Polyamory and Borderline Personality Disorder

SeaM80

New member
Hi!

I find myself in a very tricky situation, and it has been very difficult to find support/resources. I'm hoping this forum might be helpful. :)

I'm in a mono/poly relationship (I'm the mono) with a married polyamorous man. Recently my boyfriend and I have come to the conclusion that his wife has BPD, and we're in the process of helping her get diagnosed and get the support and medical help she needs and deserves.

However, BPD does not have a cure, and even with therapy and meds we realize that this is going to be a very rough road.

My boyfriend's wife is the one who initiated opening up their 15-year marriage. At first she idealized me and wanted to be my best friend. I started getting very uncomfortable with her, and she started lashing out. That lasted for the last six months. I've since started using strategies to deal with BPs, and it's really working. I know, though, that inevitably she will "split" again (a BPD term) and life will be extremely difficult. Also, I really don't like her at all, but it has become clear that in order for my boyfriend and I to be together in relative peace, I must be friends (or at least pretend to be friends) with his wife.

I'm hoping to find others who have experienced mental health issues (particularly BPD) with their metamours. Is there anyone out there?

Thanks!
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
I don't know who here has had metamours with BPD, but I myself was diagnosed with it at one point. BPD is a really hard condition to live with, it is almost as bad as narcissistic personality disorder.

Possibly the most important thing is for the person with BPD to recognize that they have a problem, and be willing to get help. It's not easy. The BPD sufferer has to be trained in new thinking habits.

Normally I would suggest you simply steer clear of your metamour, but from your description, it doesn't sound like you have a choice. Keep looking for books to help you deal with the BPD; I think "Stop Walking on Eggshells" is one of the good ones.

I hope you'll keep us posted on how you're doing.
Sincerely,
Kevin T.
 

FallenAngelina

Well-known member
I really don't like her at all, but it has become clear that in order for my boyfriend and I to be together in relative peace, I must be friends (or at least pretend to be friends) with his wife.

I'm not sure if this is a fruitful long term strategy for any relationship. It's understandable that you'd like to keep the peace, but putting on a false front rarely serves its intended purpose.

For several years, I lived with and loved a beautiful man who was severely bipolar, so I understand your wanting a life that doesn't revolve around someone else's extreme behavior, but infantalizing your metamoure isn't really helpful for her or you, nor does it actually make your relationship peaceful. I found that there was much to learn in focusing on my own boundaries. Even though I was mentally healthy, I still had issues with needing to be needed. That was me, but everyone has something unique to learn about themselves in difficult situations. This focus usually bears more fruit than the constant spotlight on "healing the sick" member of the family. Yes, it's a challenge to not make life all about the illness, but that's really what needs to happen. You can never be involved enough to make someone else "better," but you can do a tremendous amount to make life better. I have an autistic son now, who will always be autistic, and I am forever grateful for the lessons I learned living with and loving my bipolar fiancé all those years ago. I think I'm one of the happiest parents of an autistic child (who is in turn a very happy guy) because I have learned that the greatest gift we can give another person is to take our focus off of "helping," (which sees them as needful and lacking and sets us up for a duty-oriented rather than an inspiration-oriented life) and keeps everyone locked in an endless loop of frustration, disappointment and the life not lived.

So stop pretending to have a friendship if you don't have a real friendship. That's the first order of business for you. Then start working on finding the treasure in this situation for yourself. You'll do far more for your metamoure by working on your own boundaries than you will by struggling to help. Stop Walking on Eggshells is a great resource for you. There are many more online resources for living with BPD but whatever you do, live your life in ways that feel authentic and inspired from within. If you're ever "going along to get along," you're pointed in the opposite direction of where you want to be heading.
 
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GalaGirl

Well-known member
I am sorry you struggle. It is not fun. :(

I find http://outofthefog.net articles useful.

I have BPDs in my life and my boundary is that I don't hang with them if they are not under management. They have to take personal responsibility for themselves. Whatever their management plan includes -- behavior meds, doc appointments, CBT or DBT -- they have to work that show. If they are, then I am willing to engage. If not? It's not worth it to me to be dealing in unmanaged circus. My own health and well being has to be my #1 priority. Just like their health and their well being could be their #1.

Also, I really don't like her at all, but it has become clear that in order for my boyfriend and I to be together in relative peace, I must be friends (or at least pretend to be friends) with his wife.

Don't start lying just to be with you BF. Be honest. Invest in that. Don't be investing in growing resentments over time.

