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Discussion Starter #1
I'm a bit dubious about some claims my wife has been making...and wouldn't mind some second opinions...

My wife claims that I need to learn how to leave conversations more gracefully.

Here's what usually happens...
W: Hey, I'm upset about blah...
H: Okay...listen, reflect...
W: And, also...blah...
H: Okay...listen, reflect...hey, it is about 10 PM, I have work tomorrow...how about we wrap this up or talk about this tomorrow...
W: Just one more thing...
H: Okay...listen reflect...done now?
W: And one more thing...
H: Okay...listen reflect...really done now.
W: NOOOO!!!! (Meltdown...)

For background, her take on it is that her parents had a similar dynamic - with her father raging at her mother because she didn't know how to properly sooth him. There's some truth to this.

My take on it is that her parents had a similar dynamic - with her father verbally and physically abusing her mother and that nothing the woman said would have gotten her out of those conversations. There's some truth to this also. I'm fairly conflict-adverse, which doesn't help.

I've noticed that...if I'm willing to spend three or four hours listening and reflecting and occasionally setting limits and am in a mood to listen...these conversations usually terminate reasonably gracefully.

I've also noticed that...if I'm not willing spend those three or four hours...these conversations usually degenerate into 3-4 hour meltdowns with my wife pacing about...screaming...and sobbing uncontrollably. I'm not wild about having our child hiding under the blankets from his mother. I sometimes drive elsewhere...and sometimes just go to sleep.

Option 1: Perhaps there is a magical phrase that would allow exit from these endless monologues. That'd be nice. I'm skeptical. Mostly, her family responds with threats, yelling, and beatings. Those do calm her.
Option 1a: Perhaps, at the first sign of disrespecting my boundaries, I should just drive elsewhere and spend the night with our child. (Sorry, time for bed. You need to talk? Sorry, it is late. Bye. See you tomorrow.) If I keep a pretty early standard bedtime and we move somewhere where there's an easy alternate sleep location, this could be okay.
Option 2: I'm probably just about done with these relationship talks, and will be insisting that they progress by text or email. It is uncertain whether or not my wife is on board with this.

Which brings me to:
Option 3: I do love my wife. But, she's fairly unstable, kind of a PITA to live with, and these habits are pretty ingrained. So, I'm inclining towards encouraging her to visit her family overseas for an extended period, divorcing her, and insisting on sole custody. On the other hand, her therapist worries about the effect of losing his mother on our child. I also worry a bit because I suspect that she'll be in for a very, very hard life after I leave her. I'm not too wild about doing that to the mother of our child.

--Argyle

PS We've been through 5ish marriage counselors, she's made a lot of progress on the mental illness front, and things are improving to some extent. I may look for number 6.
 

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There is a huge gulf between option 1 and option 3. If you are really leaning seriously toward divorce, then the much smaller issue of how to end these conversations is exactly that, much smaller.

If you love her still & want to salvage things, the first thing to do is truly recognize that men and women say and understand things very differently in conversation. There is a lot of interesting and helpful work on this in the field of linguistics (google Deborah Tannen); many of the books that discuss this can actually help you break lifelong assumptions that keep you in a pattern that can range from feeling mildly quizzical to positively murderous. If you learn to recognize the different conversational assumptions and styles, this can help you to bridge the gap.

As a woman, I would also ask if your wife has any hormonal issues that impact this. Personally, I always got on hourlong jags, discussing my feelings and shrinking my husband's head when I was in a hormonal surge.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
I'm thinking of progressing through those options over the next ?6?ish months. I'll check out Deborah Tannen. I dunno though...she ended up fighting with all our MCs.

In terms of hormonal issues, there is an association, but it isn't particularly strong. She's moodier, but I can't predict well based on her cycle. I'd say that the endless R/S talks happen once or twice a week. Depending on whether or not I'm inclined to wait them out, they'll either peter off or transition over into fairly scary meltdowns.

Her diagnosis is BPD, but some therapists have hinted at either co-morbid NPD or autism. The strong association is that whenever she has career issues, I'm looking at a gigantic meltdown - probably over entirely different issues. We've tried a lot of psychiatric medications. They don't make much difference.

I'd be happier if she self-regulated, but I'm mostly concerned about the late night stuff when I don't have time to help her regulate. (We need to talk. Sorry - big presentation tomorrow - can we talk then? NOOOO!!! (8 hour meltdown) ...showing up to work visibly swaying and unprepared...driving elsewhere tends to result in showing up late to work and also cuts into prep time.

--Argyle
 

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As you add details, the situation sounds much more serious than your original post (and nothing reading Deborah Tannen will fix). It doesn't sound like there's a conversational etiquette or strategy that would help, since your wife clearly suffers from an organic disorder.

Since her overt complaint is that you don't leave conversations gracefully, one desperate possibility is to tell her that she pops them on you, that this is hard for you, and it would be more productive to actually pre-schedule talks. Tell her that you know you need to talk and you would like to essentially set up an appointment to do it, much the way you set meeting times at work; you can pre-set the length of the talk. Leaving the conversation then becomes a non-issue.

(Scheduling in this way actually works for children who are antsy in anticipation about something - it dials down the anxiety, since they know they will definitely get what they are anxious about & they can stop worrying about it.)

Of course, with her serious issues, hyperrational solutions may be moot.
 

