Life in a Bind – BPD and me

Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and my therapy journey. Listed in Top Ten Resources for BPD in 2016 by goodtherapy.org. I write for welldoing.org and for Muse Magazine Australia, under the name Clara Bridges.

What now, marriage?

12 Comments

On Thursday night I was waiting for my husband to get home – waiting to have what seemed likely to be one of the most important conversations of our marriage. I was waiting and watching an episode of my favourite TV show, Grey’s Anatomy, and it happened to be Season 12, Episode 11, ‘Unbreak my heart’: a series of rewinds and fast-forwards through the on-again, off-again relationship of two of the main characters, April and Jackson – an episode that ends with them signing their divorce papers. Though I didn’t know exactly what my husband was going to say when he got back, I knew he wasn’t going to mention divorce, but I was expecting almost anything else. And so much of that episode hit notes – off-key notes, discordant notes, sour notes, familiarly mutually destructive notes.

Very different circumstances, yet I recognised the reactions. I recognised the wildly different expectations and perspectives.

April: “It just seems like you are looking for an excuse to walk away instead of putting in any of the work.”
Jackson: “You left me. You walked away. You ran halfway across the world – ”
April: “Because I was dying, Jackson. Samuel died and I died. Until Jordan, until I was able to go over there and – ”
Jackson: “And what? You think I was somehow just fine after Samuel? You don’t think I was dying too?”
April: “No, no, okay. You weren’t. Not like me. You were coping. You were okay. I couldn’t even – And then I found something. I found something over there that I needed so badly, and I thought that you understood that.”
Jackson: “I wasn’t coping. I was covering for you. To take care of you.”
April: “And now you’re punishing me over and over because I dared to take things into my own hands because I recognized the spiral I was falling into and I went and did something about it?”
Jackson: “I was putting you first. That’s what you do in a marriage. Or I guess that’s not what you do.”
April: “I took care of myself so that I would survive, and all that does is make you angry. Look at you. What is it, Jackson? What pisses you off so much, that I chose to go after the thing that I needed to heal or that the thing I needed wasn’t you?”
Jackson: “The thing that I needed was you. I survived. You survived. But I do not think we can survive this.”

My mental health difficulties hit us hard, very hard. I got lost in depression and in BPD and withdrew, and withdrew some more, and I know that it was hurtful and upsetting for him and he didn’t understand it and didn’t know what was due to my disorder and what might be something to do with him, something to take personally. He felt unloved and that would put anyone’s defenses up, and it did, because he had to guarantee that one of us could survive well enough to look after the kids. Things hit what felt like rock bottom, with him completely disengaging emotionally in order to protect himself. Though he wouldn’t go to therapy I tried to use my therapy for the both of us, hoping I could make sufficient progress for myself, that it would help our marriage.

Imperceptibly slowly, things felt as though they were shifting a little. Incremental, tiny steps. I became ‘a better flatmate’ – to me, that was an achievement, but to him it was still a very long way from a ‘good marriage’. But still things continued to improve, in my eyes at least, and I saw myself taking more risks, more chances, being a little more vulnerable, a little more open, and a little more self-assured– pushing back a little when I thought there was a problem, instead of absorbing the problem and the blame and falling into a spiral of dark and hopeless thoughts.

I had much more of an ‘off week’ a couple of weeks ago – work has been horrendously stressful and I wasn’t able to stay in ‘adult mode’ as much as I would have liked. I was more irritable, less forgiving. It felt like a step backwards but I tried to ignore it, and things didn’t fall apart. In fact, bizarrely, quite the opposite.

All of a sudden it was as if someone took the incremental change and decided to speed it up one thousand fold. I was hugged almost every time I entered a room – or at least it felt that way. There were kisses, compliments, kind and caring things said which were very different to the more practical and pragmatic responses he’d previously had to my difficulties. I should have been pleased- but I felt overwhelmed.

He was clingy and I couldn’t stand it. I didn’t want to be touched or kissed all the time, even though he ‘asked permission’ first. It all felt too much and I felt myself pulling away. I tried to explain that I was finding it hard to adjust to, and that it wasn’t necessarily anything to do with him. Though I didn’t say so, he was triggering me on multiple levels, and ‘acting like my mother’. Wanting more physical touch and closeness than I wanted; clinging onto me both emotionally and physically. The change itself didn’t feel safe, it was so sudden – how did I know he wouldn’t change back just as quickly? My mother’s volatility was in my mind, and I found it hard to believe any of the lovely words he was saying, when they were a contrast to the words that still hung between us from the past. How could I trust the new words? He couldn’t really explain the change either – save to say that he had been feeling more loved recently.

