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Thank you in advance for reading my post. My hope is to get some practical suggestions.

Been married for twenty one years, four kids with two teens still at home. While wife has always been on the touchy side, about six years ago things began to change radically. I am convinced she is cluster B, probably BPD. First, she lost interest in sex. When this happened I tried to talk to her about it calmly, rationally. She always got defensive and went on the attack. She became increasingly cruel and belittling in her verbal attacks against me, and more and more distant. She complained about how little money we have even though I was working three jobs, that I was never around to help her with the housework, that I never really loved her, that marrying me was a mistake, ad nauseum. She blamed me for everything.

She then decided to quit being a full time homemaker and go back to work and go back to school. I initially went along with this. She agreed to pay her fair share of the bills now that she was bringing in a paycheck, then later stopped paying them without telling me. When I confronted her with late notices from utilities, she flew into a rage saying how unfair it was that she should have to pay anything, that I owed her for ten or more years of "free child care". So I had to pay the utilities. She embarked on a number of expensive hobbies, only to discard them or hand the maintanience of them over to the kids, after a few months. She completed 90% of a degree, then dropped out of a critical course that was too hard, blamed the professor for personally attacking her and now has no interest in this area. As a homemaker she had no debt. Now after several years as a wage earner not having to pay any utilities, rent, or car payment, she is 20k in debt. Her mother, who lives in the next state, whom she once described as cold and abusive and she barely talked to for years after relaying horror stories to me about how bad her chilldhood was, now they are best buds and I am the supreme ogre.

As this was happening, I decided to clean up my act. I hit the gym and took the kids with me. Lost a lot of weight, ran in a half-marathon, upgraded my wardrobe, re connected with old friends. I re committed to my career, got a better job with a very nice promotion and salary increase. I became more active at the men's group at church.

She still goes to church once in a while but dropped out of the women's bible study a few years ago. I am pretty sure she complained about me to them, and their response was less than fully sympathetic, and one of them even mildly chastised her, so she discarded them. She has since started talking in slogans like "toxic masculinity" etc. She has gained so much weight she is now morbidly obese and has many health issues, is on lots of meds for this and that. She suffers from migraines, high blood pressure, dizziness, panic attacks, insomnia, rage episodes, back spasms, etc. She has at various times accused me (with no evidence) of plotting to have her killed, stealing cash from her dresser,stealing her mail, cheating on her (with who??). One several occassions she became physical, slapping or punching me. No one outside the family knows any of this craziness, because she is mostly peaches and cream to everyone else. Some days, it takes all my willpower to not tell her to go f*** herself. its like the woman I married is gone and was replaced by someone else. When I look into her eyes, what I see looking back is frightening.

Talking to her is now virtually impossible. Even conversations I try to have about the safety and welfare of the kids, she goes on the attack about things that supposedely happened five, ten, fifteen years ago. (This is another behavior. NOTHING is ever resolved with her. Even when we had discussions, things always circled back to ancient gripes). Now I avoid getting drawn into any drama, to minimize exposure to the kids and also avoid a scene that could quickly spin out of control.

The Children: I feel it is wrong to file for divorce and leave, because I think one or all of the kids would become the new target, especially as they become teens and start finding their own young adult voices. If I leave, my ability to interpose between her and the kids will be gone. She has threatened divorce often, but has never followed through. I think she is trying to goad me into doing it so she can be seen as the eternal victim, or maybe even goad me into doing something stupid so she can call the police. If I stay I can still influence events. And once divorced, who knows what kind of man she will take up with??

1) What strategies should I use to inject peace and mental health into the family to counteract her toxicity?
2) At what point should I talk frankly to my teen kids about what is going on? Of course they know what is going on, but not all of it and not the whys. What should I tell them? I have a teen son and teen daughter still at home.
3) Any other helpful hints would be appreciated.
 