You could maintain a "V" that is very separate. That also brings YOU peace.

If she does not like it -- that's her thing to process appropriately without you. She can't be complaining to you that you don't want to be friends with her. The V is separate. She could go find someone else to talk to about it that is more appropriate. Like a counselor.

If she acts out at her husband/your BF? That's his problem. He could lay some personal boundaries of his own like "Don't abuse me because you are upset with someone or something. See your counselor." He could not be a "sloppy hinge" and leak his problems with her over on to you. The V is separate.

If neither can respect your boundary of maintaining a "separate V" maybe you don't want to play with these people. The only info exchange that has to happen is sex health info for hygiene/family planning and calendar info for scheduling. Anything else is bonus, and maybe you don't want to hear it any more.

Each person could handle their own emotional management and carry their own bag. My stuff / your stuff. You can expect those who want to pass the buck/bag on to others to complain about how "not fair" this is. But it is totally fair for each one to deal with their own bag.

You make your own peace.

HTH!
Galagirl
 
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Magdlyn

Well-known member
I have a daughter with BPD. I had to create firm boundaries to protect myself. I also found the book Stop Walking on Eggshells to be a great help.

I had to avoid seeing my daughter often when she was at her worst, she just wanted to use me and steal from me. She was in therapy, psych hospitals, rehab and sober homes for about 6 years. Her dad and I supported her within reason, but tried to avoid being used and abused by her. Finally, oddly, she met a guy, they both became born again Christians, and now she's sober and functional. She's a crazy fanatic Jesus freak, but it's better than crack.

If I were you, I would avoid seeing your metamour. There is no need for metamours to be friends! Avoid her as much as possible, ask your bf to avoid dumping on you when he struggles to live with her.
 

PinkPig

Member
Hi, Sea. When I started dating my partner, Blue, he was in a relationship with a woman who has BPD. It was incredibly difficult. I knew her prior to dating Blue. We had an amicable relationship but that ended very early into my relationship with Blue. Despite the fact that their relationship was always open, she liked to 'pretend' that it was not. Things devolved very quickly to the point that I avoided contact with her. That worked for a while, until she started harassing me with texts and calls all hours of the night. I finally blocked her and told Blue I needed to bow out of the relationship for my own sanity. He chose to end things with her, instead.

My best advice is the same as everyone else's. Don't walk on egg shells or pretend to like her if you don't. It may seem like the easiest thing to do, but it will set up an unhealthy pattern that will make your life more difficult in the end.
 

SeaM80

New member
Thank you, everyone, for your advice and support.

Both I and my bf have read Stop Walking on Eggshells. It's a wonderful book! I emailed Randi Kreger (the author) about my particular situation, and we've been emailing back and forth. She sympathizes, but admits that she really doesn't have enough experience with the poly and metamour relationships to be able to help much.

Everyone says set boundaries. Everyone says that it is my bf's responsibility to deal with his wife, not mine. Yes, yes, that all makes sense. But the reality of implementing boundaries is extremely difficult. When I tried to set boundaries, the wife freaked out at me, saying that I was trying to make her behave and that I was shaming her. When my bf tried to set boundaries, she threatened to commit suicide and refused to let him spend the night at my place. When he pushed back, she made his life a living hell. He felt so broken and so backed into a corner that he didn't know what else to do other than break up with me. He called me, and we both sobbed on the phone that we didn't want to break up.

I had been reading Stop Walking on Eggshells, so when he said he didn't know what else to do other than break up, I went into action mode, drove to their house, and met with his wife. I decided to approach her differently. It was clear that she was splitting, and she was in the devaluation split with me. I knew I had to get her out of that mindset, so I said what I needed to say to get her to feel like I liked her. It was like flipping a switch. The day before she was saying how I was dangerous and she couldn't trust me and I was cruel and I was a terrible person. One day later with a different approach, and she now loved me again and was happy to have me as part of the family again. WTF?!

So now the bf and I are trying to figure out what to do. I know pretending to like her isn't a long term solution, but it's the only way we can make it work right now until we figure out a better plan. Now that she likes me again, she's been texting and wanting to hang out with me 1-on-1 and is trying to insert herself into my life. She's also doing some fairly creepy copy-cat things with me.

So how do I set boundaries with her? I can't push too hard or she will split again. I can't give in to everything because that won't work for me.

