My Wife Is Not Her [Borderline Personality] Disorder


wife has borderline personality disorder

I was so moved to read this beautiful love-letter of a post by Rowan about his experience of his wife, Aeshe, who he so eloquently describes while discussing his own, very real experience as a partner of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder.  Read on, and be moved as I was. Welcome my guest blogger, Rowan.

On: Supporting my wife, who has borderline personality disorder (BPD)
            I feel like I am betraying my wife by writing this, even though I logically know this is not the case.  When Debbie asked me to write about supporting a loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), as a companion to my vlog post on YouTube, I was immediately afflicted by the dueling emotions of relief and guilt.  I was relieved I would get another opportunity to share my perspective on loving a spouse with a mental illness, one stigmatized by popular media and the psychiatric community alike.  I felt guilty because, although Aeshe (my wife) is open about her struggles and healing from BPD, she still feels shame and anxiety about even having this diagnosis.

            She worries about the judgment of others, the loss of friendships, the limiting of her options by deciding to be transparent about her life.  Even though I believe myself to be balanced and open in my assertions (not assessments) about what is so for me—when maintaining that difficult balance of being a supportive partner and maintaining my own health and wellness—I also desire to shield her from harm and hurt.  However, maintaining silence about my experience dealing with my wife's BPD has only made me feel isolated and unseen, while making myself responsible for “protecting” her from the world does not acknowledge her as the dynamic and amazing woman I know her to be.

            I met my wife in the early Winter of 2010, and we became friends and lovers in February 2011.  Aeshe's BPD symptoms became apparent to me in early spring of last year (2012).  Though she'd previously had many diagnoses in the past, there was never one that officially stated “borderline personality disorder,” though many of the markers were there.  At first, I felt like I was thrown headlong into a maelstrom of interpersonal chaos, and couldn't make sense of the emotional volatility I was witnessing.  Aeshe had impulsivity with food and spending, she became easily emotionally dysregulated seemingly apropos of minor situations, she was angry, she had difficulties being separated from me if I went to work, her dissociation became more pronounced, and she started self-harming again (i.e. after not having done so for a while).  I made the decision, with my eyes wide open, to support her and commit myself to our relationship.  We married on August 27, 2012, the day after my birthday.  I do not regret that decision, despite the inherent challenges of loving someone with BPD.

            What followed was an intense crash course in BPD and interpersonal dynamics in the face of the criteria/symptoms she was displaying.  My hardest lesson was learning to de-escalate the situation.  My initial reaction to what I considered my wife's intense and extreme emotional outbursts and rage was ineffective.  I am someone who takes responsibility for his own actions and, sometimes to my detriment, the actions and reactions of others.  I also have a minor savior complex.  Consequently, I became frustrated; I thought her reactions were all my fault, that if I just tried hard not to “set off” her emotional arousal everything would eventually settle.  Instead, my emotions fed off her emotions, which fed off my emotions, turning into an escalating ouroborous of dysregulation.  I tried pleading with and cajoling my Aeshe, pointed out how her reactions were irrational and not based in reality...which fanned her frustration and anger because she felt invalidated.

            Eventually, through conscious and honest talks with Aeshe, and with the aid of processing and reading on my own, I developed the necessary skills to better support the both of us as she works on her recovery from BPD.  The following lessons have been very helpful to me:

1.     Consciously remind yourself that you have not caused your loved one's dysregulation or their personal triggers.  You are only responsible for your own emotional states and reactions.
2.     Validate how they're feeling, because emotions are not logical. Sometimes, expressing interest through a statement of concern—“It seems like you're frightened.  That must be difficult for you right now”—is ample.
3.     Gracefully remove yourself from a situation if the both of you are unable to control your emotions.  Make sure your loved one knows you are not abandoning them, but calming down.
4.     Practice healthy selfishness, and partake in self-care. If you are not well-rested, hydrated, fed, and have your emotional needs met (e.g. a good support system for you is also helpful), you will not be happy.  This will, in turn, affect your relationship with your loved one.
5.     Try to interpret your loved one's reactions in the most benign way possible.  People have accused those with BPD of being manipulative in their relationships.  Instead, they are trying frantically to defuse fear of abandonment.

