Q. Dear Shari, I live with, and have two beautiful children with a Borderline personality female. She has convinced as many people as she can, that I am violent towards her, and she THRIVES off the attention and sympathy this gets her. My situation is completely undermined. She is regularly violent towards me. No one knows this. No one would want to believe me anyway! As she knows I'm dedicated to living with my children, so I can father/parent them daily, I am forced to live with the constant threat of having them taken away, and constant blackmail and fear! EVERYTHING must be her way only, or I lose contact with my kids. To show her power over my life, she took my children and left this Spring. I found love with someone normal. This sent her into a rage and she harassed me and my new partner until that relationship crumbled, due to her new threat that my children would be taken away to the other end of the country and I would play a very minor role in their lives, if I didn't live with her again. I now "live" with her and people believe that she, is giving me another chance! I am not allowed to disagree with her, or I am accused of "abuse." I am trapped and imprisoned by this seriously damaged, dysfunctional woman. I love my children dearly, and have to live with the injustice of being perceived by many people as a "wife beater" with a drink problem. If I get out, I lose my children. Most people think this woman is a wonderful human being and that I'm some kind of monster. I am a decent man!!!!! I am desperate for help for me and my kids!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
A. Reach into your trousers, locate your testicles, and stop agreeing to be a victim of your wife's abuses. This fear of losing your children is completely unfounded. File domestic abuse charges, consult a family law attorney, and learn your rights as your kids' father. If your wife is the sole support of this family, you may need to get a job--or you're likely to remain disempowered, pitiful and depressed. That will not be healthy for your children.
Q. Hi Shari - I've read some of your website content, and was drawn to the piece on Borderline women (the more p/c phrasing being, women with borderline personality traits or disorder). I wonder if you have anything written about men who have BPD? Your other topics seem well balanced and all-encompassing while this piece just feels somewhat one-sided and emotionally charged (for lack of better words). I wonder if you've had personal experience in this realm and are therefore touching only on the female manifestation of this disorder, or some very specific 'possible' attributes of a woman with BPD. You've not included any of the main symptoms from the DSM-V, which I also find a little disturbing, as most people reading this might think that you must be an expert--so if some of these scenarios have occurred in their lives, their wife or partner must have BPD! I feel you're doing a disservice by including such a slanted and one-sided viewpoint of a very pervasive phenomena.
A. This issue can be more "pervasive" among females than males, because of childhood experiences detailed in my article. Included within the body of my text on Borderlines, is DSM-IV symptomology (the "DSM-V" is not slated for publication until 2011). This piece is "slanted," which is fully intended; its purpose is to educate and caution men about the dangers of entrapment by conception--hence the title, "BLACKMAILED INTO FATHERHOOD." It is not designed to be a catch-all for borderline pathology (I'm sure others have managed to do that already). Males tend to process information differently than females, and a direct/straightforward approach is generally more effective than beating around the bush (you should pardon the expression), particularly when infatuation inhibits capacity for rational thought. Having witnessed BPD in both genders, I've been working on a piece that illustrates how it presents in males--but it seems you may have overlooked my reference to this. The most typical experiences that men have shared with me about borderline disordered women (including their mothers), are highlighted in my article. There may be those who are too timid/ambivalent to go out on a limb for what they believe--but I'll gladly risk criticisms or projections to take a stand, as this is surely not a popularity contest. I'm simply gratified by the knowledge that there's a substantial number of men who've benefited from this material, and that's good enough for me.