And of course, what is the role of my bf? He is in the same boat, trying to get her to feel loved enough to be able to adhere to boundaries. He is trying to shift the focus from me (btw, she idealizes him, and has blamed most everything on me) to him. I'm not sure this will work, though, since she's idealized him for 15 years. That's a hard habit to break. My bf is getting therapy and trying to deal with the codependence issue as well as figuring out how to set boundaries with her. It's going to be slow going - I mean glacial.

So why stick with him? Why not leave? I know this is sappy, but I'm completely in love with him. He and I connect and communicate so well. I've had other long term relationships, and they pale in comparison to how I feel about my bf, and how he feels about me. This is not a relationship that I want to give up easily. He isn't happy with his wife, and knows that she has been the cause of all of this drama and pain, but he doesn't know what to do. They've known each other since they were children and have been married for 15 years. That's a lot of history and time and energy to throw away. Plus, he doesn't know what she will do if he leaves.

I'm trying to figure out how to move forward in a way where I can stay with my bf (and have more time with him) while not getting sucked into his wife's crazy-making.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Re:
"The day before she was saying how I was dangerous and she couldn't trust me and I was cruel and I was a terrible person. One day later with a different approach, and she now loved me again and was happy to have me as part of the family again. WTF?!"

Yeah, I'd actually be more disturbed by her about-face than by her earlier "you're my enemy" posture. She assumes "reward" and "punishment" faces to prod you (and your boyfriend) in the direction *she* wants you to go. Right now she's rewarding you.
 

FallenAngelina

Well-known member
....He is in the same boat, trying to get her to feel loved enough to be able to adhere to boundaries.


I don't think that an online forum can help much because if you're asking this question, you really need to be intensively working with someone who is guiding you with boundaries. This very question, in addition to the rest of your extreme enmeshment, says to me that you have much to learn about the purpose of boundaries and how to implement them. You need to be working on you, not on him, not on her.
 
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SeaM80

New member
Hi Karen,

You are certainly entitled to your opinion.

It seems as though you have come to some very critical opinions of me based on extremely limited knowledge. Perhaps I'm not the most articulate writer, and I haven't fully expressed the entirety of the situation. It would have been nice to have been approached with clarifying questions before jumping to critical conclusions of me.

I was hoping to find poly people who may have experienced a relationship with someone with BPD and may have some wisdom to offer, since both poly and dealing with a BP are new to me. Finding affinity with others was my goal in posting to this site.
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
I think one thing BPD sufferers often do is engage in black-and-white thinking, such as, one moment they think you're the greatest person ever; the next moment, they think you're a monster. There's nothing in between.

I don't think there's any quick or easy answers with BPD. It's always extremely hard to deal with someone who has it.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
Here's a BPD cartoon:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iraGmA7-9FA

Here's the article at Out of the Fog:
https://outofthefog.net/Disorders/BPD.html

When I tried to set boundaries, the wife freaked out at me, saying that I was trying to make her behave and that I was shaming her.

So she does realize that she is misbehaving. And she wants to be free to continue to do so without you saying anything about it.

Telling, huh?

Her feeling ashamed of her behavior is not YOU shaming her. IME, BPDs tend to flip it around on you. What they feel, they project on to you. It's too "yucky" for them to own. But then you get the dubious honor of becoming their emotional dumping ground. That's not good for you. It can become draining.

I think their BPD stuff is best sorted out with a professional. Ideally she would take personal responsibility for herself and go learn how to do her emotional management appropriately. You could encourage that path.

If she refuses, and you choose to stay? Then you could try to encourage containment. Like she can pitch a fit then, but she cannot do it around you. Do it in her room -- scream, yell, punch a pillow, etc.

One day later with a different approach, and she now loved me again and was happy to have me as part of the family again. WTF?!

Well...you went and refilled her BPD supply, so she felt better the next day.

I experience BPDs as the endless bottomless black hole of need. It's temporary, it will come back. You cannot become her refiller. That's draining for you. She could learn to stand on her own and self validate herself with therapy.

Here? I think she's learned your button to push so you come running. Tread with caution. She might try it again. :(

I encourage you to set your boundaries and to expect anger when you do. Set your boundaries anyway. Be firm, kind, and consistent -- just like with a baby or a puppy. That does not mean you let them get away with bad behavior. You can set firm limits with love.

Like:

  • This stuff -- I prefer you sort that out with your counselor.
  • This stuff -- that you can do with me.
  • This other stuff -- you cannot do with me.

All those are neutral statements.

