Dear Amy: Do I have an obligation to warn my future son-in-law about my daughter’s mental illness?
Let me explain: I have been married to her mother for over 20 years. My wife could be the poster child for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. She has all of the classic symptoms (verbal abuse, constant blaming, hypercritical, shaming, public ridiculing, and physical battering.)
To say that the past 20 years has been a living nightmare would be a huge understatement!
Our only daughter, who is due to marry a very decent guy, is a perfect clone of my wife.
She demonstrates ALL of the abusive behaviors, exactly like my spouse.
I know what kind of a marriage this young man is headed for and I feel guilty not saying anything.
Most people don’t realize that this behavior is a form of mental illness and the person/behavior will never change.
Do I owe him a more complete explanation? — Worried Future Father-in-law
Dear Worried: First, let’s do you. Your married life has been a nightmare. You have been verbally and physically abused. I urge you to find a way to exit this relationship safely. You should not be a martyr to your wife’s disorder.
My understanding of NPD is that it is everything you describe — and also unfortunately resistant to treatment, because the behavior carries along with it a profound arrogance. People who have this push and punish, and then gaslight their partner. It is characterized by the toxic combination of rage, and a lack of empathy. I suggest you seek professional therapy on your own behalf and make a decision about what to do with your own life.
I have this book on my shelf, and recommend it for you: “Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving A Relationship with a Narcissist,” by Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D. (2017. Post Hill Press).
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In terms of warning your daughter’s future husband, you could frame it like this: “Caroline’s mother and I have an extremely challenging marriage. I am seeking professional help to come to terms with her behavior and how it has affected me. Unfortunately, I see some of the same behavior with Caroline. I want the best for both of you, and all I can say is that I wish someone had talked to me about this before I took the big step of marriage. Of course, I support you as my future son-in-law, and I’m here for you if ever you need me.” He will most likely reject this. When this conversation gets back to your daughter and wife, you will be belittled and blamed. Only undertake this task if you feel prepared and can do so safely.
Dear Amy: My wife and I, who have been married 40 years and have raised eight kids, live in Minnesota and are now happy empty-nesters.
Summers aren’t long around here, and since we have no kids at home, I love to walk around the house naked when the weather is hot (our nearest neighbors are a quarter-mile away, and no one can see in our windows.)
My wife seems to have gotten very prudish in her old age and balks at seeing me nude, even though in years past we used to shower together.
I love the feeling of the air all over my body. Should I stand my ground anyway, or be content to roam around the upper floors of the house naked, where she can’t see me? — Nature Boy
Dear Nature Boy: As a fellow northerner, I completely understand your motivation to roam in “the altogether” during the brief summer season. However, would it kill you to wear a pair of loose boxer shorts?
I can imagine your wife’s aversion to seeing you completely nude downstairs in the kitchen (for instance) during breakfast. And Naked Guy reading the newspaper on the couch is very different from enjoying Naked Guy in the shower.
I also think you should consider installing an outdoor shower. Whether or not your wife wants to join you, nothing feels more wonderful than bathing outside, especially under the stars on a warm and lovely Minnesota night.
Dear Amy: Responding to the question from “Fed-Up Daughter” who felt obligated to somehow love her racist father, thank you, thank you for this line: “He’s your dad, and you’re supposed to love him. You are his daughter, and he’s supposed to love you.”
My liberation was to finally break free from the obligation to love someone who was incapable of love. — Finally Free
Dear Free: I hear you.