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Forums / Supporting family and friends with a mental health condition (carers) / Is my husband a high functioning borderline?

Topic: Is my husband a high functioning borderline?

14 posts, 0 answered
  1. Lilliana
    Lilliana avatar
    7 posts
    8 November 2016

    I am only new to this. After 35 years of marriage it was our grown kids that finally suggested their father may have borderline personality.

    But the stereotypical borderline seems to be a female who threatens suicide frequently and whose life is unravelling

    my husband has managed to run a successfulbusiness albeit with lots of ups and downs and dramas and very few staff who have stayed for long periods

    he does not self harm unless you count overeating leading to obesity and consequent health problems

    he is good at talking to people in most situations but it is in close relationships where he runs into difficulties

    he struggles to listen or understand what I or the kids are saying exprapolating any criticism to mean that we are saying he is a bad person and that any good he has done is thereby negated

    People are either good or bad with little room for a middle ground

    his mood can change with one small thing that happens or something someone says that may not have been meant for harm

    and he can be upset for days and hold onto that hurt for months or forever

    i feel like I am always trying to prevent things or people from upsetting him but it is an impossible task

    while he has never hit me his words feel like they do His blow ups at the kids when they were younger have had long lasting effects which he doesn't really understand saying he was a good father to them

    Mostly he left dealing with them to me as his own childhood experience of discipline amounted to physical and mental abuse But every so often he would intervene and the result usually felt out of control

    but everything is my fault for not showing him enough love and for siding with the kids on occasion

    He likes to use the word always and never a lot when it comes to me thereby negating whatever effort I have made to do what makes him happy

    he is jealous if I pay attention or do anything for someone else When they were younger it was the kids Now it is my work or any outside interest or cause I might contribute to

    when I got up the courage to tell him about borderline he was at first receptive as it felt like it explained some things he didn't understand about his own behaviour and reactions

    But then when his GP who has only seen him a couple of times dismissed the whole idea as improbable he quickly agreed saying every psychologist he had seen said there was nothing wrong with him

    Are there higher functioning borderlines? Could he be one of them?

  2. james1
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    8 November 2016 in reply to Lilliana

    Hey Lilliana,

    It sounds like a very tricky relationship and personality disorders usually do come out in relationships. I say that from personal experience as I also exhibit a lot of the BPD traits.

    I think it is best to think of Borderline Personality Disorder as a collection of various disruptive symptoms. As you may have read, there are 9 symptoms and you need 5 to be technically diagnosed, but just because someone has 4 and not 5 doesn't mean there's nothing wrong with them.

    To me, the behaviours you've described are harmful to him, to you and to your children. And that means they should be addressed.

    You mentioned he's seen psychologists before. What was the reason for stopping? I can't imagine a psychologist worth their salt would say that those behaviours are acceptable and can continue.


  3. Lilliana
    Lilliana avatar
    7 posts
    9 November 2016 in reply to james1

    Thanks for replying James. I was never included when he saw the other psychologists. So I doubt they would have heard about these behavours or if they did they would have been minimised or portrayed as the fault of others (usually me)

    The above mentioned GP also told him that everyone loses it with their kids at times thereby normalising his behaviour

    One of the psychologists was a friend and business associate he didn't really treat him but would allow my husband to ring him when he was particularly upset and vent I doubt he would say anything to him that he wouldn't like hearing as he might stop referring work to him

    Another told him he was fine and nothing wrong - at least that was what my husband heard - but what is said and what he hears can be quite different things

    i just hope the one he is going to see tomorrow probes a bit deeper

    maybe the idea that most borderlines are female might cause them to miss the diagnosis when they see a man?

  4. Lilliana
    Lilliana avatar
    7 posts
    9 November 2016 in reply to james1

    Just looked up the 9 symptoms you referred to. Could tick 7 of them for him.

    He does not ever talk of or attempt suicide although he has told several family members that no one would miss him if he died.

    And I don't know about the feeling of emptiness - has not said that

    But all the others would be a yes

  5. Dr Kim
    Health professional
    • Health professional
    Dr Kim avatar
    479 posts
    9 November 2016

    Hi Lilliana, I would stay away from labels and concentrate on the actual issues that are the problems in your relationship going forward.

