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Seeking some advice on my marriage because I honestly can’t tell if its salvageable anymore. I’ll try to keep it brief but like most of us, there’s a lot to it…

Married for 10 years, 3 kids (5,7,9), but about 3 years ago my wife began to change, becoming angry easily, being aggressive when we disagreed (by aggressive I mean screaming, stomping, pounding furniture with her fists, slamming doors and cabinets, etc). We began to fight a lot and about everything, my family (whom she doesn’t like although she has never said that and mostly tries to get along). In particular one of my brothers, who I cosigned student loans for. He dropped out, defaulted, and didn’t repay them. I had to fix them so we could buy a house, which I did with some money left by my grandfather. I was pissed at him for a while, but he’s my brother and I forgave him. She did not. He has apologized, even sent her a letter (she demanded it) to apologize. But I still cannot bring him up without making her angry. When we have family get togethers (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc) she gets mad if he is involved. She skipped out on his wedding because of a work trip, while I took the kids myself.

We also fought about private school, which I think is an unnecessary expense. After many fights and her explaining that education was the most important thing to her, I relented. The school is great but soooo expensive. So money is tight.

After the school was settled, things returned to normal for a while but her mood went downhill again. She was angry a lot and easily. She said she felt unsettled and that we needed to buy a house and put down roots. So we did.

After we bought a house, things returned to normal for a while (about 6 months) and then she became worried about everything…North Korea had nukes, Donald Trump got elected, we didn’t have enough money to go on long vacations overseas that she craved, so on and so on. About 2 years after buying the house she announced that we should sell everything and travel the world for a year. I said that I don’t want to do that for a number of reasons, but we could go to some part of the world for a couple weeks every year (or every other year as our money is tight) to show the kids the world. She gave me an ultimatum that either we travel the world for a year or move to Hawaii.

We live near DC, and our entire family lives within a day’s drive, mostly in the NY/NJ/PA area. She’s an only child and her parents live in NYC. They are in their 90’s. My parents are in their 70s. I believe strongly in family am close to my brothers and sister and my parents, and it is more important to me to live near them, than to live in a particular place. I offered to draw a circle around where her folks live that would be a five hour drive and we could move anywhere in that circle.

She has convinced herself that Hawaii with its sun and laid back life style is the only thing that can help her feel better. Her health had deteriorated as well especially in the last year. Nothing serious. At one point she told me she thought she might die in the next year, and she wanted to spend her last days in Hawaii. She says, lets move to Hawaii for a couple of years and see how it goes. Then we can discuss moving someplace else. But I don’t want to move every couple years and I definitely don’t want that for the kids, who have friends in their expensive private school. Its not fair to them.

I think she has anxiety and/or depression but she won’t see anyone for it. She says a sunny climate will fix everything. I am very stoic and not easily angered by things, even when she is yelling and screaming. I tried to get her to couple counseling but she gets angry and refuses. I went to therapy myself for a while and my therapist helped me see that she was manipulative and verbally abusive. Well, you get the gist….am I not giving my marriage everything if I don’t move to Hawaii? I hate the idea of my kids growing up in a divorced home, and being unprotected from her anger and depression (which I fear will be focused on them if I am not here to absorb it.)

 

I fear if I give in and move with her, that things will not change, and we will end up divorced in a place far from our family and friends where I will be forced to live to split time with the kids. If I divorce now, I at least stand a better chance of having that support network around. Ideally, she would get mental health help and we could find a place to live that we both wanted. What am I to do?

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Have you and she actually gone to Hawaii to see if you both like it there? A vacation there might show her that the grass is not always greener on the other side.

 

She does sound restless, depressed and anxious. If she won't go to therapy, then you should go as your kids are more important than where you live.

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OP, to be truthful she sounds rather unhinged.

 

"my wife began to change, becoming angry easily, being aggressive when we disagreed (by aggressive I mean screaming, stomping, pounding furniture with her fists, slamming doors and cabinets, etc)."

 

This makes for sad reading:

 

"I hate the idea of my kids growing up in a divorced home, and being unprotected from her anger and depression (which I fear will be focused on them if I am not here to absorb it.)"

 

Don't even contemplate knuckling down under her bullying ways, and most certainly do not move to Hawaii or anywhere else.