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I've noticed that...if I'm willing to spend three or four hours listening and reflecting and occasionally setting limits and am in a mood to listen...these conversations usually terminate reasonably gracefully.
Wow. You must be a saint if you can stand listening to someone complain for that length of time.

Sorry, I don't really have any additional advice to add, I'd already be gone, or in jail for manslaughter or something.

Just wow.
 

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Since her overt complaint is that you don't leave conversations gracefully, one desperate possibility is to tell her that she pops them on you, that this is hard for you, and it would be more productive to actually pre-schedule talks. Tell her that you know you need to talk and you would like to essentially set up an appointment to do it, much the way you set meeting times at work; you can pre-set the length of the talk. Leaving the conversation then becomes a non-issue.

(Scheduling in this way actually works for children who are antsy in anticipation about something - it dials down the anxiety, since they know they will definitely get what they are anxious about & they can stop worrying about it.)
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:iagree:
Also when "scheduling" a time to talk, it might make it easier to deal with if you focus on one topic at a time. It sounds like she keeping launching into new topics ("and another thing...") and really, it might be more productive to deal with the issues one at a time. But I agree that setting a pre-determined time limit up front might make it easier.
 

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3-4 hours of conversation is just so OTT.

Sorry no help here but your post is of interest to me as my SO ex is BP and it is all new to me. Sounds like such a difficult life.
 

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Two options:
- hold her hug her and just say shhhh, shhh. That actually isn't short for shut up. It is short for: you are winding yourself into a frenzy. Note her talking is not calming herself. So get her to stop and hold her til you/she falls asleeo
- warn her that you will leave and not come back until you decide she is going to behave

Leaving at night returning predictably next day has limited impact. Leaving with a random return and letting her melt down a while should discourage.

I would offer 1 as her option and if she won't take it go to two.

This is hard on the child but better than the total separation you are considering.

Sleep deprivation is abusive. Abusive to you.
 

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I have clearly done this to my husband before, although not to this extreme. Here are some thoughts I had while reading this:

1.) Many times the conversation kept being propelled on my part when my husband acted indifferent/annoyed or tagged a stipulation onto his "participation" in the discussion. He wasn't participating because he was concerned about the things that bothered me - he just wanted the conversation to be OVER. Even before it began. While I perpetuated this dynamic, he also perpetuated from his end by really not giving a hoot about why I needed to talk, or better yet, that I really needed him to listen.

2.) His "participation" usually comprised of not looking at me - usually covering his eyes, actually; not responding AT ALL to what I said, (i.e. "You made a statement, not asked a question!"). Thus he was not conveying the "accepted" postures and attitudes of active listening, which we were taught in a Marriage class.

3.) Finally, he wasn't at all comforting to me. I know that I am supposed to be able to self-soothe now, but then I wanted him to comfort me and provide reassurance. Another note: many, many, many times before these "before bed" talks, I had tried to engage him throughout the day... Getting the same half-assed responses to my concerns. I never felt like my attempts were really acknowledged as important, more like I was being acknowledged as a nuisance, which made me feel even more insecure, and I would therefore try harder to get his reassurance... (I'm glad those days are over!!) :)

I've learned a lot in therapy and I think your wife could benefit from it too... Even better if you guys could go to MC together.

OP, I am not saying that you are like my husband at all, (as you said, you "listened, reflected") but I do get the sense that your wife is feeling a lack of closure in your discussions, hence her complaint that you don't exit "gracefully". Have you ever asked her what it means (to her) to exit gracefully? Maybe if you summarized the things she brought up for her she could feel like you really listened and cared?

Despite your frustration, I don't think just driving away is going to help. She'll still be there when you get back, and 10 thousand times more wired. (I know because my husband did this a time or two and I lost it).

I like MEM's suggestion of holding her... So many times I had wanted my husband to just do that... Just put his arms around me and saying he loved me - WITHOUT mentioning the time, schedules, pending activities. I just wanted him to hold me and let me be the one to break that hold when I felt soothed. (Is that controlling?) Of course, my behavior didn't make him feel very affectionate towards me, lol.

I wish you luck in dealing with this, and the last thing I would add is to have compassion for your wife... It clearly sounds like she is suffering and hurting a great deal... Even if it's just "perceived" hurt... It's still very real to her.
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What you need desperately are some strong boundaries. It's not okay that she is requiring you to be her personal unpaid therapist. And furthermore even therapists only talk to patients for an hour at a time. 3-4 hours of this is too much for anyone.

This is abusive to you. You're losing sleep, energy, and having the life sucked out of you. Where are you in all this? What about your needs? But this isn't on her it's on you for allowing it to happen.