Also remember you cannot control her behavior. You control yours. Set the consequences as something YOU do.

If you loan her your DVD and she breaks it? The consequences is YOU stop loaning her your movies. Not her stop breaking them. If she blows up your phone with texts? YOU block her number. Not her stop texting like crazy. That is what I mean about you creating your own peace with a BPD person. If she's about to pitch a fit or is pitching a fit? You encourage her to express appropriately and safely and then you LEAVE so you are not in the line of fire.

When my people act out at me? Cross my boundary? I restate the limit and consequence. I say "No. I do not accept that behavior. You may not X around me. If you continue I will Y." They do it again? I follow through with what I said.

I hang up the phone, I count strikes to 3 and then leave, or I just leave on 1 strike depending on the thing. They can feel whatever about it. I remove myself for my OWN well being. They know I mean it. The result is that now I don't have to do much. They know I have firm limits and any shenanigans? I'm out. If they want me around, they keep their nose clean.

When my bf tried to set boundaries, she threatened to commit suicide and refused to let him spend the night at my place.

That's where he calls 911. That is the correct response to suicide.

Otherwise she's simply found the "button" to hold him emotionally hostage. And she will play it again to get the same result another time -- his undivided attention.

He could treat suicide seriously. And expect anger when he does. But he could do the right thing anyway and get his wife to medical care.

As husband, he can look into involuntary commitment rules in his area. What it takes. If he does not want this responsibility any more? He could make her next of kin aware that she is suicidal and that he's bowing out. He could then look into divorce instead.

Basically, he has to make a decision about whether or not he up for being married to a BPD person.

I sympathize, these are not easy things to think about. :( But he could think about them anyway.

So how do I set boundaries with her? I can't push too hard or she will split again.

You do not have to push anything. Just say "No, thanks." She's going to split anyway, sooner or later. What is she doing that bugs you? What do you need help making a boundary for?

Like your BF, you have to decide whether you want to deal in this or not. If you decide to stay in it, you could get firmer about your boundaries and if she has a cow -- let her have it. Just away from you. The result is they wear themselves out and the feelings pass that way. Then they are "hungover" the next few days. It's not as "good" a way to come down from being emotionally disregulated, but might have to do it the "hard way" a few times. :(

Offer to call a counselor. If not? Go hang up, go home. Let her pitch her fit in her room in safe space.

Makes it a lot simpler on you. Not simpler to feel, but simple actions to do. And the more you do it and see that she's not dead, she is still here carrying on... the less the "drama stuff" will affect you emotionally.

You know what to treat seriously, but you also know what's "noise."

And of course, what is the role of my bf? He is in the same boat, trying to get her to feel loved enough to be able to adhere to boundaries

HIs role is to look out for his OWN health. More so than hers. It's the 51%. Allowing himself to be sucked dry is not healthy.

Why should she respect his boundaries? What is the incentive?

Her current pattern seems to be for her to have tantrum. That gets him to do her bidding to appease the volcano goddess. Way easier on her -- she off loads her emotions on to him as the emotional dumping ground. So she gets to feel better.

She doesn't have to exercise any self control (which is WORK). And she gets her way much faster with lots of attention. BPD supply.

When my BPDs tantrum, I am flat and boring. "I see you are upset. I am going to give you space. If you want me to call your counselor, I will. Otherwise I'm going to be at ____. You can call my cel when you are calm tomorrow/next week/whatever." And I leave.

Are you able to leave? Do you live in your own space?

When my BPDs do something "good" I put on the big happy face and make a big happy fuss. It sounds silly, but that's what works here. Want my attention and big happy face? Then they know the behavior to do to earn it. I won't give negative attention. I am flat. Because mine crave the attention and don't care if it is positive or negative. I rather have positive behaviors. So the incentive is to do more of those.

I don't know if that helps you any.

Hang in there!

Galagirl
 
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FallenAngelina

Well-known member
It seems as though you have come to some very critical opinions of me based on extremely limited knowledge.

