Coping with Divorcing a Person with Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder
Women and Divorce
Wendi Schuller
Author of
The Global Guide to Divorce

Mediation and collaborative divorces have been referred to as “more friendly” with a goal to keep the door open to having a relationship post-divorce.

Some people who divorced individuals with personality disorders, felt safer in the court room with a judge presiding.

This is particularly true with spouses who have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

People with BPD have a fear of abandonment which can become worse with divorce. They have poor and unstable interpersonal relationships. They tend to put someone up on a pedestal and revere them.

When that person does something not liked, they become bitterly despised. People are categorized as being wonderful or not worthy of their adoration.

Folks with BPD have overly intense emotions which fluctuate vastly. They are controlling and this includes controlling communication between people they know. BPD people are threatened by a partner’s success so criticize in order to tear them down in the belief it will keep them dependent and prevent abandonment (divorce).

Their impulsive behaviour – affairs, drug use, and alcoholism may be a factor in their partner wanting out of the relationship.

People with BPD have a sense of emptiness with a distorted self-image. When married, one may have tip-toed around them to avoid activating the BPD spouse’s intense anger. The departing spouse’s self-esteem may be low after spending time with this judgemental person.

Ways to get through divorce from a spouse with Borderline Personality Disorder include having clear boundaries. You can send a strong message that all communication goes to your solicitor and not to you.  Have consequences if boundaries are violated.

coping with divorcing Borderline Personality DisorderFollow through with consequences, such as blocking their calls and e-mails or changing your phone number. Instruct staff at work not to put those calls through to you or get a restraining order.

One has to get grounded when starting divorce. Get calm in order to stay focused, as the spouse with BPD will attempt to raise your anxiety.

Do not rise to the bait or react to their ploys. Let your barrister or solicitor be the filter that keeps manipulation away from you and deals with it impassively. They get in power struggles even over little issues, so do not get in a battle.

Several men I interviewed advised others to let the spouse with BPD feel that they are winning, by giving up more personal property and instead concentrate on the big ticket items. Turn over meticulous documents on finances, particularly showing what you owned before marriage, to keep emotion out of the dealings.

Spouses with Borderline Personality Disorder can bump up your legal costs by dragging out the divorce proceedings. They may refuse to hand over personal property that is deemed yours.

Some solicitors send a paralegal to oversee the actual packing up of their client’s personal property. This prevents any interactions of their client with the spouse with BPD. They may try to hang on to you by throwing a spanner in the works whenever possible such as by causing delays with submitting needed records. Leave emotion out and keep to your boundaries.

When there are children in the marriage, safeguards need to be put into place. Kids can be used as pawns to punish the spouse who is departing.

Careful documentation is helpful to show neglect, parental alienation or other parenting problems. There may be a formal custody evaluation performed with interviewing other adults in the kids’ lives to determine the percentage of shared care for each parent.

Post-divorce, keep records of communication from the parent with BPD. A person with BPD may be mandated to get therapy and can turn their lives around. People who put the effort into therapy can be good parents and marriage partners.

Divorce with spouses with Borderline Personality Disorder who are not in treatment, can a nightmare. Ask potential divorce professionals if they are experienced in dealing with this type of person and what type of divorce that they recommend.

The people I talked with had Clean Breaks with former partners with Borderline Personality Disorder and had no communication with them afterwards.

About Wendi

Wendi Schuller is a nurse, hypnotherapist and is certified in Neuro-linguistic Programing (NLP).

Her most recent book is The Global Guide to Divorce and she has over 200 published articles.

She is a guest on radio programs in the US and UK. Her website is globalguidetodivorce.com.

4 Comments

  1. Hi Wendy,
    I found that your article is pretty spot on. I’ve been with my wife for 10 years. Her entire family suffers from some sort of mental illness. My wife was diagnoised with BPD a few years back and I have witnessed some pretty scary situations. I also fell out of love because of it, I’m sure of it. But I never wanted to leave her to try and figure this mess out herself. She’s been through multiple types of therapy. CBT therapy twice and still sees a therapist regularly, so it’s not like she’s not putting in the work and effort. It just doesn’t end though. Still getting phone calls, “she left to go home early, says she has a loaded gun” I will always deal with this. I just don’t want to anymore. I’m spent. But her honest to goodness fear of abandonment keeps me there. I know I should probably sit in on a session with her. I’ve been invited. I just haven’t. I really would just prefer to figure out how to get out. I hate to give up, it’s so unfair for many reasons.

  2. Just an appalling article. The ‘BPD’ label is highly contested. It has no scientific reliability or validity. It’s so called ‘criteria’ are not descriptions of traits nor are they remotely objective. The overwhelming majority of women who have this label imposed on them are victims of trauma and their natural trauma reactions are not a ‘disorder’. This label is used both to victim blame and silence. Homosexuality was evidence of a ‘disordered personality’ forty years ago. Gay rights activists shamed psychiatry into removing it from the DSM. (A series of value judgements are not medical science).Hopefully sooner rather than later this entirely subjective misogynistic smear will also go. To be clear rape victims and abuse survivors are traumatised not ‘PD’. Shame on MHS staff for supporting this dehumanising label.

    • This article was based on a person who was clinically diagnosed. These tips are from several people who divorced spouses who had that diagnosis and what helped them. This article is specifically tied to that diagnosis and not to other cases. I also got much information when attending a 3 day conference solely on this topic. There is a billable code which is 2017/18 ICD-10-CM Diagnosis Code F60.3 Borderline personality disorder. Your may want to contact the American Psychiatric Association and express your thoughts to them on their diagnosis.

    • Lynn, I want to commend you for being supportive and understanding of your wife’s BPD. It sounds like you have done all that you can in a difficult circumstance. Sometimes there comes a point where we have to leave a situation to save ourselves, and that you have come to that point. When leaving a person with BPD, boundaries are crucial. It may be a good idea to go to a session with the therapist and your wife. Make it clear to the therapist that you are leaving and the session is about setting up these boundaries and making the split as smooth as possible. The therapist will be on board after the break up, to help reinforce these boundaries to your former wife. You may want to obtain legal advice in case things become messy. I am concerned about her threats of a loaded gun, and a solicitor may have to step in if the situation becomes dangerous to your safety. Lynn, I suggest that you have a support system of friends and family to help you get through this. Your wife has a therapist to help her deal with abandonment issues, etc.. Please take care of yourself, get some healing and make time in your schedule for fun and relaxation.

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