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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PERSONALITY DISORDERS
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Author Topic: BPD BEHAVIORS: Why marriage counseling so often fails  (Read 32505 times)
united for now
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« on: April 12, 2010, 04:37:29 PM »

Over the years, quite a few members have tried to do the marriage counseling route, hoping that they would see some progress. From most reports that we get, it often doesn't go well (with a few exceptions). Why is this?

Because marriage counseling is based on the premise that both individuals are willing to discuss the issues and that both are willing to make changes. When one person has BPD though, they aren't able to accept any blame. They aren't able to do any self evaluation. They don't have the skills to be compassionate or offer empathy, since they are so often in self defense mode that they can't take their eyes off their own internal pain. When a MC tries to work on communication skills, which they believe to be at the root of the couples problems, they miss the elephant in the room - the BPD sufferer's inability to accept any blame or responsibility. If the pwBPD can't see the need for change or accept their part in things, then how will change occur? It won't. It can't.

The pwBPD has so much shame and self hatred at their core, that they are a bubbling cauldron of resentment and anger. While we like to say that we live our lives walking on eggshells - they often describe the very same thing. They worry that we will say or do something that will set them off, creating more anger and more shame. They blame us for getting them mad, for making them lose it, for pushing them too hard. They don't have the skills to self regulate or soothe themselves, so they blame us to make themselves feel better. Working on communication skills isn't going to solve this.

Does this mean that MC is doomed to failure before it even starts?

Research from the experts strongly recommends that partners who have any history of violence avoid family therapy... The abuser first needs to take responsibility for their behavior. It is important for the victim to build up their own sense  of power and control..

UNLESS  you find a skilled therapist who is certified and has extensive experience working with couples AND who understands BPD. The average therapist won't haves the skills. Do your homework first before scheduling an appointment. Don't be afraid to ask questions of the receptionist, or to request that the T call you ahead of time so that you can question them yourself.

The best thing for couples is to each seek their own T (someone who practices DBT {dialectical behavioral therapy} is best) so that each person can work on their own issues first, before they begin to delve into why the relationship is failing. That is where change will occur.



How did MC work for those who did try it?

What went wrong?

What went well?

Did/Is your SO going to any individual T sessions?

« Last Edit: June 16, 2012, 10:44:51 PM by united for now » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2010, 05:02:14 PM »

I know when I did marriage counseling a couple of years ago, it was a bit of a waste.  I spent a lot of time mentioning my issues, while my BPDw clammed up and didn't say a word.  She just made noises like she was going to change, and we were back to the same ol' crap after we did.  The second go-round was interrupted by my wife's hospitalization (and subsequent diagnosis of BPD), but it was just as unproductive.  She tried to make everything look like my fault, and she didn't take responsibility for the stuff that she did.
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« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2010, 05:04:56 PM »

We tried it a couple of times. We agreed to certain terms & she broke them when we got in the parking lot.

Here is a sample of the conversation. I let her go first.

"He drinks beer, smokes cigars & urinates outside" That was her opening salvo. Kaboom
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« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2010, 05:34:34 PM »

First time in '08 we tried MC and it brought me here and got the tenative diagnosis of BPD traits but in reality all that happened during sessions was the disordered thinking he had was thrown all over me and the T really thought she got it but instead she tried to get us to communicate better.

Very recently after almost a year of boundaries, validation and building trust on our own (besides individual T) we decided to go back to MC.

We have had a few sessions and they are SO different than before.

This T tells my H that he is spinning and getting no where when he is looking at my stuff. He tells us to focus on ourselves and try to do better for ourselves and then decide if this is ok for us to live with.

It totally works. My H really listens and then will talk to be about it. When he starts to be critical he will stop himself and apologize and say he will concentrate on his stuff. It is bringing us closer together now.

Instead of me crying and him being upset we are talking and getting to the real stuff. Keep your side of the street clean and don't try to control the other person, then decide based on what your SO does if you still want to stay with that person.
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« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2010, 05:36:33 PM »

I'm in it now. So far I can't see anything happening. The T seams to be good, but working under the idea that it's a normal relationship problem.
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« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2010, 05:37:57 PM »

I think what you say is true for many people with BPD, UFN, but not for everybody, and certainly not for everybody who has been in treatment before, as many people with BPD have. Just important to remember that what the majority of people here report about their relationships does not necessarily apply to all people with BPD. For instance, my partner still has BPD, but if she'd been like this for our whole relationship, I wouldn't have needed and sought out this message board, so I imagine in general that most people who have partners who are in treatment and doing well do not post here and so are not included in our ideas of who people with BPD are. Sorry if that was too off topic, but even before my partner began DBT I'm sure she would have been introspective and accepting of blame in MC because she already was doing so in our relationship and in her own T. Anyway... smiley

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How did MC work for those who did try it?

