, thanks for the callout.
She's a toxic person.
Nik, Farside gave me a callout because I was married for 15 years to a woman exhibiting strong traits of BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). I agree with Farside that the behaviors you describe -- i.e., irrational anger (e.g., the bathmat), controlling behavior, easily triggered temper tantrums, lack of impulse control, and always being "The Victim" -- are classic warning signs for BPD. Importantly, I'm not suggesting your W has full-blown BPD but, rather, that she may exhibit moderate to strong traits of it.
I'll be interested to read if he thinks there is BPD going on here.
Very good question, Hope. Wish I knew the answer. As you know, BPD is not something -- like chickenpox -- that a person either "has" or "doesn't have." Instead, it is a spectrum disorder, which means every adult on the planet occasionally exhibits all BPD traits to some degree (albeit at a low level if the person is healthy). At issue, then, is not whether Nik's W exhibits BPD traits. Of course she does. We all do.
Rather, at issue is whether his W exhibits those traits at a strong and persistent level (i.e., is on the upper end of the BPD spectrum). Not having met her, I cannot answer that question. You thus may be correct that this is only "a situation of problems blending the families."
I nonetheless believe that Nik can spot any strong BPD warning signs that are present if he takes a little time to learn which behaviors are on the list. They should be easy to spot -- particularly for a man who has been with her for five years -- because there is nothing subtle about behaviors such as verbal abuse, lack of impulse control, and temper tantrums.
She's got all of these idiosyncrasies that make me feel I have to walk on eggshells with every thing I do (or don't do).
Nik, if your W is a BPDer (i.e., exhibits strong and persistent BPD traits), "walking on eggshells" is exactly how you should be feeling. This is why the #1 best-selling BPD book (targeted to the abused partners) is titled, Stop Walking on Eggshells
...to a point where I really think I'm the crazy one.
Again, if your W is a BPDer, feeling like you may be going "crazy" is exactly how you should be feeling. Of the 157 mental disorders listed in the APA's diagnostic manual, BPD is the one most notorious
for making the abused partners feel like they may be losing their minds. Therapists typically see far more of those abused partners -- coming in to find out if they are going insane -- than they ever see of the BPDers themselves.
Nothing will drive you crazier sooner than being repeatedly abused by a partner whom you know, to a certainty, must really love you. The reason is that you will be mistakenly convinced that, if only you can figure out what YOU are doing wrong, you can restore your partner to that wonderful human being you saw at the very beginning. Moreover, because BPDers usually are convinced that the absurd allegations coming out of their mouths are absolutely true -- they generally have a greater "crazy-making" effect than can ever be achieved by narcissists or sociopaths.
The other night, we were at the bar having dinner and drinks, and I said to her that I'd choose her over anyone else here -and she just laughed and said she doubted that.
If she is a BPDer, she has a great fear of abandonment and very low self esteem. It therefore is impossible to convince her that you truly love her and will remain loyal to her. A BPDer is filled with so much self loathing that, even when she is convinced that you love her AT THIS VERY MOMENT, she lives in fear that you will abandon her as soon as you realize how empty she is on the inside.
With BPDers, the only exception to this statement occurs during the courtship period, a time of infatuation that typically lasts 4 to 6 months. During that brief period, her infatuation convinces her that you are the nearly perfect man who has come to rescue her from her unhappiness. In this way, the infatuation holds her two fears (abandonment and engulfment) at bay. She therefore is briefly convinced you will never walk out on her.
As soon as the infatuation starts evaporating, however, those two fears return and you will start triggering the anger she's been carrying since early childhood. At that point, it will be impossible to prove to her that you will never leave her and that you dearly love her.
After dating about 3 months, ...I moved in with her.... For the next several months, things seemed to go really well.
As I noted above, if your W is a BPDer, her fears and anger likely will not be triggered until you are at least 4 to 6 months into the relationship. Until then, her infatuation holds her two fears at bay.
When we first met, she was just amazing - easy going, fun-loving, full of energy, etc.
If she were a narcissist or sociopath, you likely were being manipulated and deliberately deceived during the courtship period. If she is a BPDer, however, she likely was sincere and not trying to deceive you. What you saw was how she behaves when her two fears (abandonment and engulfment) are held at bay by her infatuation.
