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4582320 tn?1358121425

are people with BPD selfish

I would like to know how i can explain to my boyfriend that he needs to consider my feelings as well as his own. I really don't know how to get through to him that a relationship is made up of 2 people. I am always considerate and supportive but i don't get that back from him. I have been with him for 2 years. He is back in therapy but is very closed to new treatments and new thinking and seems to want to accept he will always be like this and deserves it. I am totally frustrated and feel the only thing I can do now is end the relationship because of the disappointment and stress I feel all the time
21 Responses
Avatar universal
Sadly, this is something I have been banging my head against a brick wall with for years with my wife (undiagnosed BPD I strongly suspect)

Blanket comments that are common include

"We always do what you want"
"You manipulate people into thinking they are doing what they want when in actual fact it's what you want"

Actually, I am very easy going and rarely insist on doing anything.

Other common incidents include being told that I am being silly, unreasonable or selfish when stating my wishes, or that if I am unhappy with something then it is "your problem".

I really feel for you, but at least you have got past the first stage by getting your boyfriend to admit he has a problem and try therapy. So far I have had no such successes. However, I am married with a small child, so for me to escape if it's what I choose to do is going to be very difficult (and I may well stick with it by the way) Good luck, and feel free to PM me if you need any advice / support.
Avatar universal
I don't think that people with bpd are selfish despite it may appear to others that way.
I think that as bpd is such a challenging illness on so many levels that people are often just forced to do enough to survive.  When you struggle through each moment of each day your focus can become quite narrow and you end up doing what you need to in order to get through each day.

I think the best approach is usually the honest one.  Say it like it is or how you experience it.  Sometimes people with bpd don't get the impact their behaviour has on others until it is pointed out.  It is best if you use "I" statements though so the person doesn't feel attacked or threatened.  I feel this ... I think that ...  Giving the person a different perspective of how to view things may ultimately start to affect how they see things.  Broaden their horizons, so to speak.

I find metaphors or analogies really helpful.

The last one the doctor shared with me is that I am like a bunny they have in a cage at school.  When the bunny comes out and is poked, it retreats.

Therapists, etc have a tendency to tell people with bpd that they won't change.  Personality by it's very nature takes a long time to change and can be extremely difficult.  People with bpd use primitive defense mechanisms to protect themselves too.  Denial can be a common defense.
Therapy can often cause a loss of hope and optimism for the patient.

I think that often we need to be able to make our own mistakes, etc in order to move on.  What you see, may not be what he sees at this time.  He may feel like he needs to go through this process however ineffectual you may feel it is.  Recovery is a process and is very individualistic, it is not something that the bpd person can force or rush.  We need to feel and experience things.  Rightly or wrongly that is how we are and how we learn at grow.  Over time we can become more skilful and adopt different approaches.
Avatar universal
Jaquta, would you say that over time, and with the right treatment the relationship can ever become more "fair"? I have read a lot of articles which state that even though a BPD partner can be extremely loving and giving at times (definitely true), the relationship will never be fair, as the BPD will always play by their own rules, move the goalposts etc. Does treatment change this at all, or does it just equip both partners with the tools to understand and deal with such behaviour better?
Avatar universal
Fair?  Do you mean equal?  The goal of any treatment is to help a person with bpd to form secure attachments.  They should be able to have healthy relationships.

I have a book on bpd written by John Gunderson.  He helped compile the criteria that form the bpd diagnosis.
In the book there is a table.  It indicates changes that are expected to occur over the course of long-term psychotherapies.

Listed under "outcome" which seems a more relational grouping it goes from: patient likes and is engaged by therapist to capable of low-demand social role to capable of low-demand relationships to capable of competition, friendships to patient does not have bpd.

I think that in the right therapy and that with the right therapist that recovery is possible.
I think that if a person with bpd is cntinually setting the rules or moving them arbitrarily then they have control issues or more specifically anxiety issues.  (Control is to help manage anxiety.)

