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Ask Suzanne Your Own Question

Suzanne, Mental Health Professional
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 919
Experience:  LCSW, RN. Mental Health, Relationship & Parenting issues.EMDR, Hypnosis.
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In a marriage of 18 years. Husband a former marine..very intense

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In a marriage of 18 years. Husband a former marine..very intense but completely removed from any relationships. He has no friends other than what I bring to relationship. No contact with family. Had a terrible childhood. It's all their fault. He is always angry..brooding...likes being alone BUT says he is a happy person. Loves to be told he did something good and "sneaks" glances of his arms or reflection at times. Weird. He is a very successful business owner. We have 2 daughters (14 and 12). With age, they become more detached from him. They don't like being around him. I have always called him "jekyll and hyde". I can literally leave the room with him being ok and come back to a different mood. There have been 2 physical contacts when we have argued. If I really push his buttons he goes into hyper-drive anger. I have thought for years that he was bi-polar or borderline. Think he is narcissistic. I have gone from confusion, anger, raging, withdrawal, confrontation, silence, and counseling trying to find the fix to dealing with him. Any thoughts or recommendations would be appreciated.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Suzanne replied 5 years ago.

Thanks for bringing your question to JustAnswer.

I don't think you are going to like my answer, but it is based on years of experience counseling the children of unhappy marriages.

You may think you are doing your daughters a favor by staying in this verbally and physically violent and unhappy marriage, but you're not. They are detaching themselves from him and don't like being around him. All the material advantages in the world are not worth making them live with someone they're afraid of.

You're modeling that it's good to stay with a man (no matter how he treats you) for financial security. Is that how you want them to think when they get into relationships themselves in a few years? Children tend to re-create what they grew up with. In my experience counseling children and teens, they are most often relieved when the parents finally put an end to the tension and fighting by divorcing.

At 43, you are young enough to get training for a job that will enable you to be financially independent. You've tried counseling and talking, etc., etc, and nothing has worked. You know how to push his buttons, and the risk of the abusive behavior escalating is very real. You've withdrawn from a person who has no other relationships--this will most likely escalate the rage. Better to take the risk of going out into the world on your own financially than the risk of getting physically and emotionally scarred by his hyper-drive anger and physical abuse. Two physical contacts show that you're on the way toward being a battered woman.

You can't make him change...that much is clear. Whether he is narcissistic, borderline, etc....that won't change. Personality disorders are formed in childhood, and require very intensive therapy to have any chance of improvement. What you have to figure out is how long you're willing to continue living in a now loveless marriage.

The only thing you can change in this situation is your reaction to it. Go back into counseling for yourself, and work on the issues that cause you to stay and keep your daughters in this very unhappy situation. Once you've done that, it will be time to figure out if there's anything else to try, or if it's time to admit that the marriage is over.

I know you may have hoped to hear how to fix him...but we can't change anyone but ourselves, ever.

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