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Hard time deciding to divorce unstable wife

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Old 29th November 2017, 1:39 PM   #1
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Hard time deciding to divorce unstable wife

Iím right at the precipice of initiating a divorce with my wife of 15 years (27 years together). We have been separated for 7 months, which I initiated. We have no kids.

Background: Iím 58, generally easy-going, friendly, typically conflict avoidant, tend toward wanting harmony in my environment. Generally emotionally stable, somewhat introverted, but enjoy social interaction also. Tend to be super responsible.
My wife is 61, strong minded, exudes a powerful stance, not afraid of conflict, emotionally volatile, passionate, outward looking, rather extroverted, likes to challenge, tends to not look inward. Can be bossy and domineering. Does not work, though is well educated with a masterís degree.

The pattern in our marriage has been one of considerable ups and downs with the ups revolving around enjoying shared interests together and her moods being more at relative peace or joyful. Too much of the time, however, for me, neither of those are present, conflict exists, fights break out, and I either resist which tends to escalate the fight which generally leads to me giving in, or I simply give in from the start to avoid the fight. There has been a lot of ongoing stress in our live, in large part due to me allowing my wife to continue to instigate home remodel projects that have been very expensive and time consuming.

She also tends to spend money excessively. We have a huge credit card debt. Rather than address these and other issues head on, my tendency has been to over-compensate and comply by over-working (take on more and more side-jobs) to make more money and simply do as she wishes. Itís not that I never confront these situations. However, when I have, my experience has been that she creates such a stink about it that I over the years became more and more silent to keep the peace. Of course, resentment has followed resulting in some passive aggressive behavior on my part, having stuffed my anger over the situation.

I have been aware of the rather toxic situation for a long time, trying to make personal changes (with therapy and support group work) in order to confront the situation head-on, but never really finding the total courage to do that. I simply couldnít find the strength and stamina to do it while still living in the house. However, my awareness of the situation became stronger for me and as I began to confront things, our relationship further deteriorated and became to my view too toxic to remain in. Although there has never been any physical violence between us, she has exhibited what I consider to be extreme behavior such has screaming and yelling at the top of her lungs, throwing things (this hasnít happened in some years), ripping her clothes and scratching herself intensely, rare but occasional threats of suicide, numerous threats of divorce, jumping in our pool with her clothes on, slamming doors, etc.. She never comes back after things calm down to acknowledge or apologize for her behavior. Mostly, she wants to hold me responsible for her acting out behaviors, justifying what she has done.

Seven months ago I came to the realization, yet after another fight, that I was done, and needed to leave the toxicity of the house and figure out what I was going to do. I went to stay with a friend where I have been since then. He has been immensely supportive and I am eternally grateful. My wife has not responded well to this at all. She would call me constantly, leaving long somewhat threatening voice mails, etc. When I did choose to answer, our conversation quickly deteriorated into fights, consisting primarily of how cruel I was being, how much she is suffering, how sick she is, all due to "what I have done to her." I have done my best to try and empathize with how much pain she is in and refrain from pointing any fingers at her, working very hard at owning my part in the dysfunction of the marriage, and that what I was doing was once and for all taking loving care of myself and exploring my part in the problems, getting help etc.. I also tried to assert myself, again in non-blaming ways, what had been and hasnít been working for me and that I am no longer willing to tolerate those behaviors that are not working for me. We started in counseling with me expressing the above, but seemingly no progress. My anxiety over the situation, which hadnít ever been a problem for me, became so difficult to manage, mostly due to our unproductive and downright damaging phone conversations, that I ended up in the emergency room with an acute panic attack. I found it necessary to go no contact with her for 6 weeks. She called numerous times during that period, but I stuck to my boundary.

I got my psychological health back during that period and reached out to her to let her know I was willing to re-engage in counseling with her. That was two months ago. The only productive aspect I have seen during that period has been that I have been showing up more honestly and assertively than I ever have been, speaking my truth in non-blaming or shaming ways. Sheís heard my words, but sheís not getting where I am coming from. I have had to go back to no contact between sessions. She doesnít like or seem to respect any of what Iím doing to stay safe. She comes into session wanting to take over, dominate, and interrupt. If the counselor calls her out, sheís quick to let her know that sheís feeling like sheís being attacked by her, taking sides etc. She wants to get another counselor. This isnít our first.
I have been holding on to some hope that my boundary setting would eventually, after the initial phase of pushback, create some shift from her toward actually respecting me. Itís clear that that isnít happening. Iím feeling like itís time to move on. Iím having a terrible time letting go and Iím scared.

I do miss many aspects of our life together. I care about her very much. Iím afraid she might harm herself if/when I do initiate divorce. I donít know if she would do such a thing, but Iím scared.

Any feedback or advice would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 29th November 2017, 1:56 PM   #2
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Yep, it's time to walk away. If you continue to engage with her, you will only lose your psychological health again. It's time to make yourself the priority now.

I hear you on being concerned that she'll hurt herself - I went through that with my ex who (unsuccessfully) cut his wrists. But you must remember that it is her job to look after herself. You can't stick around being responsible for keeping her alive. If she makes a suicide threat, call emergency services and leave them to deal with her.