 

And this is pure emotional blackmail:

 

" At one point she told me she thought she might die in the next year, "

 

Of course she won't visit a psychiatrist or psychologist for her serious issues, because she knows full well what she is going to hear. It is easier to bully you.

 

This is not looking good, OP.

 

I hesitate to ask, but surely there were signs before you married of what is now, essentially, the real her?

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Matty.

 

You ask:

 

"What am I to do?"

 

And I can only reply:

 

"What are you going to do?"

 

No sunny climate will fix her, and I feel you know this.

 

There is a saying:

 

"Wherever you go, there you are".

 

Unless she addresses her considerable issues, and it looks like she doesn't want to do so, then you may find you have to start addressing the practicalities of a divorce.

 

"Or she just controlled them better."

 

No, OP, she just hid them better.

Edited by LaHermes
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Your therapist is correct that she is manipulative and abusive. If she is going so far as to hit things like furniture, I hate to tell you this, but it's only a matter of time before she hits you as well.

 

Your children aren't oblivious to her abuse and as much as you think you are shielding them, the real shield would be divorce and full custody. So please talk to a very good lawyer or two on how to go about that. You will need documentation about her rages and even recordings of it to convince the courts. Do not tell her you want a divorce until you have all your ducks in a row. Get the best professional guidance on that you can get. Your children are already living in a toxic broken home. Divorce would actually make it less toxic.

 

You already know from experience that appeasing her only works for a few months before she starts demanding something else. Her "happiness" is a moving target and because it is always moving, you can never succeed. Btw, that's also part of abuse - constantly moving targets so you can never succeed at whatever the abuser is demanding and thus giving them reason to continue to abuse and put blame on you for it. Neat little psychological trick. Bottom line is that abusers never change - they will pretend, even go to therapy for a bit, but the deeply rooted entitlement cannot be erased. These people can't be fixed because deep down they don't believe they are wrong, they think they are entitled to do whatever they wish.

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She sounds bipolar. Running between wanting roots put down, expensive schooling for kids, to insisting on moving away from family to Hawaii?

 

Do NOT do it!

 

Instead, she needs to get evaluated for a mood disorder by a professional.

 

And, you need to protect yourself and your family from her rages.

 

If she draws a line in the said over this, then let her cross it.

 

Prepare yourself for what is coming.

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Flagging DF's post. Please read and re-read it OP.

 

"Your therapist is correct that she is manipulative and abusive. If she is going so far as to hit things like furniture, I hate to tell you this, but it's only a matter of time before she hits you as well.

 

Your children aren't oblivious to her abuse and as much as you think you are shielding them, the real shield would be divorce and full custody. So please talk to a very good lawyer or two on how to go about that. You will need documentation about her rages and even recordings of it to convince the courts. Do not tell her you want a divorce until you have all your ducks in a row. Get the best professional guidance on that you can get. Your children are already living in a toxic broken home. Divorce would actually make it less toxic.

 

You already know from experience that appeasing her only works for a few months before she starts demanding something else. Her "happiness" is a moving target and because it is always moving, you can never succeed. Btw, that's also part of abuse - constantly moving targets so you can never succeed at whatever the abuser is demanding and thus giving them reason to continue to abuse and put blame on you for it. Neat little psychological trick. Bottom line is that abusers never change - they will pretend, even go to therapy for a bit, but the deeply rooted entitlement cannot be erased. These people can't be fixed because deep down they don't believe they are wrong, they think they are entitled to do whatever they wish."

 

And I second what Jim says too.

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Bi-Polar Symptoms usually start in your late 20's early 30's and, I normally never say this, but she is not well mentally. Her impulsivity, her lack of regard for her kids and you...it's all about her. Please note each time she makes irrational demands with dates.

 

Do not be afraid of divorce. Kids thrive in consistent environments - not ones that changes every few months. And you have no idea what she is saying or doing to them when you are at work or away from the house.

 

Bi-Polar is not like manic depression where you are up and down. You could be up for months with Bi-Polar and down for months or more. And don't think you need to fix her. If she doesn't believe in help, then it doesn't matter how much you carry her - she needs to be able to get herself treatment and stay on it.

