I've been with my wife almost ten years. On good days my Sun rises and sets with her, but on the bad days (which lately has increased in numbers and intensity) it's just an emotional hell for both of us.
I'm not perfect and I do things I wish I didn't, which I'm ashamed of, and which I can't ever take back. Our marriage counseling seems to only be proving that there's never going to be any way I can make true reparation for the things I've done. I'm guilty of hitting her, I'm guilty of saying mean things. She does both too but I can only help myself. She's the only one who can help herself.
About four years ago I voluntarily found and went to an Anger Management program. She thanked me at the time for doing this. I stayed 100% transparent about what I learned, I never resisted anything the instructor was telling us or acted like it didn't apply to me because my situation was different etc. I knew that no matter the reason I had no right putting my hands on her and that it was my responsibility to not do it. That required accepting my responsibility and learning tools I could use for self control.
After the class was over I let her know what exactly it was I needed to do whenever I was feeling even the possibility of that kind of anger rising: for me it meant taking a break, walking the block one or two times until my adrenaline could subside. Barring that, any sort of activity with my hands such as dishes or laundry would work too, provided I wasn't having to hear a barrage of accusations, name calling, etc.
She doesn't allow it: she blocks the door so that my only choices are to stay while the adrenaline rises and the situation gets worse, or physically remove her which defeats the purpose and counts as abuse. If I am able to get outside she'll holler to the entire neighborhood that I abuse her (this she's only recently started, years after I took the class) or she'll threaten to go online and tell our friends and family everything I've ever done. She's even threatened to make stuff up because "they'll believe me over you"
She could've left me in the very beginning and it would've been the right decision. Nobody would've questioned her choice and I would've even understood that was the correct consequence of my action. She agreed to let me try to make it right, but I don't think now she really meant that. Because any little argument, no matter what about, inevitably results in a long, hours on eruption about every last crime I've ever committed against her.
I want to do everything I can possibly do to make honest amends and reparation for her. But it's obvious she also needs help being able to process everything that had happened to her because all these years later it's still there. When I mentioned that she took it as me passing on the quote-unquote blame to her which wasn't what I was trying to do. I think we both need help.
Aggravating the situation is that she's living with a life-threatening condition. She has stage iv cancer. Obviously it severely affects her health. It's hard for her to get around. Even if she had her drivers license she's often too fatiqued to get herself ready for the day until usually the afternoon. If she forces herself earlier (such as for an appointment) it interferes with her ability to feel comfort later on.
She's stuck in the house while I'm at work. During lunchtime I go home and open the blinds to try to let some sunlight in (but that's not always possible in the Pacific Northwest.) We live near a bus stop but again she's fatigued so that's not always easy. Plus, there aren't many "hangout" locations in our town. Visiting a business means spending money which we're not rolling in.
A consequence of her illness, our hostile history, and her virtual isolation is that she's also living with depression. Being on medicaid means her choices for help are limited, and often ineffective. Even people with more money and options sometimes get ineffective mental health treatment. She hasn't really had the opportunity to have a dedicated one-on-one counselor or psychiatrist. She's either been placed in groups with people whose psychiatric needs are way different from hers, or she's given medication that makes things worse (and which the doctors answer by INCREASING the "make things worse" med after she tells them how it's affecting her.)
What sometimes happens is she feels overwhelmed about her situation, rightfully so. The way she handles it is part of why I feel no matter what, that according to her I'll never be able to do anything regarding our relationship right.
This afternoon she was supposed to have her monthly appointment at the cancer center. It's located an hour from home. She wanted to reschedule it for tomorrow (it's a relatively simple procedure and usually easy to schedule anytime, especially on a weekend.)
We were having trouble finding an after-hours number online, and before we finally found it she was wondering why, in her words, I scheduled it for Saturday since that was stupid. No, she didn't specifically say I was stupid for doing it, but she verified it was a stupid thing to do. Bear in mind this appointment had already been rescheduled from earlier when I was going to take time off from work to take her. (Something I've NEVER resented.) Also bear in mind nothing prevents her from scheduling her own appointments. Especially if her husband's stupid enough to schedule a Saturday.
Fortunately we got through, rescheduled the appointment, and suddenly she wasn't snapping and griping anymore. She even apologized. We were both thankful it hadn't escalated into an argument.
But the good, calm feeling wouldn't even last an hour.
I'm also in a play. I haven't done anything like this in many years and when I saw this particular one was being done I thought it would be interesting. My wife actually ENCOURAGED me to try out for it, otherwise I would've contented myself with seeing it when it's on.
We had our first rehearsals this week. It's four nights of the week. We have Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays off (although I'll be working Saturdays during the three weeks of showtime)
This morning I suddenly had to learn from her that not only am I away from her "every single day of the week" but that also the only reason I went for the play was so that I'd have an excuse to get away from her. This wasn't said in the heat of a fight, she said this out of the blue. Apparently I care more about this theater group than her and want to spend all my spare time with it (I've ONLY been there during rehearsal times.) She's talked about volunteering places (in fact she already volunteers somewhere once every other week), has talked about trying to find part-time work now that she knows what she's allowed to earn and still get disability, she's even talked about meeting friends for coffee.
Instead of working towards any of that, she focused on how she's stuck in the house while I'm having fun with a stupid show, all for a stupid part that only has one line so why do I need to be in every scene. Once she was done she raised the bar. I'm now, in her exact words, a "homosexual f****t" hoping to find a guy after I leave her. She says I act like a f** and talk like one, EVERYONE else has noticed it too.
