For over 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.
Their marriage is chaotic, hostile and filled with anger and drama.
Some of them don’t even know what the unhealthy behavior is until
they work with me.
As part of my psychologically-infused divorce 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
A pervasive pattern of grandiosity need for admiration, and lack of empathy,
beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as
indicated by five (or more) of the following:
1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements
and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate
2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance,
beauty, or ideal love
3. 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.
4. requires excessive admiration
5. has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially
treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
6. is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to
achieve his or her own
7. lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or
identify with the feelings and needs of others
8. is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
Antisocial Personality Disorder
A. 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
1. 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;
aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;
5. reckless disregard for safety of self or others;
6. consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain
consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;
7. lack of
remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or
rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.
B. The individual is at least age 18 years.
C. There is evidence of
conduct disorder with onset before age 15 years.
D. The occurrence of
antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of
schizophrenia or a
Major Depressive Disorder
A. Depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities
for more than two weeks.
B. Mood represents a change from the person's baseline.
C. Impaired function: social, occupational, educational.
D. Specific symptoms, at least 5 of these 9, present nearly every day:
1. 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).
2. Decreased interest or pleasure in most activities, most of each day
3. Significant weight change or change in appetite
4. Change in sleep: Insomnia or hypersomnia
5. Change in activity: Psychomotor agitation or retardation
6. Fatigue or loss of energy
7. Guilt/worthlessness: Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
8. Concentration: diminished ability to think or concentrate, or more indecisiveness
9. Suicidality: Thoughts of death or suicide, or has suicide plan
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessions as defined by (1), (2), (3), and (4):
1. 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
2. the thoughts, impulses, or images are not simply excessive worries about
3. the person attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, impulses, or
images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action
4. 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
Compulsions as defined by (1) and (2):
1. 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
2. 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:
A. Significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by:
1. Impairments in self functioning (a or b):
a. Identity: Markedly impoverished, poorly developed, or unstable self-image,
often associated with excessive self-criticism; chronic feelings of emptiness;
dissociative states under stress.
b. 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.
b. 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.
B. Pathological personality traits in the following domains:
1. Negative Affectivity, characterized by:
a. Emotional liability: Unstable emotional experiences and frequent mood
changes; emotions that are easily aroused, intense, and/or out of proportion
to events and circumstances.
b. 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
c. Separation insecurity: Fears of rejection by - and/or separation from
- significant others, associated with fears of excessive dependency and
complete loss of autonomy.
d. 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:
a. 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:
a. Hostility: Persistent or frequent angry feelings; anger or irritability
in response to minor slights and insults.
Paranoid Personality Disorder
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:
1. suspects, without sufficient basis, that others are exploiting, harming,
or deceiving him or her
2. is preoccupied with unjustified doubts about the loyalty or
trustworthiness of friends or associates
3. is reluctant to confide in others because of unwarranted fear that the
information will be used maliciously against him or her
4. reads hidden demeaning or threatening meanings into benign remarks or events
5. persistently bears grudges, i.e., is unforgiving of insults, injuries,
6. perceives attacks on his or her
character or reputation that are not apparent to others and is quick to react angrily
or to counterattack
7. has recurrent suspicions, without justification, regarding fidelity
of spouse or sexual
Dependent Personality Disorder
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
1. has difficulty making everyday decisions without an excessive
advice and reassurance from others
2. needs others to assume
responsibility for most major areas of his or her life
3. has difficulty expressing disagreement with others because of fear of
loss of support or approval.
Note: Do not include realistic fears of retribution.
4. 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)
5. goes to excessive lengths to obtain nurturance and support from others,
to the point of volunteering to do things that are unpleasant
6. feels uncomfortable or helpless when alone because of exaggerated fears
of being unable to care for himself or herself
7. urgently seeks another relationship as a source of care and support when a
close relationship ends
8. is unrealistically preoccupied with fears of being left to take care
of himself or herself
Acknowledging that a personality disorder is wrecking your marriage is
the first step. The next step is to pick up your phone and call a professional like me.
I know 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.
FREE 1 HOUR CONSULTATIONS are
discreetly and conveniently conducted virtually to reduce risk.
I look forward to helping you!
Stay healthy and safe!
If you want to divorce a spouse with a personality disorder call New York
Divorce Lawyer Lois Brenner for a FREE consultation.
Call 212.734.1551 to schedule you appointment right now!