We've been in it like a year and a half now and it's done a lot of good. My partner is like any partner in MC who feels they've done their partner wrong, and feels their emotions more intensely than others. I'm emotional too, so sometimes we get lost in negativity together, in MC, but when we work on specific things, it goes well, and overall it just feels good to be working on our relationship together in that way, and know we have a place to talk that's safe for us both.

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What went wrong?

Mostly my own triggers from my BPD stepmother's therapy cult thing can make it hard at times for me to believe everyone isn't trying to learn what my emotions are so they can use them against me.

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What went well?

Generally being able to sit together and talk, to be face to face with another person who actually knows what our relationship has been through and how tough it's been. Knowing my partner will always try her very best to be calm and communicative while we're there is great.

Quote
Did/Is your SO going to any individual T sessions?

She took an intensive DBT course last year, and right now is going to T twice a week, once with our MC for psychotherapy, once with a T who's doing CBT/DBT, weekly trauma survivors group run by therapists, and couple times a month peer-run support group. My SO has been in T on and off since she was a kid--she had BPD and got in some trouble with authority figures at school. smiley


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« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2010, 05:39:53 PM »

What didn’t work (and by the way, I would say WE failed at MC…not that just my partner who has BPD failed at it, in m any ways...I think the couples conseling we did was easier for him, than for me)

Basically, the communication skills mentioned above by UFN were not there…along w/ a lack of empathy/compassion, on my partner’s part, and in return…I was not especially feeling empathetic/compassionate toward him,  either.  The T was trained in Gottman style couples thx.  This focuses a lot on communication styles, things like how ‘contemptuously’ you speak or act toward your partner, for example, and learning to NOT do that.  

I came to couples therapy with him at a time when I thought  his inappropriate EAs w/ other women was no longer an issue..and that one thing we were would be working on in joint therapy is continuing to build trust and healing all the trust issues that had been created in the first part of relationship.  I recognized that after so many lies and manipulations in the past, I has an almost ptsd type of fear regarding trust where it concerned him.   I went with an open heart in trying to work on my part toward building trust and learning to self sooth and relax a bit,  but I also started couples therapy assuming that the women from the past were now out of our lives for good, otherwise, I would never have agreed to therapy (if I thought there were still other women lurking around).

After about 3-4 initial sessions that were going very well with both of us concentrating on learning new skills etc….I saw that he had kept a recent email from one of the women he had had an EA w/ behind my back about a year prior.  I saw email…and it really alarmed me, because he has promised that this woman would be out of our lives 100% forever…no chatting, no texts, no calls…and if she tried to contact him, he promised he would tell me.  Well, he didn’t tell me, this email had sat there for a while based on the date received, and had also been moved into a folder where in the past, he had kept chit-chat and dating correspondence from women he liked when he was single, and where he had in the past kept all this particular woman’s tons of emails to him.  So, in my mind, she was still in our lives, and he had not discussed it with me, and he even saved it to a folder where he historically kept  correspondence of a romantic nature from women he was smitten with.

I decided to finally ask him about it one evening just prior to our counseling session.  When we talked alone that night, we almost did better than later when this came up w/ the couples counselor.  With the audience of the couples counselor, he was actually less sympathetic/empathetic about how hurt and confused this made me feel.  And, in the presence of the counselor, he also seemed more ‘confused’ about how he really felt about this woman than when we had discussed it alone the night prior…the counselor asked him very direct questions…like, why do you think you kept this email, what does this woman mean to you?  All he could say is…at first…”I don’t know”…then he began to say things like this woman obviously was or maybe still is important to him otherwise why would he have kept her email?  This was not the message he was giving me the night before.  It seemed in therapy, he was actually extremely conflicted about this woman…all brand new info to me…as he had spent the entire 12 mos. prior assuring me that this woman means NOTHING to him and I have NOTHING to worry about.  It were these assurances that kept me IN the relationship with him.

