Saturday, September 12, 2009

PJTV: Walking on Eggshells: Advice on how to cope with the Borderline in your life

Are you a man who is dating or married to a woman with Borderline Personality Disorder and at a loss for how to cope? Randi Kreger, co-author of Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder and author of The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder joins me today to give advice to men about how to cope with the Borderline in your life. Plus, how the sexual attraction/addiction plays a part in keeping a man in a constant dance with the Borderline.

You can watch the interview here.

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Blogger debbie said...

I'm a psychiatric nurse and I'll tell ya, I would rather have a ward of 50 schizophrenics than 1 person with BPD.

9:47 AM, September 12, 2009  
Blogger Mary Sicola said...

I enjoyed this interview very much but want to add that this also affects same-sex couples, to which I can sadly attest. I've spent four months in therapy making sense of, and learning from, my short eleven-month relationship with a very successful, intelligent, and attractive woman with BPD. Along the way I've found a couple of good reads regarding relevant and current neurological research: "A General Theory of Love" and "Evil Genes".

10:34 AM, September 12, 2009  
Blogger Helen said...


Thanks for bringing up that point. In Kreger's book, she does speak to same sex couples and gives examples of relationships involving two women, and provides help for them also.

11:15 AM, September 12, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

Unfortunately, one cannot divorce their mother.

When a child gets to be raised by a fruitloop, excuse me, that would be a BPD-challenged maternal figure, not only does one not have a choice in the matter but the child isn't given the capacity to know that something is horribly awry. It's not like your aunts, uncles and father are going to sit you down and say, "Gee, sweetie, your mother has a psychological challenge of which she refuses to seek help and you are just going to have to tolerate the craziness, as well verbal and physical abuse for 18 years. When you get older you can spend thousands of dollars on therapy and self-help books to undo the damage."

No, they say with a sad little look on the their faces, "Your mother loves you with all her heart and she means well." Being married to a crazy person is one thing, you can always leave. Being raised by a crazy is quite another, because you end up finding comfort in the drama because during your childhood you learn that a BPD parent can be controlled and manipulated easily.

But here comes the fun part: When you become an adult you find yourself drawn to relationships with people who have BPD. It's like coming home, a warm and fuzzy feeling. Tantrums? No problem, go ahead start one, I'm ready. Crying, sobbing, insults, yelling, I'm so there. You will be my puppet on a string. I can make you feel guilt like you've never felt before. I will own you.

Recognizing the cycle and stopping it before it starts becomes the challenge. Leading a normal life with a normal partner is the goal. Not so easy for us.

11:31 AM, September 12, 2009  
Blogger Helen said...


I pointed out in another post on BPD that the kids of these parents often end up either avoiding people altogether or being attracted to the same type of behavior that the BPD parent had. Being the kid of one is difficult but with consistent training and understanding of the communication patterns etc, relationships for these kids (or adult kids) of a BPD parent can get better.

11:40 AM, September 12, 2009  
Blogger David Foster said...

To what extent do the kids of people with BPD tend to have BPD themselves?

1:27 PM, September 12, 2009  
Blogger Helen said...


According to the DSM-IV--BPD is about 5 times more common among first-degree biological relatives of those with the disorder than in the general population.

4:33 PM, September 12, 2009  
Blogger Mike said...

This talk of widespread borderlines reminds me of some of my favorite reading materials. In a similar thread a few days ago, a commenter noted that the description of a BPD 'patient' sounded an awful lot like a majority of American women.

This fellow makes the point this is a consequence of the cultural upheaval that reached it's pinnacle in the 60's, and it's still clearly a curse we're trying to shake today.

Short excerpts don't do it justice, but I'll try: (actually the article author is quoting a Dr. Rinsley here)

...who has related the decline of the nuclear family and the so-called culture of narcissism to the increased frequency of personality disorders. Dysfunctional childrearing, the failure of the public schools to impart basic literacy skills, and the bloated welfare bureaucracy have spawned a widespread psychology of entitlement with its notions of success without effort and income without productivity. The unfortunate children of perplexed, disarticulated, and dysfunctional families, now graduated from undisciplined schools with 'open' curricula, and social promotions, are the next generation's borderline and narcissistic personalities. Thus, the combined failures of the family and the school as vehicles for the child's progressive socialization leave these young people unprepared for the responsibilities and expectations of the wider culture to which they belong.

