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Living With A BPD Husband : My Story

I would never have imagined myself married to someone with BPD. I've worked with BPD patients in a hospital for years. However, the majority of hospitalized BPD patients are female and physically hurt themselves to deal with the stress of perceived abandonment. Most of our husbands are "functioning" borderlines who paint a totally different picture. So I can't blame myself for not knowing of his diagnosis. I have colleagues who brag about being able to spot a borderline "from a mile away", and none have suspected my husband.

He is functioning in that he is able to go to work every day and put on a mask of normalcy to the outside. His coworkers love him and he has an engaging personality. He is able to control his dysregulation in front of acquaintances.

With his family though, he either cannot or will not control his dysregulation. Very trivial events make him snap. For example, he can't handle the stress of going out to eat with the kids - it will set him off for the whole night. So we avoid going to restaurants. Actually going anywhere with the kids causes him to dysregulate. As soon as something happens that he perceives as stressful - like having to hold our 2-year-old for a few minutes - his whole day is ruined and he will be sure to ruin everyone else's fun too. He does this by sitting and sulking, snapping at us repeatedly, and just refusing to relax and enjoy. For this reason I tend to take the kids places by myself. Dealing with 2 young children on my own is so much easier than bringing an adult borderline along.

Vacations are out of the question. I've taken him on at least 4 vacations, and pretty much every time something happens to cause dysregulation. For example having to look for the baggage claim or wait for a bus to the hotel. This is enough to set a bad mood for the whole trip. He acts miserable the entire time. The first few times I thought it was my fault, and that's what my husband claimed. It took me 4 trips to realize he wasn't acting normal. I see other families together, engaging and having fun. But when you look at our family, you see me and the kids attempting to have fun, and him staring down and sulking. This group's avatar is the perfect depiction. So I decided no more vacations. I love to travel, but the trips just create bad memories.

It seems that most borderline men, rather than having a fear of abandonment, have a fear of engulfment - becoming too emotionally close. For my husband, "engulfment" includes things that wouldn't bother the average person. For example, sitting next to each other on the couch, talking about feelings (even things not related to our relationship), and sometimes even eating together at the same table can be threatening to him and cause him to dysregulate.


It took me years to realize he had an actual disorder. Once I realized he had BPD, I did a ton of research. I learned he doesn't have an evil heart, but an axis 2 personality disorder caused by events in early childhood. The disorder is irreversible. One way I look at it is you're just as likely to cure Down's Syndrome as you are BPD - they're both Axis 2 disorders. I do realize this is as good as it gets. He will never feel empathy or remorse, that's part of BPD. I love him anyway. I worry for the future, because I realize people with this disorder generally cheat and leave. So I have to wait and see what happens.

Something I forgot to mention is the splitting. He is constantly categorizing people, especially close family members, as "good" or "bad". I try not to contribute anything to these conversations, because in a matter of a day, he can split that person to the opposite side and I would be wrong with whatever I said. He splits his older son - at the moment he is wonderful. He's currently not speaking to his siblings, but I know that any day they will suddenly become the best people ever. He splits me often too. The splitting can last for hours, days, or weeks... then suddenly, after no particular event, he's normal again. Strangely, he splits people he does not know as "good" the majority of the time. He will verbally protect and defend them to no end. Much more than he would ever for a family member.

I think the worst time for him was when I was pregnant with our kids. I think my pregnancies caused the biggest threat of engulfment, because typically a man is supposed to stand up and be supportive when his wife is pregnant. This was far too overwhelming for him - he didn't speak to me for months and when he did talk, it was just nastiness and sarcasm. Even after this. I don't think he's a bad person and can't even imagine what goes on in his head.
JacobsGirl360 JacobsGirl360 31-35, F 6 Responses Apr 6, 2013

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Wow, you definitely described is so much better than I could. This describes my husband very much so. My husband is also able to control is dysregulation in front of people he does not know very well. With family, he also cannot control his dysregulation and always threatening me with divorce. However, he will never cheat on me. Oh, yeah you got me there with the vacations. I would rather go on vacations without him, traveling just seems to be so stressful. Ugh. However, I love my husband and I know deep down he can be funny, loving, and sweet. He has those bad days, sometime there are more bad days than good. I just know that he is fighting a tough battle with his brains.

Anytime I read stories about being married to a man with BPD, I'm taken back by how similar my life is. As with your husband, mine wears a mask of normalcy in front of others. However, after years of being married, I see all the symptoms in him. I'm currently pregnant with our second child and he's been worse than ever. With our first, it mostly manifested as him drinking more, however, with this one, he's binge drinking, overeating, overspending, and being very nasty to me and my daughter.

