I often have female patients in their fifties or sixties whose husband is financially very successful in his professional or business career. He is very smart, and his personality is exceedingly confident, powerful, and effective. To business associates and friends, he is energetic, outgoing, and charming, even charismatic, and unfailingly good company.
While most such men are also loving husbands and fathers, those about whom I am consulted are NOT loving husbands and fathers! Rather, they are extremely unpleasant to their wives and often their children. Let’s call one Benjamin. At home, Benjamin’s behavior toward his wife and children is frequently controlling, arrogant, angry, domineering, insensitive, and generally emotionally abusive. He is narcissistic, selfish, and cruel. He may limit his wife’s access to money, and sometimes her freedom of movement or association. Her opinions and wishes are often belittled, ridiculed, or dismissed. Benjamin probably qualifies for a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder.
These wives have often been worn down to self-protective passivity, and suffered real damage to their self-esteem. Try as they might to please, or at least satisfy, their husband, they are chronically labeled as inadequate.
Finally, out of desperation and despair, or out of a spark of stubborn self-preservation instinct, she calls me for consultation. In therapy, we discuss the current situation and the historical roots of the current situation. We identify her beliefs and emotions that have contributed to her long cooperation with the unpleasant routine at home. We identify new concepts and skills that could enable her to make her situation better. We plot, then pursue, this plan for her personal growth.
“My passion is ensuring that every adult is mentally ready to succeed in all transitions that comprise the adult years. The meaning in my life comes from helping my patients see themselves, their situation, their future, and the entire world with new eyes and a newly courageous attitude.