"...To paraphrase the late Philip Wylie, we have indeed spawned a generation of narcissists who now flood our public and private therapeutic facilities

If you've got a lot of time on your hands, I suggest reading Kocher's articles until you start to see the same points repeated (maybe a third or half). Most articles where originally printed in a short-lived Objectivist magazine.

7:25 PM, September 12, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"According to the DSM-IV--BPD is about 5 times more common among first-degree biological relatives of those with the disorder than in the general population."


How did the geniuses behind the DSM get that number (and why do you quote it so reverently)?

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing but awe and respect for these important people, especially since they cured homosexuality overnight in the early 1970s.

7:26 PM, September 12, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:27 PM, September 12, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:27 PM, September 12, 2009  
Blogger Mister-M said...

I've lived it. Big fan of Randi's work (among others, including you, Dr. Helen).

For me, it was a co-dependency issue. I was definitely a "rescuer" and worked very hard to try to get to the bottom of the madness I was experiencing. Loyal, loving, affectionate, despite the terror and chaos I was living at home.

Watching the interview between Randi and you - it's uncanny how I sit here and shake my head and say, "Yep, that's me, that was me, that's what I did..."

Unfortunately, no amount of counseling worked, no amount of me changing who I was and what I did - changed nothing. A decade had passed and I was a shell of my former self. Sadly, by that time we had two children and I was prepared to stay for the children.

Ultimately, she pulled the plug on the marriage, but the madness doesn't end just because the marriage doesn't.

If you want to read a real life experience - marriage, divorce, custody - the whole bit, feel free to stop by and see what happens (history and in real time).

Why Talk About it on the Internet

THANK YOU, Randi and Dr. Helen for this interview. It's absolutely spot-on. Scarily so. Too bad for me (and my children) that I didn't discover BPD until after the wheels came off the relationship for good. Now, it's all about managing the consequences of my life decisions.


10:09 PM, September 12, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I watched the interview, and pretty much don't know what else to say. The first book left me feeling the same way. I have to discard what I learned and revert back to my own opinions and feelings about it. I've just been girding my loins for so long it's about all I know how to do anymore.

The legal system is in dire need of understanding not only the disorder itself, but what goes on inside that world. Men don't get help from the legal system, just blame and punishment. It would be nice if that were to change a little.

OK, fine. It's my fault.

7:16 AM, September 13, 2009  
Blogger Dr.Alistair said...

the mother of my children.....


she says to the youngest by before his rep soccer try-out that he can`t have gatorade because it`s too expensive ($1 at the dollar store).

she works 60 hours a week as a nurse and lives mortgage free (thanks to the kids father) and she can`t cough up a dollar for electrolytes.

the dsm iv doesn`t have a section for bat shit crazy, so borderline will have to do.

and it doesn`t have koo-koo for coco puffs either, i checked.

is it possible for a whole culture of people to be bpd?

the woman is portuguese.

7:48 AM, September 13, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...

I haven't read the eggshell book but I was on another forum this morning and someone put up a post about having to constantly walk on eggshells around her boyfriend. So I wrote a nice response admitting I haven't read the book but it might be of use to her, and then I put up the Amazon link to the eggshell book.

Apparently the boyfriend is monitoring his girlfriend's computer activities and he just responded to my post in a rage. He's trying to make me walk on eggshells. I gave him the same response that I have been giving my mother for 30 years....GO GET HELP. :)

8:20 AM, September 13, 2009  
Blogger Cappy said...

Boy, did I ever need that book years ago. I propose, "Walking on Eggshels; Run For Your Life!"

10:27 AM, September 13, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tether, you waited too long to pull those last two posts. I have typed many things in here I wanted to take back, but didn't. I felt them when I wrote them, even if I didn't feel that way a couple days later. But they were out there, so I left them.
Plus, you know, a boatload of people have already read them.

12:33 PM, September 13, 2009  
Blogger Pissed Off and Fed Up said...

