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The Email:What helps a BPD to remember? My husband is typical in that he doesn't seem to have any recollection from past events and the things we've discussed.

It's always back to square one, like he doesn't know me at all and thinks of me as some sort of a monster. It's as if I'm a completely different person from the one he says he's in love with. I've tried to do everything and I'm all out of energy. Please give me any ideas on how to improve the situation. Can it be improved? Ever?

AJ's Response:

Firstly, this is a very complicated question to answer. The reason why it seems as though your borderline is not "remembering" is has all to do with the very essence of what it means to have Borderline Personality Disorder.

For many borderlines, it's not so much a matter of whether they remember something relationally, such as what you are describing with your husband, but, it is more a matter of what they experienced in the initial relating. That is to say, when a non-borderline sits down to relate to a borderline, more often then not there is not one shared page there. There is from the get-go, two separate and distinct pages, or realities involved in any communication. So, what you remember as having been real and unfolding for you in a relational sense between your huband and yourself is likely not at all what he experienced.

Since he likely didn't experience what you did, he cannot possibly remember the situation or interaction as having happened the way that you do. Ultimately, as is the case with any reality, in any relational context, there is no "absolute" or 100% shared-version. This means that you are both coming at your attempts to share communication from different realities, different experience and different degrees of ability to in fact "share" an unfolding experience.

In Borderline Personality Disorder, as I've mentioned many times in my articles, (see A.J.'s BPD Articles) the most profound effect of it all plays itself out in relational contexts.

Your husband is likely experiencing you as someone from his past, at least in part, during these attempts that you have at sharing communication around your relationship. When a borderline is triggered, they become somewhat dissociative in the sense that they often leave the "reality" of the here and now interaction and relate to it and react to it as if it were a past dynamic re-unfolding from a time when the borderlines needs were frustrated and remained unmet.

When he, as you say, seems to go back to square one and think of you as some sort of monster, this is exactly what I was referring to above. He is not seeing you. He is not experiencing you, in the present. He is experiencing someone else through you. Because he is not "seeing you" he is in fact seeing someone who hurt him, neglected him, didn't meet his needs in the past. He is regressing and reverting back to a younger age in his life experience emotionally. So if he is perceiving a monster, he is merely projecting out some past "all-bad" perception and experience of someone on to you.

Difficult and challenging as I know it is, you need to work at not taking this personally, for your own sake.

As for how you can improve the situation. I'm not so sure that you can. It is largely up to your husband. As for whether or not the situation itself can be improved, that is to say can your husband change how he experiences and reacts to you and your communications, yes, with lots of hard work, time and determination in therapy. Can he change that now though, not likely just like that. And, he can only change it if he chooses to. And for him to choose to change anything, he first as to be aware that there is a need for something to change.

This is a tough one because you love him. You have invested a lot in this relationship. However, this is the place at which the non-borderline has to try to do things differently, take care of themselves and work at stopping the way they engage and re-engage in the borderline's drama of trauma. Easier said then done. For some it means supporting their borderline through therapy when the borderline is willing to make an honest effort at therapy. For others it means changing expecations and relating somewhat differently through boundary adjustments. Still for others, this understanding of how limited many borderlines are in terms of having the emotional maturity necessary to have a relatively healthy adult reciprocal relationships means ending a relationship and moving forward for someone like yourself to someone who can give you what it is that you want/need/deserve in and from a significant other.

I would suggest that you seriously think about getting professional help. Either for yourself, alone, to figure out what you need, or together to see if you can work things out to where you can get on the same page at least some of the time in the hopes that you can both relate in a way that will meet both of your needs.

This response is © A.J. Mahari

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    Last up-dated July 29, 2007