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Dr. Michael
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience:  Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
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I have been married for almost ten years to a man that I love

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I have been married for almost ten years to a man that I love dearly but who is making me terribly unhappy. I recently discovered he had been having an affair with one woman for a year and a half and with a second woman for about seven months. He had been suffering for a couple of years from what he explained to me as extreme anxiety which is why I was unable to discover his infidelity, although I suspected it many times. I would always speak to him about my fears in a non-confrontational way and he would emphatically assure me there was and never would be another woman, it was his mental health that was causing his withdrawn and cold reaction to me and to his young daughters. The situation intensified and I eventually discovered the affairs and kicked him out of our house. He had been drinking for several months to ease the anxiety and then he developed very severe alcohol abuse and was committed to rehab and a mental hospital for a short period (about 2 weeks). Upon release from the hospital he was adamant about his undying love and co
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 4 years ago.
Hello. I believe I can be of help to you with this issue.

His therapist was unethical for saying your decision was unethical. On what basis are you being unethical, SINCE, you entered this marriage with the understanding, expectation and agreement that you would have a trusting, fully monogamous and exclusive relationship. Your husband lead you to believe that he held the same core values and beliefs about monogamy in marriage as you did. The then creates a story about anxiety and emotional issues to explain the guilt, and emotional avoidance you experienced with him and lies and cheats on you with TWO women, no just one. He then doesn't squarely own up to his problems but escapes and avoids emotional and behavioral responsibility by self-medicating through excessive drinking and externalizes blame for the rift and conflict you have right now i.e., makes you feel like an enemy when you try to address HIS behavior.

My advice is to take this situation one day at a time and if you do have patience and possible interest in getting back together with him, make sure you are very cautious and require that he pass a number of tests. First, he needs to be fully abstinent from alcohol for at least 6 months, attend his therapy and AA meetings at least weekly. Second, you can tell him you have no basis to trust him because he cheated on you not just once (which most women can forgive) but twice (which most women cannot forgive). So he needs to offer you proposals about specific BEHAVIORS he is willing to engage in over the next several years to prove he is trustworthy. These might be an understanding that he NEVER has an email account you don't have passwords for, no bank accounts you don't have access to; nor cell phone billings or accounts, nor online website enrollments or memberships. He offers us 100% transparency in his life. He agrees to marital therapy with a new, neutral therapist neither of you have worked with before. He needs to understand that there can be no leeway or 'forgiveness' if he makes the above agreements (and any others you want to include) and that you'll decide he isn't interested in the abiding by the marital vows he took with you completely; you'll decide that the two of you really do hold fundamentally different core values and beliefs about marriage and monogamy, and how to build trust in a relationship.

Now, I can also tell you that morally, you are well within your rights to divorce this man, mostly based on his lying and multiple episodes of cheating. So you have options and you have substantial power and control right now. But whatever you do, you need to strictly follow what your 'wise, rational mind' tells you to do, not your 'emotional, needy' mind.

I'll pause here and solicit your feedback.
I'll pause here and solicit your feedback.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I'm sorry, I wasn't clear with my question. I was hoping to find out if his behavior is indicative of a personality disorder, specifically Borderline Personality Disorder. He appears to be in severe conflict with his self-image as a husband and father. This extreme fluctuation in values and behavior really seems to demonstrate mental health issues and it would help so much if I could better understand what is driving this bizarre and high risk behavior.
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 4 years ago.
Yes, it came to mind to me that you might be married to someone with a personality disorder so this is a VERY GOOD possibility. Statistically speaking, he is likely to have what could be called a mixed personality disorder---some borderline features, some from the narcissistic personality disorder. So it is most common to see mixed types---some symptom from one and some from another, because these really are NOT discrete disorders, as they are reflected in the DSM-IVTR (diagnostic manual in mental health).

Some of the common features of an overlapping borderline/narcissist would include a life-long history of unstable or conflictual relationships, with difficulties forming truly intimate, highly communicative, trusting and mutually satisfying relationships. Lack of ability to be introspective and self-evaluate one's strengths and weaknesses. Serious deficits in what we call 'executive functioning' which is the ability to inhibit impulses, step back when faced with a strong impulse, or problem and delay the response, examine the situation objectively, and make a mature, rational decision. So impulsiveness, self-gratification motives would be prominent. Lack of true empathic ability for others and an inability to appreciate how one's behavior impacts others. An inability to take responsibility for problems and the tendency to externalize blame when conflicts arise interpersonally. At the core, these people are actually very, very insecure and have low self-esteem that is easily damaged by criticism or failure. The have what we call emotion regulation problems---lack good coping strategies for dealing with strong negative emotions such as anger, frustration, depression. And, indeed these people are somewhat depression-prone.

Now, if your husband has prominent borderline features, here are two books that I recommend to my students. The first one is more of an insight-gaining book and the second is a manual we use to train therapists in what is called dialectical behavior therapy, which was specifically designed for treatment of borderline personality. You've obviously read a fair amount already about this but these books will give you some idea of the dynamics of the personality and what a competent therapist who works with borderlines would do to support, set limits, etc.

Now, I obviously went off on the wrong track with my first post so I'm going to pause here and check in to make sure i'm addressing your core question.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Yes, this is much more helpful. What hits home particularly is the comment about externalizing blame, I get an immense amount of hostility, anger and blame anytime the slightest conflict arises between us and if I make the slightest perceived criticism of my husband, he will be almost hateful and won't speak to me for sometimes days at a time. We have been together for over 15 years so its difficult to assess his inability to maintain trusting relationships, although I will say that probably most other women probably would have left him had he treated them as poorly as he has treated me over the years. Thank you very much for your help!
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 4 years ago.
Good luck with this challenge! Let me know if I can be of further help. Please click on the green Accept button at the bottom of the screen. Thanks.
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