Given her adversarial nature, get yourself a good lawyer pronto.

Good luck with your new future.
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Old 29th November 2017, 2:00 PM   #3
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You have no children, she is educated but doesn't work, why?
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Old 29th November 2017, 6:03 PM   #4
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She has been trying to start a new business in a field that is rather experimental. There's not a lot of precedence for what she wants to do or money. She has also gotten side-tracked by house remodel projects.
It has become apparent to me that she's living in a bit of a fantasy about how possible what she wants to do is, and she doesn't want to work for anyone else.

We are scheduled to meet with a financial advisor next week to review our spending. I know where all the money is going and what needs to be done, but she won't hear it from me, so I'm going to let a third party illuminate the situation. I can't work any more than I already am, something's got to give:
her excessive spending, she will need to get a job, and the house will need to be sold to pay off the debt - none of which I anticipate her being willing to do.

I have enabled this to happen, and I'm now paying dearly for my unwillingness to confront the situation sooner.
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Old 29th November 2017, 6:17 PM   #5
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We spoke on the phone today for about a half hour as she asked to be heard out on some things. I just listened.

What I'm getting from her is that she is having a very difficult time managing her mind spinning stories and her associated emotions because I haven't been very available to her. My no contact and only meeting in counseling isn't working well for her. She also wants some kind of timeline on how long I am willing to give to try and work things out. Otherwise she feels in limbo and is afraid that at any moment I am going to cut her off financially or have her served. She's terrified and her style of getting control is be confrontational and manipulative. It's also my impression that she wants me to meet her needs so that she will feel better. Then, she says, she'll start behaving in ways that likely will work better for me. She wants to start meeting in public places so we can address things. From the way she has been showing up in counseling, I don't trust her and don't feel safe without a third party present.

She has also stated that I'm showing up highly guarded and cold. She's looking for more kindness and warmth from me. She's right, I'm guarded because I've been hurt a lot over the years, and especially in light of her behaviors since I left. I'm not able or willing to let that guard down right now.

If she could model something more inviting herself, and take some responsibility for the troubles between us, then I might be able to relax a bit.
But I'm not hearing any of that.

Part of me wants to try and meet her needs, but that doesn't seem wise given what's been going on. That's what I used to do too much, and sacrificed my own in the process.
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Old 29th November 2017, 7:17 PM   #6
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Best I can tell, today's call was all about her trying to suck you back into that vortex/black hole that is her neediness. Certainly sounds manipulative and trying to (still) control you. ("If you do what I want, then and only then, maybe I'll start to do a bit more of what you want." - I wouldn't count on it, right?)

I'd offer to trust all your own instincts. Don't meet without a third party (preferably a professional of whatever category) if you don't feel comfortable or strong enough to withstand pressure from her.
(Don't be afraid to admit to yourself if/where you're weak...cos that's the only way you can make sure to have the proper protection/defenses in place.)

Her 'mind-spinning' and feeling a bit emotionally off-the-rails - you can sort of liken it to a substance addict going through withdrawal. She's been so used to you being there in whatever capacity, as a crutch, a support, her cheerleader, etc., of course it's going to take some work to start standing on her own and taking responsibility for her own emotions, life, physical needs, etc.

Sorry you're going through all of this. It sucks. If you can get to a good financial solution, then divorce is an option because she is not a child and you are not her caretaker. It's not your fault that she has not made herself into a more independent (in all ways) adult.

Hugs and best.
"Good or benign intentions do not provide a defence." ~ Tony Wong, Reporter
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Old 29th November 2017, 10:52 PM   #7
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Google: Borderline Personality Disorder.

If the symptoms fit know you canít change her. And leave. With compassion.
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Old 29th November 2017, 11:43 PM   #8
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It's hard being an adult. She'll figure it out eventually, on her own.

These kind will kill you, one cut at a time. Sorry.
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Old 29th November 2017, 11:48 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Soundman View Post
My no contact and only meeting in counseling isn't working well for her. She also wants some kind of timeline on how long I am willing to give to try and work things out. Otherwise she feels in limbo and is afraid that at any moment I am going to cut her off financially or have her served.
No matter what her issues are, these are all reasonable complaints.

I remember when my ex got mad at me for sitting on the fence and leaving him in limbo about my leaving. I agreed that I was being unfair, so I commenced packing my bags immediately and was gone within the hour. His reaction was exactly what I needed to jolt me into making a decision.

Regarding your situation, I can't see that marriage counselling can work if you're in NC during the rest of the time. Shouldn't the two of you be practicing and working through what you're learning?

It is unfair to leave her in limbo. Rather than giving her a timeline, give her some tangible goals she would need to meet for you to stay. Perhaps getting real about the financial situation and agreeing to start working and sell the house. Also acknowledging her behaviour and starting therapy to address it. I was going to suggest getting a job, but being an older woman, I'm dubious about how much employment prospects there are for her.
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Old 30th November 2017, 4:53 AM   #10
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l dunno man ,don't be so hard on yourself , really your just a peaceful man , there's nothing at all wrong with that brother., lots of peaceful women out there too.

