Borderline Personality Disorder,  Emotions

Contempt and Marriage to someone with BPD

Contempt leads to divorce, because contempt is the opposite of respect. Contempt for a person with BPD’s behavior is, in essence, contempt for their emotions, because, until sorted out and separated, a person with BPD’s behaviors are equivalent to their emotions. They do as they feel. If emotions can been identified, validated, respected and normalized, a behavioral change is certain to follow.


  • Tom

    Why then can they act out based on emotions and it’s ok, but if the spouse were to do the same, based on the emotion of anger or frustration, the behaviour is unacceptable? Obviously the reaction is counter productive, but it is still a natural and some would even say completely understandable response. Should the BPD person not then by your theory be just as responsible and accepting of the response and have to be the one to walk on eggshells?

    I suppose that is a long way of suggesting that the BPD person should either not always get the free pass, or not be the only one to get it.

  • Pete

    Thank you Tom, I much appreciate what you wrote. I often found myself deeply frustrated and acted out of that. Very counter-productive I realize, but people without BPD are people too.

  • Rick Anderson

    Exactly, dead on correct, for 25 years I received contempt from my BPD wife on an almost daily basis, she refused to get help, nor even acknowledge she had problem, refused to apologize or ever attempt to heal the thousand wounds that laid below the surface, the only course she would accept was to pretend every outrageous behavior and episode never happened, and would continue to rage and with hold for weeks on end until I finally relented just to get the home environment back to some non-conflict for sake of raising our children in a healthier environment, which usually meant I had to apologize for what she did wrong. The last ten years of the marriage I warned my wife that one day I would snap and it would be over, no way to ever fix it, which she would just dismiss.

    BPD are people too, yes they are, you are quite correct, and silly me, I keep forgetting as a non-BPD I’m superhuman, totally impervious to emotional damage and can survive without every having a single one of my needs met, I can bury and suppress my emotions and needs, just like I did for 25 years.

    But after 25 years of trying to be superhuman, I instead was totally dead inside, my choice was to return continue to be an emotional zombie or actually feel, and like a human being, I returned a small portion of the contempt I had been on the receiving end of for decades.

    If you stand by your conviction she is NOT responsible because of her disorder, that is fine, but please give me the same courtesy and acknowledge I have been damaged by my wife’s behavior, I need to heal, I need to feel emotions again and process, I’m NOT superhuman and will NOT heal and release this anger over night. For my very survival (and I can detail my near edge of sanity, near physical collapse for a year experience) I have to quarantine myself from BPD, I WILL NOT ACCEPT BLAME FOR MY WILL TO SURVIVE! If you must blame someone, than blame the disease for destroying a family.

    P.S. I am working with my children and trying to help them understand the challenges they will have in the future in forming and sustaining their own relationships that are rewarding and fulfilling and how they can recognize and end toxic relationships.

    I’ve come to this website looking for help to heal and release my anger, funny, this website seems to be extremely counter productive in this pursuit.

  • Pete

    Sorry Rick, if your comment was directed at mine you’ve misread what I wrote. We are in agreement.

  • Rick Anderson

    Pete, no my comments were directed at the original article, I agree with what you said.

    My frustrations is that supporters/advocates for those suffering with BPD, seem to be only support BPD’s by throwing their NON’s under the bus.

    It takes two to make a relationship, including a BPD relationship, and while the BPD suffers from mental illness and that does deserve sympathy and understanding, that also means the NON needs just as much sympathy and understanding, but that seems to be in short supply on this website.

    You couldn’t ask for better evidence that I had become co-dependent than my BPD wife insisting after every incident and every damaging event, that her behavior was my fault, absolutely no regard for my emotions or how hurtful she was, the rational was always the same, if I had just been a little more perfect, then I wouldn’t had done some tiny little thing that caused her meltdown, therefore it was my fault and if I just was a little more perfect in the future, these things won’t happen again; and I started to actually believe that and blame myself.

    Now that I realized I was being co-dependent and refuse to let someone control me with unfair blaming and guilt trips, I come to this website and find the experts telling me, if you were just a little more perfect, you’re relationship would have worked, you can’t blame the BPD, she’s mentally ill. Huh?

  • Bon Dobbs

    I’m not sure where I’m throwing the Nons under the bus. It makes no sense. I AM a Non. Why would I throw myself under the bus?

    What I am doing is providing Nons with a set of attitudes and tools that are effective. That actually work. The problem I see with Nons is that they tend to live in a delusion about a way they wish it was or a way they would like it to be. Sure they need validation. They also need empowerment. I empower Nons to deal with life as it really is vs. how they wish it were.

