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Think About It... Some members think of "triangulation" as a dysfunctional behavior perpetrated on them by a person with BPD. And why not - this is how we often see triangles when we are in them and the '"odd man out"! However, seeing it this way is exactly the opposite of what we want to do to end the drama.. ~ Skippy
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Author Topic: Why are spouses viewed negatively?  (Read 1075 times)
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Posts: 62

« on: May 03, 2011, 11:02:57 AM »

My wife has BPD along with an eating disorder and major depression.  I’ve been researching BPD, and the spouses of people suffering from BPD seem to be viewed negatively by some experts also.

For me, my dad got hurt in a car accident when I was 13.  He had a severe brain injury, and my mom, sister, and I got thrust into a caretaking role with my dad’s injury.  My dad is still alive today because he had a loving family that supported him.

I met my wife in college, and I knew that she had depression in the past and eating related issues, but I had no idea that she had BPD.  My wife’s health was excellent for 10 years after we met, and she basically collapsed during her pregnancy with our second child.

For the past eight years, my wife wants nothing to do with me.  She pushes me away if I even try to give her a hug.  Yet, she functions at a high level at work, and she masks her illness very well to the outside world.  Behind closed doors at home, I see a different person versus what the rest of the world sees.

My current role in our marriage is basically a caretaker like my situation dating back to my dad’s car accident.  I do set boundaries with my wife, and I realize that only she can fix herself. 

At times, I wonder why I stick in an unhealthy marriage, and I have had thoughts recently of leaving.  Yet, leaving would be emotionally tough, and I also have a concern that she would charm the court system and get custody of the children.  I have been the primary caregiver to our children and they seem to be doing fine.

I’m sure that I have some emotional issues dating back to my dad’s accident.  Yet, I also feel that caregivers deserve a lot of respect for what they do behind closed doors to keep a family going.

My question to everyone is why are spouses of people that suffer from BPD viewed negatively by some experts? 

Thank you and have a nice day.



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« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2011, 11:52:21 AM »

Hi Linker,

You outlined your situation well and seem to have a clear understanding of how your past has led you to the current life you have.

I don't have a real answer for you on why some experts view partners of pwBPD negatively.  Have you had direct experience with this?

Like your wife, many pwBPD are quite charming, as such, even an expert might be lulled into seeing a BPD as a victim - is this what you are referring to?

Peace, SB

Faith does not grow in the house of certainty - The Shack
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Posts: 1497

« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2011, 10:01:25 PM »

Can you elaborate on how the experts view the spouse negatively? I'm not married but I have been on and off with my undiagnosed pwBPD for the past almost 9 years. Last night I was looking back through some of my past posts and realized that I sound kind of loony myself, or at the very least like a broken record.

I've been caught up in a terrible cycle that I haven't quite been able to put a stop to. At the moment he and I have broken up and he is moving to another city in 3 weeks. So far I'm feeling okay about that because much like you, over the past 2 or 3 years I have become more like a parent to him than a romantic partner and I feel that it's time for us to break away from each other. However it has taken me a long time to come this far and now looking back I realize that we didn't meet up and fall in love by accident. Clearly I had some unhealthy issues of my own that hooked me into this relationship and kept me hanging on way longer than I should have. I'm not speaking for everyone, but I think a good number of people who get seriously involved with pwBPD have got their own emotional problems and this is what attracts the pwBPD to them in the first place.

When I first met my ex undiagnosed pwBPD I was very lonely, poor and vulnerable. I was also extremely codependant and waiting for my Mr. Right. Due to my own poor self image and low self worth I eagerly lapped up all of my ex's compliments and over the top declarations of love and admiration for me. I had never had that kind of positive attention before and so I positively basked in it. Later on, codependance led me to take responsibility to for his feelings and actions. I twisted and turned every which way in an effort to make him happy and make him see my worth. We were clearly 2 very troubled people who had formed a very unhealthy bond with each other. I have come a long way in improving myself but I'm still working on things.

So now that I've bored you with that information, is that kind of the negativity you are talking about? That experts also see dysfunction in the non?
This board is for evaluating the pros and cons of staying or leaving a relationship. Please focus on evaluating options.
All members should learn to use the basic relationship tools to better manage the day to day interactions
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Posts: 86

« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2011, 06:21:01 AM »

I’m not an expert, but I believe I can imagine why they see the BPD spouses negatively.

