Talking with a Borderline

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The way victims of Borderline Personality Disorder and similar personality disorders communicate is confusing and upsetting to many. If you’ve been living with such a person, you’ll find this animation to be a common, perhaps even a tame, version of things that often happen to you. If not, it may give you some insights into how miserable Borderlines can make the lives of their loved ones.

The animation below is a typical example of what it’s like to talk with a loved one who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder. If the embedded video player doesn’t show up below, to play the video in another window you have two choices. Either click here to watch from xtranormal.com or click here to play from YouTube.

Did you notice how the husband was calm and rational, while the wife was angry, accusing, and unreasonable? Yet she falsely played the victim and asserted control with her mind games.

Borderlines frequently pick fights for no reason apparent to their targets. Often such fights are not about things that most people would see as real issues. Instead, they are about controlling the people around them to either make themselves feel better or to get what they want.

They may rage at their targets in verbally and emotionally abusive ways. Yet they have the gall to blame the target for the abusive language and emotions they are showing. This is known as projection. It seems they want to distract from their own questionable behaviors, so they will blame somebody else for doing worse. And they love to play victim of imagined hurts and spites from their targets.

Borderlines are often very controlling, frequently while accusing a victim of theirs as being controlling or uncaring. Using emotional blackmail and threats of false reports to the police or others who might be duped into taking their side are some of the ways they establish and maintain control.

The discussion is primarily about them and their inner emotional turmoil, not so much about the target. They are upset and somebody else has to be blamed for it whether it’s accurate or not.

Imagine living with these kinds of exchanges on daily basis. The frequent unpredictability, jabs, blaming sessions, and insults make you feel insecure and cut down your self-esteem over time. You’re being abused, but are at the same time are being falsely accused of being the abuser. This is particularly difficult for men to handle as they are socially conditioned to try to take responsibility for fixing problems. Yet BPD is not a problem a significant other can solve.

What’s often worse than being the target of this kind of treatment is how the Borderline frequently involves children in their conflicts. The children become a form of property to be used as tools to attack and blame. Over time, the children may start to pick up some of the hostility of the borderline and show symptoms of parental alienation.

If you’re in a relationship with a Borderline, you’ve got to shift your focus from solving their problems (which you can’t) to protecting your children and yourself. If you decide terminating the relationship is the best course of action, that would not be surprising.

However, be prepared for the tactics the Borderline will likely use on you in retaliation. Their behaviors are likely to become even more outrageous and destructive than usual, often wrongly using courts, CPS, and police to falsely turn you into a criminal.

Here is additional information you should read to prepare yourself:

Telling Your Nasty Ex About BPD or NPD May Hurt You

Relationships and Divorces with Someone Who Suffers Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderlines Can Make You Feel Insane Via “Gaslighting”

Co-parenting With A Sociopath (Borderline, Narcissist, etc.)

Personality Disordered Abusers in Family Law Courts

Personality Disordered Abusers in Psychological Evaluations

Support for Family Members of Those With BPD

High-Conflict Divorces

Domestic Violence – Are You Being Abused?

Restraining Order 911

False Sexual Abuse Allegations in Child Custody Disputes


  1. Rebecca Price
    April 1st, 2009 at 07:40 | #1

    It felt so good to laugh at this. I have suffered under this stuff many years.

  2. tt
    April 7th, 2009 at 20:55 | #2

    Do men ever have BPD?

    • admin
      April 8th, 2009 at 05:10 | #3

      BPD affects both genders.

      Until recently, it was believed that it was about 75% women and 25% men with about 3% of women and 1% of men having it. More recent studies suggest that it is about evenly split, with about 6% of the population suffering from BPD in both genders. The difference seems to be that men with BPD end up in prison at a far higher rate than women with BPD.

      For more information on recent studies, see the blog posting BPD prevalence may be 6%, 3 times higher than previously thought .

  3. ck
    April 16th, 2009 at 13:23 | #4

    wow, i’ve had similiar dialogues with the bpd in my life…or the bpd that was in my life. the same words, calling me a “foul mouth”, telling me how bad i was and that no one liked me… geesh, its all so familiar.