    The description of BPD in my book is how it really is to experience BPD. It describes the actual motivations of someone with BPD vs. the Non’s perception of the motivations.

    If Nons don’t want the material, if they don’t want to be empowered, that’s fine. To each his own. My materials come out of my experience, not my opinion. If someone wants to follow the path that I have traveled, that’s fine as well. Yet, a person must be willing to shed old ideas about BPD and about how it effects relationships. It takes two to tango and your contributions also affect the interpersonal impact of the disorder.

    I fail to see how that’s throwing the Nons under the bus.

  • Rick Anderson

    I am a Non.

    BPD Contempt and Marriage to a Non

    Contempt leads to divorce, because contempt is the opposite of respect. Contempt for a Non, by a BPD, although the result of mental illness, the behavior is still very real and does very real damage to the Non and the entire family, in essence, the contempt expressed is perceived as contempt for person simple for who they are by any rational person. In a world were people are able to sort out and separate their emotions to control their behaviors, failure to do so is a very recognizable

    problem and thus people get help for their problem, NOT refuse to get help and blame others for what is clearly their problem. People that just do as they feel damage all those around them. If the BPD gets help to identify their problem, they and their spouse will work so their emotions can been identified, validated, respected and normalized, a behavioral change is certain to follow. If BPD refuses, their contempt will surely lead to divorce.

    Contempt leads divorce, I 100% agree!

    So lets ignore 99.9% of the contempt in a marriage by the BPD and just talk about the 0.1% of contempt of the Non, when we talk about Contempt and Marriage to a someone with BPD. Mental Illness deserves sympathy and understanding, but its NOT an excuse to hurt others. Even more importantly Mental Illness is NOT a blank check to blame the behavior or the results of the behavior on someone else.

    A pleas for Non’s to have the strength to go above and beyond what most people would never tolerate goes a long a way to be received universally. Suggestions on how Non’s can get the help they need to do this, how they monitor their self-care and ensure their own needs get met, would make it appear you’re sincere. BUT, to judge someone for NOT being able to go above and beyond what most people would never tolerate does NOT go very far, it might leave a few people feeling like they’ve been thrown under the bus.

  • Bon Dobbs

    I’ve interacted with Randi Kreger many times. I don’t consider her an authority on Nons or BPD. Although her book “Stop Walking on Eggshells” is the best-selling of the books for Nons, I found that her prescription does not work for those who want to stay with and have a meaningful relationship with someone with BPD. The reality is (as I tell the Nons that I coach and talk with) the Non can be more emotionally agile than the borderline. I dispute, based on experience, that the contempt factor is 99.9% to 0.01%. That’s just not a fact. There is a huge amount of contempt, blame and outright disgust in the Non community toward those with BPD.

    I also don’t plea for a Non to have strength. I point in the direction of emotional skills and emotional health. One post on the nature of contempt vs all the hundreds upon hundred of pages that I have written which do, in fact, guide the Non on exactly how to develop emotional independence, how to interact effectively with their partner or child and how to build compassion and trust that flows in both directions. You can’t pick and choose what you comment on without making an effort to understand the entire message. Mine is a message of hope – although hope is not enough, you also need skills, practice and attitudes that support the realistic development of hope.

    Contempt is a corrosive emotion. It is also a basic emotion – one of seven basic emotions: fear, joy, sadness, anger, surprise, disgust and contempt. If you do any reading about emotions, especially Paul Ekman’s work, you will see that this is true. Contempt can be dealt with just like any other emotion. The nature of my work is to focus on the emotions and to help the Non build emotional agility, not to judge or condemn a Non for feeling them.

  • Rick Anderson

    And we are at the same reoccurring impasse, you assume everyone in a relationship with a BPD knows their partner has BPD and thus should know where to go to treat the partner themselves.

    While I continue to ask what is the stable partner to do when their obviously unstable partner refuses to cooperate with identifying the problem?

    You say my suggestions won’t work, I think they will, they may harm the BPD in the short term but in the long term they will get the BPD the help they need, or it will end the relationship, which may be best at that point. The only suggestion I’ve seen you offer to identify the problem with a non-cooperative partner is to diagnose them yourself through reading and consultation, which may have worked for you, but I am convinced you are the minority, most average people can NOT train themselves well enough to be a good enough of an amateur psycho-analyst to diagnose BPD.

