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Can anyone help? Marriage with Borderline Personality Disorder(31 Posts)
NCed for anonymity. I am really struggling with my marriage and am desperate to find a way through.
My therapist suggested that I have PTSD from years of childhood emotional/physical abuse, but the possibility of BPD was also raised and from the list of criteria I feel certain I do have this. I've had 2 years of therapy, which has helped me understand the problems but I don't seem able to resolve them.
Has anyone with BPD made a happy, normal marriage work? I could really do with hearing some positive stories (and tips!), as at the moment I am feeling that my family would be better off without me.
What is it that you struggle with? 'Marriage' is a very broad concept involving two complex individuals. It can go wrong for lots of reasons.... which ones are specific to you?
Oh God, where to start?!
I struggle to trust my DH.
I struggle not to see everything as a power battle between us.
I struggle not to feel that he is trying to annihilate me.
I feel as though I have to exert my existence as a separate person all the time, often forcefully.
I struggle to listen to his point of view as it feels like a huge threat to mine, and my existence as a separate person.
I have looked at lots if resources about BPD online, but it mostly seems to be geared towards partners of BPD sufferers, and seems very negative. I am wondering if it is possible for someone with this disorder to make a normal marriage work at all. I don't want to keep hurting, and keep hurting my DH. I keep thinking he and DC would be better off without me in their lives.
What are your relationships like with friends, family, work colleagues etc? Do you feel the same way about them... the lack of trust, not listening to points of view, the power battle aspect? Can you make and keep friends?
FWIW on point #4 I don't think being in a marriage means automatically giving up your independence. In fact, I think it's a very bad idea to be too wound up with someone else.
Those relationships are all OK. Not brilliant, but OK. I guess I don't have the same fears and feeling of needing control/safety in those relationships. It's only when I'm living with someone that it all surfaces.
I get what you mean about being independent, but it just comes out all wrong. I am terrified of being smothered and erased but at the same time I crave his companionship and affection. This is the classic bit of BPD as far as I can tell.
I would interpret it that you do feel in control and safe in your friendships and other relationships. I think what you fear with your DH is that you have to relinquish a little control and are therefore more vulnerable. That's really not all that unusual given the emotional investment in a marriage or other long-term relationship. We all know on some level that it's a voluntary arrangement that could finish at any time and over which we have not all that much control. Your reaction may or may not be irrational... it rather depends on whether your DH is utterly blameless or if he does anything to trigger your defences, fear and mistrust.
You are completely right, that is exactly how I feel. And also terrified of being erased - I grew up with a (single) parent who never treated me as a separate being, and I never felt an ounce of control over my own life for my first 18 years. In the last 3 years I have broken with this parent, but I feel that the repercussions of my upbringing are taking over my whole life.
DH is not utterly blameless, of course, but a lot of the negative patterns of behaviour he gets into (snapping, passive aggression, power struggles etc) I can see have arisen as a direct response to my behaviour over the long term. That makes it even harder for me to change as he is stuck in the same rut - and I feel responsible for that, as he was (relatively) well adjusted when we met all those years ago.
You're not responsible for your DH's behaviour. Everyone seems well adjusted when we meet them, after all. But time takes its toll, 'familiarity breeds contempt' and a lot of couples drift apart & find they don't get along so well after a while. I think some just take everything for granted and forget to be kind to each other. Others find they want different things (particularly when they get together young, I've found) It's rarely the fault of one person in isolation and there really doesn't have to be a mental health problem for it to happen.
How long have you been together/married?
13 years. And i think that for the first 6 or so years I was pretty unstable and sometimes verbally/emotionally abusive. I was directly copying my parent's treatment of me. I thought that was how you acted in a relationship! It took counselling before I realised what I was doing and made huge efforts to stop. I don't know if this has messed up my marriage permanently. I love my DH deeply but he thinks I don't care about him. It's true that I often feel it hard to respond to his feelings, or even to listen to him talk about how his feelings. It feels like an emotional struggle to obliterate me and I have to resist. I know rationally it's not like that but I get so terrified of being crushed. I don't know if I can be fixed.
Excuse typos. Poor editing skills.
I have had therapy, believe it or not. I can analyse how I'm behaving and understand how and why absolutely brilliantly. I just can't seem to fucking change it.
If he's had six years of abusive treatment followed by seven years of you not responding to his feelings etc then it would be unsurprising if he thought you didn't care. No getting away from that. But I also wonder why he'd stick around if that was the case.
Love is a verb... as the kids say 'a doing word'. Are you capable of showing love and kindness to your DCs? Can you talk to them about their feelings without feeling crushed or emotionally obliterated? Do you take an interest in other people?
There's a saying.... 'the thought is father to the deed'. I would strongly recommend to you that you put the deed before the thought because it seems that the understanding is getting in the way of acting. Leave the analysis and the hows and whys in the therapy room and simply act like a woman that loves her husband.... see what response you get.
