About Randi

Randi Kreger has brought the concerns of people who have a family member with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) to an international forefront through her best-selling books, informative website, and popular online family support community Welcome to Oz.

 
 

"How I Got My Wife Into Treatment"


This guest blog is by Ed M, who successfully stayed married after he told his borderline wife he would leave her unless she got treatment. She spent a year in DBT. Ed is part of the BPDCentral AnswerLine program and consults with other spouses struggling to stay with their borderline partner.  

 

I know what it means to love someone with borderline personality disorder because I have been married for 37 years to a woman with the diagnosis. My wife has had symptoms, she says, ever since she was in her early teens.

The first hurdle that must be overcome is that you both must radically accept that there is a problem. My wife thought that she was "smarter than everyone else" and that everyone else was responsible for her not being as happy as other people. (Their happiness was largely exaggerated anyway.) This led to me being subjected to a very depressing amount of negativism.

Family members are often targets of the BPD's rage, insecurities, and need for control. We are put in a situation in which we want to do anything but stay in the same building with them, let alone stay in the relationship.

If I was away for half a day at a friend's house, or even sometimes at work, I knew that I would be in trouble for something when I got home. I just didn't know what it would be for. The hardest part was that her unreasonable complaints had a small grain of truth to them, so that with my low self-esteem, I bought into the idea that I owned a share of the situation causing the anger.

When you're married to someone with BPD, the term "fight or flight" takes on a whole new meaning. We are often driven to "flight" to save ourselves—get out of house or go off with friends. Also, you must "fight" the disorder -- but not the person -- to help them.

Often they do not want help, in part because help means that they are responsible for their actions. As a result I would be put into "no-win" situations. Often in a normal martial discussion I would listen and take her advice. Once the decision was made, we would argue. She would say, "Why did you do that? You always get your own way!" She would question or make comments like a broken record.

Acknowledging They Need Help

Hitting bottom may overcome your borderline loved one's denial. "The bottom" is very different for each person, from losing a job to suicide attempt(s). Remember it is their bottom, not the caregiver's bottom.

For my wife, fear of abandonment tipped her over the edge. She asked if I was going to leave her, and I said "Not if you get treatment." The timing was correct; she listened not with her ears but with her heart. I said it in a positive, not negative manner, to help her and keep us together rather than wanting to punish or give her negative feedback.

Then the task became finding help. It is not as easy as looking in Yellow Pages, as the therapist must not only be knowledgeable about BPD but be someone the client can talk to. Ideally, at the same time the caregiver needs to get help for themselves. Having friends and a support system is crucial.

We got lucky, because about the time my wife slowly got on stream with her Dialectical Behavior Therapy treatments, I found the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder (NEA-BPD). With the help of NEA-BPD and their Family Connections Program, I found that I was not alone.

But more importantly, I started learning about the disorder. Knowledge is the best tool in any battle. Along with understanding came tools to help, so that my wife was not fighting my preconceived ideas about the disorder.

Like everyone else not informed about BPD, I thought the person could change their actions at will. I learned it is a real, long-term disorder. After learning the skill of validation, I stopped using sarcasm as a defense tool.

My wife's help came mainly from a year-long dialectical behavior therapy program (DBT). Her treatment was twice a week, once a week in group and once a week one-on-one with a very good therapist. It took her half way through before the "penny dropped" and she realized that she belonged in "with a bunch of crazies." She finally owned her behavior.

Then the guilt took over big time. "I treated my sisters and other people that badly?"

We had a discussion a while back, each giving the other person the credit for her improvement and our better life. She said that she improved her behavior because I was so supportive and understanding. I said that it was easy for me to be supportive because she modified her aggressive and negative behavior.

As an aside, several people claim that there are no medications available to help BPD patients. My wife is on one, (I will not say which one as it will vary for each individual). We both decided that now that she has had several years of treatment, we felt that she no longer needed the medications. She stopped taking them, and in two days she was back to her "old self." It took a week to get the medication back in her system.

 It has been five years since my wife completed DBT, and I must say life has been steadily improving for both of us. It has been like a big old freight train; it takes a lot to get it started, but then it slowly and steadily builds up momentum. It was a tough battle for both of us. We now both agree that it was well worth it, and it was too bad we could not have been in position to have started years earlier.

Ed lives near Ottawa Ontario in Canada. His wife and he are in their 60's with no children. They have several animals, including six sheep. Ed's wife is a hand spinner /knitter, and Ed helps a local friend with his dog sled team. Ed teaches a course with the NEA-BPD and learns all he can about the disorder.

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