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Author Topic: Marriage counseling w/BPD wife  (Read 309 times)
RBGE

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« on: September 07, 2019, 03:13:58 AM »

Hey everyone,

I have an initial marriage counseling session with my (likely) BPD wife this Wednesday 9/11.  I am trying to prepare what I will say and I would appreciate any suggestions or feedback. Here are the bullet points I am planning on mentioning during the session:

 - I feel manipulated and controlled.
 - Her emotions seem very intense. They go from 0 to 10 when we have the slightest
   disagreement or I say something to upset her.
 - She has major abandonment issues (She will freely admit this). 
 - I try to be honest with her but the conversation becomes unproductive every time.
 - She plays the victim every time she gets upset and tries to punish me.
 - The bottom line is we can't communicate in a healthy way.

These are suggestions from my therapist. I should mention that I have one foot out the door already, so I feel prepared to lay it all on the table and let the chips fall where they may.

Also, just for a little background, we have the same psychiatrist and I sat with my wife during her first appointment. The psychiatrist said she "suspects" my wife has BPD during that session. My wife has insisted since then that its not true and she has convinced the psychiatrist otherwise. But I know from reading Walking on Eggshells that many clinicians simply document the diagnosis and don't discuss it with the patient further if they get defensive about it.
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Birddog
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« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2019, 05:50:00 AM »

Couple thoughts on this.

I’ve gone with an approach of addressing abuse, mental health issues, marriage councelling separately..

It looks like the mental health issue are in the process of being addressed, there’s a lot of shame guilt around informal/ formal diagnosis of BPD, handle that one with care around spouse, even in MC setting. If your spouse is working to make improvements, this is commendable.

I am trying to think how to get most out of your session and be productive, does your T have thoughts on communications of suspected BPD to MC in advance?

What are thoughts around one foot out the door?

Any Thoughts on skills/tools you can gain from the session?

Are you prepared for setbacks?

My MC was good about addressing the abandonment issues, helping with the healthy communication skills, boundary setting. what  she wasn’t able to fix was the maladaptive behavior of my spouse. We both needed to be willing to change. My MC said, you know your spouse is going to need to meet you half way. 50-50. That comment hit me. Even though my spouse doesn’t acknowledge directly having a PD, she is still working on improvements, I admit the process isn’t quick enough for my needs.


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Radcliff
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« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2019, 09:23:36 PM »

Birddog has some good questions above.  You've got a long list for a first session.  Honestly, a first session would be successful if you avoid validating the invalid and she agrees to go back.  You may get to more of your points in later sessions.  Be patient.  Make sure she feels heard.  Don't let yourself get bent out of shape if she says things you feel are unfair.   If she jumps all over you while you're talking, try not to feel frustrated, because observing this will essentially make your point that she's hard to communicate with without you even having to finish your sentences ;)  Don't talk about BPD.  Stick to describing behaviors and also trust that the therapist will be able to observe a lot in the session.  Simply being in front of a neutral observer can be a really tough situation for a pwBPD.  If you're able to keep your cool, her difficulties will likely begin to show.  It's going to be stressful for her.  Go easy.
 If you get a start at a couple of items on your list, that's great.  Again, a "win" is if she agrees to go back.  Throwing everything on the table in the first session and seeing where the chips fall is guaranteed to shut things down.

Excerpt
- She has major abandonment issues
Describe behaviors that are impacting you.  Not her "issues."

Excerpt
- I feel manipulated and controlled.
This could make the session a bit tense, but obviously, it's important that you feel this way.  Can you tell us more about the times you feel manipulated and controlled?

Excerpt
- She plays the victim every time she gets upset and tries to punish me.
Can you tell us more?

RC
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GaGrl
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« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2019, 09:39:26 PM »

Any way that you can get through the first few sessions focused less on your feelings (controller and manipulatedz) and more on objective descriptions of her behaviors and how it impacts your communications and marriage...would be a way to start out.
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RBGE

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« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2019, 06:24:07 PM »

Birddog -  Thanks for these helpful things to consider. To answer your questions, I actually did not discuss with my T the possibility of reaching out to the MC ahead of time and giving her a heads up about possible BPD. Silly as it may sound, I guess I would be afraid of that seeming like I was playing dirty or trying to get the MC to see only my side of things, if that makes sense. My T said the MC would likely be able to put 2 + 2 together if I described whats been going on without using the words "borderline personality disorder."