  4. bootness
    October 1st, 2009 at 11:04 | #5

    Ha, ha ha! This is hilarious because it is so true. It’s like talking with my mom; she comes up with gems like, “If you don’t take care of your health, you are going to die. Who will take care of your kids then? You love food more than you love your kids!” (I am gaining weight because I am 7 mos pregnant.) Or, “Vaccinations are just propaganda! You are brainwashed by the government!” when I am talking about my 2 year old’s last checkup. She always talks about how my dad (her ex) is a child molester, and molested me and my brother we just don’t remember it, he’s an alcoholic, and FAAAT! If I disagree with her, I’m “just like him!!!”

  5. krex
    February 2nd, 2010 at 09:32 | #6

    @tt
    Yes – men do suffer from this disorder. A friend of mine sent this video to me… and it was so spot on… it could almost be funny if it wasn’t so true. Scary stuff.

  6. aimee
    February 11th, 2010 at 22:02 | #7

    It’s very wierd that I am the one targetted for this disorder , YET it is My Ex that actually acts this way. How does he “appear” so Normal and yet privately HE IS/WAS A MONSTER? I can’t get away from him either 20 years through our children he has gotton away with tormenting me and somehow he has even stolen Two of my children that are not his and I SEEM the Nut cuz I have Focused on the Congress , Senators , Any All Officials . To get My children to Real Safety.

  7. Dan
    June 12th, 2010 at 18:14 | #8

    That video is quite accurate. It’s reality turned upside down. It doesn’t really matter what you say or do. The person with BPD will make strange accusations with loose logic. “If you don’t approve of me getting Sunscreen, the children will burn to a crisp.” Somehow, the father became responsible for them burning to a crisp. The mother of my daughter, while she doesn’t use profanity as loosely as this character, is very similar. What’s amazing about this video, is that while I’ve had a thousand conversations like this, because the distortions are so bizarre, the logic so twisted, it’s so hard to replicate them from memory. How the person who wrote this script was able to do that — I give ‘em credit!

  8. Samantha
    June 17th, 2010 at 00:14 | #9

    I was not very amused by this. From everything written.. especially “If you’re in a relationship with a Borderline, you’ve got to shift your focus from solving their problems (which you can’t) to protecting your children and yourself. If you decide terminating the relationship is the best course of action, that would not be surprising.” and then going on to imply that all BPD sufferers try to paint their spouses as criminals.

    I do agree, my partner deals with stress related to my condition.. but trying to paint every BPD suffer in this way especially being “perhaps even a tame, version of things that often happen to you. If not, it may give you some insights into how miserable Borderlines can make the lives of their loved ones.” is insulting.

    If I had a choice I wouldn’t have BPD..but does having it make me worthy of being alone?

  9. June 18th, 2010 at 20:51 | #10

    @Samantha

    Samantha, I’m saddened to hear that you’re afflicted by BPD. However, it is heartening to read that you recognize your problems and are working on resolving them. This places you many steps ahead of the Borderlines about whom this article is largely focused.

    You should feel it a significant accomplishment that you can acknowledge your troubles. Many, perhaps most, people with BPD cannot do so.

    Somebody who recognizes she or he has BPD and wants to work on overcoming it while protecting loved ones needs to get them involved in their therapy. People with personality disorders tend to have a highly distorted viewpoint, especially when under stress that reminds them of the traumas that pushed them towards their personality disorders. If they are fortunate enough to have loved ones who want to help them work through the problems, they should reciprocate by ensuring that their loved ones are well-protected against the distortions they are prone to spread.

    I’m not saying that you personally have spread any distortions, obviously I little knowledge of your situation.

    BPD really isn’t well-defined. With the nine criteria involved, it is more likely than not that any two or three people diagnosed with BPD will have some significantly different behaviors. BPD should really be broken up into at least two disorders to account for the “acting in” and “acting out” behavior patterns as usually there is a clear distinction that can be made if a therapist has access to objective information about the patient.

    Perhaps you are one of the “acting in” group that is in so much pain and agony and tends to hurt yourself rather than others? By “acting in”, I mean the self-harm behaviors such as mutilation, suicide attempts, excessive risk taking (promiscuity, unsafe driving, etc.), substance abuse, and so forth.