You do train people how to treat you.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
@alte/leah
Interesting suggestions. I'm a bit dubious - I've tried pretty similar things and they mostly failed. Although, I may try a bit more emphasis. I'm not too comfortable showing emotion, but she does respond to cursing. I'm comfortable with cursing. Seems to relax her really. Words, not so much.
@froot
Um. Saints don't occasionally have fantasies involving figuring out where to leave the body.
@Holland
Regarding BPD, my advice to anyone...probably even my worst enemy...is...leave if you don't have children - just not worth it. Saner women are plentiful and easier to live with. However, many BPDs are more coherent than my wife. She has some sort of persistent communication issue. The 3-4 hour conversations when untriggered are not mandatory.
@MEM
Probably useful. She is usually mostly asking for reassurance. I've been a bit wary of hugging - she tends to have these violent claustrophobic reactions. I'll try this.
@Yin
I definitely don't always approach these R/S talks with a particularly cordial attitude. Still, there's a limit to how far I can change - if a roommate approached me at midnight on a weeknight needing to talk - I'd be fine with it once. Around the third time, I'd refuse. If they insisted, I'd start with a fist to the face and work my way around until they stopped moving. Listening in a fairly kind fashion, with internally gritted teeth, is about as gentle as I can manage. I probably should schedule time to talk more often, but she's really not very coherent or helpful with our child, so it isn't easy to carve out 4 hour blocks on a weekly basis.
My wife's improved noticeably in therapy. We've tried MC, but with limited success, the last 4 or 5 MCs ended with the MC either yelling at or refusing to speak to her. I am planning on looking for a 6th counselor soon.
You're absolutely right about the closure thing - she does want closure. She'd like a summary of the things she brought up, along with some sort of indication that I'd heard her and cared, a plan to meet again, and a written record of what she'd brought up.
Problem is that communication between us is sufficiently inefficient that getting closure averages about an hour. (Usually, expressing her concerns takes about 7 minutes. Then, another 5 minutes for a reflection (she has trouble understanding unless I basically parrot the whole thing - no new words) Then, she'll correct the reflection 2-3 times because she tends to say something different than she actually means - then tack on the summary, negotiate a plan, and write stuff down...so we're looking at about an hour on average, assuming no problems, for her to feel closure.
There are plenty of days where I don't have 60 minutes to spend on her. (Home 7ish, dinner 7-8, bath/child 8-9, child->sleep 9-10:30, Argyle->sleep 11, wake 6:30). I'm sure she picks up that I do begrudge that time, but her lengthy requests are a genuine PITA.
I'm perfectly capable of making allowances for her communication issues and being patient enough to get through a conversation with her.
I'm also perfectly capable of being patient with someone with emotional regulation issues, poor boundaries, and a tendency towards crisis.
However, being patient with someone with emotional regulation issues, poor boundaries, frequent crisis who also communicates so very inefficiently is a bit much for me. Oh well. Step by step.
Being sympathetic does help. She has a lot of fear and pain inside - a lot of it attached to her communication issues.
@Mavash
Realistically, trying really, really hard, she'll still take 3-4 hours to figure out something like the golden rule. I've kind of accepted that communicating with her takes longer than it would with a normal person. That isn't all her. Probably mostly though. I'm a patient guy, so that isn't a gigantic issue for me mostly. I should maybe be less patient and require that she start off with a written summary. I'm not sure how that works emotionally for women. 'Hey honey, you're incoherent, get out of my face and write up a summary instead of wasting my time babbling like a mental patient. We'll talk in 30 minutes if your summary makes sense.' I'm probably not the most sensitive guy on the planet. Maybe? 'Sweetheart, that sounds very important and I really want to hear you out, but I'm pretty tired and am having some trouble following what you're saying. I'm so sorry, but could you spend a couple of minutes just organizing your thoughts on a piece of paper? I'd hear you out either way, but I just think it might help me understand.'

OTOH, starting 3-4 hour conversations an hour before bedtime and melting down when she doesn't feel heard? And the low empathy which leads to meltdowns when I beg off due to other duties? That's a problem. I've been doing the driving off - and it helped a bunch in terms of training out abusive behavior, but has been less effective in terms of helping with meltdowns related to feeling ignored/abandoned. It's actually rough enough on her that it seemed to be training her to panic whenever she brought something up. Possibly not my concern. I could do the divorce thing - but I'm not sure about that yet.

On the bright side, one bit of progress is that she's agreed that, if we agree on a time limit, she'll start holding to that limit instead of immediately asking for a bit more time. It took a bit of time, but she eventually understood that people actually expect others to hold to the result of negotiations. If she holds to a 5-10 min limit, that'll be lovely. It seems that she always thought that it was okay to ask for more after coming to an agreement???? :confused:

--Argyle
 

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Well, the more you post the more horrific it sounds. You truly have my sympathy & you are a genuinely patient man. You must have some real love for her to handle this.

One last (again, desperate) suggestion is to actually task her with writing everything down. She can write down her thoughts beforehand and do the minutes of the meeting afterwards. If held to a strict time limit, it might cut down on all the head-shrinking back and forth.
 

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Argyle - I'm going to say this the nicest way that I can - you do seem a bit "rough around the edges" and it's possible that your edginess could be helping to perpetuate the cycle...

I know that you are genuinely frustrated with her and that she probably isn't at all very easy to deal with. However, I do know from my experience, that I WOULD bring up these kinds of talks with my husband and it WOULD "set me off" the more agitated, annoyed, angry and snarky he became. Then, INSTEAD of talking about what I originally wanted to talk about, I'd feel compelled to mention that I thought he was being crude, insensitive, wasn't listening/didn't care... And the result was always the same... I'd get more and more emotional and the talk would last longer than need be.

Have compassion for her, look inside yourself to see that she trusts you with her feelings and her heart, and in HER heart, she KNOWS she's been difficult and is having a hard time finding a middle ground with you.