Some days I doubt that it is possible to become functional and to reach that point of equality (or of peacefulness, contentment, or of whatever feels like it is missing).  I wouldn't like to settle for a band-aid solution to the problem though.
Largely I think it depends on what the individual wants and how invested they are in change.  For some people just dealing with the symptoms may be OK while for others resolving the underlying issues is paramount.

Perspectives change as people age as well.

It sounds as though your wife has some issues as well as some paranoid ideations.  The only think I can say is that life is a journey and we can only travel it in a way that has meaning to us.  Recovery is a process, it happens at its own pace, it can't be rushed.
I don't know if actions you take might trigger insights or just make things worse.  I don't know how you go about making a person see when they are in denial and their world looks and feels so much different to your own.

I always found having people explain things to me helpful.  It helped me to see their perspective.  I was late because x, y, z happened.  Without that information I might have interpreted the situation as being because I wasn't important enough or any number of other things.  That people didn't care.

Talk about what you think and feel and how your wife's behaviour affects you.  Don't make it personal though.  It's not her fault she is the way she is and she doesn't need to be made to feel unworthy or broken, etc or whatever her particular issues may be.
Avatar universal
What do I mean by "fair"? That's a good question actually.

By "fair", I mean a relationship where both partners play by the same rules, not where one is allowed to get away with all manner of unacceptable behaviour while the other is shouted at for the smallest transgression (late home from work, toilet seat left up etc)

I mean a relationship where both partners take equal financial responsibility (this is different to each partner earning the same wage), rather than the main wage earner being blamed for any time where there is a deficit of cash by the partner who is not currently working.

By fair, I mean a relationship where both partners' wishes, desires and problems are considered to be of equal merit, rather than one partner being told that his feelings don't matter, his opinions are worthless and stupid, and his problems or fears are imaginary. A fair relationship is one where either partner should feel comfortable enough to raise any issues or give their opinion without fear of being verbally attacked.

You mention that it is not my wife's fault that she is like she is - of course you are correct to state this - but surely now I have given her the suggestion that I feel something is wrong and it needs sorting out with her participation, which she has rejected outright, some of the burden of responsibility must lie with her? I have read some bits from "Stop Walking On Eggshells", and it seems that much of what the author is getting at is that for the BPD, their condition cannot be used as a reason to completely absolve them of blame for their behaviour, and there is a point where they must start taking responsibility for things.
Avatar universal
I prefer the word equality or partnership.

One therapist once said to me that it takes two to manipulate.  One to manipulate and one to be manipulated by.  It makes me question your role in the dysfunction.  It kind of sounds like there is a lack of basic respect for each other.

Explain about work.  What are the circumstances that make you late?  Is it a constant thing?  A one off?  Can you set limits with work?  Are they taking advantage of you?  Is work being used as a means of escape?

The toilet seat?  I'm with your wife.  You could negotiate to keep the lid down so that both parties are equally inconvenienced.  I don't even think that it's about the toilet seat.  It goes beyond that.

It sounds a little disempowering when one party doesn't have control over what they bring to the table.  Where one stays at home and perhaps manages childcare.  It's almost like implying that one job is more important than the other when in fact they are both equally important.
Do you involve your wife in the financial decisions?  She could probably take some ownership of the problem especially if there were boundaries.
One of the criteria for bpd pertains to impulsiveness.  People with bpd can sabotage their own efforts.  People with bpd can spend more money than is adviseable.  This can relate back to problems with delayed gratification.
bpd is extremely complex.  I hate money.  I can save money for months and when the stress of being in poverty severely overwhelms me I can blow my budget and savings.  It is stressful and the cycle begins again.  It is an absolute nightmare that is difficult to escape from.

Set limits with the money.  Know what they are in advance, if possible, to reduce stress and to help create structure.

I think that she has just told you how she feels.  She feels undervalued, insignificant, worthless, useless, stupid, unimportant.  Is made to feel like everything is in her head.

People with bpd use primitive defense mechanisms.  Projection (or projective identification) is one of them.
I'm wondering if she has made you feel how she feels.  ??

We all need to be more sensitive towards others and their thoughts and feelings.  Your wife sounds like she could be more sensitive and empathetic.

