Is your marriage surrounded by hostility, frustration, drama and chaos?
Are your efforts to improve the situation constantly ridiculed and shot
down? Do you know that a personality disorder may be destroying your marriage?
For more than 35 years as a divorce attorney and psychologically trained
mediator, I uniquely guide couples, especially those with personality
disorders, towards healthy, less painful, dignified divorces.
Many of the couples I work with complain that there is an unhealthy third
party ruining their relationship. Some of them don’t even know what
the unhealthy behavior is until they work with me. As part of my psychologically
infused mediation process, I identify what psychological disorder is affecting
their marriage and guide couples on how to manage the disorder while dissolving
their marriage with compassion and less pain.
Below are some of the personality disorders I see plaguing many marriages today:
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Narcissistic personality disorder manifests in a pervasive pattern of grandiosity,
a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood
and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of
- has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements
and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate
- is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance,
beauty, or ideal love;
- believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only
be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people.
- requires excessive admiration;
- has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially
favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations;
- is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve
his or her own ends;
- lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings
and needs of others;
- is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her;
- shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
Antisocial Personality Disorder
Antisocial Personality Disorder manifests in a pervasive pattern of disregard
for and violation of the rights of others, occurring since age 18 years,
as indicated by three or more of the following:
- failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as
indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
- deception, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning
others for personal profit or pleasure;
- impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;
- irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights
- reckless disregard for safety of self or others;
- consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain
consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;
- lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing
having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.
A. The individual is at least age 18 years.
B. There is evidence of conduct disorder with onset before age 15 years.
C. The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the
course of schizophrenia or a manic episode.
Major Depressive Disorder
Major Depressive Disorder is characterized by:
- Depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities for
more than two weeks.
- Mood represents a change from the person's baseline.
- Impaired function: social, occupational, educational.
- Specific symptoms, at least 5 of these 9, present nearly every day:
- Depressed mood or irritable most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated
by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation
made by others (e.g., appears tearful).
- Decreased interest or pleasure in most activities, most of each day.
- Significant weight change or change in appetite.
- Change in sleep: Insomnia or hypersomnia.
- Change in activity: Psychomotor agitation or retardation.
- Fatigue or loss of energy.
- Guilt/worthlessness: Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt.
- Concentration: diminished ability to think or concentrate, or more indecisiveness
- Suicidality: Thoughts of death or suicide, or has suicide plan.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
A. Either obsessions or compulsions:
Obsessions as defined by (1), (2), (3), and (4):
- Recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced,
at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and inappropriate and
that cause marked anxiety or distress.
- Thoughts, impulses, or images are not simply excessive worries about real-life problems.
- The person attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, impulses, or images,
or to neutralize them with some other thought or action.
- The person recognizes that the obsessional thoughts, impulses, or images
are a product of his or her own mind (not imposed from without as in thought
Compulsions as defined by (1) and (2):
- Repetitive behaviors (e.g., hand washing, ordering, checking) or mental
acts (e.g., praying, counting, repeating words silently) that the person
feels driven to perform in response to an obsession, or according to rules
that must be applied rigidly.
- The behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing distress
or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviors
or mental acts either are not connected in a realistic way with what they
are designed to neutralize or prevent or are clearly excessive.
B. At some point during the course of the disorder, the person has recognized
that the obsessions or compulsions are excessive or unreasonable
C. The obsessions or compulsions cause marked distress, are time consuming
(take more than 1 hour a day), or significantly interfere with the person's
normal routine, occupational (or academic) functioning, or usual social
activities or relationships.
Borderline Personality Disorder
The essential features of a personality disorder are impairments in personality
(self and interpersonal) functioning and the presence of pathological
personality traits. To diagnose Borderline Personality Disorder, the following
criteria must be met:
- Significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by:
1. Impairments in self functioning (a or b):
- Identity: Markedly impoverished, poorly developed, or unstable self-image,
often associated with excessive self-criticism; chronic feelings of emptiness;
dissociative states under stress.
- Self-direction: Instability in goals, aspirations, values, or career plans. And;
2. Impairments in interpersonal functioning (a or b):
- Empathy: Compromised ability to recognize the feelings and needs of others
associated with interpersonal hypersensitivity (i.e., prone to feel slighted
or insulted); perceptions of others selectively biased toward negative
attributes or vulnerabilities.
