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Author Topic: Married to a man who is a child of a BPD mother  (Read 768 times)

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What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Inlaw
Posts: 3

« on: August 10, 2016, 08:50:59 AM »

Hi... I am new here.  My husband of 17 years is a wonderful man who is the child of a BPD mother.  After many, many years of starts and stops in therapy to determine how to handle her, some significant events occurred that have made him recommit to therapy and he is leaning towards ceasing a relationship with his mom.  This is a difficult decision for him and one he is working through weekly with the help of a great therapist. 

Now for my problem: For our entire relationship, whenever we have had any type of disagreement/discussion, he shuts down and retreats.  This is not how he handles confrontation in any other part of his life.  In fact, he is an accomplished businessman who takes confrontation in his work life in stride and is often the one brought in to have those difficult conversations.  Personally, however, he has always retreated, and most often forgets the disagreements or discussions.  As a result of his therapy, he is learning he does that because of his past experiences with his mother. 

I can understand that, however, there are consequences as a result of that response.  Because he always retreated, I just started to handle more and more things and to make decisions without him, regarding our schedules, our children, etc.  He never complained having these things taken off his plate.  (To complicate matters, my husband travels a great deal for work and we had a second child with special needs who requires a great deal of involvement in his therapies and at his school.  All of that fell on me, along with caring for and raising our older child). So now we are in a situation where he says I took decisions away from him, therefore, he responds to me like he would his mother (retreat and then forget), yet the reason I took everything over is because he was never around emotionally to help me in the decision making process.  I became very independent because I was used to not relying on him, and now he is telling me that the reason he is emotionally distant is because I am too independent. 

I want to encourage him in his therapy regarding his mom, but feel like the process has brought up issues in our marriage.  I realize it is a problem and want to figure out how to fix it so we both feel balanced again.  But I feel we cannot work on us, while he is still trying to figure out his complicated childhood.  In the meantime, nothing has changed in his emotional distance.  I feel he is transferring his upset with how his mother treated him onto me and our relationship.  As a result, we are growing farther apart. 

I have consciously tried in the last few months to let go of things in our life and include/encourage him to make more decisions.  I am sure I still have a ways to go.  But I don't feel he is making a similar attempt to connect with me emotionally.  It is like my independence emasculates him, but his emotional distance pushes me to protect myself and just take care of things.  I don't know how we get out from under this.  Do we try counseling at the same time he is trying to figure out his relationship with his mom or wait until that becomes more clear?  I have talked to him about all of this and cried to him about what I need from him and nothing has changed.  We are very kind to each other and if you saw us you would not think anything is wrong, but emotionally, we have very little connection.  We are great co-parents and becoming just very good roommates.  Does anyone else have experience being married to a child of a BPD and the effect that had on the child's own marriage?
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What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Parent
Posts: 6513

« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2016, 09:09:49 AM »

Hi and welcome. I'm a child of a BPD mother and also have worked on ( still am) issues that both my H and I brought into our marriage from our FOO's.

I think your post is very insightful on how a FOO can affect a marriage. It isn't deliberate. As children, we learned certain coping mechanisms that were essential for our own survival with BPD parents. The problem is that, while they were functional for us growing up ( we were dependent on our parents, so we had to cope ) they can become dysfunctional in our intimate relationships.

This is mentioned in marital literature and evident on the relationship boards here. Some of the posters having relationship issues are children of a parent with BPD.

As to whether or not your H should work on his FOO issues in addition to marriage- that is up to him. He may only be able to deal with the FOO. What I can reassure you is that, dealing with my own FOO issues which led to co-dependency benefited me- and that helped in everyone I related to, and that helped in my marriage.

It was up to my H to work on his FOO issues, and regardless, I could still work on me. What I learned on the way though is that we tend to "match " our partners in some way emotionally. My FOO issues were obvious, but my H's were not. As it turned out, there is dysfunction, but not as obvious or overtly as in mine. The spouse with the "normal" family can still be contributing to the marital issues.

This was actually harder for me to see. It was easy to blame myself, and accept my H's position that it was me and my family that was the problem. But he also was a part of the problem.

In the end, it came down to me taking care of my part in it. I had to work on my FOO issues and my part in the marriage. So my advice to anyone with BPD related marital issues is that personal T, to understand the bigger picture of family dysfunction, and what steps to take to work on oneself is a big key to improving the situation. This didn't feel "fair". I was the more stable one in my FOO. Mom has the problem. In my marriage, there were clearly things that my H was doing to create problems, yet I got the "label" of co-dependency while he got to be "normal".  In the long run though, I think the person who is motivated and has a vision of the big picture is in a good position to do personal work, and like the little red hen, whoever does the work, is benefited ( even if others benefit too).

Personal T for you, to help with this situation may be a direction to consider.

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What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Inlaw
Posts: 3

« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2016, 11:49:01 AM »

Thank you for your advice.  I think you may be correct, that I should seek my own therapy and hopefully that work will bleed into the other areas of my life, namely my relationship with my husband.
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What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Parent
Posts: 1311

« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2016, 11:57:38 AM »


I can see how frustrating this all must be for you, seeing things sliding, not knowing what to do. But coming here should help, may help your husband also, in that if you better understand what your husband is going through, it will make it easier for you to accept. If someone has a broken leg, empathy is instant, if you say you have a BPD mom people don’t know what to do.

