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Chaotic Family Life

Question:

I am not sure where to begin, here it goes. I remarried a real nice lady after my first failed marriage of 19 yrs. She is 7 yrs younger than me. She has two kids, one girl 16, and a boy 10, both from her two previous marriages. So I am the step dad and that represents a big problem. I came into these kids’ lives with a very positive attitude after raising two boys of my own. The daughter’s father disowned her for 6 yrs of her life, because his dad rapes her. The boy’s father does nothing but play mind games on this 10 year old, because mom left dad. And I am in the middle. My wife is a very sweet lady, but all of this stress, and her dad dying when she was 18, has added some horrible burden on this woman I married. I know she has some kind of guilt, hate, I don’t know? But she becomes very explosive, with anger, foul language, that she always hates to hear from other people, but in these rages, you sure couldn’t tell it. I thought it was her periods each month, I would just count, and get ready for hell to hit. She reverts back almost to a kid in her actions, trying to over-talk you, yelling, saying the same thing over and over like a kids nursery rhyme, its very unbelievable, and at times scary. She tells me to get out, leave. I am lost, can you give any insight? Thank you.

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Answer:

You’ve married into what seems to be quite an ill or “dysfunctional” family. It was ill before you got there – probably for a long time. It is not your fault that you are overwhelmed. Any normal human being would be overwhelmed given the situation you describe. Your wife’s erratic verbally abusive and age regressive behavior is almost certainly more than normal PMS and possibly suggestive of trauma in her history. Is she drinking or using drugs? If she is – she’ll need to stop completely before there’ll be any change. Whatever their cause, her monthly outbursts are quite unhealthy. Although there are many things going on – the most important thing you can do to help stabilize your new family is probably to help your wife become less erratic and to strengthen your marital relationship. It would be a good idea for your wife to be evaluated by a Psychiatrist (so as to make sure there is no medical reason for her to be acting as she does). She might benefit from appropriately prescribed psychiatric medication. She might also benefit from a type of psychotherapy known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (which helps people with emotion regulation problems to swing back and forth less). Whether or not she ends up doing individual work – it would almost certainly be helpful to your family if you and your wife were to begin marital therapy with an experienced and competent marital therapist. There are other significant issues (such as the child abuse, and step-family adjustment issues you’ve mentioned) but they will be easier to manage if you can get your marital situation under better control. I hope that this is helpful, Dr. Dombeck

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