But that sort of personality in a women or anyone for that matter, just wares you down and wares you out with it's bs , if it doesn't drive you insane.
l really take my hat off to you living it for so long.

l doubt any counseling or help could change her at this stage, think your doing the right thing for yourself .

Good luck.
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Old 30th November 2017, 9:59 AM   #11
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Thanks for all your responses. Much appreciated.

It's true, I almost got sucked back into her neediness. Fortunately, I know better not to make decisions without sitting with things first and/or reaching out to a good trusted friend. I did just that and he helped get me back to sanity.

Re: BPD, I've read about it in the past and on and off over the years when things seemed crazy. Some of it relates to my situation but I've been reluctant to go down that path of diagnosing her with such a disorder. If it's a spectrum sort of thing, then maybe she's on it somewhere.

I let her know yesterday that I would call her back today regarding her requests to meet more often. I'm going to let her know that I'm not ready, I don't feel safe enough to do that, especially considering what I experienced with her in our last session (ambushed me by bringing our dogs, whom I miss dearly and haven't seen in 7 months to the session with out running that by me first, as well as got combative with the therapist when she was called out for her dominating and invalidating behavior, and proceeded to try and take over the session with how she thinks it should be run, then showed up at my office uninvited not to apologize but to justify her actions), and as well as over the past 7 months.

I'll tell her I appreciate the offer, that I appreciated some of what I heard from her the other day, that I love her, care about her, and want to know what's going on in her life (she has complained I haven't even been asking), but until she can begin showing behaviors that I've expressed will work for me, and take some ownership of her part in how things haven't been working, I will need a third person present.

As for the timeline request, I get how difficult that can be for her. I'm struggling some with that one. The best I can do now is commit to our next two appointments: one next Tuesday with the financial advisor to review our situation, and the other the following Saturday, and hour and half with our MC, to see how those two sessions play out. The financial piece is huge, and we haven't even addressed that yet.
She threw out a month to month thing as timeline option. I'm considering that, but I'm so close to being done that I don't even know I can make it that long. If I commit to that and then decide two weeks down the road I have had a enough, I'll either have to break my agreement with her which won't feel right, or string her along another two weeks which will likewise feel dishonest. I haven't quite settled on that one yet and have got a few hours to figure that out.

Thanks again folks for all your feedback.
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Old 30th November 2017, 10:58 AM   #12
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Remember that a financial adviser will only advise you what is best for you as a married couple. He won't know anything about divorce law. If you're going to divorce then the advice you receive might be incredibly bad! Remember the scene in Shawshank Redemption where the tax adviser advises the guard to put a monetary windfall in his wife's name to save tax...? He first asked if he trusted his wife, because if their marriage was on the rocks, it would have been a very foolish thing to do.

I'd advise you to (individually) see a divorce lawyer as well as a financial adviser, to get both sides of the story.
"Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so."
-- Douglas Adams
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Old 30th November 2017, 11:04 AM   #13
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Why would you stay with a woman who was bad for your mental health? She wants you to continue to be her financial plow horse so she can live in her fantasy world and spend your money while belittling you.

It won't be easy or fun in the short term, but longer term you will be way healthier and happier without her. Set her and yourself free. You will always regret staying with her. It is truly unhealthy for you.
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Old 30th November 2017, 11:31 AM   #14
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The financial adviser knows upfront that we are currently separated and that we are looking for help managing our finances while separated, as far more money is going out than is coming in. I know what needs to be done - I'm an accountant by trade - but she won't hear it from me. Let someone else state the obvious, and she can choose to respond however she wishes. I'm going to keep my mouth shut in the meeting. Maybe she will wake up and realize she has to take some responsibility, maybe not. That's information for me, one more piece, and a big one, to see if I have someone as a partner willing to have a real relationship or not.

I've spoken to a divorce attorney and know that once I file, she becomes on the hook for any "wasteful" spending she incurs. Within a month of so of filing a judge will force a temporary spousal maintenance arrangement that can only be better than how things are now.

This scheduled meeting is one I've been waiting for for over a month, with rescheduling and such. I consider it an important step in this process.
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Old 30th November 2017, 11:43 AM   #15
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notbroken: Although I did have some strong anxiety issues around my wife's behavior a couple of months ago, I'm not willing to blame her directly for that.
It's how I handled our conversations, and came as a result of not creating and then enforcing strong boundaries. Once I did that, my anxiety reduced significantly and I quite rapidly improved, regardless of her behavior.

We've been together for 27 years. Much of that time was fine, sometimes very enjoyable, warm, and easy-going. Other times, and for me I now realize, too much of the time, it was not. I allowed it and it became a habit between us.
I'm finally doing something about it. I will not go back to the way things were.
Everything I am currently doing, sometimes successfully, sometimes less so, is an effort to grow up and not put myself into situations that aren't healthy. I haven't 100% yet given up with my wife. And it's clear I still have plenty of work and growing to do.
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