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Clinical Psychologist Explains What The ‘Pretty, So-Called Crazy Wife’ Was Like As A Child — And Why She’s In Couple's Therapy Now

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man and woman in couples therapy

You might be familiar with a caring, well-put-together woman in your life, whether she’s your mother, your wife, your sister, or your friend. Chances are she also has an avoidant husband who thinks she's crazy. 

Unfortunately, there are many women who fall into this category, and it’s for reasons beyond their control, tracing back to their early childhood development.

A marriage and relationship counselor shared why the 'pretty, so-called crazy wife' is in therapy often.

Angelica Shiels Psy.D, described the woman as someone who cares a lot about presentation and believes she "only exists as a reflection of how other people see her." In an effort to explain the root cause of this frequent patient's trauma, she dug deep into what her family structure was undoubtedly like.

Dr. Shiels explained that "the pretty so-called crazy wife" usually comes from a family "that has a lot of negative energy to get rid of" — such as addiction, mental illness, trauma, poverty, and loss — and they unleash it all onto their daughter.



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“Along comes this little girl — a super sensitive, pleasing, verbal little girl. Only she doesn’t get to be a little girl. She was born with a job to do — to be a container for all of the negative energy,” Dr. Shiels explained.

Dr. Shiels said she likely takes on this "job" because the siblings before her may not be as "attuned, sensitive and conscientious and verbal enough to be the good little soldier." In moments of dysfunction, she knows what to do. She understands her role is centered around being there for her mother — her father is stressing her mother out, and she doesn’t have anyone else to vent to. Dr. Shiels explained that this little girl chooses to set her own needs aside to be the peacekeeper of the family, because if she doesn't, “she knows there will be chaos and intensity that jostles her little nervous system.”

This little girl grows up to be a charming caretaker and a peacekeeper extraordinaire.

“She’s a lighthouse, always on alert for the tension miles away, but also looking strong and helpful,” Dr. Shiels described. Secretly, she’s lonely, and she believes people only love her because she puts herself aside for them. 

Naturally, this girl meets a clueless and avoidant man, and they begin to date. He's passive, cheerful, and has low needs, so she feels safe with him. She thinks, "Finally, a person who doesn't seem to want something from me." Only, as Shiels revealed, he eventually becomes a source of pain in her life.

Because of his passiveness, he takes her at face value. Her charming, selfless mask is very convincing to him. She isn't conscious of what her own needs are (because she never learned how to be), so she isn't able to communicate them to him, and he's too clueless to understand the state of pain and fear she lives in. 

psychologist explains what the "pretty, so-called" crazy wife was like as a childPhoto: Monica Turlui from Pexels / Canva Pro

Instead, she decides to wait for specific events, like her birthday, when the attention can be on her for once. She hopes her husband will plan something special for her and shower her with the love and affection she so desperately craves. But she's usually disappointed. Because of his avoidant mentality, he's unable to sympathize with his wife and her deep-rooted emotions.

Dr. Shiels said once she expresses her disappointment, he is "standing there in the rubble, shocked and maybe even overwhelmed, and defending his own fragile hero status." He'll likely respond defensively with something along the lines of, "I do all this for you, and you're still not happy? I just can't win."

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The generational pattern of emotional neglect will get passed on.

The woman will cry beside her husband at night, hoping he wakes up and notices. But he sleeps soundly through it all, and wakes up the next morning, clueless and emotionally unavailable. God forbid she addresses her unresolved emotions  he'll just call her "crazy."

So instead of communicating directly with her husband, she'll follow in her mother's footsteps and confide in her daughter. In some cases, this daughter may be born with a personality that doesn't fit the "pleasing role." Dr. Shiels said this daughter is assigned "a new role" that will still inhibit her childhood — "the scapegoated child." Her parents will transfer everything they want to express to each other onto their daughter, "using her as a receptacle for their negative energy." Her mother will call her "crazy, demanding, selfish and maybe even lazy" because this is what her mother thinks of her father, but she projects these feelings onto her daughter because it's easier.

psychologist explains pretty so-called crazy wife's childhoodPhoto: Dimedrol68 from Getty Images Pro / Canva Pro

"Her pleads for, 'see me for who I am,' will go unanswered because she's invisible and irrelevant. She exists as a receptacle," Dr. Shiels explained.

And if the pain their daughter feels is unbearable, she'll only grow up to find herself wearing the same mask as her mother, stuck in the same damaging, toxic relationship patterns as her parents. Dr. Shiels said the daughter will likely find herself in scenarios where she's begging for her partner's attention.

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Dr. Shiels explained her psychological analysis of this behavior in relationships.

Dr. Shiels said this type of woman may appear avoidant, but she is really experiencing disorganized attachment — a type of anxious attachment formed by inborn temperament and early experiences. 

Dr. Shiels concluded her TikTok expressing that in order for partners to heal one another, they must be willing to deeply understand each other, regulate their pain, and learn new communication skills. 

You can successfully overcome a sense of not being worthy of love, but it takes hard work. Journaling and focusing on activities that are solely meant for your betterment or enjoyment are important steps in the process, but ultimately, you should express your thoughts, feelings, and experiences with a professional.

If this resonates with you, you are not alone, and you are not crazy.

Being a child doesn’t have to hurt.

If you suspect a child you know is being abused physically or emotionally, contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline. For more resources, contact 1-800-4-A-CHILD.

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Francesca Duarte is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers pop culture, lifestyle, and spirituality topics.