I know it's hard to try and approach things in a different light - especially when the person you're approaching wants to play the same patterns out... I was terribly frustrated when I began to look at myself in my situation and try new ways to communicate, to articulate my feelings, and to have compassion for my husband... Only to have him STILL be crude, insensitive and snarky. I'm willing to bet it would be equally hard for you to do this for your wife, but it can be done. You DO have to learn to set boundaries with her, because she's used to playing out patterns she's familiar with. You DO have to stand by your new "internal" promise to not let her behaviors make you go back into your previous ways of dealing with her.

She doesn't want any of this pain and suffering anymore than you do - but like you, she is kind of "stuck" on how to deal with it.

The things you mentioned about her results with the different counselors struck me - makes me think that she is antagonistic and argumentative... If that is true I can only imagine how much more difficult she is to soothe and to relate to.

Yes, find a 6th - but make sure they are a qualified therapist. If you can find one that has experience with BPD and marriage therapy, even better. My experience with a marriage "counselor" was that she was under-qualified to deal with a bunch of underlying personality issues - for both me and my husband.

I wish you luck, and know that if you ever want to PM me feel free. I'm on here all hours of the day and night (new baby - I never sleep lol) and I can relate to some of what you describe your wife as being.

I hope that I've helped... :)
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Discussion Starter #14
@alte
I'll give this a shot.
@Yin
You're absolutely correct. There is a feedback cycle. I do try to tamp it down and empathize with her, but this is easier at 10 AM than 11 PM. And, I am rough around the edges. I prefer a blunt, judgmental communication style focuses on solving problems instead of wasting time on those messy emotional thingys. Something your average woman absolutely adores. :rolleyes: Since I'm married, I try to avoid that style, but sometimes that comes across as fake. Still, 'I can really see you're hurting...blah...' is probably better than...'Be quiet. You've got a real problem there. So, you're f*king up left and right. Here's what you do instead.' It'd probably help if I felt sympathetic towards her complaints - but - the way I was raised - children who break smallish bones should suck it up - hard to change that attitude. (Btw, using unsplinted breaks just sucks. They tend to swell up a bunch and hurt like blazes. Sprains are annoying too. I really do recommend sending your kids to the doctor.)

She's definitely antagonistic and argumentative. That annoyed the counselors. However, the ones with BPD experience were able to handle that part. The part that made them chew nails was really the communication issues, coupled with a tendency to talk over the counselor without hearing them. They tended to see her inability to understand as deliberate - sometimes it was, but mostly not. (And a side helping of mostly having been divorced under rather easier circumstances.)

Dunno. Our last 3 MCs were reasonably qualified (experienced PhDs - the last definitely had BPD experience). I'm currently looking for a MC with experience with autism. Y'know, I kind of have a handle on the emotional issues, I'm just wondering if there is a better way of handling the communication. So far, the books on Asperger's in R/S have helped as much as anything else. (Simple, logical communications, avoiding communication during meltdown)

--Argyle
 

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@alte
I'll give this a shot.
@Yin
You're absolutely correct. There is a feedback cycle. I do try to tamp it down and empathize with her, but this is easier at 10 AM than 11 PM.
Try INITIATING, and try it at a earlier time - preferably when you are most able to be "sweet" and "kind". You may not completely understand WHY she is emotional and hurt, but you can certainly recognize it and try to be a tad softer. :)


And, I am rough around the edges. I prefer a blunt, judgmental communication style focuses on solving problems instead of wasting time on those messy emotional thingys.
Nothing wrong with this - most people tend to see it as a more productive communication style. However, if you insist on being "blunt" you probably aren't going to convince her to be less emotional in response. Hence, the cycle will continue.


sometimes that comes across as fake.
This is definitely something that used to set me off with my husband. Some people say to "fake it until you make it" but I don't think that would be good in your situation - it's likely to make her feel uncared for and possibly even mocked. You should be genuine and sincere the best way you can.



'I can really see you're hurting...blah...'
This is a great start... :)


the way I was raised - children who break smallish bones should suck it up - hard to change that attitude.
Not to sound challenging, but what if someone were to tell you to adopt the same attitude in your current situation? Just to suck it up? You probably wouldn't like that very much since you want answers and you want things to improve. Likewise, if you are taking this tone with her she's probably feeling invalidated... Worse... She'll probably try harder to get you to understand... Thus, more talking, more emotion, more frustration for both of you. Just a thought...

She's definitely antagonistic and argumentative... really the communication issues, coupled with a tendency to talk over the counselor without hearing them.
Is she learning interpersonal communication skills in therapy? I know this kind of thing is incredibly frustrating and if she does it with counselors, she surely does this to you, and I know firsthand how intensely irritating this is. (My husband's communication skills are similar - interrupting, not paying attention, blame-shifting, etc.) This is a hard thing to overcome but the best suggestion I have is to demonstrate proper interpersonal communications (i.e. - don't interrupt her, actively listen with her, etc.) And also set boundaries such as, "I am going to discontinue the conversation if you are going to interrupt me". Just an example. If you do discontinue it, try coming back to it (the conversation with her) in about 15 minutes and starting again. The tricky thing here is to not stone-wall or ignore her if she persists in the conversation after you've already discontinued it. Stone-walling and ignoring someone is generally considered "emotional abuse" so I would just add onto the previous statement, "We are going to take a 15 minute time-out. At that time we can try again."

I'm currently looking for a MC with experience with autism.
A few questions about your previous MCs... Why were there so many? How long did you go? (To each of them? Combined?) Why did you stop going? Why did the number of MCs add up like that, instead of just going to one?

