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Author Topic: Daughter lashing out with threatening behaviour  (Read 256 times)
speed7

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« on: February 12, 2024, 03:42:18 PM »

This is my first post and I need some help/advice on a very difficult situation with my partners daughter.

Background is -

Daughter has BPD. The father is a boarderline alcoholic and erratic/unreliable. Historically the daughter has been able to play Mum and Dad off against each other because they do not speak. Recently they have been speaking again and this has been a source of frustration for the daughter as it has taken away one of her weapons/tactics of manipulating them via information control/lies.

She is becoming increasingly volatile and in recent times when she lashes out she threatens to email my partners work and try to get her sacked or in trouble. This has come at the end of an unbelievably challenging period of so many incidents that it would take me days to list them all.

Anything can set her off at the moment and its is so hard to put boundaries in place and stick to them despite trying.

Last Friday night my partner broke down to a level of upset that I ahve neevr ever seen. It was worrying. I want to do something.

I have a good relationship with the daughter (she actually does listen to me) and I believe I have one shot to try and have a conversation with her where I would like to try and explain that her mother is past breaking point.

Does anyone have any ideas of how I can say this to make it get through - or any other ideas at all?

The help would be so welcome.





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livednlearned
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« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2024, 05:25:03 PM »

A difficult situation for all involved  Frustrated/Unfortunate (click to insert in post)

It's great that you have the respect of your partner's daughter.

How old is she?

Are all 3 of you living together?

You mention that it's relatively recent for your partner and her ex to speak again, and that this has triggered frustration for the daughter.

It could be she's in an extinction burst, which isn't uncommon when new boundaries are introduced. She's testing to see whether things can be changed back.

My concern if you wade in is that it undermines your partner even more. It seems clear that the daughter wants a reaction.

I experienced this in reverse. I kept trying to get my H to have boundaries with his uBPD daughter, but that didn't work because the behaviors were largely instinctive and unexamined. If she did listen, it only fueled more boundary busting because now she knew what I cared about.

Your partner's response will probably depend a lot on whether you're all cohabitating or not, because if so, the boundaries are trickier to assert.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2024, 05:25:20 PM by livednlearned » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2024, 07:37:56 PM »

Speed,

I feel for you; it sounds like you're in a tough situation.  If your partner's BPD daughter is used to playing her parents off each other, and it's not working now, she may be acting out.  This is called an "extinction burst," a doubling down on undesirable behavior that previously conferred an advantage.  In a toddler, it would manifest as a major tantrum until a parent relented and gave the toddler what she wanted.  In an adult, these "tantrums" can be very scary.

In living with a stepdaughter with BPD, I've observed that these tantrums are pure emotion, usually rage.  Like your case, my stepdaughter would frequently play one parent off of the other.  She would lash out with threatening behavior.  She often accused a parent, sibling or relative of something outrageous--maybe there was a kernel of truth (like an argument or a comment), but she'd distort the truth and say she was "assaulted," for example.  I've come to a point where I don't believe most of what she says (or screams) anymore.  She twists fact patterns to make herself out to be a victim.  She seems oblivious to the harm she's threatening and causing others, because she just wants what she wants when she wants it, or she's furious and needs to find an object of her fury.

I'm not sure it's possible to even talk with someone when they are acting like that.  They would need to have time and space to cool off first.  Sometimes that will take weeks, in the case of my stepdaughter.  When she doesn't get what she wants, she'll cut us off completely.  I call these her "time outs."  But she always returns, because she always wants more money or help.

If your partner's daughter is violent, or at risk of harming herself or others, I think you have to call 911.  Eventually she'll have to learn that that type of threatening behavior has consequences.

I wish you strength.  BPD is complex, and handling emotionally-charged situations can be tough for even the most stable and caring people.  There is no "magic" conversation that will turn things around.  I think that some words could help, but the issue with a person with BPD is dysregulated emotions, distorted thought processes and poor coping skills.  These aren't solved with logic. It will take hundreds of interactions, therapy and constructive support of the family.
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Pook075
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« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2024, 08:12:10 PM »

Hi Speed! 

This is an extremely volatile situation and I can relate to a lot of it- I was married to a BPD wife and we have a BPD/bipolar daughter and a second child together.  So we had the same sort of dynamics where someone was always raging.

Before I give advice, I need to double check here since your story was a little confusing:  You're a guy dating a woman who has a BPD daughter.  The woman has a BPD ex who's the child's father as well.  Do I have all of that right?

Because here's where I see concern.  The dad is diagnosed and the kid is too young for a diagnosis, but we're assuming here.  But what about mom?  Could she have some mental health struggles as well?

The reason I ask is because if you overstep boundaries, it could start WWIII in your home.