Did I mention that when one is struggling so much internally that life becomes more about survival.  It can be hard to empathise with others when you're struggling.  Maybe try to view this as you being in an emergency situation and then see how empathetic you are capable of being.  If you're in pain, etc then you're going to be less tolerant of others.

Part of the illness means that the person will use those coping mechanisms.  It's a bit like expecting a person to use skills that they just don't have.
Trust can also be an issue for people with bpd so it's not just about listening to what someone has to say and then doing it.

One thing that comes up in dbt, a treatment for bpd, is that although people didn't choose to have bpd they have a responsibility to do something about it now.

It's makes sense on some level but on another it means accepting responsibility for all the rubbish that has happened in your life that has occurred due to no fault of your own.  We know that we need to change or that things aren't right but to accept that there are things wrong with us it'
s devastating.  And then comes in another defense of splitting.  We're either all good or all bad.  We either need help or we don't.  It is hard for us to hold both views at the same time.

I'm not explaining stuff very well.  I had chemo three days ago and it's really messing with my head at the moment.

One thing I have learnt through experience is that there is a process for everything.  You know like when your parents know best and tell you not to do something but you just have to do it anyway.  It's a process, something you have to do and learn for yourself.
757137 tn?1347196453
Let's put aside his BPD. The fact is that you are not happy in the relationship and the cause does not matter. So treat it as any other partnership. Are you unhappy enough to leave him. If so, do so. I doubt very much that therapy will help him anyway.
757137 tn?1347196453
As to people with BPD being selfish, i wonder if it isn't a case of being egocentric (as opposed to egotistical). They may be wrapped up in themselves. Some experts feel that Princess Diana had BPD as she exhibited many of the signs.
1882418 tn?1455117908
Therapy can helf if the individual is making an effort, and wants to change. Personally, as a bordeline, I am extremely selfish. When something happens to someone else I immediately think of how it effects me. I don't easily feel empathy; I have to work at it. In my relationship things are slowly becoming more fair, as you put it. After almost a year of DBT, I'm atleast at a point where I want things to be equal, and I don't want to be selfish. I want to be happy, and that can't happen when you think you are the center of the universe. I gave my girlfriend a book and workbook called Stop Walking on Eggshells, and she says it helps her to deal with me.
4582320 tn?1358121425
The reason I am unhappy in the relationship is my fella can be loving and kind one day then the next day raging at me and using emotional blackmail ( going to kill myself etc) then back to being lovely. I cannot only love the nice side of him, I need to appreciate both but I am starting to wonder if he will ever try and see my point of view. I am almost fed up of being the reasonable one, it's tiresome and unfair. Do you really think the therapy won't work?What makes you say that? I find that bleak but you could be right
4582320 tn?1358121425
I found your post very interesting, and gave me hope. My fella isnt getting DBT and I have mentioned it to him but he seems a bit uninterested and lost in terms of what therapy he wants. I am glad you have had some good results
757137 tn?1347196453
As time goes by, psychology, the talking-it-out kind, falls increasingly into disrepute for many conditions, as links are made to chemical imbalances, thus leading to the treatment of mental and emotional ailments with medications of one sort or another. I don't think it is a case of his trying, since his problems are not problems of will. One may think it is unfair to reject a person because of an emotional flaw, but a good partnership cannot be had if one of the partners is exceptionally needy. You give, give, give, but someday you will want to receive.
Avatar universal
You have explained things very well actually. The toilet seat was just an example off the top of my head. Maybe I should be more considerate about it. Especially when our daughter drops her toys down there for fun! It's not a big issue though, work is much more pivotal and causes far more heated exchanges. The situation is as follows -

