Blame,  Borderline Personality Disorder,  Boundaries

Boundaries and My Life

The Elephant

I don’t usually get personal on this blog. Today, I have decided to get a bit personal. My “emotional” daughter has been texting me – worried about her mother’s (my wife’s) behavior. We have been going back and forth, trying to figure out what we could do to be effective in this situation. Eventually, I had to apply my boundary with my wife. I had to tell her “I will not talk to you when you’re in this state”. It was tough, yet it was the elephant in the room. The thing is… and this is what you nonBPDs need to learn about boundaries (and about which I have written volumes) is that when you apply your boundaries, you have to expect rage, denial and attacks from the borderline. I have been attacked via text messages all day after I did that. I just ignored the attacks, stayed on point and went like a train on the track toward the actual issue. I got a LOT of “what about you?” attacks (see When Hope is Not Enough to know that THAT means). Ultimately though, as a nonBPD, you have to be brave and mention the elephant in the room. It’s hard, it causes ripples with the whole family, yet it’s important. I just want you all to realize that applying boundaries will (most likely) cause rage, attacks and counter-blame.


  • Randi Kreger

    This is so true, and well written. This lashing back is called “countermoves” and should always be expected.

    This is why it is so vital to PLAN FOR LIMITS. Limit setting is a process and best thought out with pen and paper. I talk about this at length in the Essential Family Guide to BPD.

    Probably the most important part of the plan is brainstorming all the borderline person might do in response to you “boundary” (AKA “what you do to take care of yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable”). After that, plan for each scenario.

    Another vital part of planning is making a list of the pros of setting the limit and the cons of not setting it. This will help you keep it going for the long haul.

    Speaking of the long haul, realize you will always need to be alert and follow through when you limits are not respected/observed. The WORST thing you can do is set a limit before you’re ready to take action when (not “if”) your spouse runs right through your limit in a process called “extinction.”

    The more consistent you are, the less time extinction of the behavior will take. Better to not set the limit at all if you’re not willing to be consistent because your message is “walk all over me and won’t do anything about it.”

    Many people don’t set limits until they’re so burned out they leave the relationship. I think this is sad. Be sure to educate yourself before you set a limit. First comes planning, then the conversation.

    One communication tip: use an “if-then” construction. Give your BP a choice.

    After a soft opening, be gentle and say something like, “You have a choice. If you do this, I will do that. I would rather that it not get to that because I love you and I want our relationship to be solid. At the same time, I must do what’s best for our relationship.”

  • Bon Dobbs

    Thanks Randi. In this case the limit was mine and I had complete control over it. My wife’s typical reaction to my limit-setting is the “what about you?” attack in which she tries to put the focus on anything and everything I have ever done wrong in my life. I found that staying mindful of the issue and not dexifying was the key. BTW, I got an unsolicited apology from her this morning. All that said, the choice was mine and mine alone. That’s (at least for me) the most effective type of limit. It didn’t require an “if-then” situation. She would do what she would do in reaction. I didn’t defend or get caught up in the attacks. I basically said “none of that has anything to do with what we’re talking about and doesn’t change what you have done to cause me to choose the limit”.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.