Q. Dear Shari, I'm currently serving in the USAF overseas in Portugal. I've been married for 5 years and have three little girls. I'm currently going through a horrible time--my wife left with our youngest baby about 8 weeks ago, and left our other 2 girls with me. I am in a custody battle that I think I can win. My wife has agreed to my terms, as she's giving me the girls during the school year, and she gets them Christmas and summer. What's funny though, is I try to move on and not speak to her much, but she calls all the time. She talks to the girls to say hi, but sometimes she calls late, when she knows they're asleep. She keeps playing games with my head. She tells me that I am her best friend and she's sorry for what she did. She fell in love with another man at our last duty assignment, and moved with him in California. She had this affair the whole time she was pregnant with our third child. Anyway, she wants to come out here in 2 weeks to see the girls and bring the baby back here to stay with her sisters. I told her that was fine, but then she started saying weird stuff like she doesn't think she can be in the same house with me without having sex. That our sex life was "great," and that she can't wait to see me again! Then she calls other days and says, "did you start the divorce papers yet?" I don't get her! She's willing to give up her children for this guy, but she says that when she comes to see the girls, she wants to cook dinner, take them to the park and go out as a family! When I talk about my current life she gets upset. I get out more often now, and have more fun. I take the girls to church and we do more things together than before. I have a woman friend back home in Philadelphia and we're not sleeping together, but we've gone on a few dates. We talk a lot on the phone and she's really helped me to get through this bad time. My wife gets so upset she cries her eyes out, and asks me how can I talk to another woman "when we are still married." She tries to make me feel guilty for moving on with my life, I guess. I tell her that I didn't leave, SHE did--and that I am trying to move on. The truth is, I love the girl so much that I still look at pictures of her, and talk to her like we were never separated. I miss her so much and don't know what to do. On one hand, she says she loves me and misses me, but then she'll say things like can I have the vacuum or the TV when we get divorced! I can't understand her behavior at all, so maybe you could shed some light on this difficult situation. Thank you ma'am. SSgt USAF
A. Dear Staff Sergeant, stories like yours are nothing short of heartbreaking. Your wife sounds like a deeply troubled woman who's extremely unstable. She has already done irreparable emotional damage to your daughters by abandoning them, and this leads to serious trust issues in their future (adult) relationships. Get professional counseling/support for your situation, which will help center you, and (therefore) assist your children. Your friend in Philadelphia sounds like a good woman who cares about you, but these issues present a greater burden than a developing relationship should have to carry. Your military rank grants you leadership responsibility, and this should serve you personally as well. Set very firm limits and boundaries for your wife, as she's obviously incapable of doing this for herself. Let her know when it's acceptable to call the girls, and when it isn't. If she doesn't honor your wishes, turn the phone ringers off at a designated hour each night. Screen your calls and continue limiting your conversations/contact with her unless you have a pressing need to speak about the children's welfare. Let her know that you expect her to make alternate lodging arrangements outside your home if/when she visits, and there will be no sex between you. This will be less confusing/disturbing for your daughters, and save you additional betrayal and pain. Your wife's ongoing come here/go away tactics reflect typical Borderline Personality behavior. This is partly how she manipulates/controlsyou and the relationship! Her hot/cold interactions feel confusing, because you can't relate to this dynamic, and that's a healthy sign! Given the circumstances you've described, it may be wise to do paternity testing in relation to your baby girl. I recommend you read my piece, DO YOU LOVE TO BE NEEDED... for further insight as to why you remain captivated, despite this woman's mishandling of you and your kids! Parenting a child in a loving, healthy manner is the MOST important job there is. In my view, your wife has surrendered this role, and abused her privilege to mother your children. Best of luck in your custody hearing!
Q. Shari, I was "blackmailed into fatherhood" years ago by a woman I never married. My 11 year old son lives out of town with his mother, but I visit him often, am very involved in his life, and we have a close and loving relationship. During a recent visit with him, we touched on some things that he absolutely didn't want to talk about (custody matters, his mom & I with regard to money issues, etc.). At one point he said, "you were able to build a house for yourself." This really pissed me off, and I commented that his (now married) mom was "able to not have to work" (due to my financial contributions). I don't think I should have let my emotions get the better of me--but I feel like I need to put my feelings out there, as opposed to swallowing 'em and making myself sick (or heavier!). My question is, should I try and talk about this type of thing with him or should I drop it? When I left him at school that day, he just turned and walked away from me. He's never done this, but he's growing up a bit. Is it appropriate to attempt to talk about this stuff with him when he won't acknowledge anything, and even gets upset at my broaching the subject? I realize that this is not a simple yes or no question, but if I completely drop it, is that a better or worse course to take, as opposed to forcing him to listen to me try and address this issue?
