- Gender and Relationships
Boyfriend Says Not Now to Marrying GF with BPD
NJC sent me the following question through Hubpages Comment:
I have been with my boyfriend for over a year and although I know it is a short period of time I truly believe that he is "the one". In the time we have been together I was diagnosed with BPD (Borderline Personality disorder) and since then it has been a series of therapy sessions and just starting to take medicine. My boyfriend has put up with a lot… tantrums, threats, hurting myself, I wish I could reverse the damage I’ve done to the relationship.
…This weekend he told me he is not ready to commit ...we have talked about our future many times and he has told me he wants to marry me, but now things have changed…
…We are still together and I am trying very hard to get better, I have started to go to his church and try to find some peace I am doing all I can to save this relationship and he is doing the same, I haven't seen such level of patience besides in my mother. Veronica, do you think (and I am asking this because one of the problems with BPD is the overwhelming feelings about little things) I am overreacting about this?
And if so, in what ways can I improve my relationship and show my boyfriend I could get better and make him happy? On a side note when I asked him it he was happy he said "sometimes" then he said he could not say this was the happiest period of his life because he can not compare with other times. However, a couple of weeks ago he told me that his HS years where the happiest of his life (and this kinda hurt me because he had some kind of relationship with a girl that wrote two full pages on his yearbook telling him how wonderful their years together had been.)
…I will be 24 in August and he is 27. I live with my mom and brother and I am the head of my household. I have work very hard towards a Bachelor's degree while working full time and I have finally accomplish it,
…We have talked about marriage many times and even picked our kids names!
NJC, here's my answer.
I abbreviated your note in a few places, please feel free to correct me in comments if you feel I’ve changed a tone or intent, I was just trying to be succinct and protect your more personal information.
Kudos on your insights and your ability to put all this together and remain open.
The most significant thing you said is that he used to say this was the best time of his life, and now he says it was high school. And, that you automatically related that to a girl he knew back then that wrote 2 pages in his yearbook, even though he didn’t mention her.
In short, you’re depending upon, emphasizing, and relating everything and anything to your relationship, and he is not. You see yourself as a girlfriend first, and as a person second. You’re speaking of the relationship as if it is the most important thing in your life. That alone is very one-sided, and puts way too much pressure on a partner who is a person first, and quite probably a very healthy one.
I read what you said in many ways. I looked at the words you chose, the order you put to things, the things you realize and the things you may not.
Borderline Personality Disorder is characterized by major mood swings involving emotions that are intense and deep.
“The disorder typically involves unusual levels of instability in mood; "black and white" thinking, or "splitting"; chaotic and unstable interpersonal relationships, self-image, identity, and behavior; as well as a disturbance in the individual's sense of self. In extreme cases, this disturbance in the sense of self can lead to periods of dissociation.These disturbances can have a pervasive negative impact on many or all of the psychosocial facets of life. This includes difficulties maintaining relationships in work, home and social settings.”
I think the black and white part of your disorder is very significant here. I don’t think this one is black and white. I think you are very black and white, you know you want to marry him, you know what he said, it’s very black and white and you want to make that happen.
For him, however, it’s very gray. Men at different ages go through different periods of longing for the past. The headspace he was in a few years ago, when he was only a couple years into his career, is wildly different from the headspace he’s in now. He doesn’t realize that, and can’t articulate it for you. In many cultures, age 27 is the exact point for a man to receive his Rites of Passage.
Physiologically, his frontal lobes have completely finished developing. This is HUGE. This is the most significant change a man endures. He now, for the very first time, understands and comprehends long term planning. He can grasp what it is to say “the rest of my life.” He sees it from the mountain top looking down, with a great and overwhelming depth for the very first time. Repercussion is also something he only now fully understands.
This has nothing to do with his environment, his ability to work on a relationship, you, or anything else. It is physical. It is a physiological thing he has gone through this past year.
A few years ago when he was stating when he wanted to get married, and making plans, and starting his career, he honestly had no concept of what he was saying. Physiologically, it wasn’t possible. He may have psychologically been ready: happy with his start in life, loving you, enjoying his career path, seeing his future and making plans. But it was as if he was walking up the mountain: he couldn’t see the other side, he couldn’t see the mountains around him, he couldn’t see the far off horizons. Honestly, he just wasn’t there, as much as he may have wanted to be.
Women go through this too, but they go through it at a younger place and in a more gradual way.