- Intimacy: Intense, unstable, and conflicted close relationships, marked
by mistrust, neediness, and anxious preoccupation with real or imagined
abandonment; close relationships often viewed in extremes of idealization
and devaluation and alternating between over involvement and withdrawal.
1. Negative Affectivity, characterized by:
- Emotional liability: Unstable emotional experiences and frequent mood changes;
emotions that are easily aroused, intense, and/or out of proportion to
events and circumstances.
- Anxiousness: Intense feelings of nervousness, tenseness, or panic, often
in reaction to interpersonal stresses; worry about the negative effects
of past unpleasant experiences and future negative possibilities; feeling
fearful, apprehensive, or threatened by uncertainty; fears of falling
apart or losing control.
- Separation insecurity: Fears of rejection by - and/or separation from -
significant others, associated with fears of excessive dependency and
complete loss of autonomy.
- Depressivity: Frequent feelings of being down, miserable, and/or hopeless;
difficulty recovering from such moods; pessimism about the future; pervasive
shame; feeling of inferior self-worth; thoughts of suicide and suicidal behavior.
2. Disinhibition,characterized by:
- Impulsivity: Acting on the spur of the moment in response to immediate
stimuli; acting on a momentary basis without a plan or consideration of
outcomes; difficulty establishing or following plans; a sense of urgency
and self-harming behavior under emotional distress.
- Risk Taking: Engagement in dangerous, risky, and potentially self-damaging
activities, unnecessarily and without regard to consequences; lack of
concern for one's limitations and denial of the reality of personal danger.
3. Antagonism, characterized by:
- Hostility: Persistent or frequent angry feelings; anger or irritability
in response to minor slights and insults.
Paranoid Personality Disorder
Paranoid Personality Disorder is characterized by a pervasive distrust
and suspiciousness of others such that their motives are interpreted as
malevolent, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts,
as indicated by four (or more) of the following:
- Suspects, without sufficient basis, that others are exploiting, harming,
or deceiving him or her.
- Is preoccupied with unjustified doubts about the loyalty or trustworthiness
of friends or associates.
- Is reluctant to confide in others because of unwarranted fear that the
information will be used maliciously against him or her.
- Reads hidden demeaning or threatening meanings into benign remarks or events.
- Persistently bears grudges, i.e., is unforgiving of insults, injuries,
- Perceives attacks on his or her character or reputation that are not apparent
to others and is quick to react angrily or to counterattack.
- Has recurrent suspicions, without justification, regarding fidelity of
a spouse or sexual partner.
Dependent Personality Disorder
People who have a Dependent Personality Disorder have a pervasive and excessive
need to be taken care of that leads to submissive and clinging behavior
and fears of separation, beginning by early adulthood and present in a
variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
- Has difficulty making everyday decisions without an excessive amount of
advice and reassurance from others.
- Needs others to assume responsibility for most major areas of his or her life.
- Has difficulty expressing disagreement with others because of fear of loss
of support or approval. Note: Do not include realistic fears of retribution.
- Has difficulty initiating projects or doing things on his or her own (because
of a lack of self-confidence in judgment or abilities rather than a lack
of motivation or energy).
- Goes to excessive lengths to obtain nurturance and support from others,
to the point of volunteering to do things that are unpleasant.
- Feels uncomfortable or helpless when alone because of exaggerated fears
of being unable to care for himself or herself.
- Urgently seeks another relationship as a source of care and support when
a close relationship ends.
- Is unrealistically preoccupied with fears of being left to take care of
himself or herself.
Acknowledging that a personality disorder is a third party in your marriage
is the first step in getting help. The next step is to pick up your phone
and call a professional like me. I knnow this won’t be easy, but
gaining your freedom and happiness will be worth it. As a psychologically
trained divorce attorney and mediator, I am uniquely qualified to provide
you with the psychological and legal strategy necessary to remove yourself
safely from the grip of a spouse with a personality disorder.
Call me now to learn more. All our
FREE 1 HOUR CONSULTATIONS are discreetly and conveniently conducted virtually to reduce risk.
I look forward to helping you.
Stay healthy and safe!
New York Divorce Lawyer Lois Brenner is available for a FREE consultation.
Call 212.734.1551 to schedule you appointment right now!