Home page of BPDFamily.com, online relationship supportMember registration here
June 17, 2021, 10:34:26 PM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
Board Admins: Harri, Once Removed
Senior Ambassadors: Cat Familiar, I Am Redeemed, Mutt, Turkish
  Help!   Boards   Please Donate Login to Post New?--Click here to register  
bing
Survey: How do you compare?
Adult Children Sensitivity
67% are highly sensitive
Romantic Break-ups
73% have five or more recycles
Physical Hitting
66% of members were hit
Depression Test
61% of members are moderate-severe
108
Pages: [1]   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: First post - possible strategies for wife who might have BPD  (Read 425 times)
JediGuy

*
Offline Offline

What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Romantic partner
Relationship status: Married w/ children
Posts: 15


« on: April 21, 2021, 09:35:36 PM »

Hi everyone,

I’ve never posted here before, but have had this on my mind for several months now.

I’m here because my wife and I have a marriage that is not thriving and I have a few questions for the BPD community.  We have three daughters, all still at home (2 teens) and I love my family very much.  My wife has been through some extremely challenging events the past 10 years related to her health (she almost died from a severe infection after our last daughter was born and now has chronic health issues).

In the past 6 months, I sought out therapy for myself to try to find some answers.  For my part, I was diagnosed with OCPD and I believe this is pretty accurate.  My behaviors definitely impact the relationship, though therapy is helping me.  That said, I don’t think this is the entire issue in our marriage.  While discussing my marital issues with my therapist, they suggested that my wife might suffer from BPD and referenced the book “Stop Walking on Eggshells”.

Having read the book and other BPD resources, there’s quite a bit that seems to apply, but I’m unsure if she fully matches the clinical profile.

Here are the things I do see:
1.  She can be very black/white in terms of focusing only on the result.  She often blames me for things even though there were circumstances (sometimes including her own actions) that may have interfered in achieving the desired result.  I.e., intent doesn't matter at all, only actions/results.
2.  Sudden mood swings, often when I’ve said something that seems relatively minor. I find that I'm hypervigilant and rather anxious around her as a result.
3.  Inability to forgive unless the apology is done very specifically and in the exact moment that the infraction occurs (something that I seemingly cannot achieve despite my best efforts).
4.  Refusal to entertain couples counseling (“It’s a waste of time”, “you’re the one with the issue”, “you can go to therapy if you want but I don’t need to be involved in it”)
5.  Making statements like “If you really cared you would ______”.
6.  Seemingly “forgets” actions I’ve done even the day prior where I really put her and my girls first.  Pointing this out to her only makes matters worse.
7.  Going from complete refusal to acknowledge me (silent treatment) to “volcano” mode (litany of disgust/contempt/disappointment) to tolerance to positive moments over the course of the month (sadly the last part seems to be the shortest of the cycle)
8.  Occasionally buys a number of things and then returns 50-80% of what she bought after deciding she didn’t like/need it or doesn’t want to spend the money on it.
9.  Gets mad when I periodically check-in with her and my girls to see how they are doing (tells me I’m smothering/obsessive), but when I leave them alone / give space she gets upset that I’m an uninvolved husband/father.
10.  When I ask what she would prefer that I do differently she will often tell me that this is up to me to figure out instead of "expecting her to take responsibility for this".
11.  Doesn’t seek to include me in parenting discussions w/ my daughters, but gets upset that she is "doing everything on her own"
12.  Not open to scheduled activities but also thinks that it’s my responsibility to make activities with the family happen.  Yet, she won’t take the responsibility of letting me know when the family is available (contradictory w/ not wanting to be periodically checked-in on)

My wife is not suicidal/self-harming and I’d classify her as very high functioning.  She has an advanced degree and has been a quintessential overachiever her entire life.  She had a loving family and wasn’t abused as a child, though both her parents are now deceased (father died unexpectedly while she was in college, mother about 10 years later of cancer that went undetected until it was stage 4).  She is very smart, a very good mother to my children, and we've been married almost 20 years now (no infidelity, alcoholism, drug or physical abuse).

My questions are these:

1.  I see a lot of BPD symptoms in my wife, but I’m not sure she would meet the DSM criteria for a clinical diagnosis, especially given her childhood.  Can BPD form after emotional trauma in adulthood (like losing both parents and having critical illness herself)?
2.  Is anyone else in a similar situation with their spouse?  If so, what strategies worked the best for you?
3.  Do strategies for dealing with BPD still work with people who have multiple symptoms of BPD, but maybe not the full clinical diagnosis?
4.  Any suggestions for dealing with the no-win/contradictory situations?