As for autism... I don't know if she seems autistic, but you know her better than we do. What are some of the symptoms you think she has?

There's another thing you can look at... Histrionic Personality. See if the symptoms fit more or less, although from what I understand, some therapists don't bother with the actual diagnosis as much as they focus on the different symptoms. I am not sure if autism is treated the same way, but I imagine so...

You're also going to have to explain to me what "R/S" is... LoL!! :)
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I should initiate more...but...for 4 hours...and given that she typically sleeps until noon...the open times are weekends from 12-8 - where she'd rather go somewhere than talk. Even then, I'm happier with a babysitter - as the meltdowns tend to scare our child.

I've been avoiding bluntness, but I suspect that comes off as fake. To some extent, it is. Problem is that she's really focused on factual issues and dislikes talking about emotions...it is easy to empathize with emotions...but less easy to empathize with...'The house is dirty because I'm leaving stuff all over the place and it is your fault for not making me clean - don't you agree?'

...actually...my mom does...I just remind myself that she cares. She's basically right anyways - I choose to stay with a crazy person, so the suffering that follows is on my head. I sigh and nod.

I usually start out trying to empathize with her. One common problem comes with her asking, 'So, don't you agree that...' Thing is that my opinion is that the vast majority of her problems are simply her problems and her responsibility and not a result of her husband not forcing her to do XYZ or failing to set a good example. I've never been sure how to deal with that one. I'm currently going with...'Well, I can see that you're upset by XYZ, and sure, you being fat does really suck and is a health issue, and there's a grain of truth in the notion that my diet impacts your weight...and I'm glad to do what I can to help...but...realistically...you'd be better off not eating continuously from midnight to 4 am and exercising more frequently than hoping that changing what I eat for dinner will have any meaningful impact.' Sure, she feels invalidated, but there's not much merit in agreeing with BS.

She's worked on interpersonal communication skills - and a bunch of nonviolent communication classes. They mostly work - except that she has a hard time actually saying what she means - so there'll be at least 3 cycles of reflecting before she's reasonably close - and she needs exact reflections using more or less the same phrasing or she gets confused. Being confused is a gigantic trigger for her.

One of the workshops recommended coaching. Problem is...if I interrupt every time she uses judgmental or abusive language or war words...I'm often interrupting every sentence. Taking breaks is a good idea, but tends to trigger her a lot. So, taking a 15 min break, in practice, means that she'll be triggered for 4 hours. Currently, I'm coming back after a 15 minute timeout...leaving for a 30 minute timeout immediately, coming back, and usually calling it a night at that point. Dunno. Waiting 4 hours just isn't practical. Not ideal, but I'm not willing to participate in conversations where I'm being yelled at or insulted. Half the time she ends up following me anyways...or behaving badly enough that I leave the house.

For MCs, lemme see...
(1) (female, same culture as wife) 2 sessions. Immediately started shouting at wife...didn't take well to being interrupted. Wife left.
(2) (female, PhD, focus on interpersonal skills) Lasted about 6 months...eventually started yelling at wife over the number of her complaints.and lack of ownership Turned out that MC was set off because her husband abandoned her in a foreign country over much smaller behavior. Wife left.
(3) (Asperger's specialist, female) Lasted 2 sessions...was scared by wife's behavior...unwilling to see us.
(4) (BPD-experienced, female) Lasted about 6 months...eventually started yelling at wife...refused to see her further...the counseling was pretty productive...but...she just couldn't stand her, as far as I can tell. (At this point, I can recognize someone picking a fight just to get my wife out of their life.) Wife left. The R/S had degenerated to the point that most of the sessions consisted of...
'Now stop. All I'm hearing is 'I hate myself and am projecting more BS onto my husband. Back up a bit and try taking ownership of your faults.' I understand that your husband is really annoying - and I'd really like to be more critical of him - but you're constantly wasting my time trying to evade responsibility for your own faults.'

My cynical suspicion is that therapists tend to be people with Psych degrees...who tend to be people with personal experience with mental illness...who tend to be pretty triggered by BPD.

The other portion is that my wife can appear to be very, very narcissistic. While there is some truth to that judgement, in that she has very low empathy and sometimes will talk over people because she doesn't care what they're saying...there's also truth to the notion that she almost always will choose to be kind to people and sometimes amazingly self-sacrificing _if she understands the choice_ and that many of her most annoying conversational ticks are due to an inability to understand.

I think that most of our MCs thought that things like her melting down and claiming that perfectly accurate reflections were off-topic were deliberately manipulative. I'm pretty sure that she just couldn't understand. The problem kind of went away after I stopped using, eg, synonyms.

--Argyle
 

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Oy vay. Again, with every post, the problem sounds more and more serious. And draining. And intractable.

I'm so sorry for all of this. Truly sorry. I'm assuming that this problem was not in evidence in this way when you two met and dated.

If you still want to try to deal with it, you both need help. And not a MC. I think a specialist for Aspergers-type behavior, but individually for each of you, might be a better option.

In any event, the best of luck.
 

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I should initiate more...but...for 4 hours...
Hold on... We're not going to agree to four hours anymore, remember? We are going to set boundaries... I think giving her an hour a day is sufficient TO START...