When he said he was happiest “now” he was telling the truth, but he was incapable of understanding the ramifications of certain actions. In the present, when he says he was happiest back in high school, he isn’t speaking about a certain girl, or a job, or any one thing. He is saying, life is scary, and big. Responsibilities are mounting. The future is long, and plans have to be carried out. He’s saying he remembers a time that life wasn’t so overwhelming and serious, and he misses that. He’s not saying he’s giving up on the future, or that he’s going to go back to high school like a scene out of “Never Been Kissed.” This isn’t black and white at all. It’s just a clarity he’s now experiencing. He’s understanding himself and the things around him for the very first time.
Holding him to conversations and statements he made prior to his Rites of Passage, is like holding a man to a promise he made when he was 3 to never love anyone like he loves his mommy. He meant it at the time. But then he changed, he grew up. That’s what’s happening with your boyfriend. He grew. You can’t make him defend himself for that, and you can’t hold him accountable for decisions he thought he could make, when he couldn’t make them.
You said you are grateful for all the time and patience he gave you. Now it’s your turn.
I think you should stay with him. You certainly love him and I have every reason to believe he loves you too. But he’s in a very new mental place now. A real partnership is give and take. Healthy committed couples each have to give and allow their partner time to grow and feel safe at different points in life. You had your turn, where you needed him to stand by you and be patient with you as you suffered emotional storms and found your way. Now it’s time for you to be patient back. It is his time.
One thing I can promise you is that right now, as reflected in his fond memories of high school, he NEEDS positive imprinting. He needs to associate being with you as being with a light and happy person. Even if that isn’t the full truth. Think of it this way: the concrete has been poured in the driveway. Yes, in a few weeks you can drive a freaking truck up and down the driveway and all will be well. But right now, you have to tread very lightly on it. You have to take care of it as it sets up and becomes strong again.
Make a very conscious effort to be on your best behavior when you’re with him. Keep conversations light and happy. Don’t bring up past promises, or marriage. Try your best to plan happy dates, funny movies, light humor. Laugh and sing. Enjoy your life, and show him you enjoy your life. Make it so that when he’s thinking about being with you, he has a feeling of no pressure, and happiness.
Because of your BPD I would advise a timeline. Mark on a calendar several dates. As I understand it, your disorder does well with timelines, when you understand things aren’t going to be in the state they are now in for ever. So put that in writing for yourself. Here’s an example, but you need to think about this and pick a timeline that’s best for you. Pick a date in December – write on the calendar this marks about 6 months of your being the patient one, the giver, the one doing for him, making him at ease. And pat yourself on the back on that date. Treat yourself to a massage, you deserve it. Think fun for Christmas/holiday gifts. Games, vintage toys, miniature golf, bowling, Wii, whatever fun thing he might want to indulge in.
Mark a date in February where you say, ok you’ve been giving and patient and it should really be showing by now. You should be able to see it in him, that he’s comfortable and happy.
Mark a date a year from today, that you can start bringing up marriage again, when he’s in a more comfortable state of mind. You can re-evaluate then.
The hard part about this is that he may feel obligated to bring up things he is not ready for, and not even ready to discuss, because he feels pressured to or obligated to. Smiling, happy, and light you should take his hand and tell him it’s ok, we don’t have to talk about this right now. Say things like, “We’re having such a fun day! We don’t have to get all heavy, we can enjoy this day.” This is the positive imprinting I’m talking about.
The thing is, and I don’t mean this to scare you, I mean this sincerely, right now he doesn’t know what he wants. He doesn’t know if he wants to spend his life with you, or anyone. He’s in a new place in his head. And if you force him to make a decision, he will most likely do what he thinks he “has” to do, and say things he doesn’t actually mean.
NJC, I saved this for last because I want this to stay with you.
The most important thing you can do, is YOU. If you just don’t have it in you to give him this kind of patience and time, there is no shame in that. You’re allowed to do what you need to do for yourself. This goes back to the earliest point I made, of your seeing yourself as only whole with him. That really isn’t true. You are YOU first, and a partner second. That is how he is. And he’s right to be that way at this point in his life and yours. You have to do what’s right for you especially considering your BPD. If this relationship is taking too much out of you, you’re allowed to say, “I have to think about myself first” and walk away.
was written by Veronica for Hubpages. If you're reading it someplace else, it has been stolen.
All text is original content by Veronica.
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Feel free to ask my advice on your relationship. Thanks!