A. I'm aware of how 'lit up' this kind of thing can make you feel (outraged, invalidated, frustrated, defensive, etc.) and all your emotions are completely appropriate! Navigating this terrain with someone so young depends on whether he broaches the topic or not. I think adult discussions should staybetween adults--otherwise, a child gets caught in the middle and becomes the instrument of torture used by his/her parents. Women seem especially adept at using their children as weaponry toward their ex-spouses or lovers, particularly if there are borderline characteristics present! Parental Alienation Syndrome, or PAS is very common among enmeshed/overly attached mothers, or emotionally uneven women who are punishing and vindictive. If your soninitiated this dialogue, you can respond in a number of ways that address his specific concerns; but remember that (for now) he lives with his mother, and he's not only torn emotionally (between the two of you), but is constantlyexposed to her biases and vengeance. Think of this as brainwashing. He'll likely be able to accommodate a more balanced view of these issues as he matures--but at present, put the conversation aside, but not the feelings. It's perfectly acceptable to let your son know how uncomfortable/hurtful it is for you when his comments seem generated by his mother, and only reflect half the picture. Convey your hope that one day he might feel curious, and be"open to learning more" about this situation. Leave it at that.
Q. Dear Shari, I wrote you before about my situation. My wife came home and brought the baby back here. We had a great time while she was here. I asked her a lot of questions about everything that happened, and she told me that was ok. We slept in the same bed while she was here and had a lot of intimate time together. We also had sex. She told me that she still loves me, but she doesn't think I will trust her anymore. I asked her to stay and she said she couldn't. I asked her why, and she told me she was pregnant again, but this time with the other man's baby! I was shocked but didn't get upset. She asked me if this changes how I feel about her, and I said no. I don't know anymore what she wants, so I'm letting go. It's going to be hard though, because every time I do, she gives me false hope. What should I do--I am really confused about all of this. I know I need to be strong for my babies, but I sometimes feel like I can't. I get overwhelmed with all of this drama and just shut down. I even told her that if she would come back, I would help her raise that child too. I don't know anymore. I don't think she loves me--I just think she's afraid that if she tells me that, I won't do things for her anymore or be her friend, or I might hate her for all she's putting us through! Before she left she told me that there was a good chance for us to be together again, but I think this is her way of holding on to me, just in case it doesn't work out with this (other) guy. I wish you could give me some more advice on this matter. Thank you. SSgt USAF
A. Dear Sir; I've been hoping you'd save yourself from this tormenting (and predictable) outcome! More advice concerning your situation would only be redundant/repetitive. I strongly recommend that you re-read my original reply & suggestions nightly for 21 consecutive days, until these concepts begin to take hold within you. Take that lid off your feelings, allow yourself to get upset/angry, and start trusting the impressions you've shared with me, as they appear valid/accurate. REMEMBER: No matter what your heart (or any other part of your anatomy) tells you, your instincts are your built-in survival guide, and they'll never lie to you!
Q. In reference to your article, BLACKMAILED INTO FATHERHOOD; how does a man adjust to the serious emotional and financial consequences of this? We never had what I consider a 'relationship.' She clearly didn't know who I was, my dreams and ambitions, or if so, certainly didn't have any respect for me. When I realized what was happening, it was already too late. You couldn't have timed the conception any better. After copulating, I asked her where she was in her cycle and when she told me, I was blown away!! I asked "what are you doing!!??" and asked her to shower and "clean up." She refused. The woman even stood up in court (paternity suit) and said, "I wanted to have a child and not get married." I'd always been taught not to harm people with my actions. To have someone "steal" this from me is a very deep wound that I struggle with. The feelings I have are often hopeless and suicidal. Having studied reproductive endocrinology, how could I have been so naïve?? It's been 13 years, and I never made contact with her after court. I felt so ripped off, on a spiritual level. Why do we prevent forced parentage on women, but allow it on men? I have married (since then) and have a wonderful wife and 2 beautiful children, but sadly, they must remain 2nd class behind the requirements of child support! I've never ever been able to spend as much on them as on the illegitimate child. Even when I lost my job (due to downsizing NOT performance) I couldn't get the support orders lowered for 10 months. WE HAD NO MONEY, AND SHE COULDN'T CARE LESS ABOUT THAT FACT!! My kids can starve for all the state cares! The illegitimate child has more rights and security than my legitimate family! As it turns out, after she was done fleecing me (13 years ago) she ran right out and got pregnant with the 2nd man, and married (and then divorced). She has married yet again (3 times total) and has another child, and I found out recently that "their" monthly mortgage payment is exactly what she takes from me in child support! Doesn't "the problem" ever go away? Why don't men adopt the kids from previous relationships, thereby legitimizing them? I guess they don't have to. I've never seen the child, and have more of a relationship with the state than I ever had with her! I cannot come to call this child mine. Some "crimes" cannot be forgiven.