Problem is that she's really focused on factual issues and dislikes talking about emotions...
Ok, can you provide some examples of how she focuses on "factual" issues? For me it was absolute focus on what "exactly" was said, how it was said, the gestures that accompanied it, the procession of the conversation, etc. This was important to me in my situation because my husband would often distort or twist my words around... Therefore, even though I was highly emotional at times, I focused on these kinds of "facts"... I am not sure if this is the same kind of thing your wife is doing or not...


'The house is dirty because I'm leaving stuff all over the place and it is your fault for not making me clean - don't you agree?'
This is truly perplexing to me... It is almost like she is looking to you for leadership... Then again, she could be feigning helplessness in a passive aggressive attempt to justify ... Laziness? Lack of direction? Not sure about this one...

I choose to stay with a crazy person, so the suffering that follows is on my head.
In a way, this is true. Likewise, it is usually true that a "sane" person (for lack of a better term), usually doesn't get together with a "crazy" one without them having their own issues... A "rescuer" would be a classic example. Or a co-dependant, perhaps. Here, your own awareness and ownership can take place. You may have some unresolved issues of your own... Perhaps from your own mother? Just a thought...

...that my opinion is that the vast majority of her problems are simply her problems and her responsibility and not a result of her husband not forcing her to do XYZ or failing to set a good example.
I'm thinking there might be more to this... BUT - very true that she MUST be accountable for her own actions and words...


I'm currently going with...'Well, I can see that you're upset by XYZ, and sure, you being fat does really suck and is a health issue, and there's a grain of truth in the notion that my diet impacts your weight...and I'm glad to do what I can to help...but...realistically...you'd be better off not eating continuously from midnight to 4 am and exercising more frequently than hoping that changing what I eat for dinner will have any meaningful impact.'
First - in this example, perhaps not to be so harsh... She seems sensitive and maybe your terminology can be offensive to her (like using the words "fat" and "suck" for example), but yes - validating and agreeing with her concerns is a GOOD thing...

Second, if, in this example, she is saying that your diet has a direct impact on her - she first needs to realize that she has OPTIONS - and second, perhaps you can take more considerate dietary options to support her if she wants to pursue that... But it is entirely up to HER. She does not have to eat what you eat. Literally.

Third, since you seem to have a great influence over her, perhaps you both can enjoy an exercise-based activity together... Bonding time and health-efficient for you both! :) You can suggest it and see how serious she is about doing better for herself... With your support. :)

Sure, she feels invalidated, but there's not much merit in agreeing with BS.
You only need to see that her train of thought is very different than yours. :)

...except that she has a hard time actually saying what she means...
She has a difficult time articulating her reality... I had this problem also. This can be hard for you to help her with if you are unarmed with an understanding of how her mind works... Especially it seems to work differently than most people. She most likely does need professional help to delve deeper and figure out what it is that she wants to convey. Frustrating, I'm sure...

One of the workshops recommended coaching. Problem is...if I interrupt every time she uses judgmental or abusive language or war words...I'm often interrupting every sentence.
It takes tremendous self-control to not interrupt to point out a communication fault in another. I've noticed it also requires a great deal of concentration not to allow the other person's talking distract or confuse what it is you wanted to point out, all the while listening intently to the message. It may help to take "breaks" in between subjects to both address the original concern (hers) then to address yours (the communication failure). Best done with a skilled mediator, to say the least. This can be very draining.


Taking breaks is a good idea, but tends to trigger her a lot. So, taking a 15 min break, in practice, means that she'll be triggered for 4 hours. Currently, I'm coming back after a 15 minute timeout...leaving for a 30 minute timeout immediately, coming back, and usually calling it a night at that point.
While frustrating and tiresome, the objective of a time-out is to reflect and gather your thoughts for resolution and conclusion. Calling it a night after a time-out is sort of defeating in that the closure doesn't happen. As you've seen, this may also trigger her and cause prolonged dialogue...

I'm not willing to participate in conversations where I'm being yelled at or insulted.
Make sure this is made absolutely crystal clear to her from the beginning. This is a good boundary - set it, explain it, and abide by it in the healthiest manner possible.

Half the time she ends up following me anyways...or behaving badly enough that I leave the house.
This is called "escalating" and it's purpose is to get your attention. You must be firm in your boundaries and express the consequences of such infractions before the escalation occurs. Best done in setting guidelines before you initiate the talk.

For MCs, lemme see...
(1) (female, same culture as wife) 2 sessions. Immediately started shouting at wife...didn't take well to being interrupted. Wife left.
(2) (female, PhD, focus on interpersonal skills) Lasted about 6 months...eventually started yelling at wife over the number of her complaints.and lack of ownership Turned out that MC was set off because her husband abandoned her in a foreign country over much smaller behavior. Wife left.
(3) (Asperger's specialist, female) Lasted 2 sessions...was scared by wife's behavior...unwilling to see us.
(4) (BPD-experienced, female) Lasted about 6 months...eventually started yelling at wife...refused to see her further...the counseling was pretty productive...but...she just couldn't stand her, as far as I can tell. (At this point, I can recognize someone picking a fight just to get my wife out of their life.) Wife left. The R/S had degenerated to the point that most of the sessions consisted of...
'Now stop. All I'm hearing is 'I hate myself and am projecting more BS onto my husband. Back up a bit and try taking ownership of your faults.' I understand that your husband is really annoying - and I'd really like to be more critical of him - but you're constantly wasting my time trying to evade responsibility for your own faults.'

