My spouse is acting crazy

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

i am separated from my spouse. i don’t know where she is or what she’s doing. we have been together for four years, always off and on. not because we don’t love each other, but because of these bizarre patterns of behavior… here is a summary of us as individuals- i am a mother, have a six figure job, managing a horse farm that breeds and sells racehorses. i have a ten year old son, a home, a mortgage, and tons of responsibility. she is a few years younger than i am, and has just a ton of amazing qualities, but has struggled her whole life. she has never finished school, and moves in and out of her parent’s house all the time, and has never been able to keep a job for more than a month or so. we have been in a relationship for four years, and made our lifelong commitment in a ceremony one year ago…
our relationship follows a cycle that has become very predictable- after a separation that usually lasts one to two months, she will get herself together, stop smoking dope, stop the drinking and partying, and we get back to our life together… we have tons of sex, do projects together, the finances are fine, everything is like a dream come true… then, things unravel, and fast… she will be ‘sick”, and start calling into work, want to drink more, and starts fighting with me about wanting to smoke dope as a way to deal with life… i never relent, because drugs are not a part of my life, and never will be, and usually the next phase is her just calling off work for a week or more at a time, and spending a lot more time sleeping (11-13 hrs per day), and getting herself up and out the door before i get home from work… after a few days of this, we are of course not getting along, because she is pushing me away, running around with all kinds of weird people, and expecting me to support her financially… also, the other big change is that she gets very aggressive verbally- she will start to call me all kinds of nasty names, and just act like a completely different person that happens to look identical to the person i want to spend my life with… i have perimeters for our relationship that i will not compromise on, like drugs, alcohol, not working, etc… so, when she loses her job, which always happens, or she quits because she hates it all of a sudden, she packs her things and is gone… she will move back into her mother’s house, and party constantly- sleep all day, and party all night. i’m not exactly sure what this phase entails, since we usually do not speak much during these times, but i think she binge drinks, chases other women (but does not typically sleep with them), and basically bottoms out. she is also very very angry, having many verbal confrontations, and sometimes a actual physical altercation with someone. the only other facet i have learned from a mutual friend is that she will tell lies- big ones- about herself, our relationship, etc… they seem to center around money, importance, etc…
as far as mental health goes, we are both adhd, although i am medicated now, which has made my life totally different, and she is not.
i know my life and this situation sounds totally insane, and i don’t have a support system with my family or friends… but when this cycle starts all over again, she is the person i fell in love with, and she has such a close relationship with my son… on a side note, none of these weird behaviors ever involve my child… she has never been anything but polite, caring, and involved in his life… she has never raised her voice towards him or anything… when she is acting normal, she is a fun, caring, family oriented human being… but when she starts to go downhill, all bets are off. it’s like a stranger is inside her, and i can’t even reach her anymore.
currently, we are apart, and have been for most of this year… she says she loves me, but she hates me. she is in the phase where everybody is out to get her. whether we make it or not, i love her, and worry about her, and i don’t want to abandon her. the only contact we have right now is when she calls to tell me she loves me… and i get reports through our mutual friends, which are few, that she talks about me and how much she misses me and loves me…
this situation is so far out of my league, i honestly don’t know what to do. in the past, i have tried forgetting about her, i have tried dating other people, but i have no desire to even do that. i am in love with her, and i need some help… basically to help me know what to do. i know that i can’t force her to seek treatment, and with her lack of healthcare, there’s not much available for her that i’m aware of. i am a big believer in commitment, and i have never felt like i want to turn my back and just walk away, although i also know i won’t allow these rollercoaster rides to ruin my son’s life or mine. help me please!!!

A: How very painful this must be – for both of you. When things are good, they’re wonderful. But the bad times are eroding the relationship.

I can’t diagnose someone on the basis of a letter, of course. I do think your spouse needs an evaluation by a psychologist or psychiatrist. If she were to see me, the information you presented would lead me to consider whether she is suffering from bipolar disorder. You might want to look up that diagnosis in the Psych Central library and see if it fits. If I’m right, the good news is that this is a treatable illness. A combination of medication and talk therapy would help her learn to manage herself better. Allowing you to participate at least some of the time in the therapy sessions would help you learn some ways to help her recognize when she is losing control and how to help her put on the brakes.

When I did some searching on the web, I found a number of mental health clinics in your city. Such clinics usually offer care on a sliding fee scale, accept insurance, or have some free care. You could also ask your doctor about places in your area that offer affordable mental health services.

Loving, wonderful relationships are hard to find. I hope you both will do your best to find the help you need to stay together.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 Oct 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). My spouse is acting crazy. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/10/10/my-spouse-is-acting-crazy/