than themselves. When an event is perceived to be flawed and actually resides with the disordered person it is displaced by projection to reside with someone else.
Splitting means to view people or things with extreme positive or negative value. A disordered spouse may at times express that you are wonderful and at other times that you are terrible. Splitting can also take an extreme form where they split out of existence another person. A BP may permanently refuse to recongnize the existence of the other person. He/she may refuse all interactions. It is extremely painful for a partner in an intimate relationship to be “split out of existence” by the person they love. It may also happen by an NP in response to another person (spouse) revealing a flaw about the disordered person. Consistent with the NP defense mechanisms, the NP may demean and devalue the person revealing a flaw.
Blame shifting is simply the rational or irrational assertion that the responsibility for problems lies in someone other than the disordered person. Blame shifting is often used by disordered people when a partner confronts them about their abusive or neglectful behavior. This defense mechanism focuses attention away from the person responsible for what has happened.
In mirroring, a disordered person adapts their behavior to mirror back to us the qualities which they perceive that we desire to see. Most disordered abusers are extremely good at mirroring. Mirroring can make us believe that the NP is a truly wonderful person. It can lead us to make wrong judgments about NP’s, something which serves their purpose. Mirroring in the early stages of a romantic relationship can prove devastating, by drawing us into strong romantic attraction to a facade of personality.
Rages and Anger
Anger punishes us for doing or saying things that threaten the abuser. Anger and rages condition us to respond fearfully to the abuser.
The biggest single determining factor for success in the treatment of personality disorders is the patient’s acceptance and motivation to change.
ongoing marital problems do not figure in an annulment investigation, except where they may shed light on circs that existed at the time of the wedding.
A severe mental health issue which renders full consent impossible or improbably, if it existed at the time of the marriage, may indeed be reason to conclude the contract was invalid, but as always with annulment, no guarantees. If the mental illness existed and was not disclosed before the wedding, that too may be grounds to declare the marriage null (invalid).
the investigation will not be conducted at all unless and until there remains no possibility of reconciliation (ususally at least in this country following civil divorce).
If a couple is undergoing continuing problems whether or not their root is in one party’s mental health issues, the fact that the other party is already investigating annulment, and doing so with an attitude of “placing blame” is a bad sign. If the afflicted individual is already in counselling, the other party should ask for a referral to a good marriage counsellor as well. this party should also be in contact with his pastor for guidance on the Christian way to meet this challenge in the family.
LRH1957, that list clinically describes my life for the past 19 years.
Nice to see all those definitions in one place.
No one wanted happily ever after more than I did. Puzzleannie, unless you’ve had to live with one of these NPDs, you can’t imagine how impossible it is for them to get treatment. They’re really busy carting YOU off to get fixed. During the course of ten years, we went to a priest, and 6 psychiatrists and Retrouvaille for attempts to make the marriage work. Actually, I went, he came along sometimes and shouted me down and told the counselor “what I was really thinking”. And he didn’t go to any follow-up Retrouvaille meetings or take any part in the post-Retrouvaille journalling and marriage building activities. He had better things to do. I almost walked out of Retrouvaille, because as anyone knows, there are communication rules they say not to do, which of course NPD did.
Words cannot express how impossible honest communication is with these people. You learn very early never to apologize for anything beyond dinner not being hot enough because everything you say will be used against you over and over and over. At screaming sessions that last from midnight till 3:00 a.m. as you beg to be left alone.
I liken it to being held hostage. For a while you develop a kind of Stockholm Syndrome. Anything you can do to keep the peace and make your captor happy. But eventually they break you down.
All the marriage counselors in the world couldn’t help if NPD didn’t want to be married to someone who knew they weren’t perfect anymore. And that explains a lot why NPDs turn on people once they figure them out. My NPD hated my family members after they figured out his game.
For many, many years I would not even consider annulment, wouldn’t go there, wouldn’t entertain it. For many, many years I wondered why is she ignoring our relationship and spending excessive amounts of time cleaning using many various “rituals”, etc. Why won’t she interact? Why is she so controlling?
What was I doing wrong as a husband that she would prefer staying up to late hours cleaning, arranging, etc. I read books on relationships to see what I could do or wasn’t. I reached out to her in many ways to show her I loved her, but her OC and controlling behaviors had a “trance like” quality to them. I always noticed a need to be “perfect” in her. I can’t share all the stories.
Even when we were first married I noticed cleaning rituals and excessive time staying germ free. I finally discovered OCD on the internet years ago and tried to help her see that millions have it. I tried to help her see how I missed her and that these cleaning rituals and control were taking up so much time that we had none as a couple.
