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Is your partner going through a mid-life crisis? Here, advice for when relationships turn toxic.

Q. I’m 63 and married to a man 53 who’s going through a mid-life crisis. He’s dealing with the effects of an abusive childhood, one of which may be chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It hasn’t been diagnosed but his one eye doesn’t function because of blows he took as a child. We’ve been married 20 years and each have children from previous marriages, one of whom he blames all his anger and frustration on (my daughter). He has a hair trigger and is angry most of the time at everything. We are extremely successful in business, although he’s a workaholic and a workout-aholic. I’m energetic and young for 63 but resent the fact he’s wasting the time we have left, specifically my time, as he’s much younger. I also question why I permit myself to be treated with such callousness. He has been to anger counselling this past year and I see some change but I suspect he’s also learned how to hide it better. Do I stay or go?

-- Helen in B.C.


A. A starting point would be to ask yourself what Dr. Steven Stosny calls “the core value questions.” He’s a Maryland-based author and an expert on relationships, anger and abuse. He too grew up in a violent home. Those questions are: Is this relationship bringing out the best in both of us? Is it offering both of us opportunities for growth and development?

“Good relationships do that,” he says, adding there is also medication that can help your husband. “It won’t keep him from being angry, but it can make the anger more manageable.”

Intimate relationships are about value, but your husband is substituting power (his persistent angry reactions) for value, Dr. Stosny says, explaining that he needs to develop new habits – pro-social behaviours that don’t include anger. It’s possible to do that alone, but easier with professional help.

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