As far as my thoughts around having one foot out the door, I say that because I will not keep tolerating hours or days straight or crying, pressure and threats of divorce just because I said something that made her upset or triggered her fears of abandonment. I use to tend to her, grovel and apologize for hours until she calmed down. But now I leave, walk the dog, go to the gym or do something else to take care of myself during her fits. These boundaries have only escalated her behavior. On one occasion a few months ago my belongings ended up in a pile at the bottom of the stairs. Last weekend she thew my computer mouse against the wall and shattered it in a rage.

I'm not sure what skills or tools I can gain from the session but I'm open to learning any the MC has to offer. And sure, I'm prepared for setbacks. I'm sure she might leave the session upset, or maybe the MC will suggest after a few sessions that we are better off separating. Who knows.

It can't get much worse than it is now. As I type this, my wife has been crying in the living room for over two hours because she suggested we have sex tonight I and said I might not be in the mood. I can see why she's upset and hurt because I honestly never want to have sex with her. That's one of the reasons we're going to marriage counseling. I sat with her and reassured her after this "humiliating rejection [her words]" that I still love her and I'm willing to try to work this out, which is why I called MC's until I finally found one for that is accepting new patients. I tried reassuring her for a good 45 minutes but that wasn't enough.

She asked for the last name of the therapist I've been seeing for a year so she could "look up reviews" on her. In other words, it's my therapist's fault that I've changed rather than a problem with my wife or our marriage.
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RBGE

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« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2019, 06:59:44 PM »

Can you tell us more about the times you feel manipulated and controlled?

First of all, thanks for your suggestions and you make a good point that trying to get all my points in during the first session could sabotage it, so I will not do that.

As far as how I feel manipulated and controlled, I'll give an example from last weekend. We had tickets for a concert Sunday night but she had been upset with me, crying and threatening divorce all weekend over my lack of a desire to have sex with her and my refusal to tend to her during her fits. I closed the office door and called my parents for comfort because I had nobody else to talk to and I didn't feel I could have a rational conversation with my wife. Turns out she was listening on the other side of the door and she blew up my phone with text messages and calls, demanding I sign divorce papers she had ordered from Legal Zoom, all the while knowing I was on the phone with my parents.

By late Sunday afternoon she calmed down after we had talked for several hours, my weekend was shot and I was emotionally exhausted. I convinced her we should go on our date that evening as planned and have a nice time together, and she agreed. She took a shower to get ready while I finished a report with a deadline in the office downstairs. Then she texted me and asked, "Can you help me with something after I get out of the shower?" I responded, "Sure."

I went upstairs to our room and she said, "Never mind, I don't need your help," to which I responded "Okay, honey let me know when you're ready to go." Then she texted me again a few minutes after I came back downstairs and said, "I think I'm going to stay home." I went back upstairs and asked her why, and she said it was because I didn't want to "help" her have an orgasm. So I went ahead and had sex with her even though it was the last thing I wanted to do. She was satisfied and willing to go to the concert again, which we did and had a nice time.

She knew I was looking forward to this concert and having a sense of normalcy and peace between us again, so she got what she wanted by threatening to derail our nice little date we had planned for the evening. I get that some people are into "makeup sex" after conflict with their partner, but not me. It doesn't turn my on when my partner occupies my entire weekend with emotional fits and threats of divorce.

I have plenty more examples but don't want to talk your ear off.
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« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2019, 09:18:12 PM »

I echo a lot of the wisdom here: In your sessions, focus on your feeling and avoid JUDGEMENT statements (“She has major abandonment issues”). These statements can usually be put another way that focuses on YOUR feeling: “I feel that previous abandonment experiences affect my ability to be close to her.”

I am only starting to master this myself and it makes a huge differences in BPD and nonBPD relationships/friendships.
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GaGrl
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« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2019, 12:26:08 AM »

When you begin talking with your MC and are asked for examples -- be very specific, such as the entire "sex under pressure" scenarios.
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Birddog
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« Reply #8 on: September 09, 2019, 05:57:00 AM »

May also give some thought for after the session.

After my MC sessions, my SO was very worn down by the sessions, very ashamed, Held the door for her as we left. I took her to same restaurant,  sat with her, reserved all judgements, allowed things to process for both of us.
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LoneRanger307
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« Reply #9 on: September 09, 2019, 11:43:05 AM »

2 cents from my experience, my BPDh and I started therapy last year while in a heated dispute phase. Both therapists we've seen were AMAZING at immediately labelling our patterns and behavior. Things I was got even aware of. Those objective views have been so helpful to getting me grounded in reality and helping BPDh hear things in a way he could listen and receive the information. Learning to trust the process and be emotionally honest and open to feedback around my own contribution to the problems has been so helpful. I can let T be in charge of identifying areas where BPDh needs to work. My work is on me and managing my emotions and behavior.

