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Author Topic: Trying to be kind to him  (Read 233 times)
steelwork
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« on: June 23, 2022, 08:11:24 PM »

Oh boy.

I used to post on the "detaching" board some years ago, like 2015–16. At that time I was, well, detaching from a very troubled relationship with someone I felt had BPD traits. It took me years and a lot of therapy, but I did move on.
 
Well, four months ago I started dating someone, but soon (a couple months in) I discovered that he had a habit of freaking out on me, lashing out, ghosting, coming back, being the best boyfriend ever--i.e. abusive relationship cycle. I really have no doubt that he has not just traits but BPD. He's not diagnosed, but then the only time he saw a therapist was as part of a custody/visitation battle. (A whole other post.)

You know that Maya Angelou quote about believing people when they tell you who they are?

He let me know early on about his "twisted psyche" and his "demon." He told me he drank too much. (I'm sober.) I asked him if he drank more than he wanted to, and he said no. Well, he wasn't drinking around me much, because we spent 90% of our time at my place, so I kind of brushed that one under the rug. Then I started going other places with him, and I saw how he drinks, and it gets bad. It's also when most of the emotional and verbal abuse came out.

But I really wanted to give him a chance. I love him. I cling to that bit of self-awareness he shows. I have a co-dependency problem.

Based on the recommendation on this site, I bought The High-Conflict Couple by Alan E. Fruzzetti and suggested we read it together. He was enthusiastic. It was pretty eye-opening reading it with him, discussing it. Concepts that seem so unremarkable to me are really hard for him to grasp—like the idea that love persists "in the shadow of anger"—that it doesn't just go away and then come back. That if someone says "I'm getting upset and would like to take a break from this conversation," it is not then same as saying the other person is to blame for upsetting them.

So it has been a rollercoaster, but by now I care deeply about him.

Here's what's going on now.

We planned a weeklong vacation together. The night before we were to leave, he got upset with me about something I said and left the apartment. Yada yada yada, the next day he said he still wanted to go on vacation. I said I thought we could benefit from a couple's therapist, and he agreed.

The vacation was mostly amazing, but in the last few days he became possessed by the idea that I was growing tired of him. Kept asking if I still liked him, and in the last day or so, he started distancing himself from me.

The five-hour drive home was awful. He wouldn't look at me, was unresponsive when I touched him, gave two-word answers to my attempts at conversation. When we pulled up in his mother's driveway (where we were staying overnight), he turned to me and asked, "Are you breaking up with me?"

There was a whole ugly scene, with him drinking four very strong beers in about 40 minutes and then lashing out, saying some really hurtful things. Probably the worst episode we've had—him berating me, telling me I don't know how to talk and that everything is my fault... Just convinced that I was breaking up with him, then saying we were through, then taking it back. I mean, deranged. I tried to leave but forgot my suitcase and had to go back, and by then it was 2 a.m. and I was upset and he was upset and we cried and hugged and I ended up staying over.

I was still pretty shaken the next day, but as I was leaving, he asked when he could see me again.

Then, over the course of the day, he stopped responding to friendly texts. Then he told me to stop texting. Then he blocked me.

I was not sure if he'd broken up with me or what. I spent a few days taking stock in the situation and decided that if/when I heard from him again, I would tell him I couldn't keep going like this but would love to hear from him if he ever:

1) got into therapy
2) got sober

He unblocked me after a few days. When he'd unblocked me, I asked him if he would meet me after work so we could talk, but he said he needed some time alone and could we talk next week? I said of course. This was yesterday.

Today he texted me and said he was looking for a couple's therapist for us. That is, if I still thought it was worth it. It was a very loving text.

Well, I don't want to lead him on, but I also don't want to have an emotional exchange over text. This is how I responded:

"You're worth a van full of therapists. See what you can discover, and let's talk about it in person next week."

He responded, simply, "Thank you."