I wanted to add my 2c's. Ive been a poster on Welcome to Oz (men), Randi's online group for about the past year or two. My wife is not officially diagnosed with BPD, but it is something I STRONGLY suspect she has.
Our 2 year marriage has been a disaster since day one. Honestly it has been a disaster since the engagement. Sure weve had normal days, but with a BPD you just never know what is going to set them off.
If you ask a question in the wrong tone (to them) they'll come back with a snide response. If you make a statement, they'll come back with a snide reponse. If you try and talk about any problem in the relationship they launch into a cruel and abusive blame-shifting counter attack.
I was totally blindsided by BPD. I didnt really think there were people out there like that. When I was repeatedly raged at for trivial things by someone who supposedly thought I was the most perfect man ever. It just didnt add up. When she was so easily offended and raged at the smallest slight, it just didnt add up. I used to call it walking a minefiled before I knew of Walking on Eggshells. And thats just how it is.
I got to where I just stopped talking about anything. I never knew what would set her off and no matter what I did it was never the right thing. Even intimate information I would share with her would be used later to hurt me in a fight. Eventually you just totally shut down.
Just like Randi said in the interview, the partners of BPD go through the stages. The inital discovery stage, anger, etc. Then the realization of 'why am I doing this?'

I wish there was more public awareness of BPD. If I had known about it sooner I may have been able to avoid this whole mess.

10:50 AM, September 14, 2009  
Blogger iconoclast said...

In the days when men supposedly held the balance of power in marriage, it might have made sense to marry a woman who had an exciting personality but was also frequently irresponsible and crazy. With the balance of power having shifted toward women, it's just too risky. Men need to pick a wife like a pilot would pick a copilot or a ship captain would pick a first mate.

And "responsible" and "non-crazy" doesn't always have to mean "non-sexy."

2:09 PM, September 14, 2009  
Blogger aronamos said...

I must say, I do love the way comments here so quickly go from "anti-crazy woman" to just plain "anti-woman." Not all women are crazy, not all non-crazy women are dull, not all crazy-acting women have BPD, and not all BPD cases are women (to be sure, 3 in 4 diagnoses are). Believe me, I'd rather have one BPD person in my life than the one antisocial personality disorder-type fellow (diagnoses 3 to 1 male).

3:16 PM, September 14, 2009  
Blogger Mister-M said...

iconoclast - you make a great point about how men should go about picking a woman today.

Well put.

5:18 PM, September 14, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you picked the woman in your life as you would a co-pilot, and also picked her AS your co-pilot, then look how easy it would be to hit autopilot and become a member of the mile high club.


3:24 AM, September 15, 2009  
Blogger BarryD said...

"Believe me, I'd rather have one BPD person in my life than the one antisocial personality disorder-type fellow (diagnoses 3 to 1 male)."

And I'd rather be stabbed in the leg than shot in the head.

The difference is, as comes out in the interview, those men tend to be in prison more often than the women. That distorts the way things are perceived. I.e., unless you're a stupid woman, you're unlikely to date a con, whereas smart but unsuspecting men are at least somewhat likely to run into BPD in the dating world.

"Not all women are crazy, not all non-crazy women are dull, not all crazy-acting women have BPD"

All these things are true. However, it's not just women who have to kiss a lot of frogs...:)

12:32 PM, September 15, 2009  
Blogger JJW said...

People with BPD are not to be accommodated or learned to live with. It's impossible. This brings to mind the expression "Don't try to teach a pig to sing; it frustrates you and annoys the pig." If you spot one, leave them alone. If you have the bad fortune to be married to one (I was), your only options are murder and flight. I chose the latter, at ruinous personal expense on several levels, but have often mused that had I done the right thing I'd have been out by now.

SUPPOSEDLY, a person with BPD who seeks appropriate treatment and does the work -- DBT, outside work, groups, etc. -- diligently will not present with symptoms of BPD after two years. I'd guess maybe one in one million people with BPD will actually admit they have it and pursue treatment. Whoever first published the above finding must have had to work from an awfully small data sample.

A very competent therapist of my acquaintance told me a year ago that she no longer accepts BPD patients. Too frustrating, no results beyond despair and exhaustion. And that's for someone who is paid for the work and only sees the patient a couple of hours a week.

3:51 PM, September 15, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...


Um, I guess you didn't know. Inappropriate tone of voice is a BIG infraction with BPDs. Sometimes there just isn't anything to hone in on when A BPD feels like having a tantrum, so they have to scrape the bottom of the excuse barrel. There at the bottom will always be, "I don't like your tone". No matter what you do, you can't wage a defense on tone. Game, set, match. If I had a nickle for every inappropriate tone I've supposedly uttered....

