Why can't we focus on what I believe to be a huge issue in our marriage, i.e. the fact that her regular temper tantrums and verbal abuse is not something I want to put up with anymore?
T10, if your W has strong BPD traits, she has a weak fragile sense of who she is. She therefore is not focused on finding solutions and compromises. Rather, she is focused on creating sufficient drama to "validate" her false self image of always being "The Victim." Although that self image is false, it likely is the closest thing to a self image that she has. She therefore keeps a death grip on it, always looking for continual validation. This, at least, is my understanding.
Am I supposed to allow myself to be verbally abused for the rest of my marriage because my wife "doesn't mean it"? Is that the best she can do?
No, it is the best she CHOOSES TO DO. If she has strong BPD traits, as you suspect, she likely has the emotional development of a four year old. This means that, like a young child, she is capable of stopping her temper tantrums whenever she has an incentive to do so. This is why it is important, for her well being as well as your own, to allow her to suffer the logical consequences of her own bad behavior and foolish choices. Having a stunted emotional development does not give one a free pass to abuse other people.
I don't know if she honestly thinks her behavior is acceptable.
Generally, BPDers are filled with so much shame and self loathing that the last thing they want to do is find one more item to add to the long list of things they hate about themselves. A BPDer therefore relies heavily on her subconscious to protect her fragile ego from seeing too much of reality. The ego defense that is used most frequently usually is projection. Because it occurs subconsciously, the conscious mind believes it reflects reality. If your W is a BPDer, she therefore likely "honestly thinks" that much of her outrageous behavior and false allegations are justified -- because that is what her ego defenses allow her to see.
Importantly, this does not imply that she has no control over this process. Unlike narcissists, BPDers typically have a vague awareness that something is wrong with them (even though they are loath to admit it and don't know what it is). Moreover, BPDers can get "moments of clarity" when a loved one stands up to their abuse and bullying and threatens to leave.
Hence, BPDers typically have numerous opportunities to choose to seek therapy and learn how to manage their issues. Yet, because of their general lack of self awareness and their weak egos, nearly all of them choose instead to ignore those opportunities.
What I can't figure out is if she's so unhappy about me and it seems I can never make her happy, why does she still want to stay married?
This paradox -- of desperately wanting to stay with someone whom you often despise -- is reflected in the title of the #2 best-selling BPD book: I Hate You, Don't Leave Me.
Because BPDers have such unstable, fragile egos, they typically hate to live alone. They have a strong need to find someone with a strong personality who can center and ground them -- thus providing a sense of purpose and direction.
Yet, as soon as they get exactly that, they will feel dominated and controlled by that person's strong personality. They escape this suffocating feeling by creating a fight -- over absolutely nothing -- to push the partner away. In that way, they get the partner to stop triggering their engulfment fear.
But, sadly, the engulfment fear and abandonment fear both lie at opposite ends of the very same spectrum. This means that, as the partner backs away from triggering one fear, he necessarily is drawing closer to triggering the other. This is why the BPDer will periodically flip from hating you (i.e., splitting you black) to loving you (i.e., splitting you white and pulling you back into the relationship). The result is that a BPDer typically engages in a cycle of push-you-away and pull-you-back. As you say, she becomes unhappy with nearly everything you do but doesn't want you to leave.
Is she happy being unhappy?
No, she is unhappy. But being unhappy, at least, does not frighten her. Happiness is frightening for several reasons. One is that, when things are going great and the two of you are very close, her weak ego cannot tolerate the closeness for very long. Although she craves intimacy like everyone else, she cannot handle it. Hence, to get the engulfment fear to subside, she pushes you away by destroying the happiness. This is why, with BPDers, the very WORST fights typically follow immediately on the heels of the very BEST of times.
Another reason that happiness is so scary for BPDers is that the vast majority of them experienced abuse or abandonment during childhood. They therefore came to think of true love as something that a parent holds just out of reach and, when it is enjoyed, it is quickly withdrawn. This seems to be the main reason BPDers have such difficulty in forming a lasting, stable bond to loved ones.
At this stage, my mind is made up about leaving. I just hope I find the strength to see this through.
If your W exhibits strong BPD traits and refuses to seek treatment, I agree that you should walk away. It nonetheless would be prudent to see YOUR OWN psychologist -- for a visit or two by yourself
-- to obtain a candid professional opinion on what it is you're dealing with.
Even if you walk out tomorrow, seeing a psychologist likely will help you deal with the guilt and help you decide whether to stay the course with a D. After all, the D process likely will take at least a year -- a lot of time in which you may change your mind.
T10, I also suggest you read Splitting: Protecting Yourself when Divorcing a Borderline or Narcissist
. A good online article is T9 Surviving a Break-up with Someone Suffering with Borderline Personality Disorder - Columbia University, New York
. Finally, I suggest that, while you are at the BPDfamily.com website, you check out the "Leaving a Borderline" message board for tips from a hundred other men who've been there and done that.