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Spouses/Partners with Personality Disorders

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Broken5152 posted 12/11/2018 06:12 AM

How do you separate the illness and actions from the person? Thereís no question in my mind that I love my wife and that when she is not cycling she is in love with me. Of course, that could just be wishful thinking. In the meantime, she is wearing her wedding rings again and is committed to working on herself and our relationship. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it all like it was.

If wishes were nickels, beggars would be billionairesÖ

FamilyMan75 posted 1/6/2019 12:33 PM

While she isn't diagnosed with anything, lately she has been accused of being a sociopath, psychopath, and more recently from an IRL friend as having BPD. Her counsellor a month ago recommended she sees a psychiatrist because she wasn't trained to make an official diagnosis, but in her opinion, she doesn't think she fits the profile of being an anti-social or psychopathological disorder. Which I know isn't the case because she has empathy, deep rooted in self-esteem, boundary and self-worth issues. Any thoughts on this?

babayaga posted 1/7/2019 18:00 PM

I'm pretty certain WH has BPD - been trying to get him into therapy for it for about a year now. My IC has, for a while, been encouraging me to deal with him as though he has BPD. Which was all well and good until Dday happened in December.

My life split wide open on Dday. I'd like to go NC, just to have some space to deal with things and figure out where I am going from here. But - we have younger kids and obviously need to communicate a lot about them.

I've initiated a separation and tried to set boundaries, but I find that it's hard to keep the lines straight. He's constantly pushing against them, I'm mostly enforcing them, but it's so so hard. We also have a lot of things in general life we need to communicate about - some business stuff. So, how do you deal with someone in this situation - when you need LESS contact, and still have to deal with kids and complicated lives? I find this all difficult to do. Any advice welcome.

wocket posted 1/7/2019 18:17 PM

I just want to caution people about diagnosing their own partners.

Diagnostic criteria for mental health issues require significant training and experience to apply correctly. This is especially true with personality disorders.

You may have an inkling. You may actually be right. But you should focus on communicating the behavior that caused you to come to your conclusion to proper mental health professionals.

And we're usually a little too close emotionally to be a neutral observer as well.

I have dated someone who was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder after we broke up, so I can relate with you all on that sort of dysfunctional behavior - including the impulsive behavior that caused her to cheat on me.

I don't really know the next steps to take when you suspect your partner has a personality disorder. Maybe tell your own therapist and form a plan with them?

xhz700 posted 1/8/2019 11:24 AM

I just want to caution people about diagnosing their own partners.

I know this is a popular thing to say, but the diagnosis isn't the problem, the behavior is. Who cares what the diagnosis is? It informs, that's it. If your partners are engaging in activities that might lead you down the path to trying to determine if they might be BPD, that's enough to be a problem.

xhz700 posted 1/8/2019 11:26 AM

I don't really know the next steps to take when you suspect your partner has a personality disorder. Maybe tell your own therapist and form a plan with them?

Cluster-B? You leave.

wocket posted 1/8/2019 15:28 PM

My point is that it is very difficult for lay people to tell the difference between minor personal foibles and a personality disorder. If you don't have the proper training, experience, and the relative emotional distance of a professional in a treatment environment, you can easily make one look like the other.

As someone who has been there before and spent a lot of time talking about the symptoms with a therapist, I could probably spot another woman with BPD very early into the relationship. Prior to that I don't think I could just by looking at the diagnostic criteria.

To complicate things even more, people personality disorders will hide their symptoms from you. My ex did that.

Though if you see some things that they may not know to hide like splitting, the hot/cold behavior, or if they get pretty intense w idolization of you, I wouldn't blame someone for running. I would do it myself.

But how many people would know to look for that without having been there themselves?

Wiserallthetime posted 1/8/2019 16:11 PM

wocket, I think this is one area where we fail in the education system. My youngest wanted to do a project on personalities, and wanted to include information on personality disorders. The child was told it was permitted to do it on the different types of personalities, but NOT to include the disorders at all. I know all the justifications for leaving that out, but, really, to prevent these teens from being able to learn, in a scientific presentation, anything at all about these disorders, even that they exist out there, is just wrong to me. It is setting them up for encountering these personalities, which they will, somewhere along the line, and becoming victims of them, without any comprehension of what is happening/did happen, when they could have the knowledge now, ahead of time, which could prepare them adequately, so they can then find how to deal with the situation/person in the best manner possible, where, perhaps, they end up with little damage done by the encounter, instead of decimated....

