I apologize for the length of this inquiry. My concerns have to do with my life partner. I am looking for anything else I might be able to do to help her struggle less and be more content. I am 65, she is 61, and we have been together for almost 20 years (married legally under NYS law last year!). I will state up front that I have accommodated myself to almost all of the issues I am about to describe. Also I personally have benefited greatly from talk therapy and SSRIs in dealing with my problems. Now to my partner: Despite what I would describe as a thicket of related issues, she has consistently refused to accept talk therapy, although I was able to convince her a few years ago to begin taking Welbutrin and Xanax (prescribed by our internist). I can see that she is somewhat less depressed and anxious since being on these meds. Nonetheless, she still suffers in ways I think could be helped. I am going to detail what is good in her and for our relationship: She is incredibly creative – painting, drawing, etching – just about anything related to the graphic or visual arts, and it seems to run in her family. She is funny, usually kind, we share very similar values and interests, and we have a good rhythm to our life together. We rarely argue, but settling conflicts is definitely my job. I am a trained mediator, and have a lot of experience in conflict resolution, so I generally defuse tense situations enough so that we can resolve things without fireworks. But when she does get angry, it’s 0 to 60 in about 10 seconds, and then I have to walk away until she cools off. Now to the ways she suffers: (1) She is emotional labile, and can conjure up a past injury or trauma– some parental abuse, a gang rape in her teens, a business partner who embezzled and nearly bankrupted her design studio 20 years ago, the loss of a home we built together 10 years ago, or deaths of friends (which happen more frequently now due to our age) with grief and anger that are as large and immediate as if those events happened yesterday. She just cries and refuses to continue talking. (2) Her immediate reaction to any setback is that it is catastrophic and the world will never be the same. We are going to die of starvation in a refrigerator box under an overpass. It takes me days or weeks to “talk her down” and get her to put the setback in perspective. (3) She has an extreme fear of being observed – all of the window shades in our house must always be closed even though I have demonstrated how little anyone can see from the street due to our position on a small cul-de-sac and large plantings I have added to obscure the house. (4) She nearly panics
before social events – she won’t know anyone, no one will talk to her, she will be bored, someone she doesn’t like might be there, etc. The tactic I have developed is letting her drive her own car so she can leave when she wants. But she never does. She ALWAYS has a good time and thanks me later for making her go. Note: I frequently go to events alone or with friends, however, because the anxiety
involved in the run-up is so exhausting that unless it is a must, I let her stay home. Still, she does not seem to be able to extrapolate from the pleasant social experiences to the impending ones. (5) For want of a better way to describe it, I will say that her brain is wired oddly. She is not dyslexic exactly, but commonly transposes letters and numbers. She has NO sense of direction or geographical orientation. She has lived in our city her entire life, a city with a lake on the northern border, and a series of expressways that run almost exactly east to west and north to south. Still she asks me if we are going the right way every time we drive someplace local, and sometimes when we are just blocks from home she will suddenly ask where we are. Her sister lives southeast of us, and her parents live in a north western suburb. I had to show her a map to convince her that it was not out of her sister’s way to pick us up for a picnic at her parents’ house – the house she grew up in. (6) She is also the physically clumsiest person I have ever encountered. If she can bang into it, trip over it, or set it on fire, she is likely to do so. How many times does a person have to bang her head on her own car roof getting in or out before some kinesthetic “learning” kicks in? She has laser-like focus on her work, but otherwise seems largely oblivious to her surroundings, and is therefore always banged up, burned, cut, or all of those at once. (7) Also her short term memory has been terrible the whole time I have known her. I don’t even know if the last 3 points have anything to do with the first four. I just thought they might be relevant. Advice?