It’s day 25 of Domestic Violence Awareness Month for Men and Boys, the invisible victims of domestic violence. Have you ever wondered why we view men’s violence as criminal behavior and women’s violence as mental illness? Have you ever considered the ramifications of doing so?
Male abusers are seen as bad men that women and children would do well to avoid. Female abusers are seen as “troubled,” and in need of our compassion and help. Female abuse victims are told to end their relationship with their male abusers. Male abuse victims are often told they need to learn how not to trigger their female abuser and be more sensitive, understanding and accepting of her feelings. Male abusers often go to jail. Female abusers typically go to counseling.
This is especially evident in the way a large percentage of the mental health field approaches women with Borderline Personality Disorder and their victims, which often include the spouses/partners and children of the BPD. It is one of the worst double standards in the mental health profession. These therapists are culpable for enabling domestic violence and child abuse.
I suspect many men who fit the classic male batterer/emotional abuser archetype likely have borderline, narcissistic and/or sociopathic traits, just like their female abuser counterparts. Yet, the mental health field has compassion for disordered female abusers and treats disordered male abusers as criminals. Benevolent sexism?
It’s time to hold female abusers to the same standards of accountability, including pressing criminal charges when indicated, to which we hold male abusers regardless of how shitty their childhoods may have been and/or their mental health diagnoses. A personality disorder may explain a woman’s abusive behaviors. It does not excuse them.
Today’s In His Own Words is written by “MarriedtoaBPD,” a man I know via my work on Shrink4Men. His wife received a sort of BPD diagnosis from a former therapist. