We have been together over two years. When he is stressed, the way he speaks to me is diminishing to my spirit. When he makes certain statements that make me feel sad, or bad, he tells me I am overreacting, and am ruining the moment. I can't help it! I feel uspet. Later, when I tell him how I feel, that I resent the way he talks to me, he acts aggressively, won't look at me, and makes me feel like I am trying to start a fight. I just want to be heard and want my feelings to be justified. I know that I'm not crazy! This has been happening since the relationship began. It will be great for a few weeks, then something happens, to piss him off, and he says things to me that crush my soul. He has never called me names, but yells obsenities to my face. The next day will apologize (sometimes I think to appease me) and says he is working on his anger, but it keeps happening again and again. Usually always acts like I am overreacting. I don't know how much longer I can handle the emotional rollercoaster. I need help. How do I deal with this????
Can anyone help me? When things are good, I'm having a really hard time being happy because I have this underlying resentment towards him for the times he treats me poorly. I just want to be happy. Any suggestions? Should I just go to counseling?
Yes, you should go to counseling, and you also need to set boundaries. Why do you stay there and listen to him go on like that with you? I know it can be hard to walk away, but insisting on being talked to with respect is a valid demand.
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I know that I'm not crazy! This has been happening since the relationship began. It will be great for a few weeks, then something happens, to piss him off, and he says things to me that crush my soul. ... and yells obsenities to my face.
Willow, your H sounds so much like my exW, with whom I lived for 15 years. She suffers from strong traits of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I never knew what innocent comment or tone of voice would set her off into saying extremely mean things about me. Like other BPDers, she does black-white thinking wherein she would adore me for a while and then flip almost instantaneously into hating me. Her accusations would be so mean during the hateful periods that it would take me several days to recover from what I witnessed.
She, however, usually recovered fully within five hours, so she would then accuse me of "holding a grudge" for the next several days. The typical behavior of BPDers is to blame everything on you because they have such weak egos that they cannot tolerate the thought that they are wrong about anything.
The most recent large study (of nearly 35,000 adults) found that 6% of the population has the disorder at the diagnostic level at some period of their lives. I would not be surprised if another 6% has BPD traits so strong (albeit not at the diagnostic level) that it will be miserable trying to live with them if they will not stay in therapy to learn to control it.
The cause of BPD is still not known for certain. Recent studies suggest, however, that about 70% of the cases are attributable to abandonment or abuse in early childhood -- and the remaining 30% is due solely to inherited genes. In any event, BPDers carry a lot of anger and rage inside of them from childhood. You thus never know when you will inadvertently trigger a release of that anger by saying or doing something. Hence, the first classic book on BPD was titled "Stop Walking on Eggshells."
Because BPD is usually accompanied by another illness such as bipolar disorder, many folks confuse BPD and bipolar. The difference between the two, however, is not difficult to spot. With bipolar, the illness rises and wanes slowly -- typically taking a couple of weeks -- because it is caused by gradual changes in body chemistry.
With BPD, however, the bad periods of acting out and mean language do not come on gradually. Nor do they take two weeks to arrive. Instead, they can flair up in minutes -- even as quick as 10 seconds. It happens quickly because these hostile mean periods are "event triggered" (by something you say or do). Because such anger requires a lot of energy, the mean periods typically last only 5 hours -- only rarely as long as 36 hours.
BPDers are very easy to fall in love with. Because they have a weak and unstable sense of who they are, they have difficulty knowing how to behave in various social circumstances. They therefore try to act in a way that they believe people are expecting them to behave. Hence, when they are attracted to someone, they will mirror the personality and preferences of that individual. The result is that, when a BPDer becomes infatuated with you, he will like nearly everything you do and will be so similiar to your personality that you will feel like you've met your "soul mate." He doesn't do it to use you or deceive you. Indeed, he likely does not know he is doing it because it is done subconsciously. He simply wants to be loved like anyone else does.