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Your kids are teens.... they aren’t stupid and already know what’s going on. To me ... off the cuff ... you sound like a good man trying to do the right thing. Having seen mental health stuff with relatives and the countless stories of it here on this group..... I hate to say it but dude.... dump her. Your setting yourself up for a world of pain if you think your going to “fix her”. Mental health is the ***** of all mother ****ers. Save yourself and your kids.
Save what remains of your family.... which means you and the kids.
That sounds cold doesn’t it .... I’m not a cold person ... but I’m a logical one.
You will be the next mental one trying to fix this if you aren’t careful

Good luck
 

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While agree that the kids know what's going on, and that your wife is clearly mentally ill, I agree that leaving now is not a good idea for the kids sakes, UNLESS they are old enough to decide for themselves who they live with.

If they choose to live with you, great. But if you go now, and leave them with her, you won't be there to dilute her effect, and they shouldn't have to deal with that, that's not fair.
 

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Teenagers in my state can ask the judge to allow them to live with one parent full-time. It’s at the judge’s discretion when they’re younger teenagers but when they’re older teenagers they get to make that choice themselves. Check the laws in your state.
 

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You need to start getting your ducks in a row.
Get legal assistance, both from the perspective of separating/divorce, but also from the perspective of what your options are for dealing with her mental illness.
Don't take the physical /mental abuse. Start carrying a VAR on you at all times.
The next time she gets physical with you, call the cops and have her charged.
If you want to stay together, this might give you some traction in getting her the help she needs.
However, life is too short. You need to do what is best for you and your kids.
That sounds like that may be going your own way.
 

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You need to carefully gather evidence.
....and file. Your kids need to get the firm idea That this is not what a healthy Relationship looks like. By staying with her and putting up with this bad treatment - your kids get the idea that this is ‘normal’ in a relationship. And they will choose it for their own relationship too.

when you file - it also begins the clock on her debts being her own... so be sure you know where the debt is now - take photos and copies of balances for credit cards and bank statements.

you need to get out while you can. Try to have the kids as often as possible. She will figure out someone else to always be mad at when you leave her.

file.
 

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My husband's mom has untreated BPD so I have some insight into what it's like being raised in this kind of environment and I want you to know - chances are she is already abusing your kids. Husband's mom physically abused him for years and his own grandparents, who lived down the street and spent more time with him than she did, had no idea until he showed up black and blue at their house one night. Everyone knew she was crazy, would fly off the handle, and was probably verbally abusive but no one knew how bad it really was because she hid it. She'd only do it when they weren't around. She was married the whole time and her husband didn't stop her. Even his own sister barely knew or understood what was happening because she would bring my husband out of the house and out of view to get violent with him. And when confronted, she'd lie, deny, and when pressed enough, blame him. The awful, unforgivable thing he did that lead to a severe beating and a broken jaw? He told her to stop hitting him during one of her rages. His sister was not typically the target of her violence but she too was being abused by having to be witness to it and for years, she had a very messed up view of the situation. Luckily therapy and having her own kid set her straight and made her realize how abusive their mom really was and how inexcusable her actions were.

1) What strategies should I use to inject peace and mental health into the family to counteract her toxicity?
None. It is impossible. Anything you do to try and calm the situation down will result in your wife lashing out with even MORE. There is no "counter acting" her toxicity. Her toxicity will continue if you do everything possible to stop it and it will continue if you do nothing at all. You have ZERO control over what she does. The only option you have is removing yourself and the kids from it as much as possible through a divorce. Right now your kids are living in dysfunction and no way of stopping it and no safe space to turn to. You can counter act her dysfunction by creating a space for them to go to that is completely away from your wife where they don't have to worry about walking on eggshells around her. Kids in these situations need ONE stable, healthy parent in order to succeed and you cannot be that parent while you are married to your unstable and unhealthy wife.

