THE GOOD WIFE
Who’s helping You, when his Ex is a Borderline?
Whether it’s your husband or lover who has gotten involved with a borderline disordered female, you’re in for some harrowing times. This issue becomes a monumentally stressful exercise for both of you–but sadly, you’ll generally end up feeling the brunt of it, not him. Why is this, you ask? Females roll up their sleeves and do whatever it takes to foster and maintain harmony in their relationships, because it’s elemental. It’s in our DNA. We can’t help it.
If you’re a male who’s reading this piece, you must be willing to look at your own psychopathology which has drawn you to this type of female, and keeps you addicted to the drama and chaos that’s inherent in these relationships, or you’ll screw it up with any reasonably healthy gal who tries to love you.
There are so many layers to this emotional lasagna, it’s hard for me to know just where to begin–but I’ve heard from so many of you gals, it’s apparently a concern that can no longer be ignored.
You’re madly in love with this man–but unfortunately, his baggage won’t fit in the overhead compartment, and you’ve begun sensing that this struggle with his ex won’t resolve itself anytime soon. This has you concerned, but you believe that if you keep shoring him up, you’ll get to the other side of this turmoil, and (finally) get the goodies you know you deserve. I hate to rain on your parade dear–but by the time all this is said and done, you could be carrying around tons of resentment you’ve stuffed along the way, so as not to appear anything like his crazy ex! (And God knows, you’ve been warned about that, in both subtle and direct ways.)
If this is a fairly new romance or marriage for you, your Honeymoon period can easily become non-existent–a flimsy fantasy of what you’d anticipated it being, if it weren’t for all this struggle that came with your commitment. But you’re The Good Wife, remember? You’ve come to understand how toxic and tormenting his last relationship was. You’ve listened to him go on about it for hours at a time–and tried to be a patient, nurturing bastion of support in his upside-down world. Who else could he lean on for all that?
I’m a no-nonsense kinda dame hon, so I’m gonna give it to you straight: No relationship is designed to withstand this kind of stress. The bottom line here is, he can’t be emotionally available to You, until he’s resolved his struggle with the ex girlfriend or wife.
Yes, I ‘get’ that you might have ventured into this deal eyes wide open–but that still doesn’t mean you have to fight his battles for him. In truth, if your man didn’t have avoidance and passive aspects to his personality, it’s unlikely he’d have gotten involved with this female, and remained as long as he did.
An emotionally sound/healthy male does not become involved with a personality disordered partner. Any male who’s grown up in an environment that was chaotic, painful or crazy-making has built a high threshold for that kind of relationship experience, and has come to regard it as ‘normal.’ He’s also come to depend on drama/chaos to access feelings of aliveness. In truth, it becomes his addiction.
The bad news for You, is that he may find the calm and peace in your relationship less exciting or stimulating (and boring), which leaves you wide open to being the ‘transitional’ relationship that helps him lick his wounds and get back balanced, until he’s craving that intense/familiar excitement again with another Borderline, or the one he’s left behind. Yes, plenty of (untreated) men return to those insane females!
If you’re a compulsive fixer/rescuer type–you may now be with a male who’s giving you plenty of opportunities to bail him out of a sticky wicket. My best advice to you, is don’t. You could end up with all kinds of physical ailments from this stress, and no relationship in the world is worth that. You may also lose respect for him, for while you’re doing double-duty by keeping his kids okay in the middle of this battle–as well as countless hours of Internet research so you can buoy him up and keep it together, he’s fairly content to let you! (Just who’s wearing the testicles in this relationship, anyway?)
Look, this stuff’s gonna get sorted out eventually (even though it seems like it’ll never end) but this is his mess–and you’re not the one who’s supposed to be doing most of the clean-up! Take a deep breath, set firm boundaries and get him to a solid therapist–that’s the job you’re to resign from, now.
After his brush with the Borderline, your man’s trauma is substantial. If they were married, he’s not anxious to replicate that experience anytime soon–and you may have a really long wait, before he’s even ready to live with you. This means, you’re going to have to be patient. He’s shell-shocked, and this sort of injury doesn’t mend quickly. That doesn’t mean you must coddle him, and neglect your own needs–but which of you requires the more immediate, critical care in this triage unit is up for grabs. At times, that’ll be you. Accept it, respect it, and make sure you talk about it and get the support you need.
THE TIES THAT BIND
You are a lucky lady, if they share no children together–but if they do, these problems are compounded. Those poor kids are caught in the crossfire, and there’s little you can do about it, besides help them make some distinctions between the truth, and their mother’s lies about their father and you. Even when they share custody, this Borderline will stop at nothing to undermine her child’s perceptions of his/her dad. This is Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), and I write more about it, in this article.
I feel it’s crucial to note here, that these children will be torn between their allegiance to their mother, who’s brainwashing them and making it seem like she’s a martyr/victim of their father’s “cruel and unusual punishment” versus who they observe their dad to be. The Borderline will always feel victimized by her relationships and life circumstances, especially when there are Waif features present–but this emotional fallout is deeply troubling to the kids. Since they have to deal with Mom’s lying, craziness, volatility and confusing/mixed messages at home, they’re needing a stable container, within which to de-program a bit. I’m sure your man remembers what it was like for him, living with this female–and he had the benefit of some adult reasoning!