If someone had told me what to look for in spotting these disorders, I probably never would have dated, much less M'd xwh, nor befriended mow.... I would have moved on and looked for better, healthier options for a mate and friend, which would have saved me a ton of trouble and hurt and stress and sadness..... Heck, even staying single all my life, due to walking away from xwh, had I known and seen the signs, would have saved me a bunch of grief, even without the A/D mess.... If only someone had told me....

xhz700 posted 1/8/2019 17:01 PM

But how many people would know to look for that without having been there themselves?

They don't, which goes to exactly what I was saying. If your wife is badgering you, controlling your relationships, showing emotional lability, raging, gaslighting... why does the diagnostic matter? We aren't a medical insurance company. Those behaviors should be deal-breakers despite what name we place upon the collection of symptoms.

So, if they are showing those symptoms, there is really no need to diagnose, just fucking leave.

xhz700 posted 1/8/2019 17:03 PM

If only someone had told me....

Same. My mom was nuts, I went with what I knew.

Which is precisely why I asked that this thread be made. And also why I come here and warn people away from those with BPD. It might get better, but it never gets good. Ever.

BPD = run.

NPD = run.

wocket posted 1/8/2019 18:26 PM

They don't, which goes to exactly what I was saying. If your wife is badgering you, controlling your relationships, showing emotional lability, raging, gaslighting... why does the diagnostic matter? We aren't a medical insurance company. Those behaviors should be deal-breakers despite what name we place upon the collection of symptoms.

So, if they are showing those symptoms, there is really no need to diagnose, just fucking leave.

Thing is, a lot of this behavior was shielded from me for a very long time. Little bits and pieces came out at times (which allowed my denial/codependency to write it off as having alcoholic parents), but the true extent did not come out until we moved in together.

Which actually kind of makes sense in the scheme of my whole story. She knew I was finally seeing the true extent of the symptoms, so she did something that would cause me to abandon her in a way that she could control.

For me, I think I'd be more in tune to some of the "positives" that can come from dating someone with BPD. And yes, there are positives or things about her that I liked that were the direct result of her yet to be diagnosed BPD.

They do not outweigh the negatives, not even close. And in my experience the negatives were hidden from me at first. If I see those positives in any future relationship, I'm going to bail pretty quick. Just not worth it.

edit: What I mean to say is that I wasn't badgered, I was encouraged to have friends, she didn't rage at me, didn't gaslight, etc. I did occasionally see lability directed towards her parent(s) and to a lesser extent coworkers. For the most of the relationship she prevented me from seeing her exhibit the full extent of the craziness. It occasionally slipped out, but it really was never in front of me until we moved in together. That's when I finally saw the rage, the self-biting (which she can cover up very, very well w makeup), the emotional whiplash towards her parents, and all the classic behaviors. It was never directed towards me during our almost 3 year relationship. I have my suspicions as to why - I have superficial traits that made her look good along with my particular brand of codependency. But I have no doubt that I (or worse, our kids) would eventually be the the target.

[This message edited by wocket at 6:51 PM, January 8th (Tuesday)]

WornDown posted 1/9/2019 09:05 AM

That doesn't sound like BPD, it sounds like self-loathing.

But, as you said, there are a bunch of boxes that have to be checked to qualify as PD'd; I'm sure you've not given us the full litany of her behaviors.

Knowing that your partner/spouse/friend has a PD doesn't change the fact that they are (likely) a shitty person, it just helps us to understand Why?

As 700 said, they almost always never change their spots, so knowing why doesn't help with dealing with them.

(My ex was never truly diagnosed (one therapist thought she might be BPD; ex stopped seeing her a month later), but if I go through the DSM, she checks at least 7 of the 9 boxes for NPD, 6-7 for BPD and a handful for HPD. Just helps me to understand why she ended up being a POS)

xhz700 posted 1/9/2019 09:48 AM

Knowing that your partner/spouse/friend has a PD doesn't change the fact that they are (likely) a shitty person, it just helps us to understand Why?

Nailed it.

wocket posted 1/9/2019 16:44 PM

That doesn't sound like BPD, it sounds like self-loathing.

But, as you said, there are a bunch of boxes that have to be checked to qualify as PD'd; I'm sure you've not given us the full litany of her behaviors.


You're correct in that there is a lot that you're not getting. This is the main reason why I'm giving the disclaimer about not making an amateur diagnosis based off my descriptions.

WornDown posted 1/9/2019 22:09 PM

You're making no sense.

You tell people - who are interacting everyday at an intimate level with a crazy person - not to make diagnoses

As "proof," you are now admonishing me because you gave me your cryptic, non-relevant, and incomplete description of your wife's behavior, and I said that's not PD behavior. Really?

