Are you in a troubled relationship? Are you heading for divorce? If so, you’re probably familiar with the terms Narcissist and Borderline Personality Disorder (aka BDP). It seems as if the decision to leave a relationship depends on your spouse having one or the other of these personality disorders. If you are a man leaving a woman, then she has to have BDP. If you are a woman leaving a man, he’s got to be a Narcissist.
It’s the battle cry of the Divorced: MY SPOUSE IS A <fill in the blank based on sex>.
I’m going to put myself out on a huge limb with this blog post. I’m willing to bet that not all men are narcissists and not all women suffer from BDP.
I may be a bit biased, and I will admit to that fact. I’m the wife who was left by my spouse and right on cue, Husband #2 accused me of having BDP. He couldn’t understand why I would get so upset over seeming little innocent activities, like his not listening to me and my feeling of invisibility as he placed a higher value on his business and our customers than he did on our marriage and me as an individual with boundaries. He felt like he was walking on eggshells, which coincidentally is the title of a book all about borderline personality disorder.
I, in turn, thought he was incredibly self-centered and narcissistic. How dare he avoid coming home after working with clients who adored him (to face my anger at his being late). How dare he want to hang out with his friend on our only day off during the week (instead of hanging out with his surly wife who was getting her buttons pushed and doing her best to push his buttons in return).
Neither of us is faultless in our behavior and I can see that clearly now. We were typical in our interactions. I can understand how Husband #2 would rather avoid coming home to my displeasure and would prefer to hang out with customers who appreciated his work and efforts. Did this make him a Narcissist? No, it just made him human.
Maybe someday Husband #2 will come to know that I was fighting for my own boundaries. Having one day off a week with him was my attempt to reconnect emotionally and his wanting to go biking with his friend on our dedicated day together was hurtful in my eyes. It’s not that I was trying to control his independent activities. It was that I was calling out that our day off was supposed to be “our day” off. He could go out with his friends any other day of the week as far as I was concerned. Was I suffering from BDP? No, I was being human.
I think we enter into a cesspool of turmoil when we try to self-diagnose our spouses. I’m not a trained therapist and neither is Husband #2. And, yet, we tried to put each other into categories that may not have been entirely accurate. Instead of seeing the good in one another, we started looking for behaviors that supported our personal hypotheses. In essence, we were traveling the road of the self-fulfilling prophecy. We treated each other in ways that would virtually guarantee that the other would confirm our own expectations of their behavior.
I can’t speak for Husband #2’s beliefs, I only know that my personal therapist laughed at the suggestion that I was suffering from BDP. Another friend, who’s son has been diagnosed with BDP for years, told me that people who casually use the BDP phrase to describe their spouses truly don’t understand the disorder and would be horrified to experience the stress of the manic emotional swings from a full blown BDP episode.
Is Husband #2 a Narcissist? Only a therapist can determine that fact and I would be doing him (and myself) a huge disservice by trying to label Husband #2 with something he’s not. So I’ve changed my approach to Husband #2. Instead of pigeon-holing him, I’ll just let him be himself.