I wish you good luck. RBGE.
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RBGE

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« Reply #10 on: September 09, 2019, 02:20:15 PM »

After my MC sessions, my SO was very worn down by the sessions, very ashamed, Held the door for her as we left. I took her to same restaurant,  sat with her, reserved all judgements, allowed things to process for both of us.
Thanks for sharing this with me and I will follow your example as far as being gentle and kind with her after the sessions. I honestly didn't think much about that but I will definitely do things like hold the door, offer to take her out to dinner and be as compassionate as possible.
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RBGE

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« Reply #11 on: September 09, 2019, 02:30:22 PM »

2 cents from my experience, my BPDh and I started therapy last year while in a heated dispute phase. Both therapists we've seen were AMAZING at immediately labelling our patterns and behavior. Things I was got even aware of. Those objective views have been so helpful to getting me grounded in reality and helping BPDh hear things in a way he could listen and receive the information. Learning to trust the process and be emotionally honest and open to feedback around my own contribution to the problems has been so helpful. I can let T be in charge of identifying areas where BPDh needs to work. My work is on me and managing my emotions and behavior.

I wish you good luck. RBGE.
Hey thanks, this is encouraging for me to hear and gives me hope. I look forward to hearing what my own contributions are to our problems and how I can address them. I'm very open to learning better ways of managing my own emotions communicating with my wife.

I was all revved up when I started this thread and ready to throw bombs during the first MC session, but the responses have caused me to view this opportunity in a different light.
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RBGE

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« Reply #12 on: September 09, 2019, 03:04:40 PM »

Hey LoneRanger307, just curious, if you don't mind me asking, is your husband diagnosed or un-diagnosed?
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LoneRanger307
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« Reply #13 on: September 09, 2019, 04:10:19 PM »

Hey LoneRanger307, just curious, if you don't mind me asking, is your husband diagnosed or un-diagnosed?

Diagnosed. Getting him into DBT has been so helpful. But he had to hit rock bottom (or pretty close) to get there.
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Radcliff
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Fond memories, fella.


« Reply #14 on: September 10, 2019, 03:29:35 AM »

Her needs aren't getting met.  She's using ineffective strategies in her attempts at getting you to meet them, and you are withdrawing in response to her behaviors.  Do you have any thoughts on how to break the cycle?

RC
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« Reply #15 on: September 10, 2019, 06:21:41 AM »

RBGE - one concern I have is that your wife has seen the MC before, separately on her own.

We went that route.  And here is my experience : I expressed some concerns about it, and I felt the therapist/MC was unethical after my XW went to him with my concerns, and he didn’t step aside, or suggest a colleague we could see for MC.  he also claimed I was being ridiculous, and he could he impartial.  Huge   Red flag/bad  (click to insert in post)   Red flag/bad  (click to insert in post)

At our first session, I brought a list of concerning behaviors and events I wanted to discuss, and as soon as I started talking, my XW started screaming I should just leave her already, and she wasn’t going to listen to this.  The MC just yawned and looked bored.

I showed the MC some texts from my XW where she made some pretty creepy claims and attacks on me and my family, unprovoked.  his comment was “You need to work on your love language” and my Xwife may just have some concerns that weren’t being addressed.

!!!!!!  I was furious.

In contrast, when we went to a different MC neither of us had seen before (I allowed my XW to pick her), the MC called my XW’s behavior out, and then my XW refused to go back and see her. 

the sessions resulted in more conflict. 

SO...
I think MC is largely futile when it comes to pwBPD.  It may lead to some short term improvements if you’re willing to sit there quietly, let them bad mouth you for an hour & blame you for everything that has gone wrong in their lives,  and then go home.

 pwBPD don’t see MC the same way Nons do.  For them, it’s either an opportunity to “prove” you are responsible for all the problems in the marriage (and in their own lives), or a source of further conflict. 
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« Reply #16 on: September 10, 2019, 10:14:38 AM »

In contrast, when we went to a different MC neither of us had seen before (I allowed my XW to pick her), the MC called my XW’s behavior out, and then my XW refused to go back and see her.

This is where I wonder if it might be good for the MC to be tipped to the BPD beforehand, so they might be able to tailor their approach in a way that keeps the pwBPD in the sessions.  Pointing out behaviors with a non is different than pointing put behaviors with a pwBPD and the key is doing so without derailing their participation.