The problem, though, is that no BPDer can sustain the mirroring for too long -- typically up to about six months. I mention this because, if you learn that your H actually has strong BPD traits, you should not feel like you were a fool for falling for him. Any ex-partner of a BPDer can tell you that the six-month honeymoon is very passionate and idyllic. And many ex-partners will tell you it was the happiest period in their lives.
If this sounds familiar to you, I suggest that you read more about BPD online. A good place to start would be BPDfamily.com, which is targeted to spouses and family members living with a BPDer. Also, I will be happy to share my experiences with you. Although I am not a psychologist, I will be glad to try to answer any questions I can based on my experience with my ex.
Moreover, I want to stress that this is not rocket science. All of us have BPD traits at a low level and thus are able to quickly recognize them when we are told what to look for. Once you learn what the red flags are, you will be able to spot a strong pattern of BPD behavior when it occurs. That part is easy. What is hard is determining when the BPD traits are so severe that they rise to a level warranting a diagnosis of BPD. Making that determination is the province of professionals.
Finally, I agree with Happy that you would be wise to see a therapist on your own to help you build up stronger personal boundaries. After taking my exW to six different psychologists for 15 years, my experience is that couples counseling is totally useless if your H has strong BPD traits. Learning to control those traits will require a strong commitment to years of indivdual therapy. Until he learns to regulate his emotions, he likely will only play games in couples counseling. Please start taking better care of yourself by insisting, as Happy suggests, that you be treated respectfully at all times.
Wow, that is so so so interesting!! My H lost his mother when he was 18, and his father was a docter, and NEVER around. On top of all of that, he was adopted, which adds to the feelings of abandonment. I really think that is him. He has even commented that he hates it when he acts that way, it's like something just comes over him. Yeah, it's so crazy, because he is so in love with me one minute, and the next, I don't understand how he could talk to me with such contempt?! Thank you so much for this information!!!! It is really a big help. I appreaciate it so much Uptown! I am definitely going to look into this and therapy for us and my H. All the best to you.
Wow, that is so so so interesting!! My H lost his mother when he was 18, and his father was a docter, and NEVER around. On top of all of that, he was adopted, which adds to the feelings of abandonment. I really think that is him.
His losing his mother at 18 would not have caused BPD. To the extent he has BPD traits, they were firmly entrenched in early childhood -- perhaps even before he was adopted.
He has even commented that he hates it when he acts that way, it's like something just comes over him.
Due to the childhood trauma and heredity, BPDers had to fight for survival using the only defense mechanisms available to them -- those of a 3 or 4 year old. Because they have to rely on those defenses so intensely, their emotional development becomes stuck at that age. That is, they are stuck with using magical thinking, splitting (i.e., dissociation), and black-white thinking.
As I said above, you can easily learn to identify such childish behavior because you've done it too. You did it full time when you were four and you still do those things occassionally. The black-white thinking, for example, is something your brain is hard wired to do -- all through your life -- when you are startled or frightened. When you look up from a cross-walk to see a truck bearing down on you, your brain is only capable at that moment of thinking "jump left" or "jump right." You thus tend to revert to black-white thinking to protect yourself when startled. BPDers, however, tend to do it most of the time and, consequently, they do not deal at all well with gray areas, e.g., people are good or bad to them.
You also do splitting (dissociation). Do you remember the time you were driving and suddenly realized that you could not recall seeing anything for the past ten miles -- not even the three intersections you drove through? And do you recall the times you went into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door -- only to suddenly realize that you could not remember what you had gone there for?
Well, those two incidents are examples of dissociation -- where the conscious part of your mind is daydreaming while the subconscious part is driving through intersections or walking you to the kitchen. People with strong BPD traits do this far more frequently than you do. That is one reason that they sometimes cannot remember an event that you can recall easily. It also explains why they do the black-white thinking, i.e., they cannot be in touch with their good feelings about you and their bad feelings at the same time.
Because their emotional development is stunted, BPDers (i.e., those with strong BPD traits) never learned to regulate their emotions. They therefore are at the mercy of strong emotional tides that sweep over them -- or, as your H said, "it's like something just came over me." These emotions are so intense that, for a BPDer, the feeling constitutes reality. They therefore will believe whatever they are feeling to be true despite all the evidence you present to the contrary. To the BPDer, the intense feeling constitutes evidence. This is why a BPDer will accuse you of all sorts of outrageous behavior and your efforts to discuss it logically will not make a dent.