    Meaning, you may have a issues trying to get labels to stick as many people don’t neatly fit into a package of “Borderline“ or “Narcissistic“ Personality disorder etc or Aspergers or whatever.. But that doesn’t mean that the behaviours they exhibit don’t make living with them difficult if not intolerable at times.

    No one should expect their partners to be perfect, but you have listed some behaviours and personality styles that go beyond simply annoying. I don’t think you are being demanding by shining a light onto these behaviours and asking that they be considered .

    Lets look at them ..
    - Disregard for health ( Many people have this issue and adults have rights to make health decisions, but I guess its how he discusses it with family that may be an issue)
    - Can’t listen to negative feedback without becoming defensive and reframing it to mean criticism ( thus making it difficult to have an open conversation about issues - only things one is happy about can confidently be presented !)
    - Black and White thinking - ( a style of thought processing which helps people to simplify their positions but in a complex adult “grey” world, is often unrealistic )
    - Moody and can hold a grudge. ( Difficulty in managing emotions & poor ability to repair intimacy after a disruption caused by disagreement )
    - reframing oneself as “the good guy” and others as bad .. “ I would not have had to be upset if only others would not argue with me or if ….”.)
    - jealousy - Feeling attention is love or intimacy maybe ?

    I’m not sure I have interpreted these issues accurately .. but what I am trying to do is say that it doesn’t matter what the diagnosis is .. you need to drill down and work out what are the behaviours that you can and can’t cope with. Then you need to realistically need to look at what are the behaviours that he will be able to realistically address and change .

    I suggest you get a counsellor to help you sort through these tough issues as it is often really confusing to work out your own needs and put up boundaries around them when you have a partner that isn’t really good at seeing or responding to your needs for whatever reasons ! Its time to concentrate on you.

    2 people found this helpful
  6. Lilliana
    Lilliana avatar
    7 posts
    11 November 2016 in reply to Dr Kim

    Thanks Kim.

    Over many years I have become able to describe the behaviours you have listed To find that they are recognised to be part of a disorder has actually been helpful to me to make sense of what has largely been confusing And to think that my family is not alone in what we have tried to live with

    so far no one outside our family seems to recognise it could be personality disorder because they don't see that side of him It comes out most often at home

    I am reading the Walking on eggshells book and a lot (not all) of it rings true

    he has seen the psychologist once and plans to go back After one session she said she could see no sign of personality disorder (sigh!) but I realise it needs time and many sessions and she is avoiding putting a label on him prematurely

    1 person found this helpful
  7. Lilliana
    Lilliana avatar
    7 posts
    11 November 2016 in reply to james1

    I think what makes my situation more difficult is that there is not much written about men with personality disorder.

    From what you read it is almost assumed sufferers are female

    are men under diagnosed, seek help less often or is it just less common in men?

  8. james1
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    11 November 2016 in reply to Lilliana

    Hi Lilliana,

    Hard to say. I mean, I think men react differently to things and do seek help less often, so the symptoms may not show up as often. Certainly, I feel like I internalise a lot of the anger and turn it against myself rather than acting out or saying anything.

    But still, I do think the key thing here is not getting a diagnosis but getting him to recognise and seek help on his maladaptive behaviours. And I think the best way really would be couple therapy so it feels like less of an attack on him and also shows you're willing to stay with him which is important if he does have a fear of abandonment.

    It's tough to broach because if he does have the fear of abandonment, it will be very hard for him to seek help because he'll be afraid it will damage your marriage beyond repair. Though clearly, him not getting help will do this anyway. So fear could be driving a lot of behaviours here and the best you can do is try to assuage these fears but also set your boundaries.


  9. Lilliana
    Lilliana avatar
    7 posts
    30 November 2016 in reply to james1

    Tried to set a boundary a few days ago. Hasn't worked out so well.

    Had a perfectly nice morning together and decided to get some lunch before going home to put up the Christmas tree.

    I made the mistake of agreeing to go to a major shopping centre forgetting there would be lots of Christmas shoppers.