In part because people tend to analyse the relationships with the eyes that they use to see bad relationships between “normal” people. Thoughts like: “How come a loving, caring, and very supportive person can fall for someone so selfish, cold hearted, unstable, aggressive, unfair, etc like this spouse?” I’m not even considering cheating, physical aggression, and other very damaging behaviours here. I believe we all know of cases of people who fell for the wrong guy/girl, and put themselves in damaging relationships for a long time, however, I don’t believe this is the typical case of a relationship between BPs and non-BPs. I believe non-BPs are not necessarily people who fall in love with problematic people and try to be their saviours, but rather people who are perfectly capable of falling in love for the right reasons, but who couldn’t expect that wonderful person had a chronic problem. 

Another possible reason is that BPD is difficult, not simple to treat and can be painful, which can lead to some sort of pessimism, and bring compassionate feelings towards the non-BP. The hidden question an expert may have is “are you sure you want to go through this hell without knowing if it will ever be fixed? For sure you have better options”. But they are not on your shoes and only you can know why it makes sense to pursue the BPD option (and sometimes, it’s worth it, from what I read in posts here… and sometimes it’s not).

Another point: BPD is a label, and when we believe in a label we tend to put all apples in the same basket. Although BPDs share symptoms, in reality, each one has its particularities, capabilities, willingness to get better, levels of rationality when they are well, history, types of treatments that are used, etc. Being pessimistic about treatments to BPDs and possible outcomes can be an over generalization. The same way highly-functional and low functional BPDs are already quite different, if we dig further we’ll see many specific differences from case by case.

One last point: BPD is still not fully understood by many, and research for BPDs is still far behind compared to other mental health issues. Even among those who study BPD there’s no consensus about how to relate to BPDs. There are those who will put an emphasis on boundaries, focussing on the non-BP and the others affected by the behaviours of BPs. On the other hand, there will be experts who advocate for the principles of DBT, CBT, Metallization-based therapy, etc which focus on full acceptance, validation of feelings (not behaviours), that help no-BPs change their own feelings of anger, frustration for feelings of compassion. I’m actually going into this direction now and it’s helping me release many hard feelings and be more understanding (and understanding means put myself on her shoes, try to feel her pain, and motivate my SO to find better behaviours to cope with her out of control feelings, and this is what ultimately they want but just can’t find the way by themselves). For those who are interested I suggest the book: “Overcoming Borderline Personality Disorder” (it was suggested to me by a well known organization that works with BPs and non-BPs in my city).

So, I hope this helps understand the experts wink



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« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2011, 06:49:19 AM »

Even among those who study BPD there’s no consensus about how to relate to BPDs. There are those who will put an emphasis on boundaries, focussing on the non-BP and the others affected by the behaviours of BPs. On the other hand, there will be experts who advocate for the principles of DBT, CBT, Metallization-based therapy, etc which focus on full acceptance, validation of feelings (not behaviours), that help no-BPs change their own feelings of anger, frustration for feelings of compassion.

These two methods are actually complimentary.

Boundaries/focusing on you/communication skills should be used by non to deal with a Borderline.

DBT is used by Borderline to get healthy.

Both should be in place and implemented in order to achieve a healthy relationship.

As to the original question, not sure if it is viewing negatively, as it is not understanding why people put up with abuse. That's a very good question The excuses are there, but ultimately, those who stay choose to do so. I wish I had asked myself that at the very beginning of my relationship, rather than at the very end.


Went through hell and kept going. Came out on the other side in tact. Still catching my breath at times. Perhaps at times I always will.
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« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2011, 08:10:13 AM »

These two methods are actually complimentary

Agree, what I tried to show is that some focus more on one side whereas others will focus more on the other side, but boundaries are for sure needed as well. Sorry if I wasn't clear wink
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Posts: 62

« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2011, 09:48:51 AM »

Thank you for responding,

I was referring to some professionals who claim that spouses of BPD’s have a lot of mental health issues themselves to deal with.  Maybe they mean the stress of dealing with BPD takes a toll on these individuals, and codependency issues.

Also, that’s a good point that maybe a therapist feels that we have negative issues ourselves because we get involved with someone that has BPD, or stick with them.  I’m sure that I have some issues dating back to my caretaking role with my dad, but this doesn’t make me a bad person.

Furthermore, my wife and I met in college, and I had no idea that she had BPD until she collapsed 10 years later.  I’m sure that I missed subtle clues over the years, but she mask her illness so well. 

Next, I wonder at times that maybe there is something wrong with me for sticking in a relationship like this.  Yet, leaving also isn’t easy when you have children and you still care for your mate.

Also, as previously stated, I am the primary caregiver to my children and both of my kids seem to be doing fine despite having a sick mom.  I can see my wife eating up the court system and getting custody of the children.  My wife spends a lot of time disengaged from our children, and her having custody would damage them.

Yes, my wife is good at playing the victim role.  She goes to therapy for depression and eating related issues, but refuses to admit that she has BPD.  I have suggested DBT, but she gets upset when I bring this up.

