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Carolyn Hax: No boundaries, including the one between mental health and illness


Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: I don't know what's going on with my wife, "Angie," or what I should do about it. We've been married for little over a year, and I was always so glad that she loves my 5-year-old daughter, "Lorie," and that they get along great.

Over the past few months, though, things have turned weird. Angie has started to obsess over the fact that she and I should have full custody of Lorie. She's been saying that Lorie's mom, "Karen," is unfit, which is not at all true. Until I met Angie, I only saw my daughter every other weekend. Karen and I had major problems, but she's a wonderful mom and can take most of the credit for Lorie being a great kid.

Angie stalks Karen's social media and if Karen posts a picture of herself at a bar or with a guy, Angie says that's it's proof that she is a — well, it's an unprintable word — and that we need to get Lorie away from her.

I told her no way, but yesterday she told me we had an appointment with our lawyer and showed me the file she amassed: that Karen sometimes works more than 40 hours a week, that Lorie used the word "damn" once, that Lorie sometimes has fast food for dinner with Karen, and so on.

I almost feel like my wife has lost her mind. I canceled the appointment, and she screamed at me that I don't love my daughter.

What in the world is going on with her? I wonder if she's agitated about our timeline for having children of our own, but we both agreed to wait two more years to start trying and Angie is only 26 so she has plenty of time.

— Seriously Worried About My Wife

Seriously Worried About My Wife: Yikes. Let me say upfront in my most panicky voice that your have-kids timeline needs to be changed to never, for as long as these clear symptoms exist of Angie’s unraveling. Seriously: either abstinence, or you control the contraception. No exceptions.

Next, it’s time for professional help. You make an appointment with a reputable mental-health care provider to start, for just you. Go, spell out what is happening, and ask what to do next. Do not mess around, do not soft-pedal it with “things have turned weird” and “feel like my wife has lost her mind.” Trust your sense that something is really wrong.

Your wife can do all kinds of damage here as-is, and it sounds as if her behavior is spiraling. Take serious action ASAP.

For worried: Please, please, please don't have children until your wife's mental health issues have been properly treated. My parents decided to have me because my mom was depressed and they thought having a child would make her happy and end her depression. When my father told me that when I was in my 20s, it explained so much about my childhood, and not in a good way.

— Anonymous

Anonymous: I’m sorry, and thank you. The two non-negotiables for having children are wanting them, and being equipped to care for them. Anything less is unfair to the kids.

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