The issues go very deep. She is bi-polar....
NCGuy, I'm afraid the issues may go deeper than bipolar, which usually is successfully controlled by swallowing a pill. What you are describing -- verbal abuse, inappropriate anger, usually unhappy, need for constant drama -- are several traits of BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). All of us occasionally exhibit the nine BPD traits (at a low level if we are healthy). They become a problem only when they are so strong as to undermine our ability to sustain a LTR. Significantly, BPD is far more difficult
to treat than bipolar because medication cannot control it and it is rare for a person having strong BPD traits to be willing to stay in therapy long enough (several years) to make a difference.
Only a professional can determine whether your W's BPD traits are so strong as to meet the diagnostic criteria for having full-blown BPD. It nonetheless is easy to identify strong occurrences of these traits in a woman you've been living with for ten years. Moreover, if the traits are ruining your marriage, it does not matter whether they meet that threshold. Even when BPD traits are well short of the diagnostic threshold, they can make your life miserable.
A substantial share of BPDers (perhaps 20%) also have bipolar disorder. So your W may have both. I am not a psychologist. Rather, I am only a man who spent 15 years caring for a bipolar foster son and a BPDer exW. Based on that experience with the two disorders, I found that there are several clear differences between them.
The first has to do with frequency of occurrence. Bipolar mood swings are very slow because they are caused by gradual changes in body chemistry. They are considered rapid if as many as four occur in a year. In sharp contrast, four BPD mood changes can easily occur in four days (or even one day). BPD temper tantrums, for example, typically last several hours and rarely as long as 36 hours.
A second difference is that the onset is very different. Whereas a bipolar change may occur over several weeks, a BPD change typically occurs in less than a minute -- often in only 10 seconds -- because it is event-triggered by some innocent comment or action. Moreover, because BPDers feel suffocated and engulfed during intimate moments, it is common following such great evenings for a BPDer to create an argument over nothing to push you away, giving her breathing space.
A third difference is that, whereas bipolar can cause people to be irritable and obnoxious during the manic phase, it does not rise to the level of meanness and vindictiveness you see when a BPDer is splitting you black. The difference is HUGE: while a manic person may regard you as an irritation, a BPDer can perceive you as Hitler and will treat you accordingly.
A fourth difference is that a bipolar sufferer -- whether depressed or manic -- usually is able to trust you if she knows you well. Untreated BPDers, however, are unable to trust -- even though they sometimes claim otherwise. This lack of trust means there is no foundation on which to build a relationship. Moreover -- and I learned this the hard way -- when a person does not trust you, you can never trust them because they can turn on you at any time -- and almost certainly will.
A fifth difference is that BPDers are very controlling and, to make that controlling more manageable, they usually will try to separate you from your friends and family. Control is much easier when you don't have the support of a family member saying "That's the most ridiculous explanation I've ever heard...."
Yet, despite these five clear differences between the two disorders, many people confuse the two. The primary source of this confusion, as I noted above, seems to be the fact that many BPD sufferers also have the bipolar disorder. I therefore suggest that you read my description of typical BPDer behavior in GTRR's thread and see if it rings a bell. My four posts in that thread start at http://talkaboutmarriage.com/anxiety...tml#post188319
. Those posts also provide links to several excellent BPD articles written by professionals. It the BPD traits sound familiar, I would be glad to discuss them with you. Take care, NCGuy.