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Avatar universal

Age old question - do I stay with BPD wife for the sake of our child?

I have been married to a high functioning BPD woman (undiagnosed) for five years, and we have a two year old daughter together. I suppose my story is typical, in that when things are good they are wonderful, and when they are bad they are so terrible, confusing, bewildering and disturbing that I do not even know what day it is. Constant verbal and occasional physical abuse, screaming, tantrums, put-downs etc. She can be fine for periods of a few days to a few weeks, and then go to the dark side where I am the devil incarnate and to blame for everything, also for periods lasting a few days to a few months. I have dropped hints that she may need help, and her best friend and her sister, with both of whom I am very close, are also well aware that she has very serious emotional control issues and have tried to discuss them with her, but she absolutely refuses to admit that there is a problem (the closest she has got is the admission that "I know I can be very emotional at times"). I have even chosen the tack that we both have issues and offered to go to get help together, but she always finds a (very flimsy) excuse not to follow this course of action.

Without going into detail, a couple of recent incidents have once again made me very seriously consider leaving. However, there is the huge issue of our daughter. Generally she is a fantastic mother, but when she is going through a bad period she behaves in ways towards our daughter which I find utterly sickening. She will constantly, and using utterly foul language, tell our two year old in no uncertain terms what a terrible father she has (despite the fact that the day before she might be chastising her for not wanting to play with her "wonderful, amazing daddy"). Also, if our little one is playing up, which often happens, my wife is capable of losing her temper with our daughter as quickly as she does with me. This only lasts for maybe thirty seconds at a burst, but the ferocity of her anger towards a toddler is frightening, and she has handled her physically more roughly than I certainly would.

The extra complication is that we live in a country where fathers have virtually no legal rights so custody is a non-starter. Although she mentioned when she threatened to kick me out before (for checking the football scores on my smartphone I think) that if we did split up she would still want me to play a full role in my daughter's life, I am petrified, based both on her current behaviour at times, and the typical reaction of the rejected BPD, that she would attempt to poison my daughter against me in any way she could, and possibly try to block access to my daughter for other members of my family by preventing me from taking my daughter out of the country where we live even for holidays.

The other issue for me is the financial one, but that is another story for another day. Just to re-iterate, when things are good, which they are around 50% to 60% of the time, I cannot imagine ever wanting to be with another woman as she is everything a man could ever want in terms of her intellect, beauty, warmth, ambitions and general personality which I fell in love with, and still love so much. It' s just that my energy to deal with the bad episodes wears thinner and thinner with each one, to the point that I am terrified that one day I will just snap and hit her, which would of course be a total disaster. Not sure where to go from here, but sadly unless she admits that there is a problem I really do not want to spend the rest of my life in this Jekyll and Hyde relationship. Yet the urge to protect my daughter still over-rides the urge to walk out.

