Your husband almost certainly has what is called a Personality Disorder. Let me start by noting that nearly all of the research experts in the area of personality disorders recognize a couple of things: 1) most people who have personality 'problems' don't fully meet criteria for one of the 10 or so 'defined' disorders; they either have some of the traits of a personality disorder and not others (don't fully meet criteria); or they have a few characteristics of one disorder and a few of another (a 'mixed' personality disorder). If you are interested in appreciating what a 'mess' the construction of personality disorders is, just Google Theodore Millon, who is one of the leading experts on describing and classifying personality disorders. When you look at all of his mixtures of disorders and subtypes, you see scores of nuanced personality problems; 2) personality disorder features vary greatly in their severity---most lie on a continuum of severity. Also, there are a fair number of unofficial personality disorders that are still a matter of research and clinical debate e.g., passive-aggressive personality disorder, masochistic personality disorder are a couple that come to mind.
You can Google the following personality disorders individually to read more about them, but my hypothesis is that your husband would meet diagnostic criteria for a personality disorder that is in fact, an admixture of several disorders i.e., he meets a few criteria of several, and together, they represent a mixed personality disorder or what is officially designated as Personality Disorder NOS (not otherwise specified). Google DSM and then each of the following: DSM Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder; Dependent Personality Disorder; Borderline Personality Disorder
, Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Again, his particular disorder will involve 1-2 features of each of these, 'mixed' together.
What can you do? Well, you are the very best path, doing about 50% of what a spouse can do to help her husband with this problem. That is, you are ignoring or refusing to reinforce his insecurity behaviors; you are withholding attention when he is behaving in an unacceptable manner to normal actions of everyday independence everyone must engage in; you are proceeding to do what you need to do, without any fanfare or verbal reassurance. Good for you. The other thing you can do is to start paying attention to anything he does that shows a struggle on his part to RESIST being controlling, demanding, extract reassurance from you, when he becomes insecure. You probably know these patterns well and certainly, based on your history, there are some very small, minor things he is trying to NOT DO anymore to create conflict with you. When you exert normal independence behaviors, and he DOESN"T react badly, you need to reinforce this positively. For example, "I was very pleased today when you didn't throw a fit when I needed to visit my sick girlfriend". So be complimentary, give him a hug, etc., when he acts more appropriately. You should try this combination of actions (ignoring bad behavior, reinforcing small, positive appropriate behaviors) during the next month or two and try to keep a journal of what happens. Not much will happen at first, and in fact, his behavior might get worse, but after a couple of weeks, he will catch on to the new rules you are laying out for obtaining warm interactions with you.
This really isn't a matter for couples therapy UNLESS the therapist can help you ignore and reinforce various actions on his part. Merely talking about this won't get you anywhere. One of the problems with personality disorders is that they are highly resistant to fundamental change i.e., some of the more problematic behaviors can moderate a bit, but in this case, for instance, this man will be FOREVER hugely insecure, dependent on you for validation and constant reassurance---but he may not act up as badly about his feelings of insecurity and jealousy/threat. So personality disorder symptoms are generally thought to be stable, chronic, and not prone to much change. The other aspect of these disorders has to do with externalization of blame i.e., the person doesn't feel their behavior is really out of line or unjustified; conflicts are always externalized i.e., if there is a problem, it is because of someone else's actions, or 'you made me react this way'. So gaining insight is a real problem. Also, in general, people with personality disorders have a serious problem forming and/or maintaining high quality, intimate relationships over the long term. They simply don't achieve this end because of their behavior.
You really need to insist that your husband continue in therapy with a clinical or counseling psychologist who is intimately familiar with personality disorders. The 'outcome' of his behavior can be characterized as 'spousal abuse
', but this is really an inadequate and superficial description. His real therapy 'work' involves learning ways to not react when he feels insecure or emotionally threatened, gain insight into how his behavior comes across to others; how it actually relieves his anxiety
in the moment, but damages the relationship because others lose respect for him, etc. So individual and possibly, group therapy can give him the feedback he needs to improve his awareness and insight into his behavior.
I'll pause here and give you a chance to react.
I will pause here and allow you to react.