 

Do not lay there and think it will get better. It's progressively getting worse. I would not move (period). Tell her she can visit for a few weeks on her own, and see what parts she likes. And while she's away, talk to a lawyer. This is not a call for couples therapy. She's unwell. So even if you gave her everything and anything, she will still find a way to soon hate it and blame you all for it.

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Your wife is beyond flighty and unreasonable.

 

You've answered your own dilemma regarding divorcing now and at least standing a better chance of having a support network. Do that if you've exhausted all other avenues.

 

I've heard a lot of firsthand insider information from friends regarding Hawaii and I've traveled to Hawaii numerous times.

 

If you live in Hawaii and you're not from the islands, it takes approximately 10+ years before you're fully accepted in their community. Hawaiians are wary and not fond of "outsiders" or "mainland-ers" until you've resided there for a number of years.

 

Also, it's very expensive to live in Hawaii.

 

Their produce at grocery stores always look awful because everything is shipped or flown from the mainland. Fruit and veggies look rough by the time it reaches Hawaii. Food is expensive in Hawaii.

 

Even though it's sunny in Hawaii, it rains a lot and the weather is HUMID so be prepared for tropical, sticky, hot, sweaty, wet weather.

 

Hawaii is wonderful if you're on vacation and live at a high end hotel resort.

 

My friend's in-laws live in Hawaii and they always have a chronic mildew and mold problem in their house due to year round HUMID weather despite constant housecleaning.

 

People who don't live in Hawaii don't have this insider first account information.

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You should speak more candidly with your wife about your marriage before throwing in the towel or divorcing her (or separating). She may not realize how close you are to the brink if you're so "stoic". Do you communicate well? How's your sex life? She doesn't appear happy but before you start going through the divorce process you need to take a very good look at the way you're contributing to the problems in your marriage also. Divorce is not an easy way out and there's a lot of processing involved later on as well especially regarding coparenting and starting new relationships later. Her behaviour while alarming is heartbreakingly sad to me. Is she aware that you were seeing a therapist? Has your therapist invited having her also or have you considered seeing a different one for couples therapy?

 

I have other questions - Does she work? What does she do? Does she go out much or have time to herself away from the kids? What's the romance like in your relationship? If it's non-existent, when did it start this way? Has she made comments about not being as emotionally close to you? Or that both of you should make more of an effort? Do you go out for dates?

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Privately and confidentially speak with an attorney for some answers and options in your case.

 

It's unclear what's going on with her medically but you say this is recent? Obviously moving to Hawaii is not the solution.

 

Since she doesn't want to address this through joint therapy and you can't force anyone to seek medical help (by the way, that is fixing behavior... if they just saw a doctor and changed all would be perfect).

 

It's frankly as unrealistic as thinking moving to Hawaii will solve the problems. You'll have to make some changes that come from you and realistically address this.

 

Don't get wrapped up in Dr Google on this. Why? Because it doesn't matter what she has whether it's occult substance abuse a brain tumor a mood disorder, whatever. Fixing her won't solve the problem.

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Agree with Wiseman.

 

This is best advice OP

 

"Privately and confidentially speak with an attorney for some answers and options in your case.

"

 

IMO the OP is up against a stone wall here.

 

"..about 3 years ago my wife began to change, becoming angry easily, being aggressive when we disagreed (by aggressive I mean screaming, stomping, pounding furniture with her fists, slamming doors and cabinets, etc)."

 

"then she became worried about everything…North Korea had nukes, Donald Trump got elected, we didn’t have enough money to go on long vacations overseas that she craved, so on and so on. About 2 years after buying the house she announced that we should sell everything and travel the world for a year. "

 

Sounds like sheer living hell, OP. Btw you haven't come back OP.

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She's definitely bi-polar. Her spells are called mania. Exaggerated behavior, need for ditching everything and moving, wanting to spend money excessively, having tunnel vision, bullying you into getting what she wants...so like my mother. One of my mom's purchases was an RV that was over 100K, she barely used it. She's has her moments where she is so mean, has such a hate for my sister-in-law so she alienated herself from the family.

 

Dude you are in a tight spot. I agree to seek out legal counsel first. Then seek out medical advice on her condition, maybe even get family involved for a intervention, or do one on your own. She needs medical assessment and treatment.