A. Thanks for sharing your story, so that other men might avoid this trauma. While neither personal integrity nor naïvete are gender specific traits, most men are unaware of how vulnerable they really are, when responding to their most natural/primal urges. I've heard numerous stories about females who've lied about where they were in their monthly cycle, perforated their own supply of prophylactics, or inserted the contents of discarded condoms, to impregnate themselves! Your reproductive education is of little use, when you're not thinking with your brain. It seems some of your rage is toward yourself, and this can bring about serious health risks and depression. It's best to address these feelings therapeutically, even at a free or low cost clinic. It would be helpful to take up a sport that allows you to whack the hell out of something; kick boxing, racket ball, anything! Beat your mattress with a baseball bat until you're exhausted--but get these aggressions out physically in a way that doesn't harm you or anyone else. I couldn't agree more with you about our legal system's abusive handling of these matters! But from where I sit, the most tragic aspects of these occurrences is that they broaden the chasm of trust between men and women, and bring even more children into this world, who are (on some level) unwanted. This perpetuates a cycle of pain and dysfunctionality that most people never try to resolve/heal for themselves, and it's passed from one generation to the next.
Q. I read the letter from a man who was tricked into fatherhood. He talked about how his two "beautiful children" were not getting enough financial support due to the "illegitimate child." I guess I am puzzled by your answer. He has three "beautiful children." This child didn't pick his/her mom. He has treated this child like an "it," and his rage was aimed a great deal at an innocent child. I understand his feelings of being used and betrayed, but after 13 years, isn't it time he at least gave the child a break? Holding on to a resentment like that is like drinking poison and waiting for his ex girlfriend to die. Someday, this child could come to see him, to come to terms with his/her life. Will he tell them to f*** off, and blame him/her for his misery? Will their half brother or sister blame him/her for the paucity of money growing up? Or maybe this child will finally get to know his/her father and younger half-siblings. I think you need to expand your answer beyond validation of his feelings, to include a little letting go.
A. Thanks for sharing your well-considered/valid comments and perspectives. Of all the entries in my forum, this one appears to have special meaning for you, and I'm glad you've given yourself license to express these feelings. While my answers can always be more comprehensive in scope, I try to limit each response to the matter in question. I do not attempt to tell someone how they should live their life--or shame them, like "Dr. Laura" (whom it seems has borderline features), but rather offer a road map for surmounting an issue, along with some insight and compassion. Rest assured, a lot of thought/consideration (on many levels) goes into my replies. In terms of the entry you've referenced, this fellow was already sitting with plenty of self-judgment, which (to the trained eye/mind) was palpable. He didn't need me to judge him further, nor point out consequences he might face as a result of his choices. With solid professional help, his position on this issue could very well shift, but this must still be his decision.
Q. Dear Dr. Schreiber, I found your article (DO YOU LOVE TO BE NEEDED, OR NEED TO BE LOVED?) interesting. While recovering from a head injury during a vulnerable time in my life, I became involved with an abusive woman. I was in a wheelchair or using a walker for part of this time, and needed assistance with transportation and daily living--some of which she provided, but at a horrible price. Once a month she'd explode violently and either throw me out of her apartment, leave me on the side of the road, or in some way tear me down by saying "you're a bum, no woman would ever want you" or "you're undate-able." She was addicted to internet dating during our relationship, and slept with many strangers without protection, caught an STD, got into a car wreck and let her life fall apart when we separated for a few months last summer. Of course, I was there to repair the damage--even dragging her to the doctor for treatment of the STD. I did have one condition; that she seek mental health care. The relationship ended when she brutally beat and stabbed me, after I explained I could not continue seeing her until she was in a therapeutic setting (advice I received from a local psychologist after discussing my situation). My question is simple; do men who are "Mr. fix it" types tend to repeat the same mistake by getting into relationships with women who are verbally, physically or emotionally abusive? If so, do they also try and fix any problems the abuser has (regardless of the cost) i.e. bailing them out of jail after a domestic violence incident where she beat him? Is this all my fault?
