My Wife is What You Call Extreme

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Reader’s Question

We have been married for almost 6 years and are in our mid-30s. My wife has had a string of bad relationships prior to our meeting. Her parents or sibling do not want to get involved and she refuses to go to counseling to help our marriage. I had left my family 300 miles away to be with her and we were married in 2002. She as a son from her previous marriage and I have a son in a different country, also from a prior relationship.

My is what you call extreme. Sometimes she will be the most loving, affectionate wife but in a moment, she can turn into one of the most cold-hearted persons in the world. We have had our share of problems and have gone through couples counseling several times which I thought was very helpful, but which she admitted wasn’t the case.

Although there have been many incidents within the past 5 years, the most recent issue arose about 6 months ago. We finally separated because she physically assaulted me because she was upset that I didn’t “check in” after arriving from a flight when I visited my family to attend my brother’s wedding. She is very unreasonable and believes that the reason we’re arguing is because I always think I’m the victim, while in fact, she should be the victim. She asked me to come back when we separated and because I love her (and her son), I did and things had been so much better. I believed we were starting over and I couldn’t have been happier. Just a few nights ago, she admitted to me that she wanted me to apologize for what I did 6 months ago and that she never got over what happened. She insisted that I was at fault for everything. I had called the cops because she assaulted me in front of my stepson to grab my house keys when she kicked me out. She wouldn’t let me in the house and she insisted that she will pack everything for me. I had asked her parents for help and told them what had happened and even told them everything that ever happened to our life together. I thought they understood me and wanted to help but I found out that they told her that I said awful things about her and completely changed the context of what I said. We had plans to go to my family for Christmas, since we interchange holidays and she refused to come.

I love my wife very much but people have told me that it’s extremely unhealthy. I feel like it is but I always believe there’s a light at the end of a tunnel but this time, I really don’t know what to do. I feel like I’ve done my best to be a good husband and stepfather but I now think we are back at square one. She wants a divorce and I asked her to reconsider. She has told me that it depends on what I will admit to regarding our last argument 6 months ago. There are always conditions with her and I really cannot admit to anything I am not guilty of. She believed her parents instead of me, even if I swore to her that I didn’t even want the cops to arrest her. She said I was lying since I never had the power. The police wanted to arrest her since they saw my bruises that time and I told them I wouldn’t want my stepson to see that and all I wanted was to get my clothes/stuff so I can leave.

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Right now, I feel like I want to work it out with her but she’s not backing down. Again, she’s completely ignoring me and is only waiting for me to apologize. How can I admit to something I’ve never done? When I told her this, she never responded to my calls, emails or text messages. I am very hurt about what’s going on with our marriage. She even went to admit that the only reason she went to counseling was to hear what I had to say, and never really thought we had a problem. She believed I was the problem and the way I viewed things. She’s called me names like “weak” or “stupid” before but she’s stopped. She has given up on 3 counselors and now I don’t know what to do. I want to help our marriage out and I’ve always tried to reassure her that I will not abandon or not love her, even if it meant not going out with my friends, even if it only happens once every 6 months. I feel trapped and I believe she is too. Once we had a similar argument a year ago and she got drunk and said that if I could only help her pay the mortgage, that she would want me to leave. That’s because if we divorced, she would lose the house and may not be able to afford her son’s school and bills.

I am lost and should find a way to get her back to counseling. How do I convince her not to divorce me knowing that she only wants me to admit to something I cannot admit to? Should I look back and see that maybe I shouldn’t have done those things and just let her control the situation? I feel like I want to apologize but I believe she has to be take responsibility and accountability for her actions instead. I’ve let those things stay in the past but she can’t now. What can I do to save my marriage?

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this.

Psychologist’s Reply

The apology issue is the tip of an iceberg here. She’s using that issue to allow you to think you have some control over what happens in the relationship when in reality, she continues to manipulate, control, and seek only her best interests. You may have more “Stockholm Syndrome” than true love here. You’re married to a controller and possibly abuser. She may have a personality disorder as she clearly has the common characteristics. People with personality disorders are totally self-oriented — what do I need not what about the marriage. They take no responsibility for their behavior or abuse and blame everyone in their environment for their difficulties. They manipulate using lies, guilt, intimidation, threats, and cons. While they live from drama to drama, they also have a tremendous sense of entitlement — feeling they deserve everything and to have everything done their way. They show little of now concern for the feelings of others and have no problem destroying others from a financial, social, and emotional standpoint. You may want to review their tactics in an article I’ve written entitled Identifying Losers in Relationships. I think you’ll see her strategies. Sadly, individuals with these personality traits do not respond to counseling or treatment and often view counseling sessions as a way of manipulating a spouse — avoiding a divorce, etc. They are totally self-justifying and always have a valid excuse for their abusive behavior.

Keep in mind, in truth she doesn’t care about the past. She cares only about controlling the current time and the future. She can use these past events to manipulate or intimidate you and she knows they work. You’ll notice that she’s not worried about her past behavior in the least — only your past and then only when it serves her purpose.

As your friends have warned you, this is probably a toxic relationship. I think you’ll also discover that this is a life-long pattern with her. That string of bad relationships has one common component — her. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but you may need some individual counseling to sort this situation out before you are personally destroyed. She has already separated you from your family and your support which is a common controller tactic. Wake up and recognize that she is the common component in those past bad relationships and in this relationship. Regarding your own reaction, you may want to read my article on Love and Stockholm Syndrome — also on this website.

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