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I would send wife on a trip to Hawaii and let her research places she wants to live, costs, job prospects, etc.

 

Let her build a realistic case, if she can, to bring home for discussion. If she doesn't come home, that's on her. Meanwhile, seek legal advice and don't allow her to take the kids out of state.

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Thanks. She's visited a few times for 2 weeks, and worked there for 3 months in her 20's. But life with three kids is so much different than vacationing in a place. I think the points you make about Hawaii are things that deep down she knows but ignores or doesn't care about.

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Thanks to all of you for your support and suggestions. It is hard to get alone on the computer to respond to you all so it takes some time for me to respond.

 

To answer some of the other questions on here...Yes, she works. Full time in the field of medical research. She's well paid (better than me) and worked hard to build her career. She also does not care about her career anymore. About 3-4 years ago she took a new job which she said was too good to be true. And then 6 months ago she quit it, after months of telling me how much she hated it. She took a new job, which has much more flexibility, the same pay, all work from home....aka her new dream job. Predictably, she now hates that job and is looking for a new job.

 

And I did see a lawyer, about 18 months ago, just to educate myself on what divorce would bring. It was an expensive hour, but definitely helped me understand where things stand. In short, they said that unless she does something very serious (that would involve the police, for example) we would split custody 50-50, because the cost of trying to prove that she was unfit or unwell would be extremely costly in court/lawyer fees, and the courts in our state try hard to keep joint custody in any situation possible.

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Thanks. It can feel like things are so good sometimes, not perfect, but she seems happy, and I can relax and enjoy. But I know what is coming again, and I can feel my body constantly tensed, waiting for her emotions to go downhill again. But I have trouble walking away from someone that I love, and that I pledged to love no matter what. Its easy to see (sometimes) that I would be happier if we divorced, but hard to actually take that step. Now that we are all quarantined together it is an even harder to take.

 

She's definitely bi-polar. Her spells are called mania. Exaggerated behavior, need for ditching everything and moving, wanting to spend money excessively, having tunnel vision, bullying you into getting what she wants...so like my mother. One of my mom's purchases was an RV that was over 100K, she barely used it. She's has her moments where she is so mean, has such a hate for my sister-in-law so she alienated herself from the family.

 

Dude you are in a tight spot. I agree to seek out legal counsel first. Then seek out medical advice on her condition, maybe even get family involved for a intervention, or do one on your own. She needs medical assessment and treatment.

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Thanks Rose. I told her about my therapist, only after I'd been going for a while, when I suggested she see someone and she was angry about me suggesting it. I thought it would help. It didn't. She works full time, but she does not go out much beyond that. I handle 99% of the school-related social functions, I take the kids to all of the children's birthday parties, I go to the potlucks, I coach kids soccer and baseball, and lead Cub Scouts. She has had years worth of excuses for why she doesn't want to go make small talk at these things...her health, her self-esteem, etc. Her closest friends are a group of high school friends. I encourage her to talk and Zoom with them whenever possible.

 

There's not a lot of romance in our relationship. I don't know how or when that happened. Over time, its become stressful to spend time one-on-one with her over dinner or drinks. It almost always ends in an argument about Hawaii or me dodging the subject. She's not interested in other topics at this point and so its safer to just sit and watch TV or work.

 

 

You should speak more candidly with your wife about your marriage before throwing in the towel or divorcing her (or separating). She may not realize how close you are to the brink if you're so "stoic". Do you communicate well? How's your sex life? She doesn't appear happy but before you start going through the divorce process you need to take a very good look at the way you're contributing to the problems in your marriage also. Divorce is not an easy way out and there's a lot of processing involved later on as well especially regarding coparenting and starting new relationships later. Her behaviour while alarming is heartbreakingly sad to me. Is she aware that you were seeing a therapist? Has your therapist invited having her also or have you considered seeing a different one for couples therapy?

 

I have other questions - Does she work? What does she do? Does she go out much or have time to herself away from the kids? What's the romance like in your relationship? If it's non-existent, when did it start this way? Has she made comments about not being as emotionally close to you? Or that both of you should make more of an effort? Do you go out for dates?

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Matty. Glad to hear you consulted a lawyer on the matter.

 

Granted that in the midst of the Covid situation it is difficult to set any process in motion. But I have to ask, what do you intend to do? You do realise that she is mentally ill.