You're enmeshed in an extraordinarily challenging situation and no, I don't think that an online forum is going to be much help in truly breaking ground here. If you perceive a recommendation to work on yourself instead of focusing on a metamour with extreme mental health challenges as being critical, then I think it kinda supports my point about the need for you to work on your boundaries and your sense of who you are. A bunch of forum posters offering hugs and analyses of her and his issues aren't going to move this incredible mountain you're describing. You're actually a very articulate writer and having lived with a loved one with extreme mental health challenges, I know what you're up against. I do sincerely urge you to stop focusing on how you can understand her better, how you can orchestrate things into being better, how you can help him and how you can get her to behave differently. Putting incredible amounts of thought, effort and anguish into changing other people's behavior is a temporary fix and is not making this situation better in any long lasting way. You can, however, make life better for yourself and yes, I do think that in this case you'll need the help of someone who is physically present and is steadfastly able to educate and fortify you with your boundaries.
 
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kdt26417

Official Greeter
Hi SeaM80,

It sounds like your boyfriend is in therapy ... is his wife? and, are you? What about the idea of getting a poly-friendly counselor that all three of you could go to? Just something to think about. That might help tend to the BPD angle and the poly angle at the same time.

Regards,
Kevin T.
 

reflections

New member
I know your metamour has not yet been diagnosed or properly assessed by a professional, but for clarity's sake, I will assume that she at least has some traits.

If she does have borderline personality disorder, understand that this way of relating to others comes from an invalidating childhood environment. Most (if not all) people with borderline personality disorder have an extensive history of trauma that has led them to question their ability to trust others.

I'd like to emphasize that it is quite understandable that they act in the ways that they do, if only you had a glimpse into what their world is like. This does not mean they can do whatever they want, consequence free. I just encourage you to have a bit more empathy towards your metamour. I wonder if it would go a long way.

People with borderline personality disorder tend to be highly stigmatized. So not only do they have a rough time interacting with others (and their selves), but then the world criticizes them as well.

On that note, I would strongly encourage you to not "act like you're friends" towards her. Set clear, transparent boundaries (note: not boundaries on HER behavior, boundaries on what YOU will tolerate in relationships). But if she does have BPD, furthering her sense of invalidation will only come back to bite you. And it's pretty awful for her, don't you agree?

I also think there is a lot of wisdom in FallenAngelina's comments about not focusing all on her as the "problem." I encourage some self-reflection about how you set and maintain boundaries in all of your relationships and what that means to you. Boundaries are for yourself, not other people.
 

Norwegianpoly

New member
My MIL probably has BPD. She and her siblings experienced a great deal of random violence in the home. Her husband sees himself as her protector. She has engaged in violence towards my BIL - and I think she doesn't remember doing it. They look on the surface very normal and she is nice when not shifting but does weird control attempts when she is in that other mode. The solution I found was simply to work on boundries, and in my head think of them as children, as it helps me to find empathy in my heart for them.
 

northhome

New member
I also found the book Stop Walking on Eggshells to be a great help.

Wow! Based on your recommendation I've bought this book, and I am part way through it. I really wish I had had this 3 years ago, it really helps.

Thanks for mentioning it. And yes, having a relationship with someone with BPD really sucks. Big time. Been there, done that. Never again if I can possibly help it.

Best of luck to you, SeaM80. I have found that one has to do some 'self-work', even if it's simply some sort of practice to learn how to regain one's energetic balance after the storms that one goes through when dealing with someone that has BPD. Qigong and/or Yoga can be helpful in my experience.
 
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Magdlyn

Well-known member
If she does have borderline personality disorder, understand that this way of relating to others comes from an invalidating childhood environment. Most (if not all) people with borderline personality disorder have an extensive history of trauma that has led them to question their ability to trust others.

Definitely not all BPD sufferers have it from a bad childhood. My daughter and her siblings were raised with respect, loving kindness, gentle discipline, no spanking, no shaming, well fed on whole foods, etc etc.

She was just born different. We could tell literally, and I mean literally, from birth, that was was different. She had no filters for dealing with emotional pain, and would tantrum many times a day until she hit age 7, when she learned to go to her room to decompress. But then she started cutting herself at age 14, and became an alcoholic soon afterward, hiding it from us til she was 16 and we started getting her treatment.

Black and white thinking, no patience, using friends and stealing from them, bulemia, drug abuse, self centerednes, etc etc. It is a terrible disease. Her father and I suffered terribly until she finally "found Jesus and got saved." But she is still weird, hard to visit with. Unless she is being given presents or food, she gets bored and grumpy. So, I still have firm boundaries around what I will take, how often I will see her.
 

wildflowers

New member
Re: there is no cure for BPD

It may not be a cure per se, but DBT has been shown to be very effective for a significant portion of people with BPD; it was developed specifically for working with them. I'd strongly suggest you/your met amour investigate that approach.
 
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