High-Conflict, Borderline Ex-Wives: It’s the Most Drama-Filled Time of the Year!

My husband and I both dread the holidays. All of them, really.

All holidays give his BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) ex-wife an excuse to either stroll down ancient memory lane, demand money, or fuck with the visitation schedule. However, no other holidays turn the ex-wife’s drool into froth like Christmas and New Year’s.


She needs money. This is a recurring theme in our marriage. My husband pays his child support religiously, and then some. It was also a recurring theme in their marriage, as well.

She refuses to budget and this, somehow, becomes my husband’s problem to fix, and ultimately, we will end up paying her, I mean, “the kids’” electricity bill in December because my husband’s ex is entitled to all of the Black Friday specials she can “win.”

She’s lonely and needs the kids to be with her on Christmas, because my husband “has someone.” My husband’s right, as outlined in their custody order, is to have his children with him every other Christmas. But because my husband moved on with his life, he must be punished.

One year my husband pressed the issue and insisted upon having his children with him on Christmas and it was a disaster, because his BPD ex-wife not only did everything within her power to sabotage the exchange (e.g., guilt, emotionally blackmailing the kids, not returning phone calls and showing up late for the drop-off), she then called and texted the kids the entire time, making them feel guilty and ultimately resulting in them asking to be taken “home” early, which we did.

We learned our lesson and now, my husband just concedes in the beginning. I’ve learned to make the best of this by cooking up decadent adult palate meals and dressing up as Mrs. Claus. Nevertheless, despite my efforts, my husband suffers from the melancholy of being the spent wallet, not worthy of the actual holiday.

Santa’s Lists. Speaking of wallets, my husband receives ridiculously inappropriate lists from his kids that he is expected to fulfill and if he fails to purchase them all, or gets the wrong color, then he is a worthless human being and sucks as a father.

I am invisible. This is also a recurring theme, but never so blatant as during the holidays. Not that I want or even need gifts from the kids. Nor do I need to be the center of attention, but some kind of acknowledgement would be nice.

As the person in my home who takes great pains to purchase and wrap the children’s gifts, and despite the label specifically stating, “From Dad and Micksbabe,” the kids will run up to their Dad, hug him and say, “Thanks, Dad!!!!” and ignore the lady cleaning up the wrapping paper.

She’s lonely. Yes, she’s still lonely. But on New Year’s Eve, “lonely” to my husband’s BPD ex-wife takes on a whole new twisted and desperate angle.

Because my husband “has someone,” he is required to watch the kids on New Year’s Eve so his BPD ex-wife can be free to party it up and hopefully trap some new, unsuspecting dude who has the misfortune to stumble under the mistletoe at the exact stroke of midnight, into spending the remainder of the year as her slave.

When I am feeling more optimistic, I can look at all of this on the bright side.

My husband thinks I’m a saint in contrast to his BPD ex-wife. We are now in the Countdown to Freedom™ phase of his divorce punishment. Five more years of this crap and my husband can deal with his kids directly.

Until then, Bah, humbug!  And a drama-filled New Year!

Thanks, Micksbabe. Personally, I think you should opt out of your babysitting New Year’s Eve services this year and have fun with your husband and let the ex use her the kid’s child support money for an actual babysitter. – Dr T

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  1. SSG says

    First, I love the photo above! Yes, the holidays are triggers for these types, indeed. I remember the not-so-long-ago tensing of my stomach as each November approached, as we would be in for it, too. It was a double dose because not only were the holidays arriving, but also our wedding anniversary AND the ex’s birthday, which my husband was expected to remember and acknowledge. His punishment for not acknowledging it one year was an e-mail informing him (on her birthday evening) that she was taking his underage daughter to a third world country without his permission.
    The acting out behaviors with us were very extreme and very outrageous, carefully crafted to RUIN our holidays (we’re talking screaming, crying, bellowing phone calls and “suicide attempts” involving the ingestion of 2 pills followed by stomach pumping).
    Hang in there for the ride, everyone. Best thing to do is nothing. Ignore the wacky lady. And happy holidays!

      • B Experienced says

        Hi Micksbabe:
        I agree with Dr. T about letting her hire a babysitter. Can you get the kids if you let her electricity be shut off? I would have to play hardball with her when I legally and morally could.