Any ideas / comments would be very much appreciated!
23 Responses
Avatar universal
I am a sufferer of bpd in treatment. First of all you must ask yourself if you still love your wife. Mental illness puts huge strains on relationships. My husband and i almost split on several occations. But i am glad we didn't. You must be very careful. I have heard of cases where splitting made the situation worse. In that case you will become the devil. People with bpd have a history of abuse and instable relationships. Due to the nature of the mental illness they can only see things in black and white. They cannot understand grey area. Leaving my make things worse for your daughter with regards to the way your wife describes you. It will cause more backlash. Your wife needs you more than you think. With a history of instable relationships she needs you to be her rock so she can heal. It would be great for you both to go into counseling together as you both need to go to heal. But your first step should be to educate yourself on the disorder. It is very difficult to diagnose. If you can, gether a psychiatrist very familiar with the disorder. For your daughter sake family sevices, and make sure they understand your wife's disorder. They maybe able to help you get your wife into treatment. You need to understand that your wife is suffering in a way you will never understand. She feels emotions so deeply that it is painful. But that doesn't mean she should be able to walk all over you and be abusive. If she is tell her she is hurting you. She may not even realize that she is doing it. Bpd is in the spectrum of bipolar and scizophenia. She may have delusions that you are cheating or are plotting against you. The bottom line is that she needs help no matter how much she denies. No one wants to hear or admit they have a problem. It is like dealing with an alcoholic, except in your wifes cause she is addicted to emotional pain as that is all she knows. There are a few books i could suggest, "i hate you, don't leave me" and "sometimes i act crazy". There are a lot of bad books out there that promote the idea that she is incurable and will never change. It may seem like that but that is not the case. True bpd is chronic, but with the right dr and treatment, she can heal and recover. It isn't going to be easy and will take time. Your wife is seriously ill and needs help, the sooner the better. Make sure she knows that you and your daughter need her to get better, and tell her that you need her to get help because you love her. I wish you luck.
Avatar universal
I am a sufferer of bpd in treatment. First of all you must ask yourself if you still love your wife. Mental illness puts huge strains on relationships. My husband and i almost split on several occations. But i am glad we didn't. You must be very careful. I have heard of cases where splitting made the situation worse. In that case you will become the devil. People with bpd have a history of abuse and instable relationships. Due to the nature of the mental illness they can only see things in black and white. They cannot understand grey area. Leaving my make things worse for your daughter with regards to the way your wife describes you. It will cause more backlash. Your wife needs you more than you think. With a history of instable relationships she needs you to be her rock so she can heal. It would be great for you both to go into counseling together as you both need to go to heal. But your first step should be to educate yourself on the disorder. It is very difficult to diagnose. If you can, gether a psychiatrist very familiar with the disorder. For your daughter sake family sevices, and make sure they understand your wife's disorder. They maybe able to help you get your wife into treatment. You need to understand that your wife is suffering in a way you will never understand. She feels emotions so deeply that it is painful. But that doesn't mean she should be able to walk all over you and be abusive. If she is tell her she is hurting you. She may not even realize that she is doing it. Bpd is in the spectrum of bipolar and scizophenia. She may have delusions that you are cheating or are plotting against you. The bottom line is that she needs help no matter how much she denies. No one wants to hear or admit they have a problem. It is like dealing with an alcoholic, except in your wifes cause she is addicted to emotional pain as that is all she knows. There are a few books i could suggest, "i hate you, don't leave me" and "sometimes i act crazy". There are a lot of bad books out there that promote the idea that she is incurable and will never change. It may seem like that but that is not the case. True bpd is chronic, but with the right dr and treatment, she can heal and recover. It isn't going to be easy and will take time. Your wife is seriously ill and needs help, the sooner the better. Make sure she knows that you and your daughter need her to get better, and tell her that you need her to get help because you love her. I wish you luck.
Avatar universal
Sorry posted twice
Avatar universal
Have you thought about seeking help for yourself?  If she won't help herself there is no reason why you shouldn't see someone personally to help you work through your own issues with her, etc.

Behaviour towards your child is concerning and perhaps needs strong boundaries.

People with bpd sometimes flip out when they are under extreme stress.  Having strategies in place to help manage stress and anxiety could be helpful.

I would suggest you seek advice from your doctor and a counsellor.  There is also the option of going to the police if you have concerns for anyones safety.
Avatar universal
Yes, I have thought about going to someone myself and a close friend of mine and my wife's who had a BPD boyfriend for a year gave me the number of an excellent counsellor, which I am considering using.

The police is a non-started unfortunately as I live in a country where the police force does not function properly. Nor does the health service, nor do the courts.
Avatar universal
By the way, just a question to both you ladies who have been kind enough to take the time to reply - how did your diagnosis come about? Did a loved one force you to confront your issues, and if so, did you resist? Or did you seek help yourself? Pre-diagnosis, were you aware that you had issues, or you genuinely felt like you were fine, and it was everyone around you that had problems? I am just trying to assess the way my wife is thinking right now so as to plan my next move. Actually, apart from an episode at the end of last week, everything has been calm recently and we have had a wonderful Christmas together - this is great of course, but the better the good times, the more crushing it is to me when she switches back to the dark side.
Avatar universal
Sounds like the justice/ judicial system the world over.