A. Dear Sir, rescuing tendencies and tolerance for abuse are related issues; both are tied to not feeling intrinsically worthy and lovable. Our romantic choices are directly influenced by our early relational experiences with our parents; we subconsciously gravitate to what feels familiar or like "coming home," regardless of whether those experiences were pleasurable or painful.Without having been exposed to some kind of childhood abuse or neglect, you would not be drawn to these kinds of individuals, or be able/willing to tolerate being there for any length of time. My article speaks to the issues underlying these compulsions. It is not your fault that you were abused by this woman, but it seems these elements are very much alive in you, and likely to repeat. My piece on borderline disordered women may provide you with considerably more insight, and a therapist who treats core trauma would be very helpful. I'm not a "doctor," but thanks anyway. [More letters like this are archived here.]
Q. I am very impressed with your article on borderline women and men who love them. I was recently with a woman who's (apparently) a Borderline, and you could not be more exact on the description! I'm deeply in love with her and talk to her still. After I fell head over heels with her I learned of this problem, and I thought I could help her. I devoted everything to helping her, but she doesn't believe she has a problem. I fully realize this doesn't help with my (bipolar) issues at all. I know enough about all this to know better, but...! Even after meeting another (wonderful) woman, as your article says; I am addicted to my ex like a bad drug!
A. Loving a Borderline is an emotional roller coaster ride, even without a mood disorder! I suspect that trying to fix your ex-girlfriend's problems gave you temporary relief from issues that plague you. Fixing another's problems can give us a sense of empowerment, especially when we're feeling impotent about resolving our own; the need to escape your inner pain or emptiness can drive the "addictive" part of this attraction. Your compulsions to help/fix this woman are influenced by early dynamics with your mother (her needs very likely took precedence over yours). Bipolar Disorder can be caused by deficits in nurturant care/attention during infancy. You could have grown up confusing painful yearning (for closeness) with loving, and now believe; "if it doesn't HURT, it must not be Love!" This is where the deepest aspect of your pain resides, and it would greatly serve you to explore this issue therapeutically. Depression is never "just a chemical imbalance."
Q. Shari, your article on borderline women has been very illuminating. It's really helped me understand why certain (past) relationships were so difficult! I've been re-reading this piece lately in reference to a current media event, and not only has it changed my perspective on the situation, I can totally identify with it! Thank you for this--but why does the article seem different than before, or stuff seems moved around since I last read it?
A. I'm glad you've found this piece helpful, and that you've asked about this issue. I'm a perfectionist of sorts (it's one of my tragic flaws). I've recently expanded the borderline article, but my continuing challenge is fitting new elements into existing pieces in such a way that the information still flows, and remains cohesive. I do my best, but sometimes during a re-read, I'll decide that a paragraph should be placed somewhere else, or a thought should be made clearer/easier to assimilate. Online publishing (thankfully) makes this possible, so the material can grow, rather than remain stagnant. Your confusion over this is completely warranted. Sorry 'bout that!
Q. I've been in a very conflictual relationship for about a year. I love this woman, but it seems like no matter what I do for her, she's never happy. We sometimes have wonderful, close times together that feel great--but then she gets mad about something that seems very minor, and we're fighting again! I'm exhausted by these conflicts and have suggested going our separate ways, but she cries hysterically, and says she wouldn't want to "go on living" without me. This part's pretty scary. I really want to make this relationship work, but I think I've probably been going about it all wrong. Can you recommend some books that'll help me get on track?
A. You cannot make another person "happy," and it's not your responsibility! A functional relationship requires two people who are actively committed to making it work. In this one, it looks like you're damned if you do (stay) and damned if you don't. Under these circumstances, it seems your girlfriend's thinly veiled suicide threats are intended to manipulate your feelings and behavior; this is emotional blackmail. Couple's counseling might help, but despite your good intentions, I think you could have difficulty changing this relationship dynamic. You'll find useful information/insights in this article that can help you make more sense of these experiences, and determine your next course of action.
