From a woman in the U.S: My spouse definitely has major mental health problems that are affecting our family and that he is not dealing with, but I can’t figure it out and he won’t acknowledge it. It’s becoming impossible to live with him because he is undependable and very disconnected from our family. He never helps with anything around the house unless he’s at the manic part of the cycle he goes through. He has a lot of issues around anger, and it’s starting to affect his parenting, which is just disciplinarian but in a very inconsistent way. If he’s in a good mood, he is very generous and easy going, but if he is in a bad mood, he is too harsh and has very little empathy. It’s very confusing for our children, because they never know what he will be like on any given day.
My spouse was very charming when we first met and wooed me in the best way, but was also sometimes too controlling. Several years later, he now expects me to be just as affectionate as when we first met, no matter what he does, but it’s hard to feel romantic feelings for someone who is always trying to kick me out of my room or the house. He says more and more horrible things when angry, like that anyone else but him would have left me by now, that I disrespect him, that I am a miserable person who treats him badly 24/7, etc.
I have no idea what to do in order to continue living with him. He makes me so angry, but recently I’m wondering if I shouldn’t get mad because maybe it’s a disorder and not his fault. But then how do I live with impossible set of behaviors? How do I keep from reacting?
I’m desperate for some advice. We have tried marriage counseling, but he does not tell the truth. He has gone to therapy, but again only tells his own distorted side of things. He’s recently gotten much worse, trying to kick me out of the room or house when upset, throwing objects, yelling at the kids. I feel like so much damage is being done to our kids and I don’t know what to do about it. If only I could have an instruction manual to just not trigger him. When I try to appease him, it just makes things worse.
Thank you for writing. You asked for my advice. — In my opinion you and your kids should not have to put up with this behavior. What you are describing in verbal and emotional abuse. No one should have to live with such unpredictable and unreasonable anger. You and your kids should not have to walk on eggshells all the time in your own home out of fear that you will set him off.
There is no instruction manual for learning how to tolerate intolerable behavior. Your job isn’t to “appease” him. Ideally, he would join with you in making a loving and safe home for your whole family.
I don’t have enough information to comment on whether he is mentally ill. Regardless, illness is never an excuse for hurting one’s family. A diagnosis is only a descriptor for what seems to be wrong. It is up to the patient to then go forward with treatment to be successful in family life, at work, and in friendships.
Those who work hard at getting well earn the respect and support of those around them. Family and friends and even work places do make allowances for someone who is trying hard to change. Those who expect to be tolerated and loved no matter how badly they behave end up isolated and lonely, having damaged relationships beyond repair.
Since your husband doesn’t take therapy seriously, there is no point it trying it with him again. But there is definitely a point to you going for therapy on your own — and for possibly involving your kids. You need and deserve to have a supportive professional in your life who can help you decide how best to take care of yourself and your children.
I also suggest that you see if there is a chapter of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) in your area. NAMI is a grassroots organization where people who are living with mental illness and their families can get information and support. They also have a helpline. If you haven’t already, do check their website for information about the services they offer.
I wish you all well,