A few days of this change, followed by a triggering visit from my mother, resulted in another ‘off-day’ where I was more irritable and less thoughtful than I could have been. But somehow what two weeks ago was just another argument, this time turned into some sort of enormous turning point – apparently one of the worse nights of my husband’s life, for reasons than I simply could not understand and that no one event could explain. He told me later that something crystallised for him that night – that lots of pieces had suddenly fallen into place and he’d realised something he hadn’t seen before.

When he came back, when I was waiting, he gave me several pages that he’d written containing his realisations. Not all of them are accurate – at least, not as far as his assumptions or statements about me are concerned. But I think he’s come to the conclusion that though I might be turning into a more functional person than I was before, he’s not sure if that person is compatible with him, and with his fundamental needs and desires.  I know he doesn’t want that to be the case. And I don’t know if it is.

So I find myself confused. About what’s real and what’s not. About what’s true, and what’s not. What am I meant to take out of therapy, and what can only ever exist in the room? Is unconditional love only for parents and therapists, and do grown-ups love only if they feel loved? Should I trust, even though things (and people) change; and when does compromise turn into self-suppression? What do I really think and feel, and how can I tell? How did we get here, and what does it mean?

April: “We talk about the mechanism of injury, about where it all started, but the truth is, it’s sort of a myth. We can’t boil every injury down to one single blow. What hurts us is cumulative. It happens over time. We absorb blow after blow, shock after shock, painful hit after hit. But even then, even if we know exactly how we got here, it doesn’t mean we can fix it. You can’t heal every wound, and that’s okay. I have to believe it’s okay. I have to believe that even if something seems like it cannot be fixed, it doesn’t mean it’s broken.”

 

 

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12 thoughts on “What now, marriage?

  1. So sorry you in a troubling and confusing situation. But, to answer a question you raised, I do think that unconditional relations are pretty much limited to the two categories you mention, and even these are probably vulnerable to conditions that might change them. In my view and in my experience we are responsible to try to be our best selves with those we love, even as much as the binding of those ties, life’s stresses, and deadening routine all mean that we won’t always be as good as we want or need to be. Be kind to yourself and don’t set impossible goals. It is clear you have made quite extraordinary efforts to keep going within the marriage, such as it is.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you so much for your lovely words – I’m not sure how to say how much they mean. I feel like there is so much to try and get my head around – and much like the immense confusion I feel around my marriage, therapy has felt confusing and a bit directionless since September. Everything feels like a mess – but in amongst all that it’s lovely to hear from you and to know that I am making an effort – I must be because you see it….

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “When does compromise turn into self suppression” – what an important question. I’m thinking of you.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. So sorry to read of this added dimension to your struggle – thank you for sharing so openly x

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I think it is certainly possible to continue loving somebody who does not love one. Not maybe for ever, but for a good long time. I also think it is possible for love to change so much that it is hard or impossible to continue with a marriage. I think some marriages become so destructive to one or other party that they are best knocked on the head. Sometimes when one party changes a lot, then the other spouse finds they are married to somebody they really did not sign up to be with. That makes for a heap of problems. We do not always love what is best and most true in others, and losing our weaknesses can actually damage our relationships. But also, with good will, difficulties really can be worked through on many occasions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you……I hadn’t really pondered the fact that we don’t always love what is best and most true in others, and so that statement in particular, really made an impression. Thank you so much for your comment – things are still very very confusing and still unresolved as far as the latest situation (described in the post) is concerned…..

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  5. I haven’t known what to say to this. I don’t have any answers. I want you to know that my thoughts are with you in your struggle to find them, and I know that you will do everything you can to work to make things the best they can be. xxx

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  6. Pingback: Update and a story by 12 year old me | Life in a Bind - BPD and me

  7. You just wrote my last marriage’s story. In the end I loved him drastically and couldn’t bare hurt him anymore. I think the struggle was caused by me, I wanted to be the Woman he loved, the woman he marriage, not the woman he had to learn. This put us into a more friendship type of relationship. In the end I felt he deserved better, and the results, him finding joy now brings me peace.

    I return I had to believe that someone else would meet me and see me. I wanted God to make me better for my ex, and that was too much pressure. Now dating, I want God to properly equip this human being with the unconditional love that won’t become a burden for me. Trigger point, being the nicest person some people will ever meet, but when depressed becoming someone not quite the same.

    I’ll attest that there are people better equipped and who’s to say your husband may be the one. My husband admitted that I needed someone stronger than he was.

    I just thank you for this post! I felt alone during my time of therapy, but we’re here and
    I look forward to watching y’all blossom.

    Liked by 1 person

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