My Wife Is Explosive

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I am writing to find a manner to cope with or gain insight into my wife’s behavior. There are probably multiple areas but I will attempt to summarize in the allotted space.

Today she went into a tirade which concluded with her typical threat to leave with the children and string of insults after I made a face at an uncleaned room (not directed at her).

To provide the backdrop, I am never certain what will trigger an event. Once started, she will literally scream, insult and attempt to intimidate me regardless of whether the children are present or not.

This is compounded by her drinking. On a semi-regular basis she is helped home or needs to call the hostess and apologize. Those that tolerate it are ‘true friends’ and the ones who distance themselves are ‘fake’. There is always a villain with her. Typically she claims stress or…me as the reason for her drinking. The children have asked that she not drink wine because ‘she talks funny’. Also, recently she has attempted to be violent with me.

She does the bare minimum around the house and spends hours a day on the phone with her mother and sister. She is typically on her best behavior around them and the house is always spotless when she comes over. Her response is that everyone else has a cleaning lady and she refuses to clean sections of the house. She does cook well but makes a point to underscore it frequently. Her mom defends everything (except the drinking) and says that she is just ‘loud’.

I also hear her constantly yelling at the children and periodically saying comments to the effect of, “I am done!!!”. Rather than self-asses, the smallest critique will set her off and then I have to hear the stories of how great she was, how other men give her attention at stores, how flawless her family is and then listen to her pick apart every sentence from myself or my family.

My family and friends really do not like her. I am nearly at my breaking point but our children (all great, loving and advanced in school) are the reason that I have stayed.

We have attempted couples therapy but each time she thinks that I ‘tricked’ each therapist into siding with me.

I am nearly out. Please help!

A. It is very true that the first step to getting better is admitting that there is a problem. As long as your wife blames others for the problems in her life, she cannot take control of the situation. If others are to blame, she cannot change them because she cannot control them. From your description, she has a substance abuse problem. In her suffering she is hurting those around her.

She is misperceiving reality. You cannot trick a therapist into “siding with you.” She rejects your interpretation of the problem and she rejects the therapist’s interpretation because it differs from hers. Since she believes that she is right, she needs a rational explanation for why the therapist agrees with your assessment. She knows that the therapist is both well educated and intelligent. So why would the therapists with all of their training and intelligence agree with you? Because you have tricked them.

There is often more to a story. I would need to hear your wife’s version of events. It makes it impossible to provide specific advice without it.

I’m not sure what you meant by the expression “nearly out.” I interpret it to mean that you cannot or are not willing to tolerate much more of her behavior and are considering ending your marriage.

Three things that you might want to consider before deciding on divorce are: 1) individual therapy, 2) an intervention or 3) a short separation.

A therapist could gather many more details about your relationship and assist you in determining your next move. Ending the marriage could be particularly traumatic for both you and your family. It’s important to have a great deal of support when considering or pursuing such matters.

Couples therapy may have been ineffective but perhaps she would be willing to enter treatment for her drinking. If she’s unwilling to go to rehab, then an intervention may be necessary. An intervention would involve confronting your wife, in the presence of concerned friends and family, describing how drinking has negatively affected your family and your marriage, and asking her to enter treatment. Should you choose to pursue an intervention, it would be advantageous to consult a family therapist or professional interventionist before attempting it on your own.

Finally, you might try a temporary separation. Being apart might afford you the opportunity to gain a much-needed, fresh perspective about the relationship. Ending your marriage should be a “last resort” option, after you have tried everything within your power to keep the relationship together. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Dec 2012

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2012). My Wife Is Explosive. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/12/27/my-wife-is-explosive/