    I’ll admit I did diagnose my wife myself the same way but so late in the marriage with too much damage done to recover it, I needed more mental health care than my wife at that point. Yes, over the 25 years of marriage, she got progressively healthier as I got progressively unhealthier.

    You seem to keep avoiding addressing that the first step is always to identify the problem.

    If the problem is NOT identified, then they will suffer for decades or they will end the relationship, that all there is too it.

    Yes, other people do NOT need to suffer for decades, IF THEY ARE ABLE TO IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM, and then they take the prescription that removes the conditions that exacerbates the disorder.

  • Bon Dobbs


    We are talking two entirely different things. The identification issue is correct. Unless the person can identify that their partner (or child) has BPD traits, it is unlikely that that person would ever see the need for skills, to read my book or any other book on Non-BPDs. The ironic thing about the skills contained in my book is that it doesn’t matter if the person has BPD, only if the person is emotionally sensitive – the skills are still effective. I’m not certain that the other person – the BPD – needs to acknowledge the issue at all. If you can see that your partner has BPDish traits, the skills that I advocate will work whether they acknowledge a problem or not.

    I’m not avoiding anything. I agree that a problem must first be identified. Yet the WHO is doing the identification is different. I see many, many Nons say “if only, [my BPD] would acknowledge he/she had a problem! If only he/she would go to therapy!” The reality is that neither of those things are required to become more effective and to make things better for all involved.

    I don’t know what I can do to help others identify the problem, except try to increase awareness of this disorder, which is what I do.

    Your suggestions have shown to make matters much worse in the long term. When you threatened to leave by looking for another apartment, your wife began by confronting some problems. In the long run, she would not have maintained that level of commitment in the face of threats.

    You think it’s a minority of people who will educate themselves on something that is so vital and puts them in so much pain? I suppose then that I am in the minority. I was in a LOT of pain and going through a LOT of suffering. As were my kids. I sought out anything I could find to help solve this problem. What I found was not what I expected and, when it worked, I shared it with others.

    I think that most people either try to take control, through threats, rules, boundaries and punishments – or they give up and find themselves in learned helplessness. They “lay down on the grid” and receive the shocks. It seems to me though, that if there is enough suffering, a person would go to any lengths to make things better. Would they not? There is a phrase from the book “Alcoholics Anonymous”, in the “how it works” section, that goes: “If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it – then you are ready to take certain steps.”

    About the behavior of my wife, I did enough investigation that I eventually came across a group of Nons that had what I wanted when I was in a place where I was willing to go to any length to get it. I listened to those people (basically they were DBT therapists and practitioners), tried what they suggested, adjusted some of the suggestions to match the experience of being a Non partner/parent, until I found something that worked. I then shared it with others. At the time, I was living and breathing the quest fro effective Non-BPD skills.

    Why? Two reasons: 1) I no longer wished to suffer and 2) my relationships mattered to me.

    I guess I’d ask the people reading these messages (however few there are): would you rather be like me or like you? Unfortunately, to be like me takes a lot of work and practice and the shedding of old ideas – which is very difficult. Some people don’t know of the effort (as you indicate) and some people are not willing to make the effort once they find out about it. This is what I was saying about wishing it were different. Some people believe that they should have to make such an effort, for whatever reason, so they don’t. And they get what they always have gotten.

  • Rick Anderson


    Thank you, now this makes a lot of sense to me.

    Now, you’ve said, “…or they give up and find themselves in learned helplessness. They “lay down on the grid” and receive the shocks.”

    I’ve been saying, I wish I had done “X”, “Y”, “Z” to confront the problem and get it fixed.

    Honestly, while I was writing another angry response, this kind of hit me;

    I wish I hadn’t allowed myself to fall into learned helplessness.

    Now, where may still disagree, I still wish I had done those things, I still wish I had confronted it that way and still think I would have been right to do it.

    Why? My BPD was severe, I had my own issues from high conflict parents from my childhood and I vowed to myself to never repeat that environment that I grew up in and had to just persevere until I was old enough to leave the home. With my wife I was non-controlling, non-confrontational in the face of her high conflict, contemptuous behavior, her vicious threats and lies, I tried to resolve conflict with mutually understanding. Of course I wasn’t perfect and I could have benefited from coaching and additional learning, but I was ten times more understanding and non-conflict then most men would have been in the face of the BPD like my wife, remember I’m the one that consistently insisted on getting help, she refused, that is NOT my fault and I will NOT accept responsibility for it!

