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Knowledge: a powerful healing tool

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Dear Knowledge,

A spouse with a personality disorder (also referred to as “character disorder”) can wreak havoc in a marriage when his (or her) emotional instability rears its ugly head. Mood extremes and quarrelsome behavior, triggered by an immature mental coping mechanism, can suddenly transform an otherwise charming and engaging person into a monster unleashing unwarranted criticism and demeaning censure on his hapless helpmate.

The wide-ranging forms and varied extremes of PD make it difficult to diagnose and treat – besides which, individuals thus afflicted will often not recognize, or refuse to admit, they have a problem.

The most effective way to mitigate the raw emotional pain that cuts so deep into the heart of the victimized spouse is to not respond in kind, and better yet, not react at all. A rejoinder will fuel the explosion, while ignoring an outburst will deprive the fire of the oxygen it needs to keep flaring.

Internalizing the reality that you are not at fault for his abusive behavior doesn’t come easy; I applaud and salute you for your fortitude and perseverance. Sometimes staying the course instead of taking flight (from a difficult marriage) can be in our best interest as it may be the path divinely chosen for us for the purpose of elevating our souls. Make no mistake: It is the challenges in our lives that hone us and make us stronger.

The Gemara concurs that G-d endowed woman with a keener understanding than man (Niddah 45b). Still, the wise husband would do well to take the Rambam’s words to heart: A man should honor his wife more than himself, love her as himself, and always speak gently to her… to ensure that the presence of the Shechinah will dwell in their home.

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