Monday, December 10, 2012

BPD and Relationships

In group I have my clients work on the Power and Control Wheel numerous times in the 6 month program.  I think it is really important for those with mental illness and addiction issues to be able to identify what is abuse.  The most interesting part is when I ask them to identify ways in which they were the abuser and used the P&CW against someone else.  It's harder to come to grips with, but a few are vocal about using abuse against someone else, most of the examples are holding children as pawns, physical abuse, comments about a man's sexual performance to belittle him and cheating as a way to demean him.  I bring this up because as I have been considering writing about Borderline Personality and Romantic Relationship, but everyone I try- I get distracted and a more optimistic blog idea pops up.

Until I read "A Woman With BPD Explains Her Actions in Romantic Relationships"  by the author of Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder. In it she has the very honest and personal account of someone with BDP who explains her past relationships and the abusive tactics she has used:

  • Purposely broken a gift you gave me 
  • Flirted with several other people at a time or having a crush on others while I'm still dating you
  • Said some of the most cutthroat things you've ever heard .
  • Talked about suicide even though I know it hurts you
  • Pulled a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"
  • Pushed you away then pulled you right back
  • Started an argument out of nowhere

The author of the article goes into depth about why someone with BPD would act this way, most of it boils down to the fear of abandonment as well as mood swings that can cause quick fluctuations of love and hate. Reminds me of I Hate You--Don't Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality.  And yes according to the Power and Control wheel the above 7 bullet points could be broken down like this:

  • Purposely broken a gift you gave me Intimidation & emotional abuse
  • Flirted with several other people at a time or having a crush on others while I'm still dating you Intimidation & emotional abuse & using coercion and threats
  • Said some of the most cutthroat things you've ever heard emotional abuse & isolation & minimizing, denying and blaming
  • Talked about suicide even though I know it hurts you emotional abuse & using intimidation & isolation & using coercion and threats & denying, blaming and minimizing
  • Pulled a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" emotional abuse 
  • Pushed you away then pulled you right back emotional abuse, denying, blaming & minimizing
  • Started an argument out of nowhere emotional abuse, minimizing, denying and blaming
So that's the bad news, those with BPD are often the abusers (not saying they are not as often abused) in romantic relationship.  And it may sound like a broken record, but there are ways to get better and once again this is why boundaries are so important. So what steps can be taken to have healthy relationships?  Here is a great article from BPD Central with the 10 Essential Limits for Romantic Relatonships:

The 10 Essential Limits

Keep in mind that a limit is not about rules or telling the other person what to do. You can't control their behavior; you can only control your own. Limits are based on your personal values and about what you will do to take care of yourself. For more information about limits, what they are and what they're not, and how to set and observe them, see my book The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder.
1. No mindreading. Your job is verbalize your own thoughts, feelings, concerns and preferences. By contrast, assuming you know the other person's thoughts and motivations (e.g., "You think that.." or, "You did this/said this because....") is almost always guaranteed to get you into trouble. Mindreading is one of the biggest obstacles to effective communication; it is invalidating, provocative, and almost always based on misinterpretations.
2. Build routines of taking a time out when things begin to get heated. People who are furious simply can't think straight; their brain is so focused on their feelings that logic gets thrown out the window. This is especially true with BPs and NPs. You can test this yourself. Think about something you said in the moment of anger that you regretted the next day (or week).
Talk about time-outs at a calm before they are needed, letting your partner know how this will work and assuring him or her that you two will come back to finish the discussion when you are both calmer. (Your partner, of course, has the option of initiating a time out too.) Find a safe place that is sacrosanct to you where no one else can enter when you need to be alone.
Early exits when either of you is beginning to feel a temperature rise prevents unsafe, hurtful mistakes--verbal as well as physical. Take the pot off the stove by removing yourself early on from a situation you may not be able to handle calmly.
3. Regularly do things you both enjoy and share positive reactions to your partner. The two of you need positive shared time and interactions to keep the relationship connection solid.
Positivity makes relationships worth having. The more appreciation, agreement, affection, playfulness, attention, etc you offer each other, the sunnier your relationship will be.  And the more you give, the more you'll get.
4. Focus on what you can do to improve situations rather than criticizing each other. And if you do feel it could be helpful to say something to your partner about what she or he has been doing, offer it as feedback, not as a criticism or complaint. People with personality disorders take criticism very badly, so it doesn't work to change their behavior.
Instead, learn ways to bring up your concerns without being critical and triggering the other person's defenses (well, as much as you can for a person with BPD/NPD). To give feedback offer a when-you statement, as in, "When you xyz, I feel abc"). Especially avoid the phrase, "You make me feel."  That's blame.
Remember that it's not your job to tell your partner what he or she should or shouldn't be doing. It is up to you to be honest about how you react as a consequence of your behavior. Your partner's concern for your feelings will tell you a lot about their capacity to show their love.
Just because you stop criticizing them won't stop them from criticizing and blaming you. With your own therapist or one of my books, formulate a strategy for how you will respond. My books go into this in detail.
5. Do not speak with contempt, ever. Studies have shown that couples who communicate contempt for each other are the most likely to break up. This principle is most important with regard to listening. Dismissive or eye-rolling as a form of listening dooms relationships.
6. No hostile touching; no putting hands on each other in anger. No threats or hurting property, either. Have a zero tolerance policy. Men, take any physical aggressiveness by your girlfriend or wife seriously; abuse of men is an underreported epidemic. Document, document, document, and be in communication with the police.
Never put your hands on your partner. Even if it is a mild pat, your partner may exaggerate it and make false abuse claims. You may end up in jail and unable to see your children.
7. Each person needs to have his or her own space, private time, and friendships as well as joint ones. Keep up with your friends and family and never become isolated. Isolation is the kiss of death to your confidence level, well-being, and sense of reality. Find at least one friend or counselor you can be honest with about what's going on. You need outside perspective, even if that threatens your partner.
8. Take responsibility for having and managing your own feelings, verbalizing your concerns and preferences, and being responsive to your partner's concerns and preferences.
9. Come to a mutual agreement about monogamy (or lack of) so you are honest and on the same page. Do not put up with infidelity (however you define it) that goes against your values. With infidelity, your sense of self-esteem will take a huge nosedive and your marriage will eventually be in name only. Again, formulate strategies with a therapist.
10. Work on problem-solving, not blame, and find win-win solutions so "Your-way" and "Their–way" differences lead to an "Our-way" solution that you both feel good about.

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