Ever since it was discovered some of her behaviors that were controlling her life had a name, OCD, she has been angry, resentful, cold, etc. Now I realize, as the marriage counselor pointed out, that is an NPD trait… needing to appear perfect by hiding flaws from the world. Since I “identified” a flaw, I was now the object of her NPD wrath.
Again, I cannot go into the years and years of examples. We have been through years of marriage counseling which led to “your marriage will not get better unless you (wife) get treatment for OCD”. She begrudgingly went, but really didn’t want help. She tried then refused meds and stopped her behavior therapy.
Because our home was under her complete control I sought individual coaching/counseling on how to deal with the grip her OCD had on the lives of my 3 kids and myself. She would stay up until 2,3,4 AM cleaning but not allowing any of us to help do dishes, clean up, do laundry, etc because they all had to be done her ritualistic way.
Her excessive rituals were such that the areas she did clean were cleaner than a hospital would require, but it was so time consuming she couldn’t keep up until we had 300-400 piles, bags, boxes all over the house. I could barely walk in my master bedroom.
My counselor coached me to stop enabling her and lovingly set boundaries like “we will all help clean dishes and clean up the clutter and do laundry”. My wife’s response was “if you touch any of the 25 bags of contaminated clothes in our bedroom, I’m leaving you tomorrow!”
Our marriage counselor of 4 years, after seeing my wife stonewall and bring up the same issues over and over and over, finally said he cannot help us. I met him on the side and he says it is because he believes she has BPD/NPD in addition to the OCD and OCPD she already has been diagnosed with. These issues are all interelated.
I have prayed with tears in my eyes asking if my role in life is to just accept that I will never have a loving marriage with this person and just food, clothe and shelter her. A priest helped me see that she needs healing and she needs to be willing to receive it. Letting things remain as is, doesn’t help her. He said that lovingly giving her the ultimatum that while I truly want to be married to her, there needs to be changes (no more verbal abuse, etc) or I will seek a divorce. He said people with these disorders won’t change unless the pain of NOT changing is greater than the pain of changing.
After hearing many of my stories he said she knows how to manipulate so you can’t bluff. If there is no change you need to follow through. He said that he has seen couples civilly divorce and then the spouse needing to hit bottom finally got the help they needed. Then they remarried civilly and had their marriage blessed again in the church. His point is that he is worried about her soul.
By giving her the loving ultimatum, she was open to receiving prayer by a priest who heard our confessions, led us in forgiveness prayer and prayed spiritual warfare prayers with us.
His recommended follow up was to start using the Retrouvaille techniques again, but she refuses. Go on dates together without kids… she remains angry, resentful. Start with a new marriage counselor and focus on forgiveness and conflict resolution.
I am going to follow his advice realizing God can work when I don’t see it although these issues have been brought up and tried to be resolved with all the other things I have tried.
If this latest set of counseling produces the same results… getting nowhere, then I am back to the loving ultimatum.
Several years ago I finally allowed my brain to consider divorce and at that time said no because it would get me out of the situation, but not help my wife or my kids. Now 2 of my kids are in college and one is in middle school. If I have to give her the loving ultimatum again, my motivation, as the priest said, was to help her soul.
The books and counseling have helped me see her with two aspects. There is a hurting little girl in there that God and I love. There is an angry women exterior protecting the little girl. I have exhausted myself trying to reach the little girl in there that needs healing while I have been “emotionally beat up” by the angry person on the outside.
So I am evaluating my options after many, many years of loneliness and verbal/emotional abuse. I can’t make her want to get help or to love me.
My cross and pain is that I desire a beautiful marriage to my sweetheart who I haven’t seen in many, many years. What I live with is an angry, cold, resentful, controlling exterior of a person who so far has refused to listen or really seek the help she needs. Her walls of defense are very high. All I know is that God can heal anything,but we have to let Him in. He won’t violate our free will.
So while I try to save my marriage I am also trying to understand my options so I can understand them. I’m not sure why you seem to think that is wrong, but that is OK. This is not your cross, but mine. How I deal with it is ultimately MY decision.
Many times I have said, I wish God would write me a memo telling me what to do. Now I realize, he gave us a free will, the church, priests and counselors to guide us. How to proceed is a major decision. If I decide to ultimately divorce will be the toughest decision in my life.
Asking the annulment questions helps me understand if I truly have a valid marriage or not.
Thanks for letting me share my cross here. Your prayers are appreciated!
Thanks for understanding. Those that have experienced what we have truly understand. Many others do try to understand the best they can. It does help knowing that others of my brothers and sisters in Jesus are supportive. I ask for prayers for my wife, our marriage and myself.
