Borderline Personality Disorder or Possibly a Friend Again?

Reader’s Question

A little over a year ago, because of my job I relocated from another state with my husband and two children. We found a great place to live, or so we thought. Our neighbors noticed that it was hard for my husband to find work, so one of them suggested their place of employment (let’s name that one Fran). Fran seemed like a well-meaning older woman, and her husband seemed like a nice guy.

Around the end of last summer I was also working at Fran’s work. I thought it would be a good part-time job. Eventually I was promised a promotion and then put in my resignation to the first company I was working for. Fran was my boss at work and also my neighbor (we live in a duplex). While awaiting my promotion, I had an incident with Fran at work where she just lost it with me because I had spoken to one of people in charge of promotions for the company, whereas she hadn’t done so. It turns out that Fran was also up for a promotion, and she was fuming at me for not having called her to let her know that the hiring lady was in and then called me a backstabber to boot. I didn’t mean to slight her (her child was literally leaving for a tour to Iraq and I did not want to, with her spending the last several days she could with her child). I tried to go to the store manager and let him know about this blow-up, but I got yelled at in the middle of an aisle and was told that I do nothing but bring unwanted drama. I was absolutely appalled. I also figured that the people I was working with just did not know me well enough to see things accurately. I decided that I did not need a friend like Fran, so I stopped talking to her outside of work.

I finally got promoted, and Fran got promoted, too. She became very irritable at work, and it felt like she was taking it out on everyone, but most of all she had singled me out as her target. I tried to go above my manager’s head to get some resolve, but the company pretty much told me to grin and bear it. I felt like that was wrong, yet I stayed and tried to work through it.

Fran and I used to sit and talk and enjoy each other’s company, or so I thought. There have been periods of time when it felt like things would maybe work out, but then she’d just say something or do something that I just felt was wrong for a manager to do, and I would start thinking about giving up and just quitting. But with the economy being what it is, the demographics of where I currently reside, and the tight job market, I’m stuck where I am.

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My main question is: How do I tell if this lady is a borderline personality disorder? Also, how should anyone who encounters this type of personality disorder work with and live next door such a person? I know it is hard to make a judgment on such a short narrative. But any advice would be appreciated.

Psychologist’s Reply

Having a personality disorder is no small issue. The picture would become even more complicated if a person in your life had a personality disorder as serious as BPD. All that said, there are no clear indications from your narrative that this woman suffers from a personality disturbance so severe.

Of course, I’m in no position to make an accurate assessment of your situation. But there is one issue that appears quite glaring and that is worthy of comment. There appears to be an unresolved issue between you and this woman regarding what she might have viewed as an unequal level of regard by you of her, considering her efforts to befriend and assist you and your husband. The issue is between you and her. Yet, on two occasions you appeared to address the growing rift between you by going to someone else in the company as opposed to dealing with her directly. Perhaps it’s time to stop any mutual vilification and have a serious, honest, and above all non-accusatory discussion of your concerns and share your feelings. Going into such an encounter with the preconceived notion that one of you is personality disordered is not likely to serve any meaningful purpose. Animosity between friends is not uncommon when one or the other party feels slighted or betrayed. Try to patch things up by honestly and benignly sharing with one another. You were on friendly terms once. If you’re able to work through your issues, you might just end up friends again.

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