A Close Encounter of the Borderline Personality Kind
I had a talk with a good friend who told me that his ex-wife has borderline personality disorder. When I asked him what that is, he proceeded to share the following story with me:
“When we were married, I felt everyday like I was walking on egg shells because I had no idea how she would respond to even the most innocent event. It was like living with someone who never had the same reaction to any given situation. Once, for four days in a row, she told me how much she loved Godiva chocolate. On the fifth day, I went home with a box of Godiva chocolate as a gift, only to watch her take it from my hand and throw it across the room. ‘Why in the world did you bring that garbage into this house?’ she yelled in my face. ‘Because you love Godiva chocolate,’ I responded. ‘I don’t love any kind of chocolate,’ she spat back. ‘Don’t ever buy it again, and sure as hell don’t ever give me chocolate when you come home.’”
I listened in amazement because I couldn’t imagine my softhearted friend living in such a relationship. What’s even worse, in the several years we’ve known each other, he never before intimated that anything like this was happening in his home. It’s only been since his divorce that he’s begun to open up.
“How did you learn she had borderline personality disorder?” I asked him, curious to hear more.
“One afternoon, she told our son several times to get in his bedroom and pick up his dirty clothes. He kept telling her he would in just a minute. Finally, she walked up to where he sat in a living room chair, took her hand and smacked him on the back of his head as hard as she could. I knew then that something was very, very wrong, and I made her see a doctor. He diagnosed her with borderline personality disorder and, interestingly, told her she was very likely to be involved with abusive relationships, those in which she was either the abuser or abused by her partner. In our marriage, she was definitely the abuser.”
Upon hearing this story, I couldn’t help but wonder how my friend stayed married to this woman for as long as he did – almost 25 years. I was afraid to articulate this thought into a question, but my friend must have read my mind. He looked at me after several moments and said simply, “I loved her. She was the mother of my children, and when I got married, I did so with the intention of being with her forever. I would have helped her get help. But the truth is now that we’re divorced, I feel lighter. I don’t have to carry the burden of her disease, and that’s a relief.”
At that point, I couldn’t help but think that sometimes, losing love is a release of sorts. It allows you to find yourself and begin again, like a fresh start. And after being twice stuck in abusive relationships, I know what it’s like to be saddled with other people’s problems. You take them on as your own, until the line between your struggles and those of your partner’s is so blurred that you’ve forgotten who you are.
I ended the lunch by hugging my friend and wishing him the best. By the looks of things, he’s going to be okay.