Actually, there’s still quite a lot of disagreement about this, but the current wisdom among therapists who specialize in abuse issues is that the couple should not be seen together, but the people should instead attend solo counseling for quite some time first. Couples therapy is really only effective when each person is coming into it as an adult, taking mutual responsibility, and mainly just needing help with mutual understanding and shared growth. Abuse is a power issue, there is neither mutuality nor a sense of shared responsibility. Everything is one-up, one-down.
LRH, I personally think from your description that you have done everything you can. I’ve never been married, but I have been caught in abusers’s webs, and I know how damaging they can be. If you’re like me, I wonder if you also kick yourself for not drawing the line much sooner? I know I certainly did. I beat myself up, and still do to some degree, for being merrily blind at the beginning, seeing what I wanted to see instead of what was, and hoping it would just all go away or work out.
Two things come to mind. One relates to her care, the other relates to yours.
If you do give the ultimatum (it sounds like maybe you have already?), and she doesn’t change (as you know, the recovery rate for these disorders is extremely low), have you given some thought to how you will separate, and what resources she will be left with? I have never liked the idea of just coldly discarding someone, but I think a phased approach would be reasonable. For example, if she doesn’t work, you cover her for 100% the first month you’re gone, 80% the second month, 60% the third month, and so forth until 0%, when she has to find a way to stand on her own or reach out for help from someone other than you. The shock of 0% will come – it needs to – but it’s a little less cold than kicking someone out in the snow.
Second, I’m sure you know that your life will also change. When I think back on my own experiences, I realized a few things about myself that I would rather not have known.
First, that I had stayed in the game so long because I thought I could be a “saviour” which made me feel “special” and gave me a false sense of security because the person I was saving would be bound to me and (supposedly) would never leave.
Second, that I had benefited from the environment of stress and drama. For example, when I was in an abusive relationship I had to fight to hold my own – and for sanity I would push myself to play music or learn Spanish, just to have my own “self.” But when the relationship ended and the fighting disappeared, there wasn’t a need to push myself anymore, so I let the music and the Spanish slide… When the stress and drama left, so did a lot of my motivation and energy. I would warn you to be aware of this. Your emotional life will change a lot when you separate. There will be relief, but there will also be this vacuum…
If I could suggest anything it would be to grieve well. Take the time to look inside yourself, feel the emotional ups and downs that roll around inside even without her, feel down in your cells how hard it is to really “let go”, and be gentle with yourself, talk to God, and know that He cares.
p.s. I grew up with abusive parents and I’ve read literally hundreds, perhaps a thousand, psychology, spirituality, and self-help books. The best one I have ever read, bar none, is “Controlling People” by Patricia Evans. It’s a simplistic, pedestrian title but the contents are extremely rich and eye-opening.
LRH: the scope and depth of your problem are far beyond anything that I have experienced or knowledge that would allow me to offer meaningful advice on how to approach your wife or future counseling. The hardship of the relationship you describe, however, does not sound like an environment that is ultimately good for your mental health.
If you have exhausted your options as far as counseling and your wife continues to resist any opportunity to become open to change or outside help, perhaps the only option left to you is to separate from her. It does not require that you pursue divorce or annulment for now. But it might relieve the terrible stress that your daily interactions with her must surely bring.
Once you get a reprieve from the intensity of the relationship, you may be better able to make some decisions about your long-term future. Many prayers for you and the troubled mind and heart of your poor wife.
Wow Libera, thank you for sharing this. I am so glad I found this thread. As I mentioned in my other post, I have never been married, but a year ago I ended with a semi-longtime boyfriend who exhibited many of these characteristics. I don’t have the ability to diagnose him, so I can’t call him NPD, but he was severely abused by his father, both verbally and emotionally, was alcoholic for many years before meeting me, currently doesn’t drink and attends AA (which I thought meant he was on a growth path), but then I found out he basically just goes to meetings to be social and he doesn’t really do the steps. There are blessings in the fact that at least he’s not drinking… And for someone who’s been abused, just being social is challenge enough, so good for him if he has some sober pals. But I didn’t see what was coming – in big part because I was also abused by my parents. The only difference is I’ve diligently read, journaled, attended therapy and counseling for many years, so I’ve changed from what I might have been, quite a lot. But I still have big blind spots, which obviously still operate.
Anyway, yes, these are the traits, and they are definitely damaging to the people who choose to remain close.
I’ve recently become interested in multiple personality disorder, and am discovering that there is a fascinating thread under most personality disorders which mirrors full blown MPD. For example, alcoholics are often thought of as having a Dr. Jekyl/Mr, Hyde personality – which would be a split of two. My boyfriend seemed to have three personalities – the sane, calm, creative, and caring adult (the one I fell in love with) – the raging out of control dominator – and the little boy, who would talk in a little boy voice and play impish pranks. Interestingly, this tracks with transactional analysis (from I’m Okay, You’re Okay) – adult, parent, child. The sane adult, the raging abusive parent, and the little boy.