I'm no psychological expert, but I have had to deal with my mother for going on 47 years now, and that is a long time. I've learned a thing or 2. My mother tends to pick a fight purposely when she feels that she is being ignored or is not the center of attention. She tends to pick a fight with me or my sisters when she is angry with my father. My mother has never been able to hold a mature adult-like conversation to discuss her feelings when she is upset, everything comes out in dramatic fashion and she rarely explains what is actually bothering her. Her methodology is to find fault with family members and antagonize them until they are in a rage. When she succeeds at this she feels better, you can see her mood change and she becomes upbeat.

It's pure passive aggressiveness. And it is all planned. You may be walking on eggshells not knowing when a BPD is going to strike but my mother carefully plans and sets up the the tantrum angle; unanswered cell phones, displeasure with something that happened 20 years ago, refusal to adhere to one of her crazy directives. She figures out everyone's weak points and carefully creates strategies to go after them when the mood strikes her.

I guess if you want to live with one of these people you can. I've learned to disarm my mother by simply refusing to play her game. She complains that the only thing I ever say to her is, "I refuse to have this conversation with you.". She is right, about 90% of my responses to everything she says is that line above. That is how I do it, you can use my strategy if you like. No charge.

6:31 PM, September 16, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Video, truer statements have never been made than the first two sentences of your post above.

6:44 PM, September 16, 2009  
Blogger Pissed Off and Fed Up said...

Yea Video, Ive adopted a similar saying when she flips out - "Im not going to participate in this" That just send her into a tirade of how IM being childish. Whatever. Dont much matter now. I filed divorce papers today. Now I can start putting this behind me and get back to some sense of sanity. If youre interested, my blog has many conversations with the BPD. There should be a link in my profile.

2:03 PM, September 18, 2009  
Blogger MarkyMark said...

When it comes to dating a person with BPD, just say NO! If already in a relationship with a chick like that, then dump her.

5:37 AM, September 19, 2009  
Blogger Cham said...


I take a slightly more humorous approach to the whole BPD-in-my-life issue since there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. My BPD mother found her way onto my hiking blog, here is the famous unanswered cell phone story of Yosemite National Park in 2007.

If I wasn't laughing I'd be crying. My gut tells me that even after your divorce is finalized your BPD won't quit, she'll still call to engage you in her drama. You are going to need a new unlisted phone number as well as that divorce.

11:15 AM, September 19, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cham, I have a mother like yours; just reading your posts brought back waaaaay too many memories.

I've cut her off. Period. No letters, no calls, nothing. It's the only way to cope.

5:05 PM, September 19, 2009  
Blogger Orwell46 said...

Most of this discussion rings really true.I pitied the woman I married--and was impressed with her brains. I was married to her for 2 years, and it ended about 18 months ago. She had an IQ of 135--140. After it was all over I told a friend, "It was like this. J was in a white-hot rage five hours a day five days a week for two years." My reading of the Cognitive Behavioral handbook by Marsha Linehan helped me understand just how chaotic the woman was on the inside, and how little she knew what was going on. She had no conscience as I understand conscience. She could not apologize in a heartfelt way, ever. I made notes during the marriage and during the many hours of agony, just to keep myself from total insanity. But the experience was so terrible I cannot bear to read the notes. Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction is a pretty good image of what J was like--only all the time. I now think of the marriage as the most astounding mistake I ever made. And I was in my late 50s, very experienced, when I did it! If you can get out without harming children, get out immediately. It will feel so good to feel sanity, and its normal pains, again.

4:20 PM, September 22, 2009  
Blogger Orwell46 said...

I was married at 58 to a borderline, and it lasted two years. It never got better, except for about three when her therapist told her to stop being so angry. The therapist never know she was borderline. J was very bright, a great talker, totally tuned into the present moment (to keep from being tuned into the total chaos inside her), and a good patient. The guy was flattered that such a smart and fairly good looking woman talked to him so powerfully. He never knew what was going on.

The two years of marriage was a nightmare. I told a friend that my wife had been "in a white-hot rage five hours a day five days a week for two years." I made notes about it to keep my sanity, but I can't bear to get them out and read them, the time was so horrible. If you can, leave her.

12:59 PM, September 23, 2009  

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