    The “acting out” group tends to do exactly the sort of things I’ve described in this article. In my opinion, as a group the people who exhibit “acting out” behaviors are far more dangerous to their loved ones (and former loved ones) than the “acting in” group.

    “Acting out” Borderlines who have engaged in false accusations, distortion campaigns, and other attacks on their loved ones and refuse to acknowledge and pursue treatment for their problems are very dangerous individuals. By your own description, you’re not one of these people.

  10. c
    August 14th, 2010 at 16:22 | #11

    People with borderline personality disorder, just like anyone else, have triggers for stress. However, sufferers of BPD may react irrationally due to over-sensitivity to those triggers. I’m not trying to validate the over-reaction of the sufferer, but rather show that it is unlikely that the non BPD individual is free of any blame in a blowout situation. Whether consciously, or subconsciously, the non BPD individual could be sending out physical or verbal triggers, causing the BPD behavior to intensify. This video shows none of that. The comments I am reading now sound like venting, and aren’t really helpful in solving any problems of either the BPD sufferer or the self-proclaimed “victim”. Everyone involved is the victim, but only if they choose to be. Venting is good, but for those of you arriving at this particular site for advice on diagnosis, support or simply more information, I urge you to explore more realistic, informative sites. This site has a mad ex boyfriend/girlfriend blogging feel, and lacks any real scientific base.

    • August 14th, 2010 at 22:43 | #12

      C,

      Triggers for BPD behaviors can be innocuous normal behaviors on the part of others. They might not even be enough to be something that would even slightly irritate somebody not suffering from BPD, NPD, or similar conditions. That’s part of the reason why many nons are unaware that what they do or say may trigger stress and counterproductive behaviors from the personality disorder victim.

      They are not actually to “blame” in the conventional meaning of the word. The real problem is the maladaptive mindset of the PD victims. They learned to behave this way from others, often parents who emotionally abused them during their entire childhoods. They tend to be insecure, easily threatened, and overreactive to normal stressors that would nearly never trigger similar extreme feelings or responses in nons.

      Consider, for instance, that these people can be enraged by a well-intentioned and honest compliment coming from somebody who is close to them. I’ve personally seen it happen. The reaction of an uninformed person seeing this may be along the lines of “what a bitch!” or similiar. But this is simply how PD victims often think. They often imagine that nons are scheming and manipulating like they do, so they may think that complimenting something they have done, their appearance, or other normal things to compliment is being done to manipulate them even when there is no such intention.

      If you want to assign blame, assign it to people who abused PD victims to turn them into troubled children and later troubled adults.

      If you want to criticize nons, probably the most accurate area to criticize would be the failure to recognize the PD behaviors and to set and enforce boundaries. All of this contributes to adverse PD behaviors continuing. Speaking as a former naive non who knew nothing about these PD behaviors, I can see how I was a sitting duck for these behaviors and didn’t know how to respond to them.

      Psychology education in the US is sorely lacking and most people enter into relationships not knowing anything about how to deal with these people. It is often only after years of serious emotional abuse that some of them start to understand that there really is something wrong with the personality disordered abuse and it isn’t just something about them (the non) that is triggering these destructive behaviors.

      Rob

  11. nonbpd
    August 24th, 2010 at 13:02 | #13

    please…just leave me alone…

    if only…

  12. Lia
    August 4th, 2011 at 11:16 | #14

    I just married a man a year ago and after talking to my therapist, she said it seemed he has BPD. I just found out I am 3 months pregnant. He does have good qualities but I feel like I am on an emotional roller coaster. He works 2 hrs from home and comes home on the weekends and one weekend he tells me how much he loves me, cries, tells me how happy he wants to make me, blah, blah, blah. The next weekend he gets into this zone and ignores me, doesn’t greet me, doesn’t take my feelings into consideration, etc. Recently I gave him an ultimatum and told him changes have to happen, he needs to get profession help or I am filing for a divorce. He told me to pack his stuff and he will leave so he cant hurt me anymore. Please help to people who have experience being married to men with BPD, should I file for divorce or wait and see if medication works for him? Thanks so very much for reading and replying.