Q. Shari, in your article about borderlines, you say; "Borderline women are typically attracted to narcissistic men, and vice-versa." I need to know more about why this happens (if it really does). Is it that people with personality disorders somehow just gravitate to each other?
A. Borderlines and Narcissists are both afraid of closeness and attachment. Psychoanalytic theory suggests this is prompted by experiences in the first year of life, when trust should be established within the mother/infant bond. When this doesn't occur, one grows up with considerable ambivalence about getting close to another, because it feels emotionally threatening. People with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorders are poorly equipped to handle real intimacy, which involves allowing oneself to need, and (therefore) feel vulnerable--hence, 'unavailable' partners (or those we cannot fully love) are consistently chosen, to avert abandonment concerns. Popular television series like Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy perfectly illustrate this issue. Did you catch the 2007 season's final episode of Grey's? Derek (Dr. McDreamy) openly declares himself to Meredith, hoping she'll (finally) stop running away; he tells her she's the love of his life and says, "I'm in this!" She deflects his pronouncements with chatter about helping Cristina get married (and we saw how that went). Izzie's declared she's "in love" with poor George, because she can't have him (it's safe!), and have you noticed that the more he clings to his marriage and separates from Izzie, the more she pursues him? Typical borderline reaction! These story lines make for tantalizing TV; we stay fascinated week to week, because we're hoping our beloved characters will make solid/lasting connections--but of course, they never do! Alas, art imitates life. As for the 2008 two-hour Grey's finale, it was apparent that Alex's Rebecca had borderline issues, when she showed up "pregnant." His intense rescuing compulsions were subconsciously driven by unresolved abandonment concerns from childhood (his mother likely had Borderline traits as well). Since (as a kid) he couldn't save Mom, his reflexive need to 'normalize' Rebecca's symptoms and save her, were practically inevitable. These shows are entertaining and I'm a big fan, but watching them is often like reading a clinical primer on personality disorders. As for the Borderline/Narcissist attraction, here's an excerpt from my article: A borderline disordered female has the remarkable ability to perfectly mirror her partner's attributes (and fuel his grandiosity), without invoking his engulfment fears. Her alternate loving/rejecting patterns of relating allow him to come close (but not too close), and nearly always leave him wanting more; this of course, gratifies her need to manipulate his desire, and accommodates his need to maintain 'safe' emotional proximity.
Q. Hi Shari, I loved your online article about how women with Borderline Personality Disorder will force a man into being the father of a child he doesn't want. This very thing happened to me in 1989, but I didn't know that the woman had a borderline problem or that she "tricked me" in order to become pregnant, because she was terrified of abandonment. In fact, I didn't start putting the pieces together until the mid 1990's. She did vilify me in the mind of my daughter, whom I love and have actually raised since 2001, after social services took her away from her mother and (without my knowledge) put her in foster care. This woman has had me jailed several times with horrendous, character-crushing lies (of course she drops the charges as soon as she sees that she's alienated herself), and destroyed my business--I had an income of $3,000 per week in 1992. I still have the letter she wrote, telling me she was going to ruin my business "and your good name," and by god, she did it! She's extremely smart, holds a degree in mathematics, and fits your Borderline profile precisely. My question: How can I help bring this problem of "forced fatherhood" to the attention of legislators? Will we ever have a chance against such criminal women? I think it's an outrage (I am outraged!), and it seems that in our allegedly "enlightened times," lawmakers would try to put a stop to what is clearly felonious behavior. Also, do you think there's anything I can do with that letter she wrote threatening to ruin me, my business and my good name? It's in her handwriting, she cannot deny writing it, and her obvious purpose is revenge (because I wouldn't marry her)! I know it's too late to take legal action, but couldn't I post the letter somewhere--like on a website? There's NOTHING I'd like more, than to show the people of my small town what this woman did to me. LW
A. Dear Sir, explore whether the editor of your town's local paper will print your story in relation to my article (they can contact me for a release). Email or send a copy of your letter (and perhaps hers) to any/all government legislators you think should become more aware of this problem--and feel free to reference my piece on this topic. There are various other sites on the internet that are sensitive to this issue--here's another; www.dahmw.org. While your outrage is completely understandable, it seems you'd benefit from (safely) discharging some of your anger with physical exertion; running, handball or batting practice, whacking your mattress with a belt or bat, etc.