I knew he'd scrutinize what I wrote for signs of abandonment/rejection, and I didn't want him to suffer all weekend, and I didn't want a tortured text volley. Maybe he's suffering anyhow, because I didn't exactly invite an ongoing exchange.

He has said repeatedly that I was his "last chance at happiness," but I know, I know, happiness will elude him with or without me unless he sobers up and gets some therapy for himself. If he does, it will be for his own good, not for me. I’m keeping an open mind. But not optimistic.

I'm not sure what I'm looking for here.

I'm stuck in this place of not wanting to give up but knowing it's just going to get uglier. But admiring his resolve to work on things. And wanting to be kind.

And also . . . I am weak. Maybe I'm guilty of leading him on after all. At least leaving the door open, until next week.

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steelwork
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« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2022, 08:56:24 PM »

I think I know what I'm asking.

I feel like this weekend is a make-or-break point. The relationship is still new (four months), and my gut is giving me a very clear message that I need to get out of it. How do I prepare for next week?

Also, what does "get out of it" mean? What if he immediately agrees to stop drinking and start seeing a therapist? These steps are necessary, but they aren't a guarantee of anything in and of themselves.

What if I told him I would love to hear from him when he's X months sober / has been working with a therapist for X months?

What if I offered to go to an AA meeting with him and help him find a sponsor and he agreed to it?

What if I'm giving up too soon?

What if I cave?
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« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2022, 12:14:55 AM »

I can't tell you what to do.  But this is not so different from my experience.  My wife is a good person with many good qualities, many things I admire, and many traits I value.  But, she is abusive verbally and sometimes physically in ways that nobody else in my past had ever been to me (even bullies at school).  So what has kept me here?  Well, time and time again I have bought into the idea that she has a mental illness that she has sought intensive treatment for.  The "good person" in me keeps telling me that as long as she is working on herself, I give her a chance.

Now, nearly 10 years with her and 10 more years of therapy for her, two hospitalizations, 4 couples therapists and nothing has changed for the better.  I am losing more of myself and her BPD traits haven't improved at all. 

In the past year or two things have shifted within me.  I no longer feel optimistic towards her or towards the relationship.  If she decided to leave me tomorrow, I would not stop her or discourage her.  If she was gone in her own place even a week, I don't think I would let her come back even if she asked.  Why?  Because I know the peace and quiet and autonomy would quickly tell me that I simply cannot have her drama back in my life.  Am I in a position to tell her to leave?  Not yet.  Why?  Because I fear she cannot take care of herself, and the guilt would consume me (Fear, Obligation, Guilt)

I would suggest you think hard about what a couples therapist could really do.  And think about if this is a better time to break it off rather than a year or 10 years from now.  Ask yourself if you would ever move in with him.  If you let him go, he can still work on himself without you.  And if he truly changes for the better and things are meant to be, you can try again in the future.
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steelwork
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« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2022, 08:18:55 AM »

Oh wow, maxsterling. I looked at your earliest posts, in 2013 (!), and it was sobering. No, I can't do this. The FOG is already starting to roll in.

Last night, after asking me to give him space until next week, he started texting me. All over the map. I'm exquisite. I make him feel like sh*t. Trying to work up an argument from any scrap I gave him in return. It was really hard extracting myself from the conversation gracefully—by which I mean both not taking the bait and not matching his romantic tone—and I fully expect he'll start it up again today or tomorrow.

Finally, I just said I was asking for space, as he had asked for it earlier, and that I didn't want to communicate important things by text because there's such a risk of misinterpretation when things are so volatile.

He'll be ruminating, fuming, drinking, and probably lashing out this weekend, and I *really* don't want to have this conversation with him over text.


I would suggest you think hard about what a couples therapist could really do . . . If you let him go, he can still work on himself without you.  And if he truly changes for the better and things are meant to be, you can try again in the future.

Yes, exactly. I think couple's counseling is off the table at this point. I just didn't want to say so over text.