We've said it numerous times: shitty behavior is shitty behavior. If you crack open the DSM -V and your partner is nailing 7 out of the 9 criteria, it's probably a solid bet, which can help one understand the situation they are in

What is your point?

wocket posted 1/11/2019 02:41 AM

Behaviors can be eliminated and cured. Personality disorders cannot. Thatís the crucial difference and the importance of the diagnosis.

And that admonishment was not directed towards you personally.

Honestly, Iím a really taken aback by the hostility. There is a lot of anger that was spawned by what I felt was a harmless clarification. What about it upset you so much that caused you to get so personal?

Edit: and I could explain where Iím coming from but Iím not inclined to given your lack of civility.

[This message edited by wocket at 2:52 AM, January 11th (Friday)]

wocket posted 1/11/2019 17:45 PM

I'll be honest. Your post really got to me and upset me, which is weird because I tend to have pretty thick skin. For whatever reason I spent an hour writing and deleting a response to you before finally just going with that. I don't really know why, but whatever.

That said, I want you to clarify this statement:

As "proof," you are now admonishing me because you gave me your cryptic, non-relevant, and incomplete description of your wife's behavior, and I said that's not PD behavior. Really?

This is my description of the behavior I experienced. THe first one I don't explicitly say she was doing this, but it's pretty clearly implied that I'm speaking about stuff I personally saw:

Though if you see some things that they may not know to hide like splitting, the hot/cold behavior, or if they get pretty intense w idolization of you...

That stuff is pretty textbook and IMO is probably the easiest of the behaviors to spot if you have no experience with BPD. I'd like to hear why you think that is not relevant and cryptic.

Here is another one:

she did something that would cause me to abandon her in a way that she could control

Again, I thought that was pretty unambiguous that I was talking about infidelity here, especially given the context of this website. And abandonment issues is one of the hallmarks of BPD per my therapist.

For me, I think I'd be more in tune to some of the "positives" that can come from dating someone with BPD. And yes, there are positives or things about her that I liked that were the direct result of her yet to be diagnosed BPD.

I think this is probably one where you're right in that it's at least cryptic. But then again I felt that this was a support thread for people who have been in a relationship with BPD, so I figured maybe some people would relate to it in their own way. I am an adrenaline junkie, and I thought it was really cool I was dating someone who could keep up with me there. I didn't actually say this to help maintain my privacy. There are more, but that was one of the big ones.

I wasn't badgered, I was encouraged to have friends, she didn't rage at me, didn't gaslight, etc.

This is just me sharing some of the stuff that I did not experience. Though I would really want to emphasize the "at me". She raged at a lot of people close to her.

I did occasionally see lability directed towards her parent(s) and to a lesser extent coworkers. For the most of the relationship she prevented me from seeing her exhibit the full extent of the craziness. It occasionally slipped out, but it really was never in front of me until we moved in together.

Again, emotional lability is pretty textbook. What I didn't say is that a lot of the rage was directed towards her mother, which per my therapist is pretty textbook for BPD. I've never actually talked about her hiding her symptoms, though the big thing she did in hindsight is that she kept it to texts and emails whenever I was around at first.

That's when I finally saw the rage, the self-biting (which she can cover up very, very well w makeup), the emotional whiplash towards her parents, and all the classic behaviors.

Ok, all this stuff is pretty textbook. I had already mentioned the rage and emotional whiplash (but used a different name), but this time I also mentioned self harm. She also threatened suicide two times in the several days time between DDay and when I told her I was done.

During that time she made a big show about bringing a chef's knife into the bathtub in front of me along with a ton of alcohol, and I had to take it away from her without harming either of us. As someone who has actually been suicidal before, that was a really tough experience for me and I don't like talking about it. This is the first time I've ever shared this with anyone other than my therapist. Not even my psychiatrist knows about that one, though I basically only speak with them for 25 min once every 4-12 weeks depending on how I'm doing.

It was never directed towards me during our almost 3 year relationship. I have my suspicions as to why - I have superficial traits that made her look good along with my particular brand of codependency.

It's fair to say that this is cryptic. But what I'm specifically talking about is that I'm conventionally attractive, I went to one of the best undergrads and grad schools in the US, I had a very good job, and I do a "cool" sport at a very high level. My parents are affluent and successful. I'm from a small town/community that is very well known for being affluent. These are all really, really fucking obnoxious things to say, so I tried to get the idea across without being a dick about it. But they are relevant because they explain why I was able to stay in the idolization side of things for so long.

But going back to my stuff about not making a diagnosis. I was concerned that someone would see that I mentioned that my ex had a real BPD diagnosis, see my surface level description of some of her behaviors, and then begin to think that someone in their life meets that particular diagnostic criteria as a result of my bare bones descriptions. Given that I knew I was barely going into her symptoms, I was worried there would be real world damage.

