Hurtling Toward Divorce

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Reader’s Question

Months ago, my husband urged me to get my “head checked” due to deepening depression, nonexistent libido, self-isolation, forgetfulness, etc. So I go ahead and do just that and come to discover I’m in an abusive relationship with a probable narcissist. We’ve been together 14 years, married for 10, and have two beautiful little girls. When I saw the “wheel of power” diagram, he’d been all over it…a Renaissance abuser.

We are now hurtling toward divorce. He “smoked it out” of me before I could plan the divorce — he forced me to choose the marriage or my career. I chose career, armed with newfound insight into the nature of things.

My big weakness is that I sometimes feel he makes a lot of sense when he talks. He says this is the first decision I’ve come to completely on my own in the 14 years we’ve been together and is surprised that I am sticking to the decision. So am I, actually. He says that all this trouble started when I sought advice from a psychiatrist who sent me to a therapist. He says I should get a second opinion, when something as important as the marriage and children are involved.

I see his point, but I can’t bring myself to get a second opinion. I’m pretty assured that both docs have provided me the room and resources to reflect on my situation and that I am on the right path. Then I feel guilty for not doing as he says and just getting a second opinion.

Who’s crazier, me or him? Should I get a second opinion?

Many thanks for any insight you can share!

Psychologist’s Reply

Am I your second opinion?

My opinion is for you to respect yourself and your judgment. Just because you have found irreconcilable differences with your husband that sent you on this trajectory towards divorce doesn’t mean that he can’t have a valid point. It also does not mean that he can’t be very persuasive when he wants to be. Still, it is your opinion that counts. If you have an ounce of doubt, then it wouldn’t hurt to talk to another professional to get her take on things. It doesn’t mean that you’re taking a vote on what you should do. You’re only gathering perspective. A therapist will not tell you “you must do this, don’t do that”. She will only present possibilities for you to consider.

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While you’re considering things, have you considered what profession would be best suited for another opinion? Since you’ve seen mental health professionals, I’m wondering whether the expert that you would like to consult would be a mediator, one who would intervene in your conversation with your husband to find what is equitable for each of you. Or would you want to talk to an advocate, one who wants to find what is best for you? Or would you want to find an advocate for the children, one who will press for their best interest? You have many professions that can give you a second opinion. It is still up to you to decide what approach is most valuable to you now.

It is interesting, and not at all rare, that a ‘probable narcissist’ would take issue with input from a mental health professional. Accepting your report of the problem at face value, a narcissistic individual thrives on isolation and control. When a third party interferes with the dynamic of power and control he’s created, then he is personally diminished. It is hard to say whether he wants you to get a second opinion for your own good or for his. That is, it is hard to say whether he is attempting to regain power and control and return to the previous status quo that he enjoyed. It is unfortunate that he is not talking about what is best for your relationship. That makes me think that a separation pending the divorce has already occurred. That is, the well-being of the relationship and the marriage is not the top priority. It has devolved to yours, his, and the kids’.

My last thought is to point out that ‘crazy’ is not a word that is found anywhere in the mental health profession. It is mostly a derogatory word that does not help us to understand one another or to gain compassion for one another. Rather than venture an opinion about ‘who is crazier,’ the whole situation strikes me as sad. You may say that it has been sad for a long time, and now it is getting better. I hope it does continue to get better for all of you, and that you keep working to gain clarity and personal growth from the entire experience.

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