A significant amount of my clinical work in Singapore is with professional, highly educated men who are in relationships with extremely unstable, often verbally or physically violent woman. If you are man in a relationship that has a lot of drama and you feel like you are walking on egg shells, this article is for you. If are man trying to understand your female partner’s extreme mood swings, violent tendency towards you, an unfounded but over developed paranoia of what you are doing all the time, as well as extremely controlling behavior of what you do with your time when you are both together or apart and if your partner often expresses a desire to self-harm or even threatens suicide when she doesn’t get her way this article is for you.
If some of what I’m describing sounds like your female partner she may be a person suffering from undiagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder. This article is not intended to diagnosis your partner, but may help you understand and make sense of the person's' behavior so that you can get the help you need to make decisions about this relationship or see if you can get this person help. This is an extremely serious mental health condition from which a person does not get better, but with years of therapy can see their symptoms reduce. When dating or being married to a person with this disorder, it creates an EXTREME amount of instability and drama and often very hostile nonsensical interactions.
I want to place emphasis on extreme behaviors where the person may hit you, throw things at you, very abruptly change their mind and become extremely emotionally distressed to the point it doesn't match the context. The mood swing are extreme, out of context that most people would choose and often are not coherent and don't make sense.
According to the U.S.A National Institute of Mental Health
Signs & Symptoms
According to the DSM, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR), to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a person must show an enduring pattern of behavior that includes at least five of the following symptoms:
· Extreme reactions—including panic, depression, rage, or frantic actions—to abandonment, whether real or perceived
· A pattern of intense and stormy relationships with family, friends, and loved ones, often veering from extreme closeness and love (idealization) to extreme dislike or anger (devaluation)
· Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self, which can result in sudden changes in feelings, opinions, values, or plans and goals for the future (such as school or career choices)
· Impulsive and often dangerous behaviors, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating
· Recurring suicidal behaviors or threats or self-harming behavior, such as cutting
· Intense and highly changeable moods, with each episode lasting from a few hours to a few days
· Chronic feelings of emptiness and/or boredom
· Inappropriate, intense anger or problems controlling anger
· Having stress-related paranoid thoughts or severe dissociative symptoms, such as feeling cut off from oneself, observing oneself from outside the body, or losing touch with reality.
Seemingly mundane events may trigger symptoms. For example, people with BPD may feel angry and distressed over minor separations—such as vacations, business trips, or sudden changes of plans—from people to whom they feel close. Studies show that people with this disorder may see anger in an emotionally neutral face and have a stronger reaction to words with negative meanings than people who do not have the disorder.
When working with men that have fallen in love with women with diagnosed or undiagnosed Borderline Personality disorder (BPD) they will have serious issues within the relationship that start to surface about 6 months to 12 months into the relationship. Often the initial attraction is that sex is amazing and intense and the BPD person presents a different image of self that slowly gives way to the more insecure and control behaviors that make the relationship more dramatic and unstable.
Because of the man’s attachment and love for the woman, he may try to use logic and reason to solve problem or explain things to his partner. For him, he may believe it is a simple misunderstanding or solution but his partner has an extreme reaction and the more he tries to explain the worse her reaction becomes. What keeps him stuck in this painful cycle is that he don’t realize that his behavior is not causing the problem, though his female partner keeps insisting that she is acting so extreme due to what the man is doing. The woman has a complete lack of accountability and responsibility for her behavior. This is very pronounced and extreme in her ability to take ownership of her behavior. The man gets hooked trying to change his behavior to meet your her demands and no matter what he does nothing gets better, in fact it gets worse.
People with BPD have a problem with regulating their emotions. They feel real pain and fear of abandonment. They need their partner to do what they tell them to do so they can feel better, but it never works, creating a vicious loop of demands and perceived rejections and anger and then make up and repeat. At some point, the man gets tired and starts pulling back and at this point the person with BPD has to really escalate their behaviors to get the man to comply.
No matter how much a trusted friend will tell the man to leave the relationship, he just can't do it. At least for the time being, you want to stay and give it another try and try to help or fix it.
A person with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is mentally ill. This is one of the reasons you hesitate to leave your loved one. You want to separate the disorder from the person. You believe that there is no other person in this world who can help your BPD loved one except you.
Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to cure the disorder instantly. However, there are techniques that can help you survive the relationship. If not you may want to seek professional counselling to help you evaluate what you are getting out of trying to save someone that even mental health professionals struggle to treat. What is attracting you to such a self-destructive relationship.
Tips from Joy Campbell on how to try and manage a person with BDP:
1. Self-esteem Self-Check
You cannot survive a relationship with a Borderline if your self-esteem is shattered. You need to learn to take care of yourself. Your Borderline loved one is incapable of taking care of you. You have to believe that you can commit to your partner's treatment and recovery.
2. The Four (4) Don'ts
There are four things you should not do or say to your Borderline partner. The first is don't defend yourself. The second is don't explain. The third is don't justify. The fourth is don't counter attack. The Borderline loved one may misconstrue the above-mentioned statements and actions. The Borderline thinks you are disagreeing with their reality. The Borderline feels that you are literally screaming at them that they are wrong, bad and stupid. They become defensive and will start to confront you.
3. Practice SET Communication Method (Support, Empathy, Truth)
Erin Johnston, LCSW in About.com explains why SET is effective to handle the Borderline loved one. In SET strategy, S stands for Support. It is very important to give a support statement to reassure a Borderline that you have a desire to help. The E stands for Empathy . It involves making your Borderline partner feel that you understand their feelings. The T stands for truth. This technique entails re-stating reality after the emotional outbursts are diffused.
4. Understand Validation and How, When to Apply It
You can validate the feelings of a Borderline by accepting their right to their feelings. Though you do not necessarily agree with them, acknowledging their feelings will help you identify their current feelings. These emotions circulate as feelings of being sad, frustrated, unheard, misunderstood, lonely, depressed. By validating, you can help them label their feelings and be there for them. The goal of validation is to calm your Borderline loved one. Otherwise, a trivial issue may instead escalate to anger and rage.
5. Set Healthy Boundaries
Sometimes, your Borderline loved one becomes very emotionally deregulated. They become very agitated and angry. If initial attempts to do the 4 steps above do not work, protect yourself from damaging criticisms and verbal abuse. Let your Borderline loved one know that their message is important but you need to set another time to discuss the issue. Boundaries provide structure to the relationship and prevent abuse.
All the best advices in the world will not stop a person from falling in love with a Borderline. After all, Borderlines are human beings with the right to love and be loved. Their mental health issues are very difficult to understand for people without proper training and tools. In fact, many children and spouses of Borderlines are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PSTD). Many lives have been devastated by this disorder.
If you think you may be in a relationship with a person with BDP, the important thing is not to point this out to them. They will not be able to receive the information. Better for you seek out professional help and determine what you are trying to do in a relationship with this person and if it is realistic. If you have some of your own issues that is keeping you with this person it’s best to work that out. Give us a call so that we can help you at 90307239