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Psychotherapy and Mental Health questions

How to Convince my Wife to Seek Help

Wed, Aug 31st 2011

Dr.,

I and other people intimate people in my life suspect that my has a personality disorder. Maybe it's borderline or narcissistic personality disorder. However, it doesn't prevent her from being successful, professionally, or to function socially most of the time. Her family, her sister,mother and I, bear the brunt of her violent temper flares. Recently, this has spilled over to my family, my mother and sister, as well.

We have three children who, I believe, are not in direct physical danger. But, she shows reckless behavior when in crisis. She uses alcohol and is abusive even if she never drinks. She is also a reckless driver. She does not refrain from acting violently and using verbal abuse toward me when in front of the kids or to turn a cold shoulder to them. This is starting to worry me as the kids get older.

She does attack me physically as well as verbally, and, even once threatened me with a kitchen knife. I was never seriously hurt nor do I believe she is capable of seriously hurting me or others.  I do believe she is a danger mainly to herself in the long term and, indirectly therefore, to her children. Fortunately, I was able to refrain from ever retaliating to her physical violence.

Overall, my main concern is that she is ruining her life and might damage her kids in the process. The precedent in her family is that her father might have had a similar problem. He was violent, beat his wife and my wife's older sister. Also, something very peculiar, enforced for two decades before his death was an absolute interdiction for my mother-in-law and her children to see any family member on that maternal side. As best as I could understand, it seemed to be motivated by jealousy or envy. He himself was the unrecognized son of a man of the cloth and also from a different "race" and I certainly believed he suffered from it from the story I hear in the family.

In that context, her growing aggressiveness toward my family renews my concern. Signs of this disorder appeared a few weeks after we met but they were infrequent and she was remorseful afterwards, even promising me to seek help. She never did and eventually stopped showing signs of remorse. She usually attributes her problems to others. She finds "whose fault it is" and is manipulative of other's emotions by using false analogy syllogisms. This is standard modus operandi for her. A mundane discussion about a movie can turn violent if, for example, no one does shares her enthusiasm.

Ongoing development in her behavior seems to show she is "copying" her father's behavior. Her sister recognizes this is the case, but, her mother is in denial as my wife is. They attribute the episodes of violent anger to something that is normal, due to stress, or to my behavior toward her.

The father's problems were a "family secret" and they seem to tried to ignore it after his death.

I am of course growing more distant in the current situation. I want to protect myself and my children, which I think is appropriate in the circumstances but is confusing to my wife. 

A short text like this is, of course, not sufficient for a diagnosis.

My specific question is the following: how can a husband and a sister-in-law combine to convince a wife/sister to get help for a potential personality disorder? If that is not possible, what are the odds of these types of personalities to act responsibly in separation proceedings, especially with respect to child custody?

Thanks for your advice.

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