  13. EM
    September 27th, 2011 at 15:36 | #15

    Although this video clearly sheds light on how borderlines act, the commentary does not even touch on how horrific this disorder is for the people who live with it. Here are a couple of links that may be helpful for anyone who loves someone who is borderline:
    http://bpd.about.com/od/forfamilyandfriends/a/bpdfriend.htm
    http://bpd.about.com/od/forfamilyandfriends/a/bpdmyths.htm

  14. EM
    September 27th, 2011 at 15:37 | #16

    @ Samantha
    Very True!

  15. Mary
    November 1st, 2011 at 11:28 | #17

    I find it extremely upsetting that you’re grouping people with BPD with sociopaths and narcissists. People with APD and NPD do not feel guilt or empathy. People with BPD are *consumed* by guilt and self-doubt. The people you’re describing in your post sound like individuals who are suffering from co-morbid disorders like the ones I mentioned. 25% of people with BPD have APD, meaning the majority do not have this. People with BPD can’t truly be described as manipulative because manipulation implies an intentional effort to distort or warp the truth.

    I might very well have BPD. I don’t abuse people. I feel intense guilt for things that might not even be my fault and my occasional lashing out at people comes from a fundamental belief that I’m inferior to them and that, deep down, I don’t deserve love or happiness. People with BPD who are outright abusive or violent are a minority.

    • November 1st, 2011 at 20:16 | #18

      Mary,

      BPD unfortunately is a bit of a catch-all label for a range of problems. It would be far more helpful to everybody if it was broken up into one diagnosis that focuses on malicious behaviors towards others (the “acting out” group) and another that focuses on mostly self-harm behaviors (the “acting in” group). It sounds like you don’t fit into the “acting out” group of people who behave as sociopaths and narcissists. That you realize you have some issues already suggests you should be looking at some other possible diagnoses first before considering the DSM-IV Axis II Cluster B personality disorders including BPD, NPD, APD, and HPD.

      Typically accurate diagnosis of any personality disorder takes a lot of time. One estimates from NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) is that the diagnosis of BPD on average can take five years of therapy. Surveying a range of people who live with a person can probably speed up this process as they are collectively more likely to have objective input on the person whereas the person, if he or she has a personality disorder, probably suffers from a range of unusual or extreme attitudes and behaviors and may not be entirely aware of this or willing to discuss it.

      You are right about the high rate of co-morbidity (concurrent presence of multiple disorders) between BPD and other disorders such as NPD and APD. This complicates trying to label anything accurately. This may be why there is a push for DSM-V to change the model for describing personality disorders to one that is based more upon numeric ratings on multiple scales.

      People can be manipulative without consciousness of what they are doing. Many people with personality disorders, especially BPD, were abused and have developed self-protective mechanisms to avoid further abuse that result in them experiencing cognitive distortions and relying upon emotional manipulation of other people at such a level they cannot readily control what they are doing and may not even be conscious of it. It is like breathing — you are not really aware of it, but you are doing it anyway.

      Having feelings of intense guilt and doubts about your self-worth aren’t a requirement for BPD. Those symptoms can also be present in many other mental health conditions, even very common and transient ones such as depression.

      Rob

  16. Brian
    May 9th, 2012 at 01:48 | #19

    Lol. This is exactly what my brother’s (now ex) wife sounds like. Thanks, I am so stressed along with him and my mother over the alienation that is occurring that just this minute or two of hearing this helped immensely to relax a little and laugh again.

  17. Kevin sparks
    July 23rd, 2012 at 21:27 | #20

    My wife exactly been on a insulin. Pump for10 years still could die at any time without 24 hr attention

  18. July 23rd, 2012 at 22:30 | #21

    @ Kevin sparks

    You seem to be saying that your wife is histrionic (overly dramatic) and exaggerates her circumstances to play up her victim status. Is that right? This is the kind of thing you often see from Borderlines.

    I don’t know of any connection between insulin and histrionic behaviors. How does the insulin pump play into this?