In your story, reading about how he'll split strangers as good, when he doesn't even know them has been something I always noticed with my husband but didn't understand was part of the disorder until now. I don't know if my husband would cheat or not but he definitely wants to leave me (because he "knows" I'm going to leave him eventually) and plans on doing so after this baby is born. Thanks for sharing your story.

Thanks for commenting on my story. You can read some of my more recent ones for an idea on how your feelings may change after years of abuse.

Wow these stories sound so familiar to what I had gone through with my daughters father he would avoid going out to eat with me and if we did go out he would bring hismother and if we did go together of course an argument would follow. He never want to take a vacation would imply that he would pay for me to go on a vacation. Since we first met up until he left he would talk about us getting married, had told me a few months ago that he had brought me an engagement ring. Never happened never saw a ring. Just to mention he cheated on me in the past we broke up for a year got back together for sixmonths and broken up again. He had gotten upset about true facts that he did not want to hear or liked. I apologized if it offend ed him but I told him I could not change my feelings its been 3 and half months and im sure he has rebounded. within these months he has begged me not to be with anyone else. asked if we could be intimate to telling me he wasn't going to talk to me that way and we can be cordial and hes going to accept it and let me move forward and that I deserve to be happy. He told me he was going through it. I guess dealing with the fact we are over this time. he had asked me if I would want to work it out I told him no.

Wow...sitting here stunned. This sounds like my life. I just had my third baby and things are terrible at home right now. Never thought about it, but just realized that all of his worst times are right around when i am pregnant or just given birth. Thanks for the insight. Ps...i fear vacations with my husband too.

Hi JacobsGirl360

Don't wait to see what happens. It will happen. Leave before it happens and hurts you more than if you made the choice for yourself.

Unless cheating and leaving are in his pattern of BPD behaviors already, I don't believe it necessarily is part of the "BPD package." My husband, for example, has never cheated on me or his exes, and he has never walked out on a committed relationship, marriage or otherwise. His relationships have ended because he drives his partner crazy. A partner does not have to leave before being left to avoid being hurt if that is not her preference. On the contrary, this kind of defensive strategizing in a marriage has the potential to create much more suffering.

Thanks for your replies! My husband has cheated on girlfriends in the past - never on me. He did walk out on his first marriage. He has threatened me with divorce over trivial arguments.  I attribute this to the "splitting" behavior of BPD. He can't constructively work with me to solve a disagreement, things are either "black" or "white"...no meeting halfway. I suspect other BPD's are the same.

It's reassuring to know I'm not alone dealing with the vacation behaviors. I'm convinced that he doesn't notice the pattern of his behavior, as he blames it on everyone else. And it seems the BPD already affects his health (high BP, GI problems). In my case his behaviors have caused me depression, but it's easier to deal with as I learn about the disorder and realize I'm not a failure.

I'm about to update my story with a few more things I feel important. Thanks again for your replies.

Listen; my husband is very similar (the vacation behavior is identical—you're not alone), and his behavior has also convinced me that it is fear of engulfment rather than fear of abandonment that drives the male high-functioning BPD. I don't think it's likely that he will cheat on you and then leave unless he has given you cause to think so. I think that long-term things to dread include cumulative effects of his behavior on his health and the health (mental and physical) of those around him. With my husband, for example, binge eating has always been a problem, and he wound up obese for a time. Then he started to require surgery to correct the effects of this kind of dysregulation. Now he is suffering from the aftermath of surgery. He is miserable, always looking for ways to blame his suffering on the kids and me, and is able to turn any effort to help him on my part into an attempt at hurting him. I love him very much so I am not about to give up, but it can be very trying. He will suddenly threaten to call authorities on me, which can be nerve-wracking. Even in his sleep he has blurted out, "Someone is trying to wrench out my spine with a pliers—call the authorities!" The next day he had no recollection. This was one episode of his that made us both laugh.

Hi guys, I need advice - I just married a BPD and I am 9 weeks pregnant. It has been so tough... He kicked me out and destroyed my items and always so controlling. What shall I do? Keep the baby? We are doing therapy but what if one day I decide it won't work and he doesn't let me leave ? I am so confused and scared since we just got married and this is all so new to me. Thank you guys

Personally, I don't believe in abortion. So if it was me, I'd keep the baby. I wouldn't keep the husband though. I can assure you that the stress of having a newborn makes a BP's behavior much, much worse. If he kicked you out, the best thing for you to do is find someplace stable in time for the baby to arrive, and focus on yourself and the baby for now.