My cynical suspicion is that therapists tend to be people with Psych degrees...who tend to be people with personal experience with mental illness...who tend to be pretty triggered by BPD.
It's unusual in that she's been able to trigger so many trained professionals... Not saying it isn't possible, but these facts as you present them cause me some concern...

she almost always will choose to be kind to people and sometimes amazingly self-sacrificing
Simple - positive reinforcement of her "good" behaviors is crucial while "ignoring" her negative behaviors. Sounds weird, but it's the same principle by which dogs and other animals are trained and taught to understand...

I'm pretty sure that she just couldn't understand.
You know her better than probably anyone else... If it is your honest belief that she does not understand something (as opposed to being deliberately difficult), you need to make that known to both her and any professional that handles her...

So, just a few notes... I hope this hasn't been too confusing, and more or less informative.

Wishing you the best of luck and continued progress!! :)
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@alte
Dunno. Our insurance covers 2 therapists. My wife's doing CBT/DBT and making decent progress. At the moment, we've been doing a couples communication course - which has actually worked better. Focusing on issues isn't so productive - but practicing 'healthy' communication is useful for learning new patterns and, honestly, helps my wife notice that her current pattern is not similar to a healthy pattern. I'm still planning on the Asperger's MC - not totally sure it is the best choice.

@Yin (In order, I haven't figured out the quoting thing yet.)
...a good point. Fitting in an hour is a lot easier. :) I should be more optimistic.

Examples: (she does sometimes focus very much on facts of conversations, but mostly wants agreement that XYZ is not her responsibility.)
'I need you to agree that me exercising and losing weight is impossible unless you change your diet to fish and seaweed.' (I'm on a diet and losing weight. Admittedly not fish and seaweed. Sadly, I detest seaweed and am mildly adverse to fish. My main challenge is the amount of ice cream and other snacks she brings forth to eat together.)
'I need you to agree that your sister shouted and jeered at me in the parking lot.' (She didn't. She's wary of my wife, but that may be related to threatening to come over and burn down their house.*)
'I need to discuss how your neglect of our child may cause autism.' (I take care of him mornings, nights, and weekends. He's in preschool full-time - and I'm the only one playing with him or reading to him. She mostly sticks him in front of the television...not totally, but mostly.)
'The house is messy because you are so filthy and I'm following your example.' (Seriously, I spend about 15 minutes a day picking up the stuff she drops everywhere.)
'I'm worried that you are too autistic to have a career.' (Executive-level position (me), unemployed dropout from professional school (her))

Y'know, there are a couple of explanations. All of them have some truth to them.
(1) She has pretty low self-esteem in general - and fundamentally believes that she is so flawed that anyone with her must have some terrible issue. So, she spends a lot of time looking. (her description) And the rest of her time trying to convince herself that she's okay by propping up her ego. (I'm okay because I had a job at place XYZ.)
She's becoming self-aware of this particular issue and trying to see herself as a worthy human being. So, that's encouraging.
(2) She has pretty low self-esteem in general - and deals with her faults by projecting them onto the closest available person. (MC description) She's also mildly autistic - and deeply conflicted over that - so she projects autistic traits onto me (some truth to that), our MCs, her therapists, and her friends. (my guess, one MC thinks there's some merit to it...certainly fits the pattern.) (wife thinks there's some merit to it also - but prefers (1))
(3) She's from a different culture/family dynamic and really expects significantly different behavior from her husband. Part of what she wants is leadership. I'm okay with that - not skilled necessarily - and I'm not a micromanager - which is what she prefers. Another part is control - she prefers to be controlled. I'm not too wild about that. The last part is discipline/interaction. When she's angry, there are a bunch of cues and behaviors she expects that I don't provide. Basically, an escalation procedure that looks like:
(1) Show emotion (I'm pretty bad at this...I tend to close off when people are visibly angry.)
(2) Threaten her physically. (Loom over her.) (I might be okay with this.)
(3) Grab her by the throat. (Not okay with this.)
(4) Force her to the floor, (Urgle.)
(5) Beat her until she stops moving. (Gack.)
(6) Stop before breaking bones.

My choice has been to not do this. (Never thought I'd be married to someone requesting a beating...or be called a wimp for refusing.) My feeling is that there's too much potential for injury - I personally have a nasty temper and deal with it by walking away - besides - it is a dangerous example for a child in the US. That said, I understand that she's not getting the cues she's used to - she expects that someone else will control her tantrums - and that isn't easy for her - she feels pretty abandoned and scared without an overarching authority. There's also the danger of escalating violence - but I'm not sure that's a good argument - from watching her interactions with her family - they look pretty stable - there's usually one big argument, someone gets a black eye, and then they calm down and get along pretty well. Could be worse...my family favors the 'never argue...but spit in your sister's face when she apologizes to you on your deathbed...' approach.

Regarding the not cleaning thing, I suspect it is a mixture of (2) and (3).