 

Do you see yourself living in this manner for the next ten, twenty, thirty years?

 

"She also does not care about her career anymore. About 3-4 years ago she took a new job which she said was too good to be true. And then 6 months ago she quit it, after months of telling me how much she hated it. She took a new job, which has much more flexibility, the same pay, all work from home....aka her new dream job. Predictably, she now hates that job and is looking for a new job."

 

"I handle 99% of the school-related social functions, I take the kids to all of the children's birthday parties, I go to the potlucks, I coach kids soccer and baseball, and lead Cub Scouts. She has had years worth of excuses for why she doesn't want to go make small talk at these things...her health, her self-esteem, "

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That's fine. Don't drag it out.

And I did see a lawyer, about 18 months ago, just to educate myself on what divorce would bring. It was an expensive hour, but definitely helped me understand where things stand. In short, they said that unless she does something very serious (that would involve the police, for example) we would split custody 50-50, because the cost of trying to prove that she was unfit or unwell would be extremely costly in court/lawyer fees, and the courts in our state try hard to keep joint custody in any situation possible.

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No...I don't see myself living this way for the next ten years. But asking for a divorce is a huge step to take. One that I never imagined I would take. And one that seems to end everything we've built I the last 10 years. Are we really unfixable to give up hope? Is she?

 

Matty. Glad to hear you consulted a lawyer on the matter.

 

Granted that in the midst of the Covid situation it is difficult to set any process in motion. But I have to ask, what do you intend to do? You do realise that she is mentally ill.

 

Do you see yourself living in this manner for the next ten, twenty, thirty years?

 

"She also does not care about her career anymore. About 3-4 years ago she took a new job which she said was too good to be true. And then 6 months ago she quit it, after months of telling me how much she hated it. She took a new job, which has much more flexibility, the same pay, all work from home....aka her new dream job. Predictably, she now hates that job and is looking for a new job."

 

"I handle 99% of the school-related social functions, I take the kids to all of the children's birthday parties, I go to the potlucks, I coach kids soccer and baseball, and lead Cub Scouts. She has had years worth of excuses for why she doesn't want to go make small talk at these things...her health, her self-esteem, "

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Matty:

 

I am in no position to give an opinion on your wife's state of mind. It would be highly advisable that she sees a mental health professional immediately.

 

I can well understand that getting a divorce is a very big step. But I would say think of your children. The present situation is toxic for them and make no mistake, children absorb everything that is going on around them.

 

So, it's your call. Life deals out the playing cards in ways we don't often expect. And there are few certainties in life.

 

It is so important that the divorce is handled in the smoothest manner possible, mainly for the children's sake.

 

AS things stand, and from what you have narrated here, I wonder would your wife be fit to handle her 50% custody?

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Yes, I think that she is fit to handle her 50%, at least most of the time. She holds it together in public quite well, its when we are at home that the wheels come off.

 

And I agree about the smoothest divorce possible but I think she will go full scorched earth if/when I leave. She will do everything she can to get full custody (which she has threatened me with before during fights) and her family has much more money than I or my family so a prolonged legal battle will hurt me much more financially.

 

The last few days have been really good. Back to her normal self. But the next fall is inevitably coming. Right?

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A charming scenario, OP.

 

" I think she will go full scorched earth if/when I leave. She will do everything she can to get full custody (which she has threatened me with before during fights) and her family has much more money than I or my family so a prolonged legal battle will hurt me much more financially.

"

 

As Smackie said:

 

"Dude, you are in a tight spot".

 

She feels free to behave in any outlandish fashion she wishes because she knows you are afraid of her.

 

Yet you have said in your op:

 

"I hate the idea of my kids growing up in a divorced home, and being unprotected from her anger and depression (which I fear will be focused on them if I am not here to absorb it.)

"

 

While now you say:

 

"I think that she is fit to handle her 50%, at least most of the time. "

 

 

So, you have some thinking to do. Life is short, OP.

 

These were DancingFool's words:

 

"they will pretend, even go to therapy for a bit, but the deeply rooted entitlement cannot be erased. These people can't be fixed because deep down they don't believe they are wrong, they think they are entitled to do whatever they wish."

Edited by LaHermes
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