Is it possible or ethical, with a signed waiver, for a T to contact the MC with a simple nudge to walk softly with her at first in the name of keeping her in?

I agree about not bombarding.  The most important thing is keeping her in.  I also would not lead with the biggest issues.

My uNPDw and I attended a session with our pastor.  She had been swinging up and down and raging and threatening to leave for months straight and not knowing where to turn, I reached out to our pastor, who both of us respected as a down to earth and level headed person.

He offered to help us unpack baggage in a safe zone.  First session, he turned to me and asked me what I have been struggling with.  I brought up her anger and how it affected me.  It was the biggest issue for me and a desperate hope that it could or would be worked on.

He turned to her and asked her what she could do to help me with that.  As far as I can tell, he was approaching things with the approach he was not there to mediate... that if one of us was struggling with something, it was that person's reality so it was a reality in the relationship to be worked out.

She stayed calm in session and seemed reasonable, but raged afterward that he had approached things as "the husband is always right" and that I had made her look like an angry person.  She refused to return and here we are something like 11 or 12 years down the road and it is still brought up.  It's also a reason she will not do MC.  I had offered after that that we could see someone else.

It is a very delicate road to walk to keep them in.  Part of that is easing in yourself and part of that is the MC not misstepping and seeming to judge, in the BPD view.
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Stillhopeful4
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« Reply #17 on: September 10, 2019, 11:53:09 AM »

First of all, thanks for your suggestions and you make a good point that trying to get all my points in during the first session could sabotage it, so I will not do that.

RBGE,

This is a GREAT response!!!!  When is your appointment with the MC?

Thinking of you and wishing you all the best (((HUGS)))

SH4
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Birddog
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« Reply #18 on: September 10, 2019, 05:37:25 PM »

RBGE,

Good luck tomorrow.
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RBGE

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« Reply #19 on: September 10, 2019, 06:15:35 PM »

RBGE - one concern I have is that your wife has seen the MC before, separately on her own.

I think MC is largely futile when it comes to pwBPD.  It may lead to some short term improvements if you’re willing to sit there quietly, let them bad mouth you for an hour & blame you for everything that has gone wrong in their lives,  and then go home.

 pwBPD don’t see MC the same way Nons do.  For them, it’s either an opportunity to “prove” you are responsible for all the problems in the marriage (and in their own lives), or a source of further conflict. 
Sorry if I gave the wrong impression but my wife has never seen the MC or met her. Our first appointment is tomorrow.

You may very well be right about it only leading to short-term improvements. I just want to be able to look back and feel I did everything I could to help the marriage before she comes home from work one day and my belongings and I have vanished.
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RBGE

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« Reply #20 on: September 10, 2019, 06:34:56 PM »

Her needs aren't getting met.  She's using ineffective strategies in her attempts at getting you to meet them, and you are withdrawing in response to her behaviors.  Do you have any thoughts on how to break the cycle?

RC
I honestly don't except sucking it up once in a while and having sex with her, which typically buys me a couple weeks of peace. But my T asked me today if I'm willing to do that for the rest of my life instead of moving on. The answer is no.
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RBGE

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« Reply #21 on: September 10, 2019, 06:41:02 PM »

RBGE,

When is your appointment with the MC?

Thinking of you and wishing you all the best (((HUGS)))

SH4
Tomorrow night and thanks for your support!
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Stillhopeful4
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« Reply #22 on: September 11, 2019, 10:23:35 AM »

RGBE,

Thinking of you today.  Good luck!

SH4
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RBGE

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« Reply #23 on: September 11, 2019, 05:52:20 PM »

Oh boy that MC session was rough. Wife is really upset and won't talk to me now. I held the door to the office open for her when leaving, opened the car door for her and offered to take her out for a drink (she had already eaten dinner). She was having none of it. I put my hand on her leg in the car and told her it will be OK. "No it's not OK," she said.
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Birddog
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« Reply #24 on: September 11, 2019, 07:03:47 PM »

It’s probably going to take some time to process, any initial takeaways.
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Radcliff
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Fond memories, fella.


« Reply #25 on: September 12, 2019, 12:47:14 AM »

Sorry to hear it was rough.  Tell us more about it when you're ready.

RC
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Harri
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« Reply #26 on: September 12, 2019, 05:04:37 PM »

Staff only

This thread reached the post limit and has been locked and split.  Part 2 is here: https://bpdfamily.com/message_board/index.php?topic=339442.msg13075844#msg13075844

Thank you.
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