I hope you realise much of the behaviour you describe sounds symptomatic of being the child of a BPD and hence can change. But it will take time. But be reassured its not necessarily you. Like all ill people, sympathy, understand and patience I’m sure will help here.

Your question about couples therapy can best be answered by your husbands therapist. If he’s undergoing CBT or tapping then its important you’re not aggravated by other issues. Do you know what type of therapy he’s under ? But therapy only works if people are willing, but when I began therapy I found it hard to take on much more. If you’ve not had a BPD parent, it is hard to convey how traumatic a child hood you may have had. You do feel isolated by that and societies views in general. This will be contributing to the isolation you mention.

But the good news is your husbands Therapist will be working on things, at a guess, that should reverse that trend in time. But if you spent the first 18 years of your life being brainwashed on a daily basis, it takes time unwind all that. Also my wife had a “normal” upbringing but ironically has had more mental health issue than I, because she ignored her issues for too long. So great news that your hubby is in Therapy.

But the other good news is that children of BPD also develop a lot of very admiral qualities, things you probably like about hubby, such as the ability to take control (at work for now) etc... .So it is a waiting game, and I’d be guided by your husbands clinicians. I hope this helps and hang in there, I’m sure you’ll see progress if you look close enough. Maybe keep a medical diary so you can measure progress and its hard to see on a daily basis, but measured monthly you might see progress. I did find this website helped me immensely, do you think your husband would find it helpful ?  Smiling (click to insert in post)

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go. Wilde.
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What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Parent
Posts: 6513

« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2016, 06:22:31 AM »

It may give you some insight to your H to know that as a child and young adult, I had great fears that people would judge me because of my mother. I was afraid that my friends would find out about her, and not like me. For some reason, I thought her behavior somehow defined me as if we were connected. Makes sense in a family with poor boundaries. When I started dating, I was afraid that guys would reject me if they knew my mother wasn't normal.

I have seen it mentioned that having a disordered parent/family is a red flag in dating, and I agree. On the other hand, I am not my mother and would want to be judged for me, not her.

No one is perfect, but I do give credit to people who are willing to work on their issues, and have the self awareness to get help. When I started attending 12 step co-dependency groups, I noticed some people were dating others in the group. I thought this was very unwise- why choose someone with a problem? But then, I realized that some ( not all) people in recovery had done some very hard personal work, and that there are people who don't wish to work on their issues who aren't in 12 step groups who would not be good choices for partners. So having a label doesn't mean completely avoiding a person. How they deal with that may be something to consider.

Having a "normal" family or not having a label doesn't mean there are no problems. I brought some fleas into my marriage, but so did my H, and his family appears to be quite normal- at least compared to mine. Because I was aware of dysfunction in families, I recognized the issues between us long before he did and was more willing to seek out help. Because I did, I got the label "co-dependent" while he didn't get any labels. This was triggering to me, because it reinforced my childhood fears that I was the one with the problems because of my family.

I hope it helps to know that your H's willingness to seek out help is a big step and that he is likely fearful that he is the problem while you are the "normal" one. However, according to what I have read, both partners bring certain issues to the marriage. One person getting help can be beneficial, but I think it is good for both people in a marriage to work on themselves. Our marriage improved when I got help. I wished my H would have addressed the issues in his family, and his own,  but he didn't see the need because they were not as obvious. This isn't the only reason I advised you to seek help for yourself, but your own personal work may expedite the process of emotional growth in the marriage and also not make it seem to be just his problem. A BPD parent may be a "red flag" but knowing this can give the relationship some direction.

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What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Parent
Posts: 1311

« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2016, 08:48:37 AM »

I was afraid that my friends would find out about her, and not like me... .When I started dating, I was afraid that guys would reject me if they knew my mother wasn't normal.

Me too ! But the silver lining is that I made extremely strong and close friendships who never let me down. The complete opposite of my BPD relatives. I think adults pre-judge more. But people do fear what they don’t know. Personally I find the people on this coping board to be very liberal and caring, not judgemental and kind of hart. So hard to prejudge us using the conventional sense. However that said it does present challenges to our partners, but these are temporary and if you have PTSD it can get worse before it gets better. But its only until the Therapy starts to work and there is a very high success rate for CBT and others, so... .

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go. Wilde.
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What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Parent
Posts: 6513

« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2016, 09:48:43 AM »

Most kids probably grow up being themselves at home and more reserved in social situations. I had to walk on eggshells at home. At school we wore a mask- to hide what was going on at home. As I became a teen, I developed friendships with people who knew me for me, and liked me. I didn't WOE with them, and there was no need for the mask. I was more "at home" with them than in my home.

 Bullet: contents of text or email (click to insert in post) standin- even though your H has issues, his family with you is probably his most trusted family. He may be afraid to take the mask off for fear that if you knew the real him, you would reject him. I hope his therapy allows him to feel as safe as he truly is with you.
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