I was first diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety.  I guess over a period of time these became worse as the treatment (therapy) wasn't addressing my issues in a way that was helpful to me.  I had issues taking medication so refused trials of antidepressants.
At one point a locum psychiatrist did say that he would commit me if I refused to take medication.  I begrudgingly said yes, but then when I got home found that I couldn't take them.  Big mental block.  Anyway, nothing happened.  Saw my regular psych back from leave.  He did nothing
He did say that he would make arrangements for alternate therapy.
I got the referral letter some six months later.  Real helpful.
That psychologist then saw me about three times and then filled out the paperwork to have me sectioned involuntarily.  All because I refused to takes meds and go back a see a therapist that wasn't helping.  They included safety issues in their arguement so they thought that they were justified.  Spent a long time in hospital.
Sorry!  Long-winded answer to your first question.

For me I was possibly always on the outside of things watching others.  Someone didn't quite feel right and I always felt like there was something missing.  Maybe that something represented what I needed in order to be able to relate better with others.  I wanted too.  Just never could.  When I was younger I don't think that I had a great deal of perspective for what was going on.  I was extremely sensitive to people and their needs but in hindsight didn't have a very good understanding of the whole picture.  I was only able to view the world from my very skewd experiences.

I know I had issues with anxiety.  I had really bad ocd following early childhood experiences.  I was shy.  I didn't engage well or easily with others.  I felt mortified if I got questions wrong or didn't do well in tests or exams.  I felt extremely self-conscious.  Especially with my weight.  My family said that I was too fat, then too thin.  I guess everything for me was black and white.  I liked things ordered.

Other than the social awkwardness I think that I felt fine (and besideds that likely wouldn't have known any different).

Post hospital I would say that I perceive others as having more of the issues.  I was in denial and blamed them for everything.  I think everybody has made mistakes.
There are behaviours in others I hate and try and control but that hasn;t worked for me and has made the others more resistant to change.  I find the behaviours rude and disrespectful which I in turn intrepret as being that I must be worthless if they don't respect me or my boundaries.
Please don't touch me.  Insist on hugging me.  Please don't burp or fart near me, you don't do it in town or near others.  Please clean your mess up after you.
Maybe I'm a bit too ?controlling/ restrictive but without having stuff a certain way I get extremely stressed.  I can negotiate but I start to feel like I'm nagging or abusive.  So I'm switching roles from abused to abuser.  It feels really disempowering.

People don't see things from our perspective and often we don't have the skills or experiences to see things from your world.

The switching is called splitting.  Things are good one moment/ bad the next.  She'll have themes or triggers so you could try and watch for those.  She likely will be doing  alot of projecting too.

Talking to a psychotherapist trained in dealing with projections and splitting and primitive defense mechanisms could be helpful.  The best support I have had has been from a psychoanalyst.

Be honest with your wife.  It is hurtful and rejecting when people go behind you back and discuss you.

I would likely see a good psychoanalyst and then invite her to come along so that she is involved.  Discussing things with her or with her in attendence.  Leaving her out will like leave her feeling angry, hurt, rejected and a lot of other negative emotions.

I'm not really sure how to advice you to deal with the problem other than to get professional help.  One primitive defense mechanism people with bpd use is denial.  We can become very resistent if our world as we know it becomes shaken.  We can be stubborn and resistent and be in denial.  Confronting facts can hurt.

My doctor recently told me like I was one of those caged bunnies they have in the school classroom.  You venture forth a bit but are then poked so retreat.  The world has risks in it and we need to better learn how to manage the stress and anxiety/ risk and change it can represent.

I have found it helpful having people around me who are open, honest, respectful, accepting, non-judgemental and consistent.

Limits and boundaries are also good things to have.