I work free-lance, so theoretically I make my own schedule. However, I do of course have clients who might change appointments at short notice, and also appointments run over. My wife has a good career but is currently on maternity leave but has been talking about returning to work for at least a year, but in my opinion, (maybe unfair) keeps making excuses why she isn't going to go, despite the fact that we live very near her parents so there is absolutely no issue with childcare. She is pretty financially responsible though, but constantly complains that we do not have enough money. I earn a very good salary, but when it is the only income and we have a child and other life expenses, it quickly goes! Now, as I work free-lance, of course if I increase my working hours, we have more money but I am home less. One week a month I will work half time to spend time with the family, but will be accused of not earning enough. In the weeks when I am working a lot, I am accused of abandoning her with our child and not being interested in my family. Classic no win situation. I must admit that when things are bad, going to work can be an escape. Of course, if I even dare to mention that a second income would make a massive difference to our level of disposable income, I get called all the names under the sun. As I said, we are not living in dire poverty, far from it, but we are attempting to move house, book holidays, always eat extremely healthy food etc and I have to explain to her that some things have to wait (the second holiday of the year) or that designer baby clothes aren't necessary as we currently have other financial commitments, then I get called a loser who doesn't earn enough.

Thanks for taking the time to reply, it really is appreciated. Good luck with your chemo.
4582320 tn?1358121425
Hi Jaquta

Thanks for all your posts, I have read them with great interest. I also want to wish you good luck with your chemo, hope you feel better soon. You have given me a lot to consider

Avatar universal
The toilet seat isn't important in the scope of things.  (Unless the person with bpd is uncontained in which case it could contribute to them feeling depressed and suicidal.  BPD is full of contradictions.)

Why should you be considerate of such a small thing if it pains you at a deeper level.  It's symbolic.  Maybe you need to leave it up?  Maybe what you really need is for your wife to validate how you feel or for her to show you some degree of support and understanding.  It can feel hard to feel heard when there are such power struggles (with both parties having needs that the other is not listening too or meeting).

Oh joy!  Maybe you should keep the seat down.  Maybe that is where your wife is coming from.  Maybe after fishing toys out of the toilet all day a seat left up is seen as an open invitation to drop them there.
Maybe your kid needs a lesson in what is appropriate and what is not to leave in the toilet.  Limits.

Maybe she feels guilty for leaving the child?  Maybe she feels torn between wanting to care for the child and wanting some independence.
Maybe she just lacks confidence after having spent time away from work?

Maybe point out the pros and cons of each situation and ask her for her opinion.  Does she have ideas about how things can be better managed?

Maybe the issue isn't about money but about spending quality time together?

Those comments are pretty harsh.  Some of what she wants seems quite superficial.  Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in life and losing yourself in the process.  Losing sight of what is most important.

One thing that I would want to know if I were in your wife's situation is, are you able to create more structure with your work schedule?
Maybe you need to be firmer with the limits you set with work?  Or maybe you just need to communicate changes to your wife?

Maybe you should consider couples counselling and work out how you can be more effective together.

Another question.  As you say your wife has been on maternity leave, is there a chance she could have post-natal depression?

It seems like there are a few small things that aren't working in your relationship/ life but once they are then things will be great.  Is hard to isolate those things other than to identify possible communicate issues.

Chemo is the most disgusting, miserable thing ever.  And they call it treatment.  Luck would have the chemo kill all the cancer cells.

Thank you both of you for your well wishes.

This is slightly off topic but I thought that a life-threatening diagnosis (was told that I could be dead within five years) would help me make huge changes in my life.  BPD is so messed up that even the possibility and thought of dying isn't enough to change behaviour.  It's a strong motivator but it has minimal impact on issues that are entrenched.

Another option would be for everyone to be grateful for what they do have.  Imagine that you or a loved one were dying.  What changes would you make?  What would you do differently?  Life is really fragile, we need to make the most of it.
Avatar universal
You are so right, in that a few small changes would make a massive difference to our happiness together. That is one of the most frustrating things! When we were discussing our relationship the other week, I described my feelings to my wife that is is 80% blissful happiness, and 20% hell. Of course, she now keeps referring to "how unhappy you are", absolutely forgetting about the other 80%! It would actually be funny to an outsider, but to someone who knows about the condition, this is of course deadly serious.

On the subject of therapy, I have indeed suggested joint therapy, but this was rejected out of hand - I am considering going to see a therapist myself though.