At this point, I’m still committed to working things out with my wife. She's had some very tough challenges through no fault of her own, and I still see the woman I fell in love with (particularly through her love of our daughters).  I’m fully aware that some of you may suggest a split, and I respect that.  However, for now I’d like to hear suggestions geared towards working through this rather than severing ties.

Thanks for hearing me out.






Logged
RELATIONSHIP PROBLEM SOLVING
This is a high level discussion board for solving ongoing, day-to-day relationship conflicts. Members are welcomed to express frustration but must seek constructive solutions to problems. This is not a place for relationship "stay" or "leave" discussions. Please read the specific guidelines for this group.

Ventak
**
Offline Offline

What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Romantic partner
Posts: 68


« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2021, 11:01:20 PM »

My first wife wasn't quite NPD, but "destructive narcissistic tendencies" fit her very well.  So, you can be not quite BPD but still have tendencies that fit and are difficult to navigate in long term relationships.

The tools used for improving BPD relationships should be useful in all relationships to some degree, so learning how to improve is always good in my opinion.

I would recommend focusing on validation.  It's a great skill for anyone, and goes a long way in helping someone with BPD.

My current wife is diagnosed BPD, checks all the boxes, and does have many of the characteristics you outline from your W.  Having said that, accurately diagnosing BPD is complex and requires a well trained professional.

There are people on these forums with much more information and experience than I have, they will likely jump in with assistance as well.
Logged
once removed
BOARD ADMINISTRATOR
**
Online Online

Gender: Male
What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Ex-romantic partner
Posts: 11767



« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2021, 12:32:14 AM »

Excerpt
1.  I see a lot of BPD symptoms in my wife, but I’m not sure she would meet the DSM criteria for a clinical diagnosis, especially given her childhood.  Can BPD form after emotional trauma in adulthood (like losing both parents and having critical illness herself)?

please know that for most of us, most of our loved ones would not quite meet the threshold for a clinical diagnosis of bpd, but have traits. likewise, know that a "splash" of bpd can make for a very difficult person to love. trauma effects people very differently, and a lot of that has to do with bowens family systems theory (why did some soldiers returning from war return with their lives ruined while others thrived). if you read the board here thats for parents, you will see some of the most loving parents youve ever met, who have children with bpd.

Excerpt
2.  Is anyone else in a similar situation with their spouse?  If so, what strategies worked the best for you?

i think you have a lot in common with the membership here and would greatly benefit from the tools and skills you can learn here.

Excerpt
3.  Do strategies for dealing with BPD still work with people who have multiple symptoms of BPD, but maybe not the full clinical diagnosis?

the tools and skills taught here work with everyone. i (currently) dont have anyone in my life with bpd traits, but i use them all the time. they are a combination of basic relationship skills, listening skills, communication skills, and conflict skills. the most important thing about them, i would say, is learning to use them in a way that is sincere and authentic, and fits within the context and confines of your relationship. its not about parroting examples.

Excerpt
4.  Any suggestions for dealing with the no-win/contradictory situations?

can you tell us, in some detail, about a recent situation? we can walk you through it.

Logged

     and I think it's gonna be all right; yeah; the worst is over now; the mornin' sun is shinin' like a red rubber ball…
JediGuy

*
Offline Offline

What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Romantic partner
Relationship status: Married w/ children
Posts: 15


« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2021, 07:53:48 PM »

Thanks @ventak and @once removed for the thoughtful replies.  Both of these were very helpful to read.

As for a specific examples of "no win situations", here are a few:

My wife and I sleep in separate rooms, and I work from home.  She has asked me not to come to her when her bedroom door is closed or she is in the kitchen.  However, in the past week, almost every time I come upstairs she is in one of these two places with our girls.  But if I don't interact with her or them, she will express later that I'm not making any effort to "know my girls" or be part of the family.  So it seems my options in these circumstances are to either to violate her boundaries and put myself out there to "make time", or respect her stated boundaries but leave her feeling uncared for despite the circumstances.  As a third option, I've also proposed scheduling family time or events, but she says she works "minute-to-minute" and plans don't work for her.

Here's another one:
A week ago Sunday, the whole family had been up until 10:30 PM as my wife was marathon shopping for clothing for our daughters and I was left helping to make lunch and dinner for everyone.  That night my girls were busy trying new clothes, plus we did a zoom call with my parents for the first time in many months (as this was the timing that worked for my wife - I did not push for this).  We ended up having a nice day overall, despite it being a busy one.  I was exhausted the next day (which was also a workday), and I ended up not interacting with her or my girls at all that day (they seemed really tired and were in the kitchen / bedroom and I felt it best not to risk pushing any boundaries).