So yeah, when I hear you say shit like "that just sounds like self loathing" or "that doesn't sound like BPD behavior" I get mildly annoyed. But then you say:

You tell people - who are interacting everyday at an intimate level with a crazy person - not to make diagnoses

like I have not dealt with someone who has BPD. Given the two quotes above, I'd go as far to say that you're directly implying it.

At first I was really surprised by the anger and vitriol. I just couldn't understand where it came from. But now that I think about it (and I've thought about it a lot over the last 15 hours), it's the only way to explain it - like "who the fuck is this guy to tell people not to think their spouses have BPD when he hasn't seen shit".

Honestly, if you actually can admit that you were thinking this I will have some respect for you, though I probably won't be back here to read it.

You need to remember that you are dealing with real humans. Your words can impact their thoughts and feelings. Your words have consequences. A disproportionate amount of people here have other issues can make these consequences literally implicate life or death. Thankfully, in spite of my anger here, I'm in a relatively good place compared to where I've been before. Infidelity and in some cases the loss of what was believed to be a lifelong romantic partnership is already hard enough.

Are things clear for you now?

babayaga posted 1/16/2019 14:01 PM

I posted up-thread before the whole discussion re diagnosing your own partner.

Anyhow, I'm not yet one month past Dday and am having a hard time maintaining/enforcing boundaries with my WH. We have kids and a house, so I can't go full NC as I would like to. I try to limit conversations to those topics, but he's regularly crying to me, acting needy, asking for hugs when we switch the kids, or engaging in other conversation topics.

I also think that he really thinks we will R for sure. He says he's working all the time on being "better" but really he's just thinking about himself all the time.

How to keep boundaries when you have to have contact with your PDWS?

Also, will the shit totally hit the fan if/when I tell him I want a D?

WornDown posted 1/16/2019 14:47 PM

The point is, you keep telling everyone not to make diagnoses, because they aren't properly trained. But say that you know their behaviors...which is exactly what we are saying...Yet you keep telling us we are wrong????

I just want to caution people about diagnosing their own partners.
Diagnostic criteria for mental health issues require significant training and experience to apply correctly. This is especially true with personality disorders.

You may have an inkling. You may actually be right. But you should focus on communicating the behavior that caused you to come to your conclusion to proper mental health professionals.

And we're usually a little too close emotionally to be a neutral observer as well.


My point is that it is very difficult for lay people to tell the difference between minor personal foibles and a personality disorder. If you don't have the proper training, experience, and the relative emotional distance of a professional in a treatment environment, you can easily make one look like the other.

You're correct in that there is a lot that you're not getting. This is the main reason why I'm giving the disclaimer about not making an amateur diagnosis based off my descriptions.

And, for about the tenth time, we've said the diagnosis isn't the critical thing, it's the behaviors. If understanding where the behaviors come from helps to understand what you are dealing with, then yes, putting a label on it helps (but only when it's pretty obvious).

The bolded sentence is the cryptic - You say you're not giving us the full picture, so of course - how can we really say if she is/is not? Which is the very point you are making - no one (other than a true pro) can say if she is/is not. So basically, you created a strawman to prove your point - that I couldn't say...because you didn't give the details.

And, those of us who have BTDT can usually spot them at a 1000 yards. Which you say so yourself.

As someone who has been there before and spent a lot of time talking about the symptoms with a therapist, I could probably spot another woman with BPD very early into the relationship. Prior to that I don't think I could just by looking at the diagnostic criteria.

This is my point - your statements are all over the map: Don't make diagnoses. You can't know.

Yet: I can see the behavior as red flags.


Which is EXACTLY what we are saying.

WornDown posted 1/16/2019 14:57 PM

babayaga -

Are you actually separated now, or just wanting it?

It makes a HUGE difference if you are separated, vs having to see them every day.

That said, if you want to go NC (as much as you can), I would suggest doing everything by text/email. If he crosses boundaries (topics beyond kids/business), you just don't respond to it.

When in person, if he goes off topic, just reply with, "I don't want to talk about that now." or the more neutral, "Now's not a good time to talk about that."

The other phrase you'll want to memorize is: "I'm sorry you feel that way."

That's for when they start blaming you for everything, or bring up their grievances. Just say that and leave it at that. It's a nice phrase in that it acknowledges what they said, without agreeing - or disagreeing - with what they said. You aren't giving them any emotional response - which is what they are trying to get out of you. (See: Grey Rock)

When they don't get the rise out of you, they'll get frustrated (Reply with the same phrase!), but eventually move on to try and find another victim.

As you can see, being physically separated makes this all easier (you can always just walk away), and why we say in house separation (IHS) is hell on earth.

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