Yeah, it's so crazy, because he is so in love with me one minute, and the next, I don't understand how he could talk to me with such contempt?!
If your H has strong BPD traits, his perceptions of you are distorted. That is why BPD is called a thought disorder. Of course, you already knew that his perceptions are distorted when he is verbally abusing you.
What you may not realize, however, is that they likewise are distorted when he is adoring you. That is, he projects qualities onto you that you do not have and this projection occurs both when he is devaluing you and when he is adoring you. This means that BPD love is extremely intense but shallow -- and thus is sometimes described as being "a mile wide and an inch deep." I like to describe it as being infatuation which never evolves into a mature form of love (i.e., where your needs and welfare would be as important as his own).
Thank you so much for this information!!!! It is really a big help.
Willow, I am glad I was able to be helpful.
I am definitely going to look into this and therapy for us and my H.
At the BPDfamily site mentioned above, you will find that the usual advice to newbie-Nons like you is to arrange for him to meet a therapist but to not tell him upfront that you suspect he has strong BPD traits. The advice given is to let the therapist do that. The reasoning is that, if he really does have strong BPD traits, he already hates himself -- so the last thing he wants to hear is one more thing to add to the long list of things he hates about himself.
This means that, if you tell him, he likely will project it right back onto you -- like he does with everything else that goes wrong -- and he will firmly believe that you are the one suffering from BPD. He will believe you are the sick one because, for projection to be successful at ridding him of bad feelings about himself, it must be done subconsciously. He therefore likely will be unaware the projection is occurring. So please take care.
Oh my goodness....I just found this site this week, and have been suspecting for a short time that my husband's diagnosed depression may be more than that, and have only in the past few weeks been researching BPD which I suspect may his issue. The blame and black and white thinking is HUGE. And in his case, there was abuse in childhood combined with an emotionally absent father so I am really thinking this is it. He is currently in counseling for the "depression" but goes in there and minimizes how he's doing. Plus, he's only 4 sessions in, so I know it's early.
While I understand that BPD is entrenched in early childhood, is it possible that a trigger such as the discovery his own son had been abused by others brought it to the surface? This happened 4.5 years ago and it's been my assumption that that news is what threw him into a depression. Oh, I have so much to learn...and will be heading over to that BPD Family website in a moment to read more.
Michelle, I am glad to hear you found the information useful.
He is currently in counseling for the "depression" but goes in there and minimizes how he's doing. Plus, he's only 4 sessions in, so I know it's early.
As I've explained in other posts, it is unlikely that the therapist will tell him, much less you, that he has BPD -- even if that is his true diagnosis. One reason is that insurance companies rarely cover it (or cover more than a small fraction of the treatments). Another is that most BPDers immediately quit therapy on hearing that diagnosis. A third is that, with insurance being connected with the employer, a therapist doesn't want the diagnosis in the permanent record for fear of job repercussions. To find out his true diagnosis, then, you likely would have to go to your own clinical psychologist and describe the behavior. He will not render a formal diagnosis but can tell you "It sounds like ....."
While I understand that BPD is entrenched in early childhood, is it possible that a trigger such as the discovery his own son had been abused by others brought it to the surface? This happened 4.5 years ago and it's been my assumption that that news is what threw him into a depression.
Anything is possible because individuals are not all the same. Generally, however, a high functioning BPDer starts showing symptoms about age 15 or 16 when he starts trying to form relationships by dating. It is then that his twin fears of engulfment and abandonment are easily triggered by minor comments and actions of the new friends. Of course, any major stresses in his life will aggravate those fears and his underlying emotional instability. I suggest that you read my three posts in GTRR's thread at http://talkaboutmarriage.com/anxiety...tml#post188319. Those posts will give you a broad overview of typical BPDer behavior and one of them contains links to some great articles. If you have questions, I would be glad to try and answer them. Take care, Michelle.