The next day, she came down to me during my workday and spent two hours talking to me about how she was frustrated that I didn't spend any time with the family or checking to see how everyone was doing.

Since that time, I have been trying to make an extra effort to check-in, but now I am being completely ignored now for over a week.

In full disclosure, she and my daughters have been under a lot of duress with schoolwork and lots of changes going on in school.
 I think they are all pretty overwhelmed, and I can respect that they might need to work through some things.  But I still feel bad about this, especially when there's no communication or statements like "we just need to work through some things and could use space for now".

Sadly, this is a cycle that has repeated numerous times - I go from being part of the family to seemingly being completely devalued/discarded.  My daughters also tend to follow mom's lead in terms of ignoring me during these times.  It's not until my wife opens up again that they will open up.  As someone who cares deeply about my family and their well-being, this is difficult to bear.

I've started to realize that this is a cycle and may not even be something I actually did "wrong" (or at least not something as malignant as it seems to be perceived).  Defending myself makes things worse, and I've started learning to find small points I can agree with her on and speak slowly to try to remain calm.  But I do find that this really wears me down, and I often eventually lose my ability to remain calm.

To be clear, I believe my wife is inherently a good person, but I think her perception of my actions is extremely distorted.  She's said at times that she feels "used and violated" by me.  While I can understand someone who feels that way having a lot of hostility and negativity, her feelings seem outsized relative to the actual infraction. 
Logged
nicholas

*
Offline Offline

What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Romantic partner
Posts: 14


« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2021, 08:43:40 PM »

Possibly she is projecting onto you, as she feels safe with your kindness...it doesn’t help knowing this, as the constant back and forth do a number on the psyche, and if we can remember not to take it personally it helps for a brief moment...so she wants her space, and it seems like she also wants attention at the same time... an impossible or extremely difficult thing to accomplish, I’ve been there my friend, stay true to you so you have the energy to validate both her wishes and yours at the same time. Just my two cents. When I say validate, that doesn’t necessarily mean ‘agree’ it just means, knowing her perception and mirroring it back to her in a sympathetic way. Easier said than done, but effective when accomplished.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2021, 08:53:43 PM by nicholas » Logged
JediGuy

*
Offline Offline

What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Romantic partner
Relationship status: Married w/ children
Posts: 15


« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2021, 08:50:25 PM »

Thanks, @nicholas - I appreciate your comments and your support.
Logged
once removed
BOARD ADMINISTRATOR
**
Online Online

Gender: Male
What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Ex-romantic partner
Posts: 11767



« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2021, 12:43:15 AM »

okay. those are definitely no win situations!

ive known people in my life that tend to do that, heck, im kind of one myself.

im interested to know how youve responded. it seems like there ought to be ways to open up communication about this sort of thing, to listen, to get suggestions from your wife, as well as to state how you feel left out. its not always the easiest thing, our partners can be defensive, sometimes we can be defensive, but it can be possible.
Logged

     and I think it's gonna be all right; yeah; the worst is over now; the mornin' sun is shinin' like a red rubber ball…
JediGuy

*
Offline Offline

What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Romantic partner
Relationship status: Married w/ children
Posts: 15


« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2021, 08:22:55 PM »

Thanks @once removed.

To answer your question about how I've responded, I'll start with what I've tried in the past.

In the more distant past, I would communicate that I felt disrespected and that I didn't approve of or appreciate her behaviors.  That would quickly get turned around into a blaming match with no resolution.

My approach then evolved (some might say matured) into trying to state how I wanted to connect, and providing a few possible solutions (planned time every day, offering to take care of our girls to give her a day off, making a list to alleviate some of her burdens, etc.).  This was often rejected, or twisted into negative intent, e.g., that I was "just coming to fill my own needs".  Honestly, she was often right - I did have a "need" or "desire" to connect with her.

I had also tried giving space to allow her to come to me on her timetable.  This was problematic on two counts.  First, I had difficulty with this when days would go by and there was no contact, to the point where I'd cave and start checking-in or trying to press her to figure out what was going on with her.  In other cases, the no contact thing would result in her blowing up a couple of days later and "feeling uncared for".

So here's where I'm at now.

After reading about BPD, I'm starting to think of her actions in more compassionate terms.  Not where I'm feeling OK with all of this (I'm still stressed and confused), but to the point where I think that maybe she's dealing with other issues that aren't my fault.  Or maybe this is like a disability that can't be "cured", but instead requires patience and practice to work around / find alternatives (though what those alternatives are usually escapes me!).