She's always got a way of making everything my fault.
If she really is a BPDer, she is filled with so much self loathing that the last thing she wants to find is one more flaw or mistake to add to the long list of things she hates about herself. This is why it is rare for a BPDer to take responsibility for her own bad choices and bad behavior. And this is why a BPDer is constantly looking for validation that she is "The Victim," always "The Victim." The easiest way to obtain that validation is to perceive of her husband as "The Perpetrator" -- the cause of her unhappiness and every misfortune.
She comes up *****ing and stating the my son who NEVER turns the basement light out, did turn it out and he was a prick for doing so. I was lost at that moment....First off, yes, he fails to turn the light off many times, but not ALL the time.
Another warning sign for having BPD traits is the frequent use of all-or-nothing expressions like "You NEVER..." and "You ALWAYS...." This childish behavior arises from "black-white thinking."
If your W is a BPDer, she is too immature to be able to handle strong conflicting feelings, ambiguities, uncertainties, and other gray areas of interpersonal relationships.
Hence, like a young child, she will categorize everyone close to her as "all good" (i.e., "white" or "with me") or "all bad" (i.e., "black" or "against me"). And she will recategorize someone from one polar extreme to the other -- in just ten seconds -- based solely on a minor comment or action.
We've been to counseling together and separately -no more of that is going to work.
If your W actually is a BPDer, MC likely will be a total waste of time. Although marriage counselors can be very good at teaching communication skills, a BPDer's issues are far more serious than a simple lack of communication skills. Hence, MC is unlikely to be productive until a BPDer has worked hard in individual therapy for several years (a very unlikely situation). My experience is that, until that individual therapy has been done, MC likely will just make things worse. The BPDer will use couples counseling as a stage on which to beat you up in front of an audience (i.e., the MC).
I don't even know what I'm doing at this time. I'm going to be the bad guy no matter what I do, good or bad.
If your W is a BPDer, you are "the bad guy" no matter what you do. The main reason this predicament occurs is that the BPDer's two great fears -- abandonment and engulfment -- lie at opposite ends of the very same
spectrum. This means you are always in a lose/lose situation because, as you back away from one fear to avoid triggering it, you will start triggering the fear at the other end of that same spectrum.
Hence, as you move close to a BPDer to comfort her and assure her of your love, you will start triggering her engulfment fear, making her feel like she's being suffocated and controlled by you. Yet, as you back away to give her breathing space, you will find that you've started triggering her abandonment fear. And, sadly, there is no midpoints solution (between "too close" and "too far away") where you can safely stand to avoid triggering the two fears. I know because I foolishly spent 15 years searching for that Goldilocks position, which simply does not exist.
Nik, I suggest that you see a psychologist -- for a visit or two all by yourself -- to obtain a candid professional opinion on what it is that you and the kids are dealing with. I also suggest that, while you're looking for a good psych, you read about BPD warning signs to see if most seem to apply.
Significantly, learning to spot these warning signs will not enable you to diagnose your W's issues. Although you can easily spot any strong BPD symptoms that occur, only a professional can determine whether they are so severe as to constitute full-blown BPD.
Yet, for purposes of deciding whether to stay married, it really does not matter whether your W's BPD traits are full-blown or not. A woman whose symptoms satisfy only 70% or 80% of the diagnostic guidelines (thus "not having BPD") can be nearly as impossible to live with as a woman satisfying 100% (thus "having BPD").
Moreover, like learning warning signs for stroke and heart attack, learning those for BPD may help you avoid a very painful situation -- e.g., avoid remaining in a toxic marriage or avoid running into the arms of another woman who is just like her. Further, learning to spot the warning signs likely will help you decide whether your situation is serious enough to warrant spending money on consulting with a psychologist.
An easy place to start reading is my list of red flags at 18 BPD Warning Signs
. If most sound very familiar, I would suggest you read my more detailed description of them at my posts in Maybe's Thread
. If that description rings any bells, I would be glad to join Farside
, and the other respondents in discussing them with you. Take care, Nik.