Furthermore, my wife has had several therapist’s over the years.  I have learned that if they don’t get to know me early on in therapy, they develop a negative image of me.  This can be challenging as my wife cuts me off from therapy.

Her last psychiatrist and counselor didn’t believe me that she had BPD.  My wife cut her previous records off from them, and she masked her BPD very well.  That’s until they dropped her, and she stormed off in a rage attack.

Later, she pleaded with them to take her back because her life was over because they dropped her.  They finally saw the fear of abandonment, and the things that I was telling them made sense.

That brings up another issue.  Family members are the frontline people that deal with BPD.  Mental health professionals should start listening to the people that deal with these disorders on a daily basis.  Some cope an attitude like we are the trained professionals and they don’t listen.  This is tough when someone with BPD has the potential to eat therapist’s up.



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« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2011, 04:09:49 PM »

Hi linker,

a T takes very much the position of the patient. You can see BPD not just solely as an illness of the pwBPD but as a pervasive syndrome infecting the relationship and infecting the partner - that is somewhat even recognized here on the board by a symbol - meet our dear critter the  PD traits .

So if you share that view and take a bit a surgical approach then a quick improvement can be achieved by removing a big part of the madness - the relationship and the partner. It is simple - there is value in speed and simplicity. And of course that yields results so there is some validity to it.

One can also see the partner not only as part of the problem but as part of the solution. That is an approach that is taken very much on the staying board. When the partner works on the own problems then that leaves the pwBPD able to focus on their own problems. And in addition there is some healthy (i.e. not enabling) support from a stable partner available and maintenance of the deep relationship. There is some validity to this approach too.

And then there is the path where partners separate temporarily while working on their own issues in a managed separation. Reduces madness quickly but comes with own drawbacks, risks. There is some validity to that approach too.

That brings up another issue.  Family members are the frontline people that deal with BPD.  Mental health professionals should start listening to the people that deal with these disorders on a daily basis.  Some cope an attitude like we are the trained professionals and they don’t listen.  This is tough when someone with BPD has the potential to eat therapist’s up.

Indeed this is more than frustrating   . That is why we need to balance the effort we spend worrying about their illness and making sure we are doing well on our side.

Changing from a caregiver role back to a partner role takes time and requires good boundaries. Have you found the LESSONS on the staying board on boundaries? How are you doing on that side?

  Writing is self validation. Writing on bpdfamily is self validation squared!
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Posts: 478

« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2011, 10:49:41 AM »

I think it is possible for the "expert" to not have real experience being involved emotionally with someone who is Borderline.  My therapist was great because her mom was BPD.  She almost knew exactly how I felt and could understand to a great extent what I was going through.  I am sure for many of them though the issue seems simple, and they may appear to almost not undersand why we would be so confused over our options or having trouble following through with our options.  They might have a general sense of why we remain or why we put up with it, but if we keep saying we love them even when they abuse us emotionally, mentally and verbally, I am sure it can get frustrating to hear.  My family takes this stance when they see or hear how my wife treats me.  Why we would put up with the behavior over and over again.  For them, not having emotional investment, the choices are simple.  For us, not so much.   
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Posts: 62

« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2011, 09:21:57 AM »


I did read over the section on boundaries, and I have done a better job the last few years setting limits with my wife.  My wife also cuts me off from her therapy, and it would be nice to work on these issues together with a therapist.

Furthermore, I don’t ever see my wife and I returning to a partner role.  She has built a wall around herself with regards to me for 8 years, and she pushes me away if I even try to give her a hug for support.  Her therapist also told me that this probably will not change.

My wife also denies that she has BPD, and gets angry if this topic is brought up.  I really would like her to get involved with DBT therapy, but this probably will never happen.  She goes to therapy for depression and an eating disorder.

Setting boundaries and moving out of the caretaking role can also be difficult when you have children.  My wife has done several reckless things over the years including a neglect charge against her for getting drunk and cutting herself up when I left her alone with our daughter.  I don’t totally trust my wife with the children, so I tend to watch over things closely.

Also, I kind of grew up with a chip on my shoulder with regards to my dad’s car accident.  People were always concerned about how my dad was doing, and rarely did people ask how my mom, sister, and I were doing handling a very difficult role with having a dad who was severely brain injured back in our house.

I get the same thing with my wife, but it even goes further.  My wife is a professional and she is very intelligent.  She eats people up including a few mental health professionals.  It’s tough knowing that you’re the glue that holds your family together, yet your being accused that your hiding the glue.

Thank you for everyone that responded, and I hope that everybody has a nice weekend.



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