Post Natal Depression - this was something that I considered. Certainly things were really awful in the year after the birth, but actually a lot of the symptoms were there long before. They were just compounded by the stresses and challenges which come with being a new parent.

About my work schedule - it will never be very regular I'm afraid, but I have started to tell her about my timetables in advance if at all possible, with all the possible changes, which seems to have had some positive effects. I agree that she does want to spend quality time together as a family, and we do a lot of this - I am home more than most working men of my age anyway, I would say that even with my current schedule I am home for a family lunch 2-3 days out of the five, but she seems to see this as a right rather than a treat, which frustrates me hugely. I don't think I need explain to anyone that it is only enjoyable doing something nice and romantic for someone if it is unexpected. Otherwise the pleasure quickly disappears.

Honestly, we are not that far away. So much in our lives is amazing, yet sometimes I feel like we are a million miles away at the same time.
Avatar universal
Thanks for your comment. Again, I would be interested to know how you managed to get your diagnosis and how you ended up going for treatment. Were you pushed or did you come to the realisation yourself that something was wrong and needed to change? This is where I am now with my wife, trying to get her to warm to the idea of going for therapy together.
Avatar universal
I can understand your frustration.  A lot of people with bpd have an abusive history and many find positives, 'challenging'.  I use to prefer that people be nasty to me versus be nice.  Positives can be seen as threatening and can make one question the others motives.  Why are you being nice?  It's so foreign that when it does happen it's confusing.  You like it but hate it at the same time.  Or flip from one to the other so fast it feels like it is the same time.

People with bpd tend to remember the negative or traumatic events.  I think that it's something cued from childhood.  You learn to know where threats come from.  They are what some people tune into.

Mine is a long story.  I don't mind talking about it but probably another day will be better for me.  The basics for now are that I saw my family doctor for physical symptoms.  Headaches, trouble with my vision, etc.
I had had some issues in the previous year with suicidal thoughts.  The doctor ordered blood tests and asked me to come back and see him at the end of the week.

The bloods were fine so he asked if I would object to being referred to a psychiatrist.  I was always extremely nervous and never felt like I really fitted in.  I thought that seeing the psychiatrist would likely fix everything.
Big mistake.  Anyway, I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety.  Things got progressively worse over the next year and I was sectioned because I had refused to take anti-depressants and didn't see much point in talking to a psychologist whom I couldn't relate too.

I was severely traumatised from being hospitalised and over-dosed on all the discharge medication.  Apparently a toxic amount and it was classed as a significant suicide attempt.
Lots of other stuff happened and I ended up hurting myself again.  I think that is when I was formally diagnosed.  My doctor had told my parents that I was borderline bpd and borderline psychotic a few years earlier after other stressful events in my life.

The diagnosis was one of the hardest things for me.  It was absolutely devastating.  I felt like my whole world had turned upside down.  bpd felt like I was being blamed for everything.