Very long-winded but I hope it helps.
Avatar universal
Thanks for this. Although the situations are not identical there are a lot of things that resonate here. I will reply in full when I have a bit more time, need to shoot off to work now though.
Avatar universal
I'm sorry you are going through this. My daughter, who is 35, was just diagnosed with BPD. It was so upsetting but such a relief for her to finally get a diagnosis. Together we did a couple of online quizzes. I wonder if your wife would be willing to do that? My daughter scored extremely high on the questionnaires. She talked to her counselor about it and they did more questionnaires and again she scored extremely high on them. BPD can be treated. There really are'nt any meds to help, unfortunately. It really has to do with the kind of therapy you get. My daughter will be starting DBT very soon. You need to do research and read everything you can about BPD. You've gotten some great advice here at MH. The members are so wonderful. I don't think your wife likes being this way. Or, maybe like the other members said, she just does'nt realize anything is wrong. I understand how hard it can be. I have been dealing with my daughter all this time and I knew something was very wrong. It is so stressful on family members because you just don't know what to do or what to expect from day to day. We're here to support and help you anyway we can. I'll get back to you with a website to check out.
Avatar universal
Check out, ************.com. It's a really great website.
Avatar universal
Thanks for this. I have been considering asking her to do something like this but whether she'll agree is another matter. Let's see, picking the right time could be difficult. When she has gone to the dark side then it's not realistic, but when she is calm and happy, I don't want to risk triggering an episode - I think you understand very well what I mean!

Had a bit of a bad one yesterday as I was accused of abandoning her at home with our little one - I went to work, and then took my mum out to the theatre for a Christmas treat - to which my wife was invited but had declined as she doesn't much care for opera! I took it much less personally than I used to, due to having read so much about BPD over the last few months, but it didn't stop me from feeling intensely irritated when she started telling our daughter how "daddy and grandma don't want to spend any time with you" (when she brings the little one into it I have to try really hard to keep my emotions under control). However, it is the dread of my daughter being subjected to such nonsense without me to keep a check on things which is keeping me here right now - along with the hope that we can try to get my wife on the road to recovery. I really hope that we can, but I have my own feelings and mental health to consider as well. There is only so far even the most tolerant of people can be pushed, abused etc before something gives.

Thanks again for this, I will keep you updated!
Avatar universal
Hi again Jaquta.

Just to go into a little more detail, high stress situations are definitely a trigger, but they do crop up in life from time to time - just need to deal with them as and when they arrive!

I am getting quite good at recognising the triggers but unfortunately some of them are unavoidable - ie unforseen circumstances which cause stress (they are always my fault), having to change plans such as the schedule of a day out due to something such as weather, roadworks, something being unexpectedly closed etc. Also, her episodes can also be triggered by me going to work (classic abandonment) but as I readily point out to her, if I don't work then we don't eat, go on holiday, put petrol in the car etc etc. I work free-lance, and she is constantly pressuring me to cancel appointments, which of course I am theoretically able to do as I am my own boss. However, when I point out that I have a responsibility towards my clients, the typical answer is that "you care about your clients more than about me". Another very odd trigger connected with work is that she gets angry if I am working in certain geographical locations in the city which are too far from home (we live in a huge city), or with certain, usually female clients, which means that from time to time I have to lie about where I am working, or with whom. I hate having to do this, but I figure it is only a white lie and far preferable to an absurd confrontation.

You also mention projection - yes, I get a lot of this. She very often accuses me of the behaviours which manifest themselves in her, especially shouting. One of her common tactics is to shout at me, and then when I raise my voice slightly, to accuse me of shouting at her. I often get accused of not listening to her (admittedly I have stopped at times when what she has been saying has become too ridiculous to warrant comment), being selfish and doing what I want all the time - she thinks that my work is some sort of hobby - fyi I work less than a standard 9-5 week, just not standard hours, and earn a very good salary, but I always get accused of  working too much (daddy only cares about money - to our daughter), or if I take an easy week, of earning too little (no win situations). When I am not at work, I am usually spending time with our little one. I never go out on my own with my friends - we share most of the same friends and almost always go out together, which is fine by me. I even come home from appointments three or four days a working week to have lunch with the family, but still I am accused of not spending enough time with her, which is beginning to make me feel very trapped. It's not that I don't want to spend time at home - quite the opposite in fact, but as soon as you start being pressured into doing something - ie she sees a family lunch on a weekday now as a right rather than a really pleasurable treat - it stops being pleasurable!

OK, I've kinda gone off at a tangent here, thank so much for taking the time to answer. Now you maybe have got a little snapshot of what I am dealing with. As I said earlier, this is not all the time, sometimes things can be good for several months without any blow-ups. But when a man is living in fear of telling his 30 year old wife what time he will be home from work in an evening in case she throws a childish tantrum, it is clear that something is not quite right.
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