q-100Good afternoon Dr. Shaler,

I am seeking help for my relationship with my wife whom I believe has PAPD. There is so much information to provide, I don’t know where to start, but will try and be as concise as possible without making this question too long.

We have been married for 15 1/2 years and together almost 17. She is 41, I am 48 and we have four children (hers, mine and ours). There have been many issues over the years (lying, frivolous spending, hiding money, secret credit cards, secret P.O boxes, tantrums, depression, suicidal threats, panic attacks, poor hygiene, argumentative, etc) due to what I believe is PA behavior in her. As far as I know, she has never been diagnosed, but would never admit it if she had. She was supposedly diagnosed as a child with “Clinical Depression”. She also gets support from her parents who acknowledge that she can be difficult, but both blame me for everything that has happened (and even some things that haven’t).

I believe her mother is a narcissist, as she is constantly blaming and pointing out faults of other people. Both of my wife’s parents and my wife participate in what I believe to be “Projective Identification” where they accuse me of what they are doing and turn everything around on me. If my wife’s parents accuse me of something or even attempt to exhume incidents from many years ago, my wife will not defend me. If I try to defend myself, she will go off into another room and cry or not say anything to me until after we leave their house, but will be angry with me for responding.

I do not mean to make it sound like all our time together is bad, nor am I perfect. I love my wife and we have many good times together, but not as many as I would like and I am sure it is not supposed to be this way. I just do not understand how when we have a disagreement and she gets angry, she is able to turn it around on me and make it look like my response was unreasonable. If I have a problem with the negative manner in which she talks to me, she will try to make it look like I over-reacted and say something like “you must think I am a complete bitch”. She will try to make it look like I have no place getting upset or she will twist the events and make me doubt that the events happened the way they did.

The reason I am writing to you is that there is no way I could even suggest to her that I believe she is a PA without her getting angry or finding ridicule with me and it is quite possible that she would accuse me of having issues and that that would be why I would suggest that of her. We do not live far from Escondido, but I do not believe I will ever be able to get her to make an appointment (either alone or with me), so I feel like I am completely stuck. We went to counseling a few years ago and she continued going for a while by herself, but stopped going. She wouldn’t tell me why, but I dare not pry. I do not even see a way for me to go without her because she will want to know why I am going. She handles all the bills even though she is home with the kids and I am the some bread winner. If I were to suggest your book, I am quite sure she would refuse to read it and have a problem with me suggesting it.

I hope there was enough here to give you a snapshot of our relationship. I am sure you need more info, but it would take days and many more pages to explain it all. I am not sure if there is a way you can help, but if there is any information you can provide to help me, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you,




a-100Dear Don,

You have described behavior that is certainly passive-aggressive and seemingly falling into a PAPD realm. Of course, without working directly with your wife, I cannot say that with any strength. Let’s just say that you are describing a relationship that is unhealthy, enabling and a very poor model for your children.

From what you have said, you walk on eggshells much of the time. Yes, there are good times, as you say, but you are uncertain when they are going to turn the corner into a less-than-good times, aren’t you? This is actually more than P-A behavior, as you describe it.

Her parents and you are enabling this behavior. That’s the harsh truth, and unless you step up and begin to implement healthy change, this will be your life story with her as it has been.  Everyone deserves an honest, respectful, safe relationship and the one you are describing is less than that!

You are teaching your children what a relationship is all about. That is unfortunate. I often tell parents that, at the moment of conception, they undertook a lifetime of demonstrating what it is to be a man, a woman, and a man and woman in relationship. What you do is so much more powerful than what you say when children are watching!  Your teens are taking notes right now!

A clue you left for me was that you would have to answer to your wife as to why you choose to go to counseling. You have every right to a healthy life and relationship. If you see and feel there are better ways of being in relationship, you are a capable, competent grown-up who can choose to get insights, skills and support just because that is what you want to do. Yes, it may have a price in terms of her feeling threatened by it, but she can feel threatened, wonder what is going on, or choose to come with you. In my opinion, this is a very good first step for you to manage this behavior. Make an appointment and come in to talk this through. You are an adult and do not have to account for how you spend your time. If you think or feel that you do have to give that accounting, that is an unhealthy, adaptive behavior you have adopted to appease your wife. That is again enabling.

Yes, what you describe as “Projective Identification” seems accurate. When people are not self-reflective, they project everything within themselves onto others, and make them as wrong as they feel themselves. It seems you have many instances of this to use as clear examples!

I invite you to look in a different direction than the one your seem to be looking: at what your wife and her parents do, think, or will do or think. I invite you to look within yourself and recognize that getting new insights and approaches to your part in the relationship would be very beneficial.  You will need courage and strength to create new patterns with your wife. When you do this, you will have the clarity you need to demonstrate your values instead of modifying your behavior to avoid or cater to her unreasonable demands and behaviors.

I’d be very happy to work with you, when you see that you and your quality of life really do matter, and that you can take the lead in making this a healthier relationship. At this time, you are the only one who can do that.

You can make an appointment online or call 760.593.4604.  The first appointment needs to be at least  90 minutes. I hope you’ll come in.

I wish you well.

Dr. Shaler

197    Spouse/Partner  
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