        • B Experienced says

          Two pills! Boy I knew doctors that would have given her a piece of their mind for her antics, and she would have deserved it. While they were attending to her, they could have helped someone else in need. These creatures never cease to amaze me because of how self centered and pathetic they are. No embarrassment, shame, guilt or fear to hold them back. Chilling concept. Then she uses her daughter as a pawn in her drama. I believe that these types of manipulations are psychopathic.

          • SSG says

            It was in fact the teenage daughter who took the 2 pills, but Mommy took her to the ER. She probably told the doctor she didn’t know how many pills the girl took. It was all for drama, then my husband was informed that the ER visit was $4,000 (no, he did not contribute). Of course, I’ve wondered if there ever was an ER visit. Who knows! And yes — the daughter has always been used as a pawn. Only a very desperate person does this, and I think people with BPD feel desperate most of the time. Very very desperate. But the acts are effective. Until you recognize the person is crying “wolf!” It’s ultimately sad.

        • Micksbabe says

          I think my husband feels that if he’s “offered” (read: gifted) with the privilege of seeing his own children, and doesn’t jump all over it, then he’s a jerk and feels guilty. I’m not mocking him. I try to keep in perspective that if my kids were being used as emotional blackmail against me, I’m sure I would be a little more prone to “compromise”.

          One (of the 11 we’ve been togehter) year he planned a NYE cruise for just the two of us and told the BPD Ex in advance. I’m not sure what her reaction was and I never asked (I’m sure he got a lot of grief over that). We had a blast, though.

          My step-kids are teenagers now and I’m sure that their mother wouldn’t think twice about either letting them hang out with friends or letting them stay home alone. There’s really not that much need for babysitting anymore. But rather, at their ages, they really need supervision more than anything. At least by being with us, we know they’re not getting into trouble.

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

      Best thing to do is nothing. Ignore the wacky lady.

      I think this is the best advice.

      Years ago, I worked for a super-controlling, narc-y clinic director, the Big Bad B (my secret nickname for her). She treated everyone like we were dog poo stuck to the bottom of her shoe, but she especially disliked me.

      She ran every holiday party as if it were a prison camp. She held the party in the same room we had our bi-weekly staff meetings where she made grown up psychologists, social workers and other healthcare professionals sit in assigned seats (true story).

      She held forth, at the head of the conference table every year at the holiday party and then she and her demented flying monkey, erm, I mean office manager, performed a “funny” two-woman skit, which essentially amounted to the two if them ridiculing the treatment team and patients. Nice, right?

      My second year there, I suggested we have the party in the larger common waiting area where we could mingle and sit where ever we wanted and have a more relaxed atmosphere. Everyone supported my suggestion and the BBB begrudgingly consented.

      Our secretary (not the office manager) asked me to help decorate the office (she liked the way I decorated my office door the previous year). Over a couple slow afternoons, I helped her decorate the office. We had fun doing it, which did not go unnoticed by the BBB. She kept asking the secretary how many more decorations I was going to hang and hadn’t we hung enough decorations already? That’s all I needed to hear.

      After that, we decorated that clinic from end to end. I even decorated the bathroom stalls. When I passed the BBB in the halls, I cheerily said, “Merry Christmas!” I made a 6-ft tall paper gingerbread man cookie with a bite out of his midsection for my office door, which was right off the waiting room. The patients loved him and named him Ginji (Shrek reference).

      On Jan. 2, the secretary and I took the other decorations down, but I left Ginji up as I’d grown very fond of him. Every 3 days or so, the BBB asked the secretary when I was going to take “that cookie” down (gawd forbid she communicate with anyone directly). Again, that’s all I needed to hear.

      Ginji stayed on my door for the next 11 months I worked at that clinic. But that’s not all. I made Ginji seasonal outfits.

      I gave him feathered wings, a paper diaper, and a bow and arrows for the month of February. In March, I outfitted him with a leprechaun hat, shillelagh, and a pot of gold. In April, I suited him up in construction paper running shoes, shorts, water bottle, and a Boston Marathon contestant number placard. That summer, he sported Ray-Bans, Hawaiian shorts, and flip flops (I erred on the conservative side by not dressing him in a Brazilian thong).

      The patients began to anticipate how I would dress him next; BBB stopped making direct eye contact with my office door altogether. (Thinking about this still makes me smile).

      I left my job at the end of the next autumn. It was a toxic environment with a raging narc at the helm and her borderline flunkie office minion/manager. Ginji was my off the wall, creative attempt at maintaining my sanity in an insane environment. I wasn’t about to let them beat me and I certainly wasn’t going to join them.