And yes—I really hope he will work on himself in a meaningful way and not just give up.

But . . . I'm struggling with whether to give him a grace period in which to stop drinking and start with a therapist. If nothing else, he would have some support when I leave. He has no friends at all. The only people he interacts with on a regular basis are his co-workers and his 90-year-old mother.
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Manic Miner

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« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2022, 09:07:20 AM »

I guess nobody can or should tell you what to do. We are not in your shoes, but can predict where it might go from there.

Since you are still young couple, I think there is still time to reconsider it all without much damage going on.

Trust your gut. There are two options if you want to stay with him: either he will go into therapy and fix his drinking problem and other bpd issues or you will have to learn and adapt, knowing to cope with his illness and learn tools to stop the fire before spreading. It's a long way ahead without certain outcome.

Third option is to just break up. It's really up to you. Take your time and trust your gut and see if he REALLY wants to change.
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ForeverDad
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« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2022, 07:02:10 PM »

I guess nobody can or should tell you what to do. We are not in your shoes, but can predict where it might go from there.

Trust your gut.

While he may surprise you and diligently work on addressing his drinking and BPD-ish behaviors, that's in the best-outcome world.  More likely - if you decide to stay together - your future will be similar to the recent past.  Gut wrenching.

Meanwhile, do not risk having children with him until you are very sure his issues are firmly in the distant past.  So many here discovered too late that having children does not fix serious relationship issues, it just makes it all vastly more complicated.
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steelwork
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« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2022, 08:00:33 PM »

While he may surprise you and diligently work on addressing his drinking and BPD-ish behaviors, that's in the best-outcome world.  More likely - if you decide to stay together - your future will be similar to the recent past.  Gut wrenching.

I'm pretty pessimistic about the possibility of this working out.

I think I am really struggling with two things:

1. I have this beautiful thing in my hands—a person who I love, who I share so much with intellectually and artistically and spiritually, and who I've had amazing times with in these brief four months. The sense memory of him holding me in his arms all night. And a dream of forever. I'm close to 100% sure I should put the beautiful thing down and walk away, but it's just really hard. It's hard to say goodbye to him.

2. I care about him and want to be kind. I want our leave-taking, if it happens, to reflect my values.

I want him to know that I tried my best, that he's important to me, and deserving of love. I want to tell him I am not his last chance at happiness.

I think that, in the very unlikely event that he is willing to stop drinking and start seeing a therapist, I want to give him the opportunity to show me he can be reasonably emotionally stable. An even less likely scenario, I know. I doubt he can go a week without melting down, but at least then he will have been given a chance.

I'll be seeing him on Tuesday. I'm trying to mentally/emotionally prepare, and figure out the best way to explain my boundaries to him. I have to date not clearly told him my boundaries. I don't expect him to be capable of respecting them, but some sense of fairness tells me that he should at least have one opportunity.

I'm trying to clarify what my boundaries are, and come up with the words to communicate them. Maybe I will write myself an idea script and share it here.
 
Meanwhile, do not risk having children with him until you are very sure his issues are firmly in the distant past. 

Oh, goodness no! I guess I should have said that I'm 56 and he is 60.
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steelwork
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« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2022, 09:29:59 PM »

I took a stab at writing out what I'd ideally like to say on Tuesday. I would really love to get some feedback.

=======
Remember that time we talked about what each of us wants from a relationship at this point in our lives? You said, "understanding"–that your dearest wish is to be understood. I want that, too. It’s something I’ve always craved, and I think that’s part of the reason we were drawn to each other. But what I said I wanted most right now was stability. I’ve just had such an unstable life. I was raised in a lot of chaos and moving around, and because of what I absorbed while I was growing up, maintaining stability has always been a struggle for me. I’m not young anymore, and I feel like it’s high time for me to get serious about that. I really want it. Living a predictable life, not feeling like I’m putting out fires, keeping the stress level down as much as possible in my personal life, and having a relationship with someone who I feel like I can really count on emotionally.