My advice (regardless of everything above) is to support your spouse and ask her what she wants.  Don't do this on your own because there's many, many ways for it to backfire.

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speed7

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« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2024, 02:24:17 AM »

Thank you so much for the helpful responses everyone. To give a little more detail that have come in all your posts.

Daughter is 19 and lives alone in a flat.
I am dating mother we live together.
Father lives separately alone.

I do think the extinction burst seems accurate - she is trying to reset things to regain control. That said, there is defo part of her deep down that has taken some joy from her parents being more civil and talking again. However, I do believe that her desire to keep them separate to weaponise them again each other is more desirable for her though. She can get more of what she wants this way which suits he needs more.

My partner actually wants me to engage with the daughter to tell her how much she is broken. historically if my partner does this she does not get listened to. The problem is I feel if I do it it will trash the relationship I have which is positive. I have had success in being listen to before but it is normally on life stuff vs family stuff which is ultra sensitive and she could explode at me. My partner feels I cant always be good cop but I think it is more useful for me to be the good cop than lose that role in the construct all together.

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kells76
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« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2024, 10:58:47 AM »

Thanks for the details about the living situations -- that helps.

My partner actually wants me to engage with the daughter to tell her how much she is broken. historically if my partner does this she does not get listened to. The problem is I feel if I do it it will trash the relationship I have which is positive. I have had success in being listen to before but it is normally on life stuff vs family stuff which is ultra sensitive and she could explode at me. My partner feels I cant always be good cop but I think it is more useful for me to be the good cop than lose that role in the construct all together.

What do you think your partner's goal is, for that interaction?

How do you think your partner would describe her goal?
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Pook075
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« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2024, 11:18:46 AM »

My partner actually wants me to engage with the daughter to tell her how much she is broken. historically if my partner does this she does not get listened to.

Your partner may have the best of intentions, but the goal of "fixing the daughter" through a talk will certainly fail and make things much worse.  Delivering a "guilt trip" is probably the worst possible approach because you're putting her on the defensive and forcing the issue.  Nobody would respond well to that.

If you're going to talk to the daughter, it needs to be without blame.  Instead of attacking her, ask her how she feels about the situation and try to help her process her mom's relationships (to you and to her dad).  Suggest counseling as a healthy way to work through this and be her advocate.

I fully understand your wife's goals here, but if you come at this from the angle presented, then the daughter is going to turn her rage towards you and the situation only gets worse. 

If she's living in her own place, it would make sense to limit communication and support to her while building healthy boundaries- if you threaten 'x', then I will do 'y'...not because I want to, but because that's your choice. The child does not get a free pass to abuse mom and dad, regardless of the situation or who did what. She's out on her own and she needs to live her own life, to be responsible for herself.

For instance, if a normal child acts out...there's repercussions, right?  Why is this any different?  It's not your wife's job to support her or fix her, and that's a benefit that should be taken away if the relationship is bad.

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CC43
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« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2024, 01:18:01 PM »

I agree with Pook, who has amazing posts on this site.  In my limited experience with my diagnosed stepdaughter, she did not believe she had any problems for a long time.  She thought that everyone else was to blame.  She was an expert in detecting what she believed was unfair, condescending, bullying or abusive treatment all around her.  In her mind, she was always a victim, and she did not take any responsibility for her choices or her rages.  The family provoked her ire, and she wanted retribution.  In her mind, her lashing out and raging were more than justified.

At one point, my stepdaughter’s mother was urging her to get psychological help and take medication.  My stepdaughter was adamantly opposed to that, claiming that her mother was the one who was “psycho.”  Long afterwards, my stepdaughter thought her mother was being “abusive” by suggesting she needed to get some mental help.  I could see how it would be unnerving to have a relative suggest I needed help, especially if I were very sensitive or insecure!

At the end of the day, my stepdaughter had to hit bottom to decide to get treatment.  In other words, she had to reach this conclusion herself, not have her loved ones point it out to her.  I imagine that happened when she was in the hospital recovering from suicide attempts.  She seemed to have more faith in “professional” therapists than her family members who knew her well.  Note that she did suffer moments of paranoia, thinking that family members and others were “out to get her.”  I believe this is a feature of BPD.

There are resources on this site about how to cope.  Setting and enforcing boundaries is a place to start.  The boundary is about what you will do when faced with a situation (e.g. yelling, threats, violence), not about your loved one’s behavior per se.  A strategy for handling outbursts is called JADE.  I’ve found that JADE works well with bullies, too.  Basically, refrain from feeding the fire.

This site also recommends self-care, because you will need it to handle someone with untreated BPD.  Their outbursts can be very hurtful.  At this point, I don’t believe the content of the outbursts, just the pain and shame behind them.  That’s what needs to be addressed.
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livednlearned
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« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2024, 01:57:49 PM »

It might be helpful to read about the Karpman drama triangle and how it works.