A book I am currently reading called “Creating Sanctuary” by Sandra Bloom, talks in the introduction about her experience as a psychiatrist and how, even after treating someone for many years and thinking she knew them well, she was astonished to discover that they had multiple personalities. A circumstance had brought one out clearly, and she realized only then that she had SEEN this one before – but had not seen it. She had just figured it was a facet of the client, not a whole separate person! Only later, while working with the person, did she realize that the client had no knowledge of this other personality, and when it was running the show, the client had no memory. This also mirrors my boyfriend’s behaviour, for example when he would rage and say abusive, hateful things, then remember that he had been angry, but completely deny the words he had said – as if someone else had said them. So I wonder…
LRH, I don’t know if this helps, but to paraphrase what you said about God healing but we have to let him in – you also mentioned the split personality of your wife, and the one personality you love, and the other that is abusive and hurtful. Healing only happens with INTEGRATION – when the Mr. Hyde personality is unmasked, its needs met in some way, its cooperation secured, and its energy claimed back. But there is no way it can happen without the person themselves seeing the need for this and being willing to get help.
I absolutely agree, the person needs to admit they need help and seek it. Whether it is through counseling or asking God to heal. That’s why people who have NPD so rarely seek help. They have an intense, subconcious fear of revealing that they have any flaws (perfectionism). For them to seek help they need to admit they have some issue that needs help. From what I’ve read, that is why they are the least likely, of personality disorders, to seek and get help.
Thanks for the input. I don’t know how to break up your post into several posts yet. So here goes:
After the first year, the marriage counselor said he would stop seeing us until my wife got counseling for OCD. He told her our marriage would not get any better until she got treatment for OCD. For her, it was like he punched her in the gut, because she was avoiding facing it. After several months of her getting therapy, we started marriage counseling again. She has been in therapy for 3 1/2 years but her OCD has not improved much. By what she tells others, her therapy focuses on how “mean I am”. That is a common trait of someone with NPD to divert attention from their issues.
Have I kicked myself for not doing something sooner? Well yes, but I also realize you can’t change the past. I didn’t know I was enabling her by not lovingly confronting her OC control over the household. I thought I was loving her by giving in to her ways. Why would I want to upset my spouse who I married? Little did I know I was allowing the roots to deepen. My motives were right (love) but my actions were enabling because they avoided dealing with the issues. I hoped they would just get better because I didn’t understand what was going on.
Over the years, as I educated myself on these disorders and sought counseling I learned how to confront the issues. This is where it gets tough because you have to confront for their to be improvement. Loving confrontation produces anger , resentment, coldness, silent treatment out of her. Facing the issues causes pain for her and me, but our marriage will never be healed without facing it. I have yet to feel any love from her and that has been about 7 - 10 years. That’s my cross.
IF we wind up separating, she will be taken care of financially very well. Again, I hope that does’t happen, but I have thought it through. Thanks for asking though because I may have missed some things to consider.
Grieve well. I understand your point. In a sense I’ve been grieving the loss of my wife for years. The person I married and loved left years ago. I know that somewhere in there, is that beautiful person, but like you and our marriage counselor said, I married the whole package. I get the sweet person with the abusive, angry one.
I also realize that IF we do separate, I will need time to heal. Without God’s help, this would have crushed me years ago. In fact, in my prayer, He has shown me that other situations in my life have strengthened me to carry this cross.
As painful as our crosses can be, God uses them to draw us to himself and help ourselves grow.
For me it hurts most when I see a couple holding hands, walking arm in arm, hugging each other, showing affection. My wife runs away from my hugs due to her resentment at me not avoiding issues no matter how lovingly I bring them up. It’s said to think I have more physical contact with other women than my spouse. I don’t mean that in a wrong way. It is common to give a friendly hug to a friend or relative. I just have to be honest with how I feel. It’s painful to realize I can be hugged (appropriately) by another woman friend or relative, but my wife refuses to and my marriage vows and commitment keep me from seeking that from anyone but her.
I also feel used. My role in her life is to pay the bills, but I am not welcome in my own home. This is the cross, the tough part. As a Catholic husband my role is to help her and myself get to heaven. As you can tell from my posts probably by now, I have put in many years of effort, bore her coldness for years and still do. Without my faith, I would have left years ago because I would be only thinking about me. I feel sorry for her torment and helpless with how to help her at times. I do have some peace that in confronting the issues, painful as they are, I am doing God’s will.
I did not suggest they should be seen togetehr, but the other party needs help in dealing with the person with problems, and should be getting it. the OP in this thread and in his other threads on the topic sounds pretty desperate and as if in need with better help and support.