More concretely, with the current situation of being mostly ignored over the past week+, one change I'm trying is that I'm still attempting to make contact every day, but when I'm ignored I politely excuse myself from her presence and wish her well.  My thought is that I'm trying to show that I'm still here and care for her, while not overwhelming her by checking-in too frequently.  So there is still no real communication occurring, but there also hasn't been a volcano eruption.

As usual, thanks again for listening.
Logged
Throwaway999

Offline Offline

What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Family other
Relationship status: It is
Posts: 3


« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2021, 09:16:58 PM »

2, 5, and 7 would be suggestive of actual BPD - the others less so, in my opinion. That said, BPD gets diagnosed if you have X symptoms...if you have X-1 it doesn't...but that doesn't make the person much easier to handle. #8 you sound so lucky, she RETURNS the items?! They don't just clog up the household with the model trainset, the aborted efforts at becoming a seamstress/astronaut/artist/model? Heh ;)

#5 is likely rooted in her insecurity, as it is for BPDs, she's convinced you don't really care and looking for reasons to validate that and expecting you to "prove her wrong" even though the "test" she's created in her mind isn't valid or rational. I've had some luck with the overly patronizing, but saying "I do care about you, a whole lot, but just like I don't agree to let Jason play with matches even though he thinks he's able, likewise I don't think it's wise to agree to..."
Logged
JediGuy

*
Offline Offline

What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Romantic partner
Relationship status: Married w/ children
Posts: 15


« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2021, 07:12:35 PM »

Thanks for your comments, @Throwaway999.  I definitely feel like I'm being tested frequently.  Can you elaborate on your comment about the over-patronizing?  I wasn't sure I understood what you meant.

Out of curiosity, for those of you who have dealt at times with the silent treatment, how have you handled this?  When my wife does this, my daughters do this also and I feel like the ultimate outcast in my own home.  It's personally very difficult for me and I alternate amongst confusion, deep sadness, and anger/resentment.  Some days I'm able to deal better than others, but today was my second oldest daughter's birthday and she didn't acknowledge me at all when I tried to wish her a happy birthday, which was really hard (and I have to believe she didn't feel great from the interaction either).

I tried to have a discussion about the lack of communication with my wife this evening, calming asking what's going on, is this just a busy time, is there something you're upset with me about? / I feel this is unhealthy to not communicate, etc.  The whole time she looked right at me, showed no emotion, and didn't say a word.  After 5 minutes of getting absolutely nowhere I ended the conversation (saying, "well, I guess we don't have anything to talk about right now, so I'll leave you alone.").  That was as much as I could stand without succumbing to my frustration and going into irrational butthead mode.
Logged
livednlearned
Retired Staff
*
Offline Offline

Gender: Female
What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Ex-romantic partner
Relationship status: Divorced January 2012
Posts: 11759



« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2021, 05:45:05 PM »

for those of you who have dealt at times with the silent treatment, how have you handled this?  

The silent treatment might be among one of the most painful things to experience. It must be excruciating to have wife and daughters do this at the same time. Ouch.

It's discussed often here as it seems to be a common theme. What some have suggested is to treat it as a time-out rather than the silent treatment. If she is coming off an emotional dysregulation, she's using this as a two-fer: return to baseline and create a one-up that unfortunately comes at your expense.

My son inherited some silent treatment behavior from his dad that has subsided, fortunately. When it was happening, I tried being chipper, sending the message that it had little effect, and meanwhile did self-care things.

I'm not sure how that would've worked with his BPD dad (we divorced), but it had an incrementally positive effect with my son (not BPD, but other stuff). Son would be in a mood and I would take that as a signal for self-care, so there wasn't as much impact from what he was doing. And I believe it takes tremendous effort to engage in the silent treatment. He eventually gave it up because there wasn't much bang for his buck.

I think it's Patricia Evans who wrote a book about verbal abuse, in which she writes that the silent treatment is the worst than other verbal assaults because it is designed to erase you.

I suspect your wife's intent is to make you feel the way she feels when she does this (invisible), and the girls have learned this behavior from her.

The toughest part about dealing with silent treatment is that you have to create something for yourself when it happens and strip away any power in the person who is inflicting it on you.
Logged

Breathe.
Throwaway999

Offline Offline

What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Family other
Relationship status: It is
Posts: 3


« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2021, 03:29:33 PM »

Thanks for your comments, @Throwaway999.  I definitely feel like I'm being tested frequently.  Can you elaborate on your comment about the over-patronizing?  I wasn't sure I understood what you meant.