      It made them crazy that I wouldn’t let them make me as miserable as they were. And now, every time I have a gingerbread cookie, I smile.

      My point is that you don’t have to let these types get you down, although, I know how difficult it can be when you’re in the middle of it and especially if children are involved. Don’t let them steal your joy. That’s what they want to do. Be joyful in spite of them and, what the hell, be joyful just to spite them if it helps you to feel better.

      • Mellaril says

        Ever seen Dr. Zhivago?

        The scene is where he’s confronted in what was his house by a local Politcal Officer:

        Dr. Zhivago: “You have no right to call me from work.”

        Communist Political Officer: “-As a Soviet Deputy, I…”

        Dr. Zhivago: “That gives you power, not the right.”

        Communist Political Officer: “It’s noticed, you know. Your attitude is noticed.”

        I don’t remember Omar Sharif having red hair but it’s been awhile since I’ve seen the movie.

        Sigh, what are we going to do with you, Doc?

        • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

          Thanks, knotheadusc. That place was so damned toxic. I’ve no idea how I lasted there as long as I did. There were some mornings when I’d walk all the way to the subway, stand on the platform and when the train pulled up and the car doors would open, I would just stand there like a deer in headlights. Every now and again, I would walk back home and take a sick day. That’s call discretionary effort, by the way, and it’s a result of being in an organization that treats its employees badly and allows bullies to run rampant.

        • AussieLola says

          I totally agree, knotheadusc! Dr. T. created a microcosm in that horrendously toxic macrocosm.
          You betcha that the worst bullies in these toxic workplaces are female. Two years ago, I was fired from a living hell of a place with similar trappings (the only difference being that it was an advertising company where I worked as art director). Sometimes “death” comes in Toxic Trios, like those high school cliques that gave everybody else grief.

          • Beesley says

            If I had never worked in advertising I’d wonder if we worked at the same place! I encountered a similar situation and, yes, it was a clique of 3 females! I called them The Evil Triumvirate. I often had revenge fantasies based on the movie “Heathers”!

          • AussieLola says

            Beesley, probably the cosmic energy was the same. This trio was locally called as “The Cows from Level Four”. “The Evil Triumvirate” sounds far more “classy”. “The Cows…” were more like high school busybodies. All the same, their gossiping was malicious in the extreme. The sad bit is that you have to play the game a bit, ie. encourage the gossiping but offer no information whatsoever.

      • thistooshallpass says

        seeing as my exBPD wife (and her BPD affair partner also…), were both clinical psychologists (or at least in training to be at the time)…i am very familiar with how many of these narc-y types are in the field.

        funny thing was my ex always complained about her bosses at various internships too. but looking back its hard to say if it was really her bosses or just the fact that she felt she should be running everyplace (you know, as an intern), bc they were ‘beneath’ her.

        in your case, though, pretty clear you were dealing with a totally unempathetic/cold narc boss. yikes! good job for you for not letting her take away your joy (the year long grinch!). i really really tried my best not to let my ex take away mine. i remember when i found out she was cheating on me…i was obviously devastated, but also managed some days to just be chipper and upbeat and it drove her CRAZY. she was like ‘why are you so pollyanna?”

        she was miserable that she wasnt able to make me as miserable as her. im pretty sure that was the point. she always was quite envious of how happy i was as a person. so, she tried to do the one thing that would make me miserable. it worked, temporarily. until i wisened up and got out. but yes, never let them bring you down! its like a sinking ship. you can either drown with it or jump ship and sail to freedom!

  2. concernedstep says

    That whole situation sounds so similiar to the situation in our household except for my husband was never married to his daughter’s mother, thank goodness for him being smart enough not to go thru it. From the dating for less than six months to having an “Oops” surprise pregnancy (she claimed she was on the birth control pill)upon his suggesting they break up because they didn’t get along, she has ALWAYS tried to maintain some kind of control.

    He has never had his daughter for a single holiday or birthday unless he decided to attend “HER” family functions which were a nightmare to attend. She likes to tell anyone who will listen that he’s a “deadbeat” father who only spends time with his daughter when it’s ‘his idea’ who pays ‘miniscule’ amount of child support (her actual words)and that he is the reason they have no money.