The not caring thing is recent though - since DC (18 months). Before that I had much more emotional energy left for DH. Although I still found it hard to respond appropriately to anything that seemed like an attack.
I just can't seem to open up. I feel unsafe and as though I needs to defend myself all the time. I do get what you're saying, but it's not as if I haven't tried and tried. I thought maybe couples therapy would help, but it hasn't so far.
Sorry - I don't mean to seem unresponsive to your advice, btw! But I just can't seem to stop myself responding when DH snaps at me. I feel shaky and (literally) as though I am fighting for my existence. I don't know how to change that.
Then end the marriage. Thirteen years on, you've tried your best and it hasn't worked out. Carry on torturing yourself, blaming yourself, looking for diagnoses and so on and I don't think that's healthy for either you or your DH. I'm sure you do love him but there is always the possibility that this has less to do with your state of mind and more to do with you just not being right for each other.... it happens, and there's nothing more frustrating. I also wonder if the love you feel for your DC has shown up what you feel for your DH as not being right after all?
'when DH snaps at me'
No-one likes being snapped at. No-one at all.
I don't think that's the case at all. I think it's more that I'm shattered with a non-sleeping DC and struggling to cope. And all sorts of childhood issues have resurfaced for me since having DC, which feels overwhelming sometimes. I do love DH. I certainly couldn't imagine loving someone more.
And it's not just DH I have been like this. I couldn't cope with living with a close friend before I met DH. Once we began living together, all these issues of feeling the need to be safe from attack/in control surfaced.
I was physically attacked by my parent so I know where this comes from. Actually the emotional abuse seems even worse though.
But other people could perhaps shrug it off or deal with it better? It feels like my existence falls apart. That seems to be a criterion for BPD actually. So I just wondered whether it's possible for a person with BPD to have a happy marriage.
Are you sure you have bpd. Who diagnosed you?
It sounds like you fear engulfment....the opposite of abandonment (like your mother)...
& it is common for people to gain understanding then not know how to manage it. Sometimes you need a change of strategy....or even a change if therapist... Find one who helps you do things differently & as well as understand why you do things....
Not diagnosed formally but therapist suggested I consider it. Formally diagnosed with PTSD. I am not having therapy personally at moment as I ended it to have relationship therapy with DH instead. It doesn't seem to be working though.
I think you need more - and better - therapy. Good therapy should enable you to change your actions. It would possibly also be a good idea if you had joint therapy with your husband - so he could understand better your feelings and reactions, and understand that you love him despite your symptoms (because some of the actions you display are symptoms left over from the way in which your mother fucked you up).
Sorry, missed the last post. If it's not working, you might want to consider another therapist. Therapy does work, but you need to find the right fit. It can take some shopping around.
I'm no clinician - which entitles me to comment, as a clinician should not, based on your posts. I don't think you're describing BPD. It sounds more like hypervigilance (being fearful & easily triggered) due to your PTSD, combined with a dysfunctional relationship.
Have you looked at DBT (dialectical behavioural therapy) and Schema therapy? Both are treatments for BPD, and also helpful in developing a more fruitful relationship with our traumatised selves.
FWIW, I thought I had BPD, to the extent that I've been negatively diagnosed I now understand that, while I suffer deep abandonment/neglect fears, and had very weak personal boundaries, my distress was nothing like the total engulfment experienced in BPD. In short, my feelings about my marriage were rational! It was my responses that needed fixing, not my personality or my marriage. (The marriage needed ending.)
I agree with garlicbutter in that a post is not a place to get a diagnosis or therapy. A therapist isn't qualified to diagnose either & I am not convinced a diagnosis is that helpful.
Find a therapist for you - sort your head out & then you will have clarity to decide what you want from your marriage.
Thanks for all the responses. I wasn't asking anyone to diagnose on here! The therapist suggested that I look at some information about BPD and it seemed very likely I had it - I scored 8 out of 9 criteria, and it seemed to make sense of what I'd been feeling.
On the other hand - I'm not wedded to the idea of BPD if it's not helpful. Either way, I know where most of what I'm feeling comes from (specific events and patterns in my childhood). I just don't know how to overcome it. More and better therapy sounds like a good start. I thought my old therapist was great, but in the end she seemed too sympathetic to me. Many sessions were spent with her telling me that I do have it incredibly hard in quite a few areas of my life, and to be kinder to myself - which may be true but doesn't help me sort my problems out.
Interview a few - a good therapist should ask you what you are looking for & describe their style.
I found I 'grew out of' my therapists after a while. I do believe there are brilliant therapists, who would be great for an entire treatment or for life, but most have their limitations, being humans and all. When I felt like a counsellor was getting as much from our sessions as I was, I shopped around for another. The main benefit I got from the first few was sympathy & understanding - I desperately needed that at the time. They helped me learn how to give it myself, then I moved on to people who could push me to examine some issues in more depth.
I know not everybody finds it so, but Mumsnet made a fantastic companion to formal therapy - there are a lot of knowledgeable people here, capable of balancing gentleness with tough advice
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