All of this because...I don't know why. I know she's bored and lonely sometimes but she doesn't put any effort in getting out of the house, doesn't ask me to take her anywheres after work or during lunch, makes excuses for why she doesn't really want to see her friends. Nevermind the fact she encouraged me to audition. She says she didn't know I'd have so many rehearsals for a stupid amateur theater production. Why would I do it if I'm not even getting paid.
During this time she suffered another panic attack. It always happens when we're arguing. She'll hyperventilate, then start choking. She'll fall to the floor and thrash. She accuses me of being the cause of it - in fact, accuses me of being the reason her cancer came back, of why she has scar tissues on her lungs, of why she self-harms: she's cut herself, scratched herself, hit her head against things, taken pills, written derogatory things over her body. She's also threatened to do these things while trying to manipulate me. It's impossible to be understanding, it's impossible to try to help, because I'm to blame for every last thing that's wrong with her and she makes sure I know it. For hours and hours she tells me in the worst ways imaginable.
When I hit her it's abuse, I agree. When I call her names or say mean things it's emotional abuse, I agree.
But when she does it it's alright as far as she's concerned. She's still outraged that the police almost arrested HER after she slapped me twice without provocation or defending herself during an argument. It's worse for me to do it because she has cancer, she'll say it herself but if I were to say it then I'd be accusing her of using cancer as a weapon, further proof I'm abusive.
When she's venting if I try to talk she'll tell me to shut up, that she can't stand my voice, and that she won't believe anything I say anyway because I lie all the time. But if I stay silent and just let her talk she says I'm ignoring her, that it shows how little I really care about her. No matter what I do, it won't be right.
At this point I'm ready for divorce. I was ready after latest incident with the police - which happened to be our third anniversary and which she started seconds before we were to go out for dinner. The night where she decided it was alright to slap me until I messed up and slapped her back to which she immediately grabbed the phone and called 911. It's almost like she wanted to prove that Anger Management didn't work.
I spent the night at a hotel (otherwise the police were going to arrest her) and the next morning was going to pick up papers for divorce but she was begging me to come home - after emailing me hostile and abusive letters for hours she suddenly needed me, and when I got there she had written all over herself and was crying about how she's worthless, nobody loves her, and she's not good enough for me. She begged me not to cancel our weekend trip that was booked for that weekend.
I gave in. But I don't think I will this time. First thing Monday morning I'm picking up the paperwork.
We don't have kids unless you count our pets. We rent and don't have real marital assets. I'm confident there won't be any disagreement over the dvds, cds, books, dishes, etc.
But this isn't fun. Despite everything I've shared I think the world of her. In another thread I'll focus on that - even if all I can do for both our sakes is agree to end the marriage.
First off, welcome! I'm glad you are here.
Secondly, without going into a point by point analysis of your very well-written post, two thoughts:
a) It's really hard to overcome a tendency for physical violence and then to come onto a public internet board and admit it. You seem like a stand-up guy, and I would like to acknowledge you for that.
b) I've been a caretaker for a cancer patient. Just because they have cancer doesn't mean they can't be a real PITA.
I don't have a lot more time, but I do think that your choice to pick up the paperwork is a sound one. I wish you well, and I hope you keep posting. And I'm so sorry for what you are going through.
CantWin, welcome to the TAM forum. I'm so sorry to hear that you and your W are suffering so.
Originally Posted by CantWin
She self-harms: she's cut herself, scratched herself, hit her head against things, taken pills, written derogatory things over her body.
CantWin, the strong association of cutting and self harm with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) is well known in the psychiatric community. Indeed, a recent academic study (pub. 2004) found that most "cutters" are women suffering from BPD. Specifically, it concluded:
Further, the behaviors you describe -- the black-white thinking, verbal & physical abuse, irrational jealousy, anger management issue, temper tantrums, self loathing, and I-am-always-The-Victim mentality -- are classic traits of BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), which my exW has.
I nonetheless offer two cautions. First, all of us occasionally exhibit all nine of the BPD traits, albeit at a low level if we are emotionally healthy. While under great stress (e.g., due to hormone changes, recreational drugs, or powerful cancer drugs), we may exhibit strong BPD traits for a short while (as you did when being physically abusive). This means that BPDers differ from other folks only in degree, not in kind.
Hence, for someone to be suffering from a disordered personality, the BPD traits must not only be strong but also persistent. This means that, if your W does have strong aspects of the disorder, you should have been seeing red flags starting right after the marriage -- not just in the last few years of the marriage when she is undergoing cancer treatments.
Second, I note that only a professional can determine whether those traits are so severe as to satisfy all of the diagnostic criteria for having full blown BPD. Yet, for the purposes of deciding whether to remain married to her, you don't need to know whether her traits surpass the diagnostic threshold.
Even when those traits fall well short of that threshold (i.e., even when a person doesn't have full-blown BPD), they can be strong enough to make your life miserable and undermine your marriage. Moreover, strong BPD traits are easy to identify when occurring in a woman you've been living with for ten years. There is nothing subtle or nuanced about behavior such as verbal abuse, temper tantrums, jealousy, and constant blaming.
At this point I'm ready for divorce.
Walking away may be your best option if your W does have strong BPD traits. Yet, if you are a caregiver like me, your deep sense of guilt may make it very difficult for you to leave and -- once you've managed to leave -- difficult to resist her pleas for you to come back.
I therefore suggest you see a clinical psychologist -- for a visit or two by yourself -- to obtain a candid professional opinion on what it is you are dealing with. And, while you are waiting for an appointment, I suggest that you read about BPD traits to see if most of them seem to apply to your W's behavior. Although you cannot diagnose whether your W "has BPD," you nonetheless will find it easy to spot the red flags if you take a little time to read about them.