I spent the last many years married to a woman with fairly severe (clinically diagnosed) Borderline Personality Disorder. I could very easily fill an entire book writing about what that experience was like, so it’s hard to know how to distill it. Here are some things I know-
-Years of being subjected to masterfully performed gaslighting has left me very unsure of all my own judgements and perceptions of reality.
-Years of being degraded and emasculated when I wanted to discuss my thoughts/feelings, being told that it is unattractive for a man to show “weakness” to his wife, has left me uncertain of when it’s ok to be vulnerable with other people.
-Years of walking on eggshells, trying so hard to do and say everything just right, but knowing that no matter how well I did, the next blow-up/emotional attack was always coming, has left me perpetually anxious, and steeped so heavily in learned helplessness that I often struggle to even feel that I have any control over what happens in my life. I never used to be that way at all.
-Years of having all my contributions and accomplishments minimized or forgotten, and all my imperfections magnified and carefully score-carded, has left me with close to zero sense of self-efficacy.
-Years of living with someone who is intimacy avoidant and uninterested in sex, but being told the whole time that her disinterest is caused by my shortcomings–because I didn’t last long enough in bed, or because I lasted too long in bed (yes, both of those), or because of the stress I was causing her by me not making us enough money (even when I was bringing in over six figures a year), or because I was paying too much attention to (suffocating) her, or because I was not paying enough attention to (neglecting) her– has left my self confidence so damaged that I almost fear being intimate with someone again.
Probably the worst part, though? During the early “idealization” phase of the relationship, she was incredibly jealous and protective of my attention (which at the time I foolishly believed was just because she loved me so much). So, focusing all of my time and attention on her needs, I greatly distanced myself from any male friends I was close to, and completely cut off contact with all of my female friends. Once she flipped me into the devaluation phase, I was left with a partner who had zero interest in me, other than what I could fix or provide for her, and only weak remnants of friendships remained. I was effectively isolated to the point that I spent most of my free time just sitting alone in my basement, wishing things were different.
Isolation is definitely one of my biggest hurdles right now. I’d really like to make some new friends, particularly some female friends since I lost all but one or two, but no clue where to even start. I just really miss having more meaningful conversations and connections with people.
Another hurdle is figuring out how to integrate “what I know to be true” with “what I feel to be true.” For example, I can write down a list of all of my business/financial accomplishments, and objectively say I’ve been successful in that area. I know this to be true. But I do not feel that this is true. I can find endless examples of things I’ve done or experiences I’ve had that show most of the negative feelings I mentioned above are illogical or don’t line up with reality. But again, I still don’t feel that.
I would love any thoughts or advice from anyone who has gone through something similar. What worked? What DIDN’T work? How did you reconnect with yourself? How did you reconnect with other people and build some new meaningful friendships/relationships?
I am so sorry you have gone through this. I’ve been there too. It took me years just to be able to look in a mirror after being told how fat and ugly I was for so many years. Honestly, there’s no trick to regaining your confidence, but you do have a lot of work ahead of you. I have had great results with CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). It’s all about denying those intrusive thoughts and proving them wrong. Finding a good therapist is essential.
It takes some time to learn to trust again. Don’t give up on yourself, you are worth it!
Thank you for the kind words, I really do appreciate it. 🙂
I hope you get the help you need to find a way to feel like yourself again. You’ve been through a lot and need to work to find your spot in life again. I agree with Shawna–a good therapist will prove essential to your healing process.
Thank you, Rosalie. I agree, been working on finding a new therapist to work with. It definitely helps!
Whelp, I’m the daughter of woman who has narcissistic personality disorder with borderline tendencies, I’ll try to help. (it’s not even close to being the same thing, but i’ll try my best)
The first real step is to examine who you actually ARE after the bullshit tornado is gone from your life. If you’re in contact with your wife, I’d make sure there were witnesses. This takes a LOT of time and introspection. Maybe talk to a therapist? There’ll be a lot you have to examine about your life now, vs your life before her.
The best part of this process is giving yourself a second chance. You get a refresh card on your life. What did you like about yourself? Who do you want to be? How can you get there? You get to decide.
You’re going to have to feel your feels, like it or not. Those feelings haven’t disappeared into the abyss, you have to acknowledge them. I like smashing things. It helps. I have had a lot of anger to get over.
I dunno if you’re still in contact, but unless need-be, I’d cut it off completely. Seeing her and interacting with her is going to bring up a mess of feelers.
I cut of contact with my mother and father shortly after I married Nathan. Getting away from the constant perception that I could never be forgiven for being an addict and all the other shit I did, was therapeutic as hell. But it took nearly a year of sitting on the couch processing what had happened for the past 4 or so years gave me a lot of time to think on it.
Do I miss her? Sometimes? I guess? I know if I saw her again it would be NO GOOD.
You may miss your wife, which can be hella confusing because she wasn’t good to you, and that’s okay – even normal. She did have some good qualities in order for you to marry her. But don’t get trapped too deep in the bullshit she spews.
This prolly didn’t help, but know that I’ve got your back no matter what!
Thanks as always for everything, Becky. I can only imagine how much harder it would be to have it from a parent. You are stronger than I am, that’s for sure. I’ve definitely done my best to stay as “no contact” as I possibly can. There’s so many things that went with her (house, dogs etc) that I miss and wish I didn’t have to be completely removed from, but I know that it’s essential for me to not have to have interaction with her anymore.
My goodness! So much of this mirrors my husband’s experience that I had to re-read it to make note of the differences. That being said, I absolutely agree with Aunt Becky on all of the points regarding steps to take and the questions to ask yourself during reflection.
As for how to put yourself back out there, what my husband did (and how we met each other) was to find support groups as well as meetups for your hobbies and interests. The support group allows you the freedom to share your experiences in a controlled environment of people who completely understand where you’re coming from and that validation will help you wade through the BS to find your new reality. The meetups allow you the new beginning you need in order to find or reinvent yourself, especially since so much of your identity was wrapped up in your ex’s BPD and your subsequent survival mechanisms.
Lastly, you’ll need to understand that because you didn’t really have the healthy experiences in friendships and relationships, you will falter – and that’s okay! Take responsibility, and then do your best not to make that same mistake again. A good friend of mine helped me immensely by calling it Failing Forward. Sometimes there are more lessons in failure than there are in success, so don’t get discouraged. Celebrate every single small step forward but don’t vilify yourself for the times when you plateau or have to take a step back and regroup.
Thank you for sharing your story. You are not alone. I hope everyone’s encouragement and advice help you find some peace and forward momentum.
I really appreciate all this! I of course know Im not the only one who’s dealt with this type of thing, but it is still so reassuring hearing about it. And especially hearing that he is now in a better relationship with someone who is supportive (you). One of the scariest parts is feeling like a better relationship is not in the cards for me, or fearing that I’ll just continue to attract women with similar characteristics. So hearing people move on to better places is really nice. Do you by chance know how he found meetups? Ive glanced through the meetup dot com website, just wondering if there was anything else. Thanks again. 🙂
Holy heck, I hope you find some kind of relief from all this pain soon. I have no advice, only hugs and light from the other side of the internet.
Thank you so much. Really ‘hugs and light’, positive/encouraging words from others, is probably what I need most, so thank you. 🙂
Thank you for sharing your story. I can relate to a lot of the feelings you described, but from having an abusive & narcisistic step parent. Please remember that the way she treated you is not your fault & you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness.
Thank you, Sarah. I’m sorry you went through something like this too, but I really appreciate you sharing it with me. I am trying my best to remember I deserve better, I dont always do so well with that, but it helps being reminded. 🙂