I'll talk more another day.  Not sure about tomorrow as I have chemo again.  Will see how things go.
Avatar universal
Hi again.  Yes I really have to agree with jaquata.  Not all BPD's are totally selfish.  While I may have been very selfish in my younger years, before official diagnosis, I'm certainly not now.  Having suffered for 30 years, so has my family I might add, I'm still learning to recgonise what is and what is not 'normal' behavior in any given situation.  This has to be 'learnt' with the help of experienced theripists and this is what I'd like to think your partner will obtain.  I very much know where he is coming from in thinking he will never change, thinking that this is his 'lot' in life because of the BPD.  As he's still open to therapy it is well worth sticking around, and after all you have been together for two years, I guess some of the hardest two years of your life (I mean that in a kind way).    Please don't leave the relationship just yet and I'm pretty sure he's already secretely thinking you are going to dump him, that being a typical thought pattern of a BPD.  I can only say all of this from my view-point and if this was me in his position I'd be terrified of losing you (yes I KNOW it's a strange way of showing it!)  There are many different types of therapy, as there are many different types of people with BPD.  There really will be something out there to suit your partner and I so hope it comes along very soon, you sound to be a genuine caring person and I've been following this thread with great interest.  There has been considerable input from sufferers and other partners etc.  Everybody has a valuable point so please do continue to either post or just read replies.  One last remark:  Meds.  Do you know if there are or have been meds suggested or tried?  I ask this because at last, I have found the correct meds for me and they are proving to be a very important part of my seemingly successful treatment, anything potentially helpful must be worth mentioning.  I will follow you here and look forward to your future posts.  Good luck.  X                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
4582320 tn?1358121425
Hi Waggiedog
Thank you so much for your post, your experience gives me a lot of hope. I have had a lot to consider the past couple of weeks since he went into hospital. He contacts me every day and he is aware of what this is doing to me. He told me last night that his going to hospital has nothing to do with me that in fact I am one of the main things he has to be grateful for in his life. I did wonder if his going to hospital was a reaction to our relationship and was surprised he had considered I might be thinking that, He said that he feels unworthy of me and not good enough, ashamed of himself. I was very clear that I am fully supportive and that I dont want him to feel ashamed as he cannot help being overwhelmed by his problems. I told him I didnt feel badly about him and was proud he was being responsible. He told me that that meant a lot to hear. He also told me it was his intention to sort out his problems and stop trying to just pretend he was managing. It was a good talk. I find him to be a really difficult man but also one of the kindest and loveliest people to be with ever, the contrast can at times be very frustrating but I am trying to understand. I know he is on anti depressants but nothing else. I know he is making the most of his time there and talking and opening up. He seems to have a new determination and I am pleased for him. I havent discussed which therapy he is trying now as he is still being assessed as his first week there was just too hard for him to properly get into the situation as he was so mentally exhausted. He doesnt know how long he will be there he is taking it a week at a time and I have told him there is no need to rush his stay but to make the most of his time there. I am being very patient and loving but I do worry. I am also getting on with my life and I am certainly not thinking of dumping him. I am so pleased to hear of your successful treatment, good for you. I would like to ask one thing. I am not asking him too many questions at the moment, letting him deal with the situation as he is often reluctant to discuss his BPD. How can I ask about it without him feeling ashamed or coming across as being critical? I really dont want to add stress but I do have questions.
Again, many thanks and good luck to you too
Avatar universal
I personally hate the term bpd.  I find that any time that comes up I get defensive.  It's almost like the label creates a division, is divisive.  Maybe something that separates good from bad, healthy from unhealthy.
I understand that its a perception thing, that not all people judge us for being assigned a particular diagnosis, but sometimes its hard not to feel put down and stigmatised by it.  Traumatised by it even.
It is hard when everything is seen as black and white, good and bad.

The diagnosis to me felt like something that I couldn't cope with.  I felt smothered by it.  Felt like it was a huge weight that I couldn't bear.  I wanted it gone so that I could breathe again, live again.  Maybe go back to having my world make sense.  A place that wasn't so scary or threatening or hopeless.  A place where I wasn't broken.

If I were broken then I would never be able to be fixed.  Would never be perfect.  Would never be OK.  Would live a life of shame, etc.
I use to think that if I were broken and Humpty Dumpty were broken, despite being fixed or put back together again, we would always be ...second rate, substandard, not good enough, unworthy, etc.

I guess you don't have to talk about bpd specifically.  You can discuss thoughts and feelings, etc.  It doesn't always have to be about the diagnosis.  I would rather that people saw me versus saw me for the diagnosis.  I don't want to feel like I have to compete with a label for attention.  It's part of me, it doesn't define me.  I know it does to a huge degree but it's so much bigger than that.  I guess the same for someone who has an amputation, etc.

I often feel heard when I am validated and accepted.  When I feel heard I don't feel criticised, judged or devalued.

Just be honest with him.  Talk about your insecurities.  bpd is a minefield but is one that you can navigate successfully together.  If you have the basics, like trust and respect, no matter what, you will have the tools to repair any damage done to the relationship.

I think that it's also important that a person respects another persons boundaries.  If you're asked not to push or to let him have space then you need to respect that.  He'll let you know.  A lot, I think, is just basic common sense stuff.  About being sensitive and empathetic.
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