2) At what point should I talk frankly to my teen kids about what is going on? Of course they know what is going on, but not all of it and not the whys. What should I tell them? I have a teen son and teen daughter still at home.
IMMEDIATELY. They need to be spoken to. They need to be asked if she is raging at them when you are not around and encouraged to be honest with you. They need to know that you have their back and are not choosing to ignore them in favor of keeping your marriage or taking your wife's side against them. They need therapy ASAP.

3) Any other helpful hints would be appreciated.
Yes. See a lawyer immediately. Get a therapist for yourself. Tell both of them EVERYTHING. Figure out how to detach yourself from your wife as much as physically and legally possible so that you can save your kids from having to live with her. I believe after you talk to the kids, confirm everyone is on the same page about how unacceptable her behavior is, and after you consult a lawyer about how likely full custody is if you push for it and your kids want it, you will feel much better about what needs to be done. Make no mistake - your wife WILL NOT be open to changing her behavior so all change needs to come from YOU and be focused in giving your kids a normal, safe home environment.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Your kids are teens.... they aren’t stupid and already know what’s going on. To me ... off the cuff ... you sound like a good man trying to do the right thing. Having seen mental health stuff with relatives and the countless stories of it here on this group..... I hate to say it but dude.... dump her. Your setting yourself up for a world of pain if you think your going to “fix her”. Mental health is the * of all mother ****ers. Save yourself and your kids.
Save what remains of your family.... which means you and the kids.
That sounds cold doesn’t it .... I’m not a cold person ... but I’m a logical one.
You will be the next mental one trying to fix this if you aren’t careful

Good luck
Thanks. No, I have no illusions about "fixing" her. I am only staying to protect the kids from her.
 

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In my state, a judge would discuss the wishes of the 13 year old — and probably grant it — and the 16 year old would be allowed to make his/her own choice. Now, I’m assuming your children would choose you. Sometimes they choose the unhealthy parent. That’s another story entirely.
 

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13 and 16
I didn't think staying is really protecting the kids from her, as others have said. They are still having to live with her, right? If you get divorced, they only will be exposed to her half of the time and maybe even less than that, as they will start choosing not to spend time with her if it's hellish when they do.
 

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when was the last time your wife hit/punched you? Does she do this to the children?

Does she verbally abuse the children?
 

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yes , they have grown up and moved out
That's good. A divorce could affect your two other children as well. But at least they are on their own.

Have you ever spoken to your children about their mother? If so, what do they say?

I think you should talk to an attorney to get an idea of how to go forward and protect your children. There might be a way to minimize the time they are with her if you can prove that her behavior harms your children.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
when was the last time your wife hit/punched you? Does she do this to the children?

Does she verbally abuse the children?

Its been almost 2 years since she was physically abusive with slapping and such. With the kids, the most she ever does so far is yelling and ccasional profanity and demeaning language, but even that is secondary. Right now, I catch 90% of it, they only get glancing blows. Thats why I am afraid, if I leave she would pick out my oldest as the new whipping boy, and maybe take up with a man who is even more abusive. I guess its a case of "better the devil you know."
 

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Its been almost 2 years since she was physically abusive with slapping and such. With the kids, the most she ever does so far is yelling and ccasional profanity and demeaning language, but even that is secondary. Right now, I catch 90% of it, they only get glancing blows. Thats why I am afraid, if I leave she would pick out my oldest as the new whipping boy, and maybe take up with a man who is even more abusive. I guess its a case of "better the devil you know."
I understand your concern.

Have you ever talked to your children about what's going on?

Does anyone besides you and your children know what she is like at home?
 

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I understand your concern.

Have you ever talked to your children about what's going on?

Does anyone besides you and your children know what she is like at home?
I talked to my son once, when wife was spreading rumors and making sick "jokes" about my having a girlfriend on the side ( which of course I do not and never did ). I took him aside and told him that it was totally untrue, that his mother was having some health issues that caused her to overreact etc. etc. Tried to be truthful without seeming to attack or insult his mother. He listened and took it well. That was a year ago. He seems to be taking things in his stride and planning his future.
 
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