I love you, and a lot of the time I feel incredibly lucky to have found you. We've had a lot of fun and even some transcendence together. But our relationship hasn’t been very stable. It’s really been a lot of ups and downs, especially recently. We've each contributed there. For my part, I've heard you when you said you felt like I was prejudging you, anticipating scenes of conflict that would "happen" to me as a passive participant. That’s fair. I have been on edge, and I get that it’s discouraging for you when you are trying your best.

So I’ve spent this past weekend thinking about why I’m on edge and anticipating conflict, and what might help with that.

One thing that I got clear about is that I see a connection between your drinking and our uglier conflicts.  What you do is none of my business, but it is my responsibility to myself not to put myself in situations that are going to make me unhappy, and I’ve seen that alcohol makes those painful scenes a lot more likely, so I’m asking that you not drink around me. If you do, I will have to leave the situation, wherever we are. If you think you will be drinking, I’m asking you to let me know so that know in advance not to put myself in that position. For instance, I know you generally drink at your mother’s house, and as much as I love hanging out with your mother, I’m not going to be able to go there if you plan to drink. Again, all respect to you and what you decide for yourself. I’m deciding this for myself. Ditto for your apartment: It’s somewhere you drink, and I can’t hang out there as long as that’s the case.

I also don’t want to be texting with you when you’re drinking. If I’m not physically present, I won’t know for sure if you’re drinking (though, honestly, I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at detecting inebriation in your texts). So I have to ask you to help me with that one. If you’re drinking, please don’t text. If I reach out to you while you’re drinking, I am asking you to let me know that’s the case, and we can cut it short.

Another thing, and this is harder to approach, is that I don’t want to go through any more scenes like the one we had at your mother’s house last week. If that is going to be a feature of our relationship, I can't stay in it, because that is working against my need for stability. I get that it's not possible for you to promise that won't happen again, but I suspect avoiding each other while you're drinking will help a lot.

Another thing is that I don’t want to have to wonder if you’ve broken up with me—like when you left my apartment without saying anything, and left your keys, the night before our vacation. I texted you to ask what was going on, and you didn’t reply, and I thought that meant you were done. Then it turned out you weren't. That made me feel really unstable. So I'm giving myself a rule: If you leave like that, and leave your keys, and don’t answer my texts, I’m going to assume you’ve ended things. That will be a serious bummer, but it will at least be clear, and clarity makes stability more possible for me.

Do you think those are things you can agree to—not drinking around me and not lashing out or vanishing silently?

I have really thought about it, and I know that I need those things to be happy with you. If you don’t think you can sign on to them, I will be sad, but I also completely understand. If you feel like you want to try, I will do what I can to help you.

[This is where I might broach the idea of him going to an AA meeting with me / looking for a therapist.]
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Manic Miner

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« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2022, 05:34:31 AM »

I'm pretty pessimistic about the possibility of this working out.

I think I am really struggling with two things:

1. I have this beautiful thing in my hands—a person who I love, who I share so much with intellectually and artistically and spiritually, and who I've had amazing times with in these brief four months. The sense memory of him holding me in his arms all night. And a dream of forever. I'm close to 100% sure I should put the beautiful thing down and walk away, but it's just really hard. It's hard to say goodbye to him.

2. I care about him and want to be kind. I want our leave-taking, if it happens, to reflect my values.


Totally understand your point of view, especially no. 2. I'd never want to separate or be done with my wife in anything less than something that reflects my own values and who I am.

Regarding no. 1, I'm not sure if your case is similar, but I noticed you are seeing the best of him as well, someone that seems to be a dreamer, compassionate soul whom you (can) resonate deeply.