    In reality, she chooses not to gain employment (she has never worked since getting pregnant over a decade ago)and to sit at home all day unless there is a man in her life. He’s not only been paid ahead in child support for years but we end up paying for things above and beyond because she uses the support money for $150 tennis shoes for herself, $200+ iphone, getting her hair & nails done every few weeks while making sure to let us know that she shops at the Dollar Store & Good Will for her daughter.

    She absolutely refuses to meet us half-way because her car either needs gas or work on it but can manage to drive all over creation any OTHER time. Calls to his daughter go unanswered or unreturned. Yet she somehow manages to be on the phone 4-5 times a day with her when she is with us. His daughter has always been allowed to decide whether she comes over our home or not, and that seems to be up to what we are doing for entertainment and if something more interesting happens to come up, we are the bad guys if we don’t allow her do so.

    The Christmas list and birthday list items are always above and beyond what we can afford and we have other children in the house to provide for. It is sickening how these women work at being manipulating. We have dealt with the suicide attempts and being too “ill” to function things as well. They have no problem playing the victim or hero part for their children or robbing their children of their fathers or of any hope of having any normal type relationship with their father’s family.

    You can only hope one day these children will grown and up see what is really happening to them. Until then there will always be the “control” issue and that sick feeling in your stomach just waiting to see what is up her sleeve next…

  3. concernedstep says

    There is only one child from that relationship; six more years of this stuff. We can only hope our positive influence rubs off on her and she learns that things in life do not come free and that she must work hard for them herself as we have always taught the other children. We hope she goes on to college although right now she’s failing a few classes and we have been trying to intervene on her behalf. Hopefully it all works out in the end but trying to co-parent with an impossible person makes it hard for everyone involved.

    • TheGirlInside says

      They may not say anything to you out of a distorted sense of loyalty to their mother, but believe me, they notice the difference between a calm and serene environment and one filled with drama and chaos.

      Say what you will about 12-14 year olds, but they have very well-calibrated ‘bullshit sensors.’ I was thrilled the day my 13 yo. (the only person whom NPD mother respects) called mother on her abusive behavior towards my dad…and crazy-pants had no response. I had to stifle a giggle (or maybe I giggled out lout; I forget).

      Keep giving them the consistency you have been, and while they will get caught up in her tangles and buy into her games (sometimes just to appease her), they will know the difference, and come to appreciate it in time.

  4. anon.father says

    we are all aware of the problem. we need solutions. things like: “let her fill this year’s holidays with drama abuse chaos and violence — because you’ll be wearing this nifty spy camera — and then she’ll go to jail.”

    here’s a question of mine: why does my still-wife seem to somehow psychically know when i’m recording? it’s like she does the worst stuff (for the most part), when i’m not recording. with a few exceptions, thank goodness.

    • AussieLola says

      anon.father, she’s probably one hell of a witch, or a witch from hell.
      It could be of great help if you are with (a) witness(es) who can also do the filming for you, or use a smartphone as “backup”.
      Wishing you the best from the Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia.

  5. AussieLola says

    I wanted to share a link that seems to sum up how we human beings can end up in bad relationships: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margaret-paul-phd/7step-foolproof-guide-to-_b_1102750.html?ref=daily-brief?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=112811&utm_medium=email&utm_content=BlogEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief
    It’s the 7-step foolproof guide to ruining your relationship. Probably it should go in a different section of the website, but its currency makes it match each and every occasion we discuss BPD, NPD and HPD.
    Have a great one!

  6. TheGirlInside says

    Thanks for this article! I typed up a forum thread on a different site about when my father does not come home for holidays (and I don’t blame him–we get together about every three flippin’ weeks for every blessed holiday you can imagine: birthdays, memorial day, July 4th, NYE, labor day, super bowl, etc. ad nauseum)… NPD Mother-Figure targets me, the second-in-line. If I’m not availble, she goes after her two daughters-in-law.

    Mommdy Dearest and I had a spat over Thanksgiving, starting with her critiquing the way I was cutting the turkey and ending with her saying at the table, “I’m thankful for *most* of my children…” My sister, for the first time in my memory actually sort of defended me by telling mother to eat her food and stop trying to start fights (the way a healthy parent would scold a child).

    MF actually waited until she was done eating before storming off to her room to lock herself in and pout, this time. Now THAT’S what I call a successful Thanksgiving! (uff da!!!) *sardonic laugh*
    -credit to Phil Hartman as the crooked lawyer on an episode of The Simpsons, trying to get Bart to feign an injury: “Now THAT’s what I call believable testimony.” – RIP

    Well, at least, maybe you have a good friend or S.O. with whom you can comiserate and eventually laugh about it. For me, I think I’ll add to my (future) eharmony (imaginary) profile: “What I’m looking for in a man: Must have relatives who live out of state…preferably several states away from here, and from one another…siblings scattered? Living parents divorced and living across country or even across oceans from one another? Even better!” …then I can laugh about it.