Drastically oversimplifying it..., when she's in those moods I treat her like I would a child doing the same thing. It's patronizing, and sometimes she snaps at me "I'm not a child", but more often than not she seems to accept the flattery - because when she said "If you really cared about me, you'd take me out to dinner more often" or "If you cared about me, you wouldn't let your mother visit", she wasn't ACTUALLY seeking more restaurant trips but instead seeking validation that you care about her. So explain it how you would to a child, reassure that OF COURSE you care...you're just not giving them their demand, Laugh out loud (click to insert in post).
Logged
EyesUp
***
Offline Offline

Gender: Male
What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Romantic partner
Relationship status: married
Posts: 133


« Reply #12 on: April 29, 2021, 04:31:00 AM »

@JediGuy, one comment - the shopping behavior may be a form of self-soothing. Not sure if that's the case, but given that you don't report other addictions or risky behaviors, shopping may be a coping habit your W has developed.

Everyone is different, but you may find that there is a way to tune in to your W's current feelings when you notice that she's been shopping.   

e.g., she might shop unexpectedly to distract herself from something that's bothering her, or she may be more at ease after a shopping trip.  Commenting on the shopping or returns in any way may be perceived as criticism or an invalidating statement. 
Logged
Chongsheng
Fewer than 3 Posts
*
Offline Offline

What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Romantic partner
Relationship status: married
Posts: 1


« Reply #13 on: April 29, 2021, 08:52:14 AM »

I can see where you are coming from. You really care about your wife and kids and you really want to make it better. Sadly, some of our experience seems to point to some skills that are counter-intuitive. See if  you find the following exercise helpful:
https://www.branchtrack.com/projects/yov0k5mf
Logged
Angdoesteeth

Offline Offline

What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Romantic partner
Relationship status: Married/living together
Posts: 5


« Reply #14 on: April 29, 2021, 11:34:18 AM »

I'm new here, but this is my exact situation with my husband.  Exact same credentials- master degreed professional, highly functioning, and very intelligent.  Sleeping in separate rooms, the silent treatment, being pushed away and blamed for everything from here to eternity.  In the past, what has snapped him out of it was when I was equally as nasty to him as he was to me.  Also, when he said cruel things, I would come up with even crueler things.  I definitely don't suggest this, because it totally took me out of my character and I met him at his level.  I admire you for seeking therapy yourself for dealing with this.
Logged
JediGuy

*
Offline Offline

What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Romantic partner
Relationship status: Married w/ children
Posts: 15


« Reply #15 on: May 04, 2021, 08:40:19 PM »

Thanks everyone for all the replies.  I'm still learning the site and how to reply - looks like for the most part you reply to the thread, not to the individual.  Also, I hadn't checked the site in about a week, so I'm just seeing everyone's reply now.

At any rate, @throwaway999, thanks for clarifying your earlier comment.  That makes sense, and I'll have to try that next time we talk.

@livednlearned, thanks for the idea about thinking of silent treatment as a "time out" to work on self-improvement.  I've been trying to take walks / do yard work, etc. to get exercise and get other things taken care of that I need to do for myself.  It helps to reframe this in my mind, though it's still really tough given how long this is going on right now.

#EyesUp, that's an interesting point about the shopping being a way of self-soothing and looking for a way to tune-in.  To your point, I've found that the shopping trip is often a time when I can connect w/ her.  The biggest problem is that it exhausts her (and the rest of us) to the point where I'm spent and unable to give much in the days following.  That's often where I sense she's upset because she doesn't see how draining the whole experience was but still seems to have some kind of expectation / test on the back end that I don't seem to be able to meet.

@Chongsheng, I checked out the link you sent and it was helpful.  The response of "Oh..." was an interesting find.  Thank you for sending that.

@Angdoesteeth, thanks for the post detailing a similar circumstance.  Sounds like we are both working through a tough time right now, and I sincerely hope you and your husband can find a way to work through this.  Similar to what you describe, I used to "fight fire with fire", and I'm realizing that it doesn't help at all.  I've found that pointing out flaws in her logic or interpretations only makes things worse.  I did find a book called "Connecting through Yes" by Jack Ito that had some interesting tips (basically, looking for things that you can find agreement in and validating those).  This hasn't been the complete solution for my issues, but it has helped in a few cases where I otherwise would have gone down the defensive path.
Logged
Can You Help Us Stay on the Air in 2021?

Pages: [1]   Go Up
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Our 2021 Financial Sponsors
We are all appreciative of the members who provide the funding to keep BPDFamily on the air.
12years
alterK
Andi1956
Anondad
Cnvi
doghouse
drained1996
EyesUp
Harri
JD2028
lovenature
Mac5
Methuen
Mommydoc
Mutt
old97
P.F.Change
Skip
snowglobe
Swimmy55
Teno
Turkish
wendydarling

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2006-2020, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!