I don't know if I'm right or wrong, but I got to a point to think that the good values that my wife has or had, to which I fell in love with, are possibly linked to BPD as well! She's a dreamer, a big creative soul and a child that just cannot comprehend that the world is not a sandbox, but a harsh, ruthless place. Where friendships don't last, where "forever" is a temporal word that means you're safe until tomorrow.

She is not mentally disabled, quite the contrary, she's highly intelligent and super smart, but part of her just cannot see the above nor take lessons. For years I felt I was with someone "special" in terms of not having the relationship other people seemed of having, if that makes any sense. Our fights and even some goals were always naive, childish, compared to the "world" out there.

I have a child inside too, an anarchy-artistic driven mind that likes to play and be happy. Forever refusing to be an imposter, someone I'm told I should or expected to be, without being true to myself. But unlike her, I CAN see what the world is about, I DO care to see where it will go, to predict, take responsibility or cover in advance. For all of us. And for those reasons I managed to get us to have our own apartment, no debt and no mortgage, to detach ourselves from banksters and "opportunities" that could drain our souls away. I recognized the biggest issue our daughter was having as a child with special needs, way before others. Sadly, my wife took that for granted and I never saw she appreciated it. I'm a silent caretaker in our relationship as well (most people don't see it, esp. not my wife, as I'm not vocal about it) and been in that role for years.

But you see, I'm starting to see that there's a strong connection of those "best of" stuff I love about her and BDP. And that breaks my heart as I'm in a stalemate position. I'm not sure where should I go. I met several women that were nice, possibly without any traits of BPD, but also bore the hell out of me as the talk progressed. They were "adult" in the purest sense. And I'm not sure I like adult minds without having child-inside. But going to that territory is a risk of approaching BPD, NPD states.

What I'm trying to point out here is that maybe you too adore him for the "good" side of BPD. That dreamer state, that "person who I love, who I share so much with intellectually and artistically and spiritually, and who I've had amazing times with" could be the part of the same coin.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2022, 05:51:34 AM by Manic Miner » Logged
steelwork
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« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2022, 08:04:13 AM »

Beautifully said, Manic Miner. Yes, absolutely, that's right. There's no separating some of the best things about him from the inner life responsible for some of his worst tendencies.
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ForeverDad
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« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2022, 10:43:17 PM »

My vision or attention span sort of blurred in the long post. My apologies.  My thoughts are that a pwBPD probably will not understand the sentiment behind your words, they won't penetrate the baggage of the past emotion-laden history.  At least, don't count on it. It's about perceptions, and they're not his.

If you're seeking closure, ending things nicely, closure may have to be something you Gift Yourself.
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steelwork
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« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2022, 10:54:36 PM »

Sorry it was too long for you, Forever Dad. If anyone does want to read those boundaries I worked out for myself, I would appreciate some feedback.

Tuesday is the day we're supposed to be getting together. We haven't seen each other since the big horrible blowout a week and a half ago. I'm really not sure what to expect.
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« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2022, 10:36:44 AM »

Excerpt
I want our leave-taking, if it happens, to reflect my values.

I want him to know that I tried my best, that he's important to me, and deserving of love. I want to tell him I am not his last chance at happiness.

I'm reminded of the Stop Walking On Eggshells book saying that we should measure the success of an interaction by what we can control: Did you respond as an adult? Did you act with self-respect? Were you clear about your position? Did you remain focused even if s/he tried to draw you off track? Did you stay calm? Refuse to be baited? Were you considerate of his/her feelings? Did you keep an open mind?

In other words, we cannot predict or control how the other person responds, or whether or not they receive the message we hope they get.
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steelwork
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« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2022, 10:47:07 AM »

Did you respond as an adult? Did you act with self-respect? Were you clear about your position? Did you remain focused even if s/he tried to draw you off track? Did you stay calm? Refuse to be baited? Were you considerate of his/her feelings? Did you keep an open mind?

In other words, we cannot predict or control how the other person responds, or whether or not they receive the message we hope they get.


Thank you. I guess that was what I needed to hear.
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