I was so shocked to be discussing yet again this ‘other woman’…whom I thought was out of our lives forever and had been led to beleive had been put to rest over a year ago…that I grew very alarmed and upset.  To me, I’d just been duped…yet again…for over a year….into believing he was fully committed to us, when he was, again, apparently NOT.   Now, out of the blue, it seemed like this OW from the past was looming large again in his mind, putting all the work we had done to waste and reinstituting all the past hurt and trust issues that had brought us to therapy in the first place!  My attitude toward him upon learning that he seemed so totally conflicted about a woman he told me meant nothing to him…caused me to feel very CONTEMPTUOUS toward him.  I was totally PISSED OFF.  I felt I’d been tricked once again, and I was really, really pissed off.  

Problem is, the therapist wanted us to talk about this in ways that were not dripping with contempt.  That is the whole point of Gottman style therapy.  Or at least, one of the main themes.  And here I was…feeling TOTAL contempt for my partner, feeling ripped off, and expressing it right out there…in front of him and the therapist.  But she kept wanting me to express myself in softer, Gottman syle formats…which comes naturally to  me normally, but not when I feel like I’ve just been lied to over a year!  At one point…to point out how used and betrayed I felt, I made an accurate albeit sarcastic comment that the day he chose to save this all important email from this OW, is likely a day he no doubt indulged himself in having sex with me, too…although I did not use the work sex, rather, in my contempt for how exploitative I felt he had been…I used the F word.  

The Gottman therapist looked at me like a stunned school teacher whose student had just blurted out the F word in class…. and said “oh, now that’s just NOT helpful”.    Okay, that kind of thepay was not working for us…I think some basic issues need to be resolved before a therapist spends an inordinate amount of time trying to teach a certain kind of communication skill.  Like…hey….how many people are in this relationship?  Cause if other women are still looming large…then we really don’t even HAVE a relationship.

She did try to get him to learn to use empathetic listening skills so he could really understand how hurtful this behavior must feel to me…but he just couldn’t do it.  I would be practically curled up in a fetal position in my chair weeping…out of sheer frustration and utter hurt and confusion that he could be doing this to me YET AGAIN…and he would just sit there and tell the therapist he didn’t know what he could possibly say to make it better or to help me.  

Finally the T suggested he take the reins and assertively end it w/ this other woman once and for all.   When she did that, I felt that was probably the smartest thing she could suggest…because it was starting to address the real elephant in the room…meaning…is there even really a relationship here to save and who is that relationship with?  That turned into a huge nightmare consisting of his half-assed watered down attempts to get this woman out of his life and torturous discussions regarding how to block email etc., all of which was insulting and humiliating as he knew PERFECTLY WELL how to block email etc., and it all just became a big power struggle/game.  

So, I finally just said I can’t take this anymore, I did not sign up to be in therapy w/ a man who is still in love w/ another woman,  and  I broke up with him, moved out, and called the T to tell her I wouldn’t be participating any longer.   I felt absolutely NO empathy or compassion for his need to keep leading me on while dallying about behind my back w/ OW…and he felt no empathy/compassion about how hurt I had grown based on him behaving this way.

Later, after he’d been in DBT…and he saw he had lost me….I saw some change in him, and now, a lot of change, and we are together.  But at the time, couples counseling was extremely stressful and acutely painful, kind of like repeatedly pouring acid on an already open wound for no reason at all.

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united for now
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« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2010, 06:23:59 PM »

Having previous individual therapy will make a HUGE difference in whether or not MC works, since those who are willing to get individual treatment are the ones who recognize - at some level - that they need help and are willing to seek out and work towards getting healthier.

Sadly, a great many of the members here don't have partners who fit that criteria. They have partners who are deep in denial and blame, leaving the non the focus of everything that is wrong. Without the ability to self analyze, then progress is pretty much doomed from the start.

Adding to those poor statistics is that so many nons feel like helpless victims too, so they wind up feeling stymied and unable to enact any changes on their own.

And round and round you go 

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« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2010, 07:25:10 PM »

I know, UFN, I know. sad

I just still feel the need to remind everyone that not all BPDs do whatever it is, because those folks who do get into therapy early and do admit they need help are BPD just as much as those in denial--often moreso because they get diagnosed so we know for sure they have it, unlike those who aren't diagnosed. Because sometimes I think it's easy to blame *more* on BPD and not on the specific person--the diagnosis does not require being cruel to your partner all the time, for instance. Anyway. smiley

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« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2010, 08:08:59 PM »

We have been in MC for about 10 months now and that is where my bph got his diagnosis. We have gotten NOWHERE! We spend the whole session explaining the chaos of the week that past since we had been there. Today he started an individual intense day program. but we plan to continue MC at the same time.

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