If you’re a healthy/sound woman, you will do whatever you can to foster a safe, nurturing environment for the kids. Thinking of yourself as their dad’s new partner will be much more effective, than trying to be their Stepmother. You want them to come to trust you, and think of you as a friendly presence in their father’s life. Someone who knows how to love him–and them. This helps you keep the “responsibility” factor in proportion–and lets you off the hook for needing to do it all right. Remember, you didn’t sign-on for children, or you would have had some of your own. His came as a package deal.
Make sure you keep yourself as distant as possible from the crazy ex-wife or girlfriend. This means, do not engage! Don’t give her your email or your cell phone number, and screen the calls that come to your house. Most of her crises will blow over in a few hours or by the next day–so if your husband feels compelled to return her calls, have him wait until he’s feeling centered and calm, and it’s most convenient for him.
Probably one of the most important elements to integrate here, is that your partner must be willing to set healthy, firm limits and boundaries with his child/children, in terms of what’s acceptable behavior, and what’s not. He’s gotten a strong sense of how lax, crazy and abusive his ex is, and may want to compensate for that by being a friend or ‘buddy’ to his child–but this is an ineffectual and dangerous way to intervene with a minor, and here’s why:
This kid hasn’t formed his/her own container yet–this means, (just like the Borderline) they need parameters set for them, in order to feel cared about, and safe. Until they reach adult development and learn to respect guidelines for themselves, the parent functions as the child’s protective shield. If your husband/lover is unwilling to accept this role, he may be feeling guilty about having ‘abandoned’ his child. He’s also likely to have unresolved issues from his own childhood, and still be recovering from his torment with the ex-wife. This must be addressed. The outcome of not attending to this issue, leaves this child without a stable/whole parent who will intervene on his/her behalf, and help them grow to be a sound/healthy adult. This job should not fall to you! If your hubby leaves the disciplining of his child to you, he’s shirking his parenting role, and making you the ‘bad cop,’ which is completely unfair. Maybe you should force-feed him this article, because he’s put you in a no-win situation with his children, and they’ll resent both of you for it.
THE OTHER WOMAN
Has he cheated on you with his ex, or a different woman? Does he still feel he has to take the Borderline’s calls, regardless of what time of day or night it is? This is totally unacceptable, and we need to help you set limits and boundaries around that behavior.
I’m not a moralist–nor have I ever been. I’ve helped lots of men who’ve had extramarital affairs with Borderlines, and their pain is palpable. I don’t judge them–I only do my best to help. I haven’t been a ‘good girl’ my entire life, and don’t intend to start now–but if lightning hasn’t struck for being true to myself, maybe you should give it a try. You can be a loving, supportive wife,without it keeping you up at night! Let’s help you reconnect to your Self, and start getting your needs met before it’s too late.
First, we’ve got to respect/address the awful insecurities you’ve had to cope with, if he’s strayed from home. You may never have felt busty enough, tall enough, pretty enough, etc., but you’ve come to terms with these concerns over the years–and have trusted that your husband loves you just the way you are. Why else, would he have married you?? Suddenly though, this all comes into question.
A Borderline tears the scabs off your man’s self-worth wounds from boyhood, and she does precisely the same to you. You could have been feeling fairly safe and secure in this committed relationship–but suddenly, the rug’s been pulled out from under you (poor baby!). All this sends you into a whirlwind of pain, as you imagine that this Borderline, is everything you’re not. Now, not only is your foundation cracking, it’s crumbling around you–and there seems no end in sight, given his residual infatuation and/or anguish.
This can feel like the bottom’s dropped out of your life, and you’re sailing off the edge of the world you’ve built together. All the trust you’ve felt toward this man has evaporated in a millisecond, and you can’t even figure out how to hold this relationship in your mind (or heart) at this point.
He may still be struggling to get over that Vamp–but you’re struggling with a lot more. You’ll put on a brave face, try to pretend everything’s normal and keep your cool around the children. You can stand by your man, but that’s a tall order–especially when you’re so angry, you wanna stab him in his sleep!
A relationship rupture like this, is nearly impossible to recover from. It’s bad enough that he’s had the affair–but how can you possibly compete with this femme fatale who has gotten him under her spell, and won’t let go? Even if he’s come to his senses, ended all contact with her, and re-devoted himself to you, you’re left with this dreadful, sinking sensation every time his phone rings, or he gets a text message. Is it her this time?? Will the harassment, vandalism, stalking, etc., ever stop? Does he actually want them to–or does this attention from her, help soothe his fractured ego?
You could be the perfect lover/wife, and he may still cheat, or ‘work’ far too many hours. This BPD affair isn’t about you. It’s about his lifelong struggle with closeness, abandonment and engulfment. Your man’s attraction to the Borderline taps into deep, archaic issues he’s carried around for decades. He may have done a great job of surmounting boyhood setbacks he experienced at the hands of his parents–but they’re still alive in him. She’s just brought them to the surface.
Most of my BPD articles speak to your man’s underlying self-esteem issues from childhood. That’s what sets him up for this attraction to the Borderline, and her constant push-pull emotional gymnastics. There’s always a template for these infatuations, and a solid therapist will stay intensely curious about uncovering the boyhood roots that have kept him captivated by this female. In truth, the Borderline could be cut from the same cloth as his mom–or she may be a lot like Dad. With patient, skilled help, he can start untangling the hold this Siren, Witch or Waif has on him–and grow to be a better man. You may decide to stick around at this juncture, if you think this relationship is worth salvaging, and I wish you the best of all possible outcomes.
This article first appeared HERE By Shari Schreiber, M.A.
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