KJ, the behaviors you describe -- i.e., irrational anger, controlling actions, temper tantrums, lack of impulse control, black-white thinking, always being "The Victim," and rapid flips between Jekyll (adoring you) and Hyde (devaluing you) -- are classic warning signs for BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). Importantly, I'm not suggesting your H has full-blown BPD but, rather, that he may exhibit moderate to strong traits of it or another PD.
I caution that BPD is not something -- like chickenpox -- that a person either "has" or "doesn't have." Instead, it is a spectrum disorder, which means every adult on the planet occasionally exhibits all BPD traits to some degree (albeit at a low level if the person is healthy). At issue, then, is not whether your H exhibits BPD traits. Of course he does. We all do.
Rather, at issue is whether he exhibits those traits at a strong and persistent level (i.e., is on the upper end of the BPD spectrum). Not having met him, I cannot answer that question. I nonetheless believe you can spot any strong BPD warning signs that are present if you take a little time to learn which behaviors are on the list. They are easy to spot -- especially after you've been married for several years -- because there is nothing subtle about behaviors such as always being "The Victim," lack of impulse control, and rapid event-triggered mood flips.
He had a temper and laid his hands on me 3 times while in the Army.
KJ, the repeated physical battering of a partner or spouse by a male adult is strongly associated with that adult having strong traits of a personality disorder, particularly BPD. "Intense, inappropriate anger"
is one of the nine defining traits for BPD.
If your H is a BPDer (i.e., has strong and persistent BPD traits), he carries enormous anger inside from early childhood. You therefore don't have to do a thing to CREATE the anger. Rather, you only have to do or say some minor thing that triggers a release of anger that is already there. This is why a BPDer can burst into a rage in less than a minute -- oftentimes in only ten seconds. Moreover, BPDers have very weak control over their emotions. Indeed, the key defining characteristic of BPD is the inability to regulate one's own emotions.
For these reasons, the physical
abuse of a spouse or partner has been found to be strongly associated with BPD. One of the first studies showing that link is a 1993 hospital study of spousal batterers. It found that nearly all of them have a personality disorder and half of them have BPD. See Roger Melton's summary of that study at 50% of Batterers are BPDers
. Similarly, a 2008 study
and a 2012 study
find a strong association between violence and BPD.
He was always afraid I would cheat on him.
A key defining trait for BPD -- indeed, the first of 9 traits that are listed -- is a great fear of abandonment. Not surprisingly, this fear typically manifests itself in male BPDers as an irrational jealousy of other males (or even jealousy over the time you spend with friends or family members).
If you really have been married to a BPDer for several years, "insanity"
is exactly how you should be feeling. Because BPDers usually are convinced that the absurd allegations coming out of their mouths are absolutely true -- they generally have a greater "crazy-making" effect than can ever be achieved by narcissists or sociopaths.
This is why that, of the 157 mental disorders listed in the APA's diagnostic manual, BPD is the one most notorious
for making the abused partners feel like they may be losing their minds. And this is one reason therapists typically see far more of those abused partners -- coming in to find out if they are going insane -- than they ever see of the BPDers themselves.
Nothing will drive you crazier sooner than being repeatedly abused by a partner whom you know, to a certainty, must really love you. The reason is that you will be mistakenly convinced that, if only you can figure out what YOU are doing wrong, you can restore your partner to that wonderful human being you saw at the very beginning.
But he asks me all the time if I will take him back.
If your H really does exhibit strong BPD traits, he has such low self esteem that he will blame you for every misfortune and unhappiness. Yet, because a BPDer is emotionally unstable, he absolutely HATES to live alone. A BPDer therefore typically will burst out in rages against you while you're with him -- but he won't want you to leave him. This is why one of the two best-selling BPD books is titled, I Hate You, Don't Leave Me!
My advice, KJ, is to see a psychologist -- for a visit or two all by yourself
-- to obtain a candid professional opinion on what it is you and your young children are dealing with. I also suggest that, while you're looking for a good psych, you read about BPD warning signs to see if they seem to apply.
Learning to spot these warning signs will not enable you to diagnose your H's issues. Only a professional can determine whether his BPD traits are so severe as to constitute full-blown BPD. Yet, like learning warning signs for breast cancer and heart attack, learning those for BPD may help you avoid a very painful situation -- e.g., avoid returning to this toxic relationship or, if you do decide to leave him, avoid running right into the arms of another man just like him. Being able to spot BPD red flags also may help you decide whether there is sufficient reason to obtain a candid professional opinion from a psychologist.
An easy place to start reading is my list of 18 BPD Warning Signs
. If most sound very familiar, I would suggest you read my more detailed description of them at my posts in Maybe's Thread
. If that description rings many bells, I would be glad to join the other respondents in discussing them with you. Take care, KJ.