It's understandable that you want to support your partner -- she's hurting (and is asking for help). It might help to point out that her D19 is likely to triangulate you two in similar ways she has done with her parents if you openly take sides (how D19 will likely see it).

I'm assuming your partner has talked to her employer to let them know she's being targeted?
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speed7

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« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2024, 03:31:49 PM »

Your partner may have the best of intentions, but the goal of "fixing the daughter" through a talk will certainly fail and make things much worse.  Delivering a "guilt trip" is probably the worst possible approach because you're putting her on the defensive and forcing the issue.  Nobody would respond well to that.

Thanks so much for these responses. The goal was not to fix the daughter. It was to explain how much her mother is struggling and the effect she is having at the moment.

That said, I have spoken to her today and gone with the approach you said - to focus on how she is feeling about it all etc. I actually got a kind apology which was nice (and surprising) but I think is indicative of the positive relationship I have, but also there is probably a bit of manipulation in there to be able to say to her mum she has done it. Anyway - so dar so good, lets see how the rest of the week goes...
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Pook075
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« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2024, 04:02:56 PM »

Thanks so much for these responses. The goal was not to fix the daughter. It was to explain how much her mother is struggling and the effect she is having at the moment.

That said, I have spoken to her today and gone with the approach you said - to focus on how she is feeling about it all etc. I actually got a kind apology which was nice (and surprising) but I think is indicative of the positive relationship I have, but also there is probably a bit of manipulation in there to be able to say to her mum she has done it. Anyway - so dar so good, lets see how the rest of the week goes...

People w/ BPD think and act normally a good bit of the time, but when they start to become unstable, the logical side of their brain slows down while the emotional side ramps up into high gear.  When things are good, oh my gosh...best day ever!  But it works that way when things are bad as well. 

Your logical brain would say to make up and let things go, while her emotional thought process convinces her that she's a victim, great emotional harm is being done to her, and she should double-down.  That's where you get all the high drama from, it's justified retaliation for being wronged.  Again, logically this makes no sense...but she's not thinking logically when she's unstable. 

Emotionally, it makes perfect sense- think of a toddler throwing a temper tantrum.  That's what our brains do when we're overly emotional and not relying on logic.  Toddlers become pre-schoolers, teenagers, etc. and grow out of that from learned behavior, but people w/ BPD have more of a challenge since they tend to lean on their emotions and have such a fear of abandonment from those closest to them.

In other words, she's a terror because she loves her mom but have no clue how to get closer to her.  So the emotions kick in and wham.....you get to where you are now.

How do you fix it?  You focus on her emotional needs.  If she's sad, comfort her.  If she's angry, help her calm down by relating to the struggle she's facing.  Maybe she's way off base due to emotion...but you can still relate to being betrayed and the hurt it brings.  Understanding where she's coming from and just meeting her there emotionally goes a very long way.

Here's the thing though- the "problem" is between her and your spouse.  It should be your spouse doing the talking, not you.  But they're both wounded from this and nobody wants to be the bigger person.  This is the recipe for squashing this kind of stuff though and it's essentially seeking forgiveness and starting over.  People w/ BPD just struggle to get there and need a little extra guidance.

And one last thing- why is it so bad now?  It's probably been building up and mom/dad getting closer in terms of parenting feels like a betrayal.  So everything they did is boiling to the surface and the emotional drive is to lash out and punish them for punishing her so unfairly.  Again, we're talking emotional here...and emotions are 100% true and real. 

Talk to her when she's stable, meet her emotionally where she's at, and the logical side of the brain can regulate and you can move past this (for now).  It really should be her mom doing the talking though since this is all about communication techniques and building healthier relationships.
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Our objective is to better understand the struggles our child faces and to learn the skills to improve our relationship and provide a supportive environment and also improve on our own emotional responses, attitudes and effectiveness as a family leaders
speed7

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« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2024, 02:45:39 PM »

thanks Pook
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livednlearned
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« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2024, 04:07:44 PM »

speed7, something that my H finds invaluable (in dealing with his daughter) is having me help center him and giving him a realistic sense when things get better.

You can do a lot to support your partner just being a good listener who bears witness to your partner's grief.

For real. My H does this for me with my S22 who is autistic. I can't tell you how helpful it is when H says something like, "I see him trying," even if it's the smallest thing. Or a friend of mine who has an autistic young adult son saying to me, "I want you to know it's going to get easier/better."

Maybe, maybe not, but hearing someone say that to me when I'm feeling low goes farther than you can imagine.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2024, 04:08:13 PM by livednlearned » Logged

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