Yep. In terms of issues...I've tried a bunch of tests and a therapist. The consistent pattern is that I test as significantly socially odd (communication issues) and with low emotional affect. (Rarely show anger, don't react to abuse that triggers the therapist, take care of the sobbing relatives when people die...) In the continuum of autism, I test as more Aspie than average, but not as Aspie as an Aspie...low emotional affect, communication issues, high flexibility. INTJ? (mastermind) I test low for co-dependence and narcissism. Love language? Praise and cuddles.
Other:
1. Abandonment issues - kind of a big one - not sure I can resolve this - I mostly get through this with distress tolerance.
2. Mother issues - mostly an unresolved desire for affection - probably not a coincidence that my wife resembles my mother physically and is probably as far on the spectrum as my wife.
3. Autism - I definitely ramble and am less emotional than average. I probably fit into the 'significant weaknesses but not disabled' category, but I may also simply have excellent coping strategies. Hard to tell sometimes. I dunno - tests are not a substitute for diagnosis - but the therapist didn't think I'd qualify either.
4. Uncertainty - very little experience with conflict or human R/S - so a tendency to believe my wife's behavior is normal. MC's pretty much convinced me it wasn't. Lacked data here...so...a certain amount of posting and consultation with professionals and friends has helped.
5. Weak boundaries - never really needed boundaries - everyone I knew was pretty respectful. Some at work, but I'm on the technical end and there wasn't a lot of game-playing. Boundaries (Townsend) is a good book.
6. Cultural - strong aversion to familial shame - I'm working past this one. For example, the relatives now know my wife is ill. Not the easiest thing in the world.

I dunno about the rescuer thing. I remember marrying my wife because she's smart, kind, ethical, hot (I have to put this in there...it was her #1 priority), and really impressive - ran a small, profitable company in her early twenties - shame about her nervous breakdown. I resisted rescuing her more than anything else - in retrospect - leaving her lying in bed for a few years while clinically depressed wasn't good husbanding. Sometimes, if people face a problem they can't deal with on their own, it is okay to help.

There might be more to this - kind of the leadership thing - but - more of a style thing. I'm comfortable setting direction and following up. I'm not willing to micromanage (check on progress on a dozen things daily) - she prefers that.

...she has a lot of problems maintaining individuation. The notion of eating differently is difficult for her. We're alternating between exercise and group tv-watching. I hope to add cards to that list.

...yes...very different...but also unproductive. I'm willing to hear her out, but, for planning purposes, I prefer maintaining individual responsibility. 'I can change this.' is usually more productive than 'If he changes X, my behavior will change.' (Besides, I've done some tests...while there is some change when I change my behavior...there isn't a lot.) Some portion is cultural - her culture has a lot of collective responsibility - not inferior - just different. I'd be more receptive to that argument if she was holding up her end of the collective responsibility.

For the harshness, I'd rather use different words - but rephrasing and paraphrasing tends to confuse her and being confused is highly triggering. I've seen meltdowns started by: 'WTF did you just say? You have to use the same words!!! I can't understand if you use all those extra words...'

If I'm willing to wait - she can eventually get to what she wants to say - it just takes a long time. The bit that annoys me... I know I'm a mediocre communicator at best. So, if I need to bring up something unpleasant, I'll calm myself down and sketch something out on paper and then revise a few times. She'll walk in...start with a rant...and then expect me to help her revise what she's saying. It just seems like a waste of time and needlessly unpleasant for me. Of course, part of it is that she often feels lonely - and feels connected when she picks a fight.

Dunno. The couples class recommends a stop signal, a chance to revise, and then coaching. This works well when she's not triggered. When she is, there's more time on stop signals than communication. I prefer the notion that we've agreed to only communicate in a nonviolent fashion - which leads to the notion that if there's more stop signals than communication...it is time for a timeout.

Unfortunately, timeouts are very triggering for her and she calms slowly, so, after a 15 minute timeout, it is pretty much the end of civil communication for the night. Not every time, but most of the time.

The guidelines are:
Repeated insults/yelling/physical behavior: Time-out
Continuation: Leaving the house.
Blocking my exit: Warning.
Physical violence: Police

I've used all those consequences. I'm not always consistent about leaving the house - sometimes I choose to sleep.

For the first 3, they were pre-diagnosis. MC is usually fairly useless for undiagnosed BPDs. #3 felt my wife was too unstable for MC to be productive. With #4, my wife would alternate between calm logic and reasonable ownership (which the MC found encouraging) and incoherent projection mixed with extremely low empathy and a tendency towards conversational double-standards. (You people aren't listening to me...(while repeatedly interrupting the MC.)) The truth is that most psychologists are not wild about interacting with BPDs. Given a choice, as a psychologist, I'd definitely charge a lot more.

Yep. That's the plan for the next MC. I'm grateful for all your advice.

--Argyle
*Not likely to happen - my wife has a fairly antagonistic and overstated way of speech - but would not harm someone seriously.
 

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With such a partner, the change has to come from you. It has to be you enforcing your boundaries, in a loving way. "I love you but I won't listen for 3 hours; it's not realistic and if you're that upset you need to ring up your therapist. If you insist on doing this again, I'm going to leave the room, or the house, if you insist on carrying it on. It's your job to learn to deal with your anxieties and I'm here to support you, but a 3-hour support session is unrealistic. I'll help you find another counselor if that's what you want. But this can't continue."

And then you DO leave the room, or the house, if she won't honor your needs.

ETA: So I see you already do this. I think the next step is to do it and stop WORRYING about how she takes it. And also look at your options for separation. Doing so just may put her in a precarious enough state of mind that you would be able to get her hospitalized, where she could get the real help she needs.
 
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