    If nothing else, you can always post here (sorry if I’m overstepping any boundaries, Dr. T).

    • AussieLola says

      TheGirlInside, I feel for you! The safest thing I could do for my mental sanity was to change countries. That’s a bit extreme, though.
      When it came to love relationships, my better half’s parents live some 800 km away – not bad at all!
      I wish you the very best in your imaginary search (or otherwise) 😀

      Mothers: that’s where so many life disasters start!
      All the best from the Blue Mountains, Australia.

  7. SLC78 says

    As the holidays approach, my BF & I prepare for shenanigans from his nut bag ex. Last year, she spent weeks crying about how she didn’t have any money to get the kids a lot of gifts – from her OR Santa – so she asked that my BF tell the kids that the Santa gifts would be brought to our home. Well, he took it a step further & even had his parents tell them Santa would bring gifts for them to their home, too. Apparently that was not enough for her because my BF received 2 voicemails on Christmas Eve complete with slurred speech, threats to make his life miserable & every curse word known to man. On Christmas Day, he went to meet her at the local post office (as planned) to get the kids from her & took his father along for the ride. She proceeded to order the kids not to move out of her vehicle as she yelled, screamed & spit in my BF’s face. All of this because of Christmas gifts. From Santa. Kids witnessed. His dad witnessed. SHE MAINTAINS THAT NONE OF THIS EVER HAPPENED. This was after admitting to having had a whole bottle of wine prior to leaving those voicemails. Which she now also claims never happened.

    She has already made her New Year’s Eve plans – weeks before making any Thanksgiving plans! She began by emailing my BF, stating that they take turns having the kids on NYE, so this year would be his turn. Unfortunately for her, per their decree, the only holidays they split are Thanksgiving & Christmas. All other holidays belong to the parent during whose visitation week they occur (they are on a Monday to Monday weekly schedule with 3 of their 4 kids…the oldest lives with us full time). After he reminded her of this, the attempt at guilt came…”Since you don’t want time with the kids, they’ll be going to my parents” (her parents live almost 3 hours away).

    Surprisingly, Thanksgiving was relatively quiet this year. Which only means we are in the calm before the storm of Christmas Eve/Christmas Day. We are waiting for the complaints of having no money for gifts for her kids from the woman that just spent a week vacationing back East with her latest boyfriend…

  8. Jason says

    My ex has actually been very decent about the holidays; it’s my mother who’s acting the bitch. Despite my youngest being 15, and thus old enough to be dealt with directly, me explicitly asking her to not to deal with my ex, my mother insisted on talking to her about Christmas gifts. I wrote my mother expressing my displeasure and that has resulted in a string of increasingly offensive and wacky emails.

    On the positive side it cleared up the mystery of just how little she thought of me. On the negative side, I don’t know how to respond. She’s 81 and I think she’s mentally losing it. My tactic is to just ignore her, but I’m talking to a counselor tomorrow and have written a hard hitting, but level headed letter that I may send.

    Searching the web came up with no site concerned with dealing with your parents after divorce, especially religious parents. My kids are coping better with my divorce than my parents.

  9. Esto_Vir says

    And it begins.. This is my first year divorced from my NPD Ex, and the behavior just in the past week has been hilarious. She finally responded to e-mails she has been ignoring for weeks, but with no real answers. As to whether she will be working on Xmas and bring the kids over (its her Xmas with the kids), her reply was that she will be working… unless she doesn’t.

    My daughter was banned from using her Ipod Touch at her house because she texted me saying she was bored and missed me. Then the next day my ex took her out to have her hair done (first time in 16 months of separation she has done this) and suggested she come over and show me her new haircut, which is in and of itself very strange. I wanted to go pat her on the head and reassure her she looked like a good parent now.

    While my daughter was showing me her hair cut, I heard the trash can lid slam closed.. my ex deposited some empty beer cans in my garbage while waiting… So random!

    Then I get e-mails about the kids’ recreation meetings that she finally sends, well past the date of usefulness.

    Such a flurry of activity lately… It’s like she is just trying to bait me to respond to something.

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