Just an Anger Problem, or Borderline Personality Disorder?

Reader’s Question

I desperately need some advice. I have been with my partner for 11 years; when things are going great, they are fantastic. However, he has a bad anger problem (which he is aware of) as well as intimacy issues, but he won’t do anything about these. I think he may have ‘Borderline Personality Disorder‘. He also has a bad health problem which sees him in a lot of pain all the time, and he has always had ‘abandonment’ issues due to his being adopted; he has never faced any of these problems. I have been trying to get ‘us’ into counselling for a few years now, but he refuses to go. His anger over the years is getting worse — very verbal which I am now finding it hard to deal with or to talk to him about. He will go ‘off’ at me over ‘little things’ and this has started happening anywhere from every 2-6 months (which can see me move into the spare room from anywhere to a few days to a few weeks), and he will never apologise. He totally seems to blame me for everything. I do love him dearly, and I know that our relationship can be much better. However, I do find I have problems communicating my feelings to him now which also upsets me. I know he loves me and wants to make things work, but I don’t know how to approach this subject with him. I am getting emotionally drained from going through this ‘circle’ over and over again, and I don’t want to threaten him with leaving. I feel that I may go to counselling on my own to attempt to help me learn how to support him more…

Psychologist’s Reply

From your description, a diagnosis of “personality disorder” does seem appropriate. In my observation, Personality Disorders that create the most interpersonal problems have core personalities of selfishness, insensitivity to others, narcissism, a refusal to accept personal responsibility, and a tremendous sense of entitlement that allows them to abuse/mistreat others when their selfish demands are not immediately met. Personality Disorders are extremely controlling and manipulative — often using obvious behaviors such as physical abuse/intimidation while at other times using subtle techniques such as manipulation, cons, and schemes. Accepting no responsibility for their behavior, they blame others and consider themselves a victim when confronted.

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Individuals with a Personality Disorder view everything in their environment as directly related to them. A child’s school play is viewed as an inconvenience to their schedule, even when they are the parent. They do not show normal attitudes and values when in traditional roles such as parent, spouse, employee, or friend. When their selfish behavior is brought to their attention, they are often explosive, blaming, and highly-dramatic — at the same time assuming a victim stance as though they are being harassed or incorrectly challenged. Not only is their partner blamed for their behavior, but then punished for questioning their behavior in the first place.

Socially, individuals with Personality Disorders have shallow emotions, superficial loyalty, and tend to manipulate those around them. Some engage in criminal behavior and con and manipulate others for money, support, and other purposes. Personality Disorders are almost totally self-justifying and show little of no remorse, guilt, or regret for the manner in which they treat others.

A Personality Disorder is not a disturbance in brain chemistry, and the individual feels no distress unless their demands are not being met. They typically do not respond to mental health or counseling treatment. While they have a variety of excuses for their behavior — their childhood, prior trauma, etc. — these issues only surface when they are confronted with their behavior and an excuse is needed.

I would recommend reading two articles I’ve written on this website. The first, “Identifying Losers in Relationships”, will describe the behaviors he exhibits and how those behaviors will eventually exhaust you. The second, “Love and Stockholm Syndrome“, describes your current situation — emotionally trapped in an abusive relationship in the hopes that the personality disorder will suddenly change or improve. Sadly, personality disorders only make improvements when it is to their benefit — not to the benefit of their partner or the relationship.

I would recommend counseling for you. He has probably destroyed your self-esteem over the past eleven years and has no desire to change his behavior — it’s working for him. In reality, what you see is what you get. What you’ve gotten over the past eleven years will most likely continue unchanged, only getting worse as time goes on. This may sound harsh but life with a personality disorder is very harsh and damaging.

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