Ask Amy: Husband shouldn't ignore wife's mood swings

  • Article by: AMY DICKINSON
  • June 5, 2013 - 1:49 PM

Dear Amy: My wife of eight years has a learning disability. As the years have gone by, her moods seem to be swinging all over the place.

I’m a very patient man, and it is easier to just let her go through her “episodes” and pretend nothing happened. I worry that my son may also start to pretend that the way his mother acts is OK.

I need advice about the best way to deal with this situation. I’m not sure if what I’m doing is right.

Amy says: Two elements are missing in your narrative: a diagnosis, and your wife’s own efforts to modulate her moods and behavior.

For your son’s sake, ignoring all of this is not a good idea. His mother’s behavior has a profound effect on him, and he needs a person in his life who will explain things honestly and compassionately. You should also demonstrate healthy coping strategies.

Furthermore, the health of your marriage will influence your son’s emotional life and relationships. Yours needs to be as healthy and high-functioning as possible.

Your wife should see her physician to describe her symptoms and receive an accurate diagnosis. Her mood swings might be hormonal-based, a diagnosable mood disorder or a result of frustration over trying to cope with her other issues.

You would also benefit from counseling. I applaud your patience, but pretending nothing happened is not adequate in your very challenging situation.

Toxic ex-friend

Dear Amy: “Mary” and I met in grade school, and over the course of 30 years were off-and-on-again best friends.

A few years ago I finally had had enough of her games and increasingly toxic ego, and slowly let our relationship fade into history. Even though we live less than 20 miles from each other, we have not spoken in five years.

Last week I got a call from her brother (whom she disowned a few years ago), who told me that due to an acute illness, Mary was in the hospital, unresponsive and on life support, and was not expected to survive unless she had an organ transplant.

Fortunately, an organ became available, and her life was saved (thank God for organ donors!).

Her brother suggests I visit her in the hospital or call her. Although I am very glad that her life was saved, I have absolutely no interest in starting a relationship with this woman again (I know from her brother that she is still as toxic as ever).

Should I write her a note, visit or do nothing?

Amy says: A person’s successful recovery from a life-threatening illness is something to cheer, but this doesn’t mean you should revive a toxic relationship. If you need to make amends, then do so. If you need to forgive, then do that.

In the meantime, reach out — simply as one human being to another.

I suggest sending a card or note. In it you say, “Mary, your brother has kept me updated on your medical struggle. I am happy to learn that your condition seems to be improving and will continue to send healing thoughts your way.”

This is a kind, respectful and neutral expression of good will. If, as time passes, you find yourself drawn in and manipulated by her, you’ll have to back off yet again. However, this brush with mortality might have changed her. At least, that’s how it works in the movies.

Stop the secrecy

Dear Amy: Someone wrote to you, asking about the wisdom of family members not telling someone she is adopted. The strange secrecy and taboo surrounding adoption really need to stop. I cannot imagine the impact of learning this as an adult.

Amy says: I agree. It would throw off all of your relationships to learn that your entire clan had kept such important information from you.

Send questions via e-mail to Amy Dickinson at

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