    Rob

  19. Betty
    September 20th, 2012 at 17:34 | #22

    I am thankful to have found this site. The representation from all the previous posts are wonderfully relatable. My BPD is my adult daughter. It has been years of heart ache before I understood what was happening.

    The diagnosis of “acting in”, and “acting out” makes so much sense and give me a greater insight to what my daughter is going through.

  20. Lisa Burks
    October 9th, 2012 at 16:14 | #23

    It seems funny to anyone that has survived it. However, I am a mother who has been watching her soon suffer to overcome a million different obsticles in his life, but none like the wife he is trying desperately to divorce. The problem being my grandson has become the pawn in the manipulation. I am a psych major and have been watching the girl operate for the past two years, but until he asked for the divorce, she just appeared a little controlling and a lot stupid. Then the accusations started coming almost immediately.

    Three days before they split, he was an amazing dad. Three days after, he was an abusive father the whole time. Three days before he was a wonderful man, three days after he was worthless. My son is actually terrified of her. I have never seen anything like it. I feel like he should say goodbye to his son…but how is that the answer. A week ago she decided to accuse him of raping her multiple times as a response to me asking her to think like an adult and be reasonable because she knows he is not a danger to anyone (especially now that he left the source of his anger). I don’t know what to do.

  21. Terese Palfi
    March 24th, 2013 at 20:26 | #24

    I left my husband after only 8 months of marriage, because of verbal, emotional and other, but not physical abuse. There seemed to be a pattern in his behavior, that he would find some reason to start a fight every 4-5 weeks. I have been devastated and shocked and utterly exhausted, during and after his shouting, blaming, accusing, threatening. Sometimes these arguments would last up to three days. I was hell for me, because I love him, but I have Parkinson’s Disease, and did not have the energy to withstand his abuse.

    Now I see this site and this video, and am very disturbed because this is an example of exactly how he acted towards me. Besides this, on the days between the arguments, we had wonderful times, and I truly felt that he loved me. If this were the case, that he has this disorder, is there any way he can become well? I married my husband because I love him, but am now in the process of divorcing him. He lies about me to my friends and his friends and to his lawyer. He lies to his family and to the police to make me look bad. I have spent three months in a safe house because he really skared mee. If only he would get help,but as it is, he blames everything on me, and says that I am the one that needs help. What can I do?

  22. December 8th, 2013 at 03:03 | #25

    I disagree with this being about someone with BPD. I am a DBT skills training and life coach who has suffered and recovered and I can tell you I work with a lot of people, there spouses and families. This behavior is descriptive of someone with NPD. I am a kind and giving person who would never talk to anyone that way and never have. In this film. The female’s voice is calm and monotone. That is not at all what happens when someone who has intense emotions gets triggered. To paint a population of people who are suffering more from stigma than anything as cold and manipulative with no empathy for others is unjust and completely inaccurate. Some of the most wonderful people I have ever met have BPD and I count myself in that group. You’re the one that has the diagnosis wrong. This woman is either a narcissist or a sociopath. There are too many ill informed people out there and you are one of them. Adding to the ignorance and to the pain of people who are hurting is probably not a great thing to do with your time.

  23. December 8th, 2013 at 03:14 | #26

    @ Mary
    Hi Mary, There are a lot of ignorant comments on this feed. You are absolutely correct in saying that BPD is a narcissist or a sociopath. There is a portion of people with BPD who also have NPD but they are not the same at all. Even saying that people with BPD are manipulative is an absolutely ignorant statement. Marsha Linehan herself refutes that mightily in her writings. She is the brilliant researcher who developed DBT for treatment of BPD. I just shake my head at how damaging people who think like this are. Compassion, acceptance, validation are all part of the healing process. Families and loved ones who learn and take responsibility for their part in the relationships see transformation. The people who believe this guy will never experience that. It’s a shame.

  24. December 8th, 2013 at 03:17 | #27

    @ Teresa
    Rob. you have a lot to learn my dear. I suggest you pick up Valerie Porr’s book on Healing From BPD, the family guide. Also, see the doc film Borderline_. You have this dead wrong and you are causing harm.

  1. June 23rd, 2009 at 22:19 | #1
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