    After him driving around a few times with me desperately searching for a parking space worried he would get frustrated, I thought I found one. But the car was arriving not leaving.

    Impatient driver behind us tooted and he lost it! Gave the driver the finger and the f word! And he kept it going as we continued around the car park with the guy still behind us.

    The more I tried to calm him down the worse it got. After a while I asked to just go home.

    On the way he turned his anger on me. "It was my fault for thinking I saw a parking spot when it wasn't one." " I am not so perfect - to be judging his behaviour" "can't wait to get home and get me out of the car"

    so I did something I have never done before. After checking it was safe, while we were stopped at lights, I got out of the car and said I would find my own way home.

    I guess that amounts to abandonment because I am in big trouble now. "My act will never be forgotten". He has been morose and distant for days. Not interested in going back to see psychologist or a couples counsellor

    For the first time in 35 years I am starting to lose hope of ever seeing change. Still haven't put the Christmas tree up. 😔

  10. james1
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    30 November 2016 in reply to Lilliana

    Hi Lilliana,

    Ah that sounds really hard to deal with.

    It sounds like things are coming to a head a bit, but this is probably a good thing. Frankly, if he is not willing to get better, you're better off alone until he does.

    He was absolutely in the wrong for taking it out on you and I imagine sitting in the car with him going off like that was just super unpleasant.

    I think the best thing now is to be clear about why you got out. You didn't get out because you didn't want to be with him, but because you want things to get better and felt like you two needed that space there, just temporarily. And that's why he needs to come back to see a couples counsellor.

    I'd really recommend you don't share your fear of no change with him. He might be trying really hard inside to change, but simply isn't telling you. These are habits that are formed from childhood so recognising them is incredibly hard for him, let alone changing them. It doesn't justify how he treats you, but it can help to understand why he is struggling as well.

    I don't think it was wrong to try and set that boundary. You're a person too who deserves better than that. And it sounds like he could give you the attention and care you deserve, if only he were willing to change.


  11. Lilliana
    Lilliana avatar
    7 posts
    2 December 2016 in reply to james1

    Thanks James.

    I thought afterwards he might read abandonment into my getting out of the car. So I have said it was not meant to mean more than I was just getting away till he was more calm. Nothing more. But it doesn't help. The deed is done and will be counted against me forever now.

    Hard to know if he is trying to change now. He has tried in the past. But in recent times looks like he no longer wants to or thinks he needs to. "Just wants to be loved" - the way he is presumably.

    But I haven't told him I have lost hope.

  12. james1
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    5 December 2016 in reply to Lilliana

    Hey Lilliana,

    Sorry for my late reply. I'm not always on over the weekends.

    How are things now past the weekend?

    Please don't forget that this isn't your fault. You are trying to help but this is his thing to work on. It really does sound like counselling as a couple would help him see, from a professional opinion, that something needs to change. It is putting too much stress on you at the moment.


  13. Notsohappywife
    Notsohappywife avatar
    1 posts
    26 May 2019


    I read your post and I am in the same boat! I have only been married for 10yrs and we have 4 young children but your story is otherwise the same as mine.

    Luckily for me though the psychologist my husband first went to agrees with me about him being a high-functioning BPD.

    For me it is a light bulb moment! Suddenly I have an explanation for all the behaviours I’ve been putting up with for over a decade! But it still doesn’t help with the difficulties!

    My husband on the other hand is not pleased at all with the “label” and feels that he is too old (50) and too broken to be fixed so is not willing to try. He is however has accepted that he’ll probably have to take meds for the rest of his life and at the moment he is still attending his psychology appointment (although he is using them to understand better parenting techniques rather than using them to better understand and treat his behaviours)

    I guess what I’m wanting to know is how your story ended. And how your children have turned out growing up in that environment.


    1 person found this helpful
  14. quirkywords
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    quirkywords avatar
    12407 posts
    26 May 2019 in reply to Notsohappywife


    Welcome to the forum and thanks for making your first post. Thanks for sharing your story here.

    It has been over 2 years since the poster last posted.

    If you like you could start your own thread so more people could see it.

    Have you read the post by Dr Kim as it has helpful suggestions.?

    Once again welcome.


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