    I could spend pages detailing all the events of the marriage, we could avoid that by taking my word that was ill equipped to maintain emotionally independence and agility with a severe BPD that was particularly more adapt than other BPD’s in manipulation and as emotionally agile as abusive.

    The end result was she got better as I got sick, 25 years, what should have been the best years of my life, down the drain. We needed intense help from the very beginning, and tried my best to get it, and she tried her best to avoid it.

    You just stated, ” I see many, many Nons say “if only, [my BPD] would acknowledge he/she had a problem! If only he/she would go to therapy!” “. So please don’t tell me, if I had only learned skills to be emotionally agile, it would have made things better. That would be a gross double standard.

    I gave it my all, the best I could I do, I sacrificed greatly and I got very, very little in return but lots of damage and regrets.

    There are some NON’s and BPD’s that can learn some skills and maintain a good relationship, don’t assume either NON’s or BPD’s are monoliths and the same works for all. Regardless of their level of commitment and like you said hope is NOT enough, there are some NON’s and BPD’s (if NOT a lot) that can only maintain a relationship with most intense help early on, if they don’t get it, then splitting early on with be the least damaging result.

    It is clear to me, in my circumstances, my choices were only learned helplessness or divorce. I chose learned helplessness, I should have choose divorce and should have choose a way to document her child abuse to ensure I would get custody and NOT leave it to my word in court against the adept liar that threatened to claim I sexually abused our children at the mere mention of the word divorce.

    Like most or at least some NON’s that have finally escaped their BPD, I wasn’t angry or contemptuous toward her during the relationship, and the only way to avoid returning those emotions we absorbed was to suppress them and bury them, and if your BPD was bad enough, they would never do anything to heal those wounds. So those buried emotions eventually come up all at once, and suppressing them again is NOT the healthy way of dealing with them, they have to be processed and purged, released. So, I can’t understand why someone that claims to understand BPD, then claims to be dismayed or disappointed at finding anger and contempt among NON’s toward BPD’s?

    I have several outlets to work through these emotions and work on my recovery, including therapy, these blogs have proven NOT to have the tailored responsiveness I need in this endeavor, so I feel it is best for me to avoid them from here on out. I have several venues for developing more understanding and healing from my experience with the disorder, it’s counterproductive to go to the one that makes me angry. I gave up anger for lent, and today I didn’t stick by that Lenten sacrifice, but like I told myself, I can’t stop the anger coming up for the entire season, but I can vow that when it comes up I will pray for the strength to let go and release it instead of dwelling on it. So I have some praying to do today asking for the strength to just let it go and have calm.

  • Bon Dobbs


    Your message deserves a more detailed response than I have the time to give tonight. I hope to follow up with a more detailed and better response. I wrote something on learned helplessness a while ago – it was in response to Randi Kreger’s mention of Stockholm Syndrome in her newer book “The Essential Guide…” It is here

    You said one thing that struck me… it was “So please don’t tell me, if I had only learned skills to be emotionally agile, it would have made things better. That would be a gross double standard.” I’m not sure why that would be a double standard… Yet ironically or just truthfully, that is exactly what I discovered. For me and my list. When the Nons learned the skills and became emotionally agile, things changed. It was my experience and the experience of the “winners” of my list. I can’t speak to your experience. I don’t know the details. Yet, I have been in Non support groups in which the Non says “my experience is different. My borderline is more extreme.” Really? Did your ex-wife cut herself? Did she try to commit suicide every week for a year? Did she try to murder you? Did she run away and insulate herself from everyone? Really your BPD is more severe than others?

  • LW69

    Well, after reading the comments on this post, I really can say that my diagnosed ex-husband was all the same flavors, just supersized. So, yes, I can guarantee you, mine’s a contender for the gold. Suicide attempts, random constant marathon verbal attack fests, harming me, our kids, our pets, shooting the kids’ german shepherd to death, smear campaign where I’m going to have to sue for defamation. Murder threats? See small arsenal I took away from him when the kids and I fled (what am I going to do with 5000 rounds of ammo?) Rape? No problem. IT WAS A 18 YEAR FUCKING NIGHTMARE I COULDN’T GET OUT OF because the courts think your kids need to have lots of alone parenting time with their psycho BPD baby daddy. And the 2+ year post script, he keeps us in and out of court. Emotional agility. lololololol

  • KEW

    I keep seeing on forums, not just this one, that BPD’s mental illness is not an ok excuse to live with their constant dramatic lunacy. I have to deal with it because she’s a relative. If I were in a marriage or relationship, I would run away asap. These people are out of their minds. The drama NEVER ends. EVER.

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