            I have myriad thoughts and impressions about my experience living with my wife, Aeshe.  I've learned so many valuable lessons about the nature of inner strength, what it means to support and love someone unconditionally, how to be authentic and vulnerable without being weak, and how to recognize my own emotional challenges and deal with them.  Since accepting and working with my wife's BPD, I have come to recognize my diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and am taking steps to alleviate these symptoms and poor coping strategies that have plagued me for as long as I can recall. There's more to express than just this brief snapshot revealing my general thoughts about maintaining balance when loving someone with BPD.

            Here's the crux of my life with Aeshe: She is NOT her disorder. BPD is just a component of her identity, though one that touches all aspects of our life together.  Every relationship and every life led has its unique set of challenges and heartaches, triumphs and joys.  Honestly, I cannot imagine being with someone more loving and compassionate, intelligent and quirky, beautiful and sexy.  She makes me question everything I know, inspires me to be a better person, and loves me unconditionally.  It doesn't get better than that.


Rowan has a vlog on YouTube under the name of VadomaPrimal. His wife has a vlog on YouTube under the name of AtypicalAeshe.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

24 comments:

  1. I'm a little upset by #1 in his "necessary skills", claiming that you should not blame yourself for your loved one's disregulation or personal triggers. Although I assume this is most likely the case a majority of the time....it is not always true! Sometimes IT IS your fault! To assume that you've never done anything wrong to anger or upset your spouse is ridiculous and self righteous. I feel like by saying this, you are placing the blame on her at all times, and by doing this possibly not taking your own actions into consideration. Just because she may have an extreme reaction to something you said or did doesn't make it not your fault.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to share your viewpoint on this. I hope you have had a chance to read Rowan's response. ♥ Debbie

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    2. Im pretty sure he didn't mean all the time, its probably one of those read between the lines thing.

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    3. This is a really good point. I don't think Rowan meant that he's NEVER to blame, but I can see how it could look like that. I sometimes get annoyed and frustrated that just because I have BPD, every time I get hurt or upset or angry by something my partner does, people claim it's basically my fault when in reality he could have done something very wrong, I just overreacted. And that's how I explain it to my boyfriend after an episode. I'll tell him that what he said/did was wrong or hurtful or whatever but that I just went over the top with my reaction. Usually he will accept his part in it and understand that I only 'went off' because of the dysregulation.

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    4. It was my experience that when my ex-wife wanted to lose her temper, she would search and search until she found something to trigger an attack.

      Most of the time it is NOT YOUR FAULT, it is the disease looking for something and it will find it

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    5. I think that what he is trying to say that there typically is not fault, that you should just hang in there and help your loved one in their time of need, instead of worrying about if it is your fault or not, you have to move on from that and work things through, then you think about what triggered it so you can hopefully prevent it from happening if at all possible.

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  2. leighannenoelle: My apologies if this came off as self-righteous. I fully believe that each person is responsible for their 50% of the relationship. When I have said or done something that is hurtful, I apologize for it, and take the blame. For me, trying not to automatically take the blame is helpful because I was always blaming myself for her reactions and dysregulation in all cases. In other words, just because Aeshe has BPD does not clear me of my responsibilities to be a good person and partner in the relationship.

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  3. However, the more I think about it, it is healthier for me to get away from the idea of "blame" and "fault" in relationships, because that has a tendency to make someone the "bad guy" and another person the "good guy". I think it's more productive to say that we are imperfect. Sometimes that means we say things without thought, sometimes we can be hurtful, other times act without considering others, etc. It is important for me to own my actions and reactions, state them for what they are, but not constantly judge and put oneself down (i.e. assertions, not assessments).

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    1. Excellent insight, Rowan. ♥ Debbie

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    2. Rowan, your account of how it's like for you to live with a person who has BPD is very accurate. You are very mature, level-headed & well-adjusted as a person to see your wife's BPD in such a positive way. I didn't find reading your letter, in anyway insinuating that you are never at fault with upsetting your wife & you don't come across as meaning that at all. Thank you for you account as living with a loved one who has BPD. I feel that people who can see through the BPD at the real person deserves a medal. It's a very emotional, volatile roller coaster ride at times & if you have patience & understanding, the BPD survivor will appreciate this type of person. Thank you Rowan for your frank experience. All the best to you & Aeshe.

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    3. Rowan, your views and analysis is perfectly balanced and well founded. My story has been similar to yourself and initially I used to blame my self/got blamed for most of the issues which popped up. This was when I have been trying my reasonable best to avoid such triggers. By accepting the responsibilities for the triggers and trying to proactively resolve the issues, I was putting a lot of stress on me. The point to remember here is that the non BPD partner has the responsibility of keeping himself/herself mentally healthy and stable to continue a reasonably sustainable relationship. What I have been practising was disengaging myself from the emotional rollercoster, my spouse go through very often, while trying to support her without getting into the spiral yourself. The trick has been working sofar as a strategy. The flip side is that she now lacks a friend who always support her and try to solve the issues for her. I donot know if this is a good sign. What do you guys think?

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  4. Thank you so much Rowan!!! I too have chosen to be very transparent about my BPD diagnosis as it helps to practice eliminating shame-based behaviors. I have met a incredibly wonderful partner and he certainly knows that this road with me may have its own peculiarities due to my diagnosis and how my symptoms can sometimes appear. It is so SO helpful to have somewhere to send him to get just a little bit of insight on how someone supports themselves and their partner when one of them has a BPD experience. Especially! a view that doesn't include extremist "leave them now!" strategies or super stigmatizing (read: invalidating) perspectives that so often arise in relational responses from people who have had to weather some of the roughness that can come out of the behavior of those who have bpd... THANK YOU for this contribution... P.S. this is totally my favorite BPD-Related blog!! I read it ALL the time. It has been super helpful. Thanks again!

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    1. Hi Camille -- thank you so much for reading and responding to Rowan's guest post and for sharing your own personal experience. ♥ Debbie

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  5. Nevertheless, kudos for being an awesome understanding and supportive husband :)))

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    1. Thanks for your comment to Rowan, Zen! ♥ Debbie

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  6. Dear Rowan:

    Thank you for such an interesting post. I can totally relate to it. I loved a girl afflicted with BPD and came to the same conclusion: She was not the disorder. I did believe that the strategies you discovered are the most convenient to support and cotinue building a relationship. My experience with my ex-girlfriend was one of the most intense and beautiful of my life. I still admire and love her deeply, and a year later after our break up there is not a single day that passes without thinking about her and wish her well.

    The reason I broke with her maybe the greatest difference with your story. She never acknowledge any responsibility with the problems in our relationship much less to involve in any type of professional therapy (that we needed so urgently), leaving all responsibility to me. I do beleive we have at least 50% responsibility on what is going on. However without acknowledgment of a condition and much less without actions to improve, I was left without tools and support. I hung on as much as I could, I never believed about leaving her as an option. Only when I found myself under a severe depression, developed vitiligo, loss weight and lost my sleep due to all the stress bewteen us, I decided I had to leave for my own sake. I do believe leaving is not necessary but also an option in cases of self-preservation. I always beleived to support her and be with her but needed some action on her side. Taking responsibility is a matter of two. I don´t blame her for anything. She has no fault. I would have gave her my life if I could (sometimes I think I almost did) but probably it wouldn´t had been enough if she didn´t assumed there were pending actions on her side. Love, without actions to improve, is not enough.

    I admire you and Aeshe so much. Yours is exactly the couple I thought we would become and I was so thankful and happy about that thought and specially commited to her if only she had done something about it. We never got there though. We both have our share of unfulfilled responsibility and lack of skills on my side. I still consider her the most incredible woman I´ve ever loved and this constitutes the greatest tragedy of my life. To leave the woman you loved the most knowing that she loves you with the same intensity but also knowing that to continue like that would had devastated me even more. I´m still greaving after a year and sometimes I can´t beleive how I lost her but I´m left without answers on how we could had continued. I guess the key was not easy but neccessary: recognition, common action, patience (time) and love. The last, as I wrote, whotut the rest is not enough.

    I wish you both well and thank you for your courage and generosity. I apologize to anyone if you don´t share any idea I wrote. It was just my experience.

    Thank you Debbie for opening this discussion spaces and for being the inspiration that you are every day for many of us. I admire you very much! Thanks!

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  7. Sorry for my English, being Mexican, this is not my mother tongue!

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  8. Rowan,
    My fiance was diagnosed with borderline a few months ago and was immediately convinced that I was going to leave her. Nothing could have been further from my mind. My initial reaction was, "Great! Now we can figure out together how to make life less horrifying for you!"
    Our joint efforts in dealing with her BPD led me to be diagnosed as having severe depression, PTSD, and severe social anxiety. So now we work together. We build each other up, reinforce each others' weak spots with love, and give each other space and time to be miserable bags of crap when we need it.
    What you said about not blaming yourself has been one of my greatest challenges. Given my disorders, it's not easy for me to remember that I am not always (or even normally) to blame for her misery and anxiety, but that I have the power to help lessen her terrible feelings and remind her that she is loved, that she DESERVES love, and that a healthy life is possible (and is right there on the horizon).
    I have never experienced a truer love or friendship than the one I have with my beloved partner and there is not a day that goes by that I do not thank the universe for bringing us together.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences with your lovely wife. I only hope that more partners of those with BPD will come forward to celebrate our wonderful friends and lovers, not just hide behind their diagnosis. It is not my fight, but I'd go into battle for her any day.

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    1. It made me smile to see your post. =)
      Your reaction when your fiancee was diagnosed just shows how deeply you love her and I applaud you for standing by her in this tumultuous time.

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  9. I think that you are an amazing person to stand by her. Aeshe is one of the most incredible women I've ever met, I've followed her on Youtube for awhile now. I have a loving, supportive boyfriend, but he hasn't yet learned enough about BPD for me to feel comfortable totally being transparent. In the past he has invalidated my emotions and chastised me for feeling, so it's difficult to get over that. I don't blame him for it when I'm in a logical mindset because after all, he doesn't have BPD and so can't grasp why I feel the way I do or do the things I do. I don't want to sound ungrateful for what I do have because I'm a lucky woman for having him in my life, I just wish that he could understand me better and learn more about how to cope with BPD and handle me when an emotional episode happens. If you have any other tips (specifically for the beginning stages of being open), I'd really appreciate it. Good luck to you both.

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  10. I just recently within the last week was diagnosed with this disorder. Its been a struggle reading all the info online, especially the harsh websites, and its been difficult for my husband a little as well. He for sure has the same attitude rowan an cate have, and i'm so grateful for that. After reading this, it was a huge relief that not only myself will be ok but our marriage as well! After reading some of those harsh websites i starting feeling like it was wrong for him to have to live this way and that he deserves more and better. I actually starting questioning everything, even myself. Now i feel totally better with just the little bit i read on here. Thank You soooooo much! We are going to go to counseling, and it better understanding on everything. Please those with this disorder, don't go reading and believing everything you read on the internet, its a mean world out there. Please rowan if you have any additional good info to help us both (my husband and I) put it out there for everyone! very inspirational!

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  11. I found this really emotional to read through. I am borderline and am currently in a relationship, very strained but with the most beautiful and loving partner, I couldn't dream of anyone more perfect for me, she's so understanding and supportive. There are so many horrible websites that make out that there is no hope, we are awful and violent people, undeserving etc.........to come across this post about a successful relationship, a loving husband and an inspiring wife has really helped me through tonight. I've had a bit of a crisis this past few weeks, I'll be visiting here again to read back through your archives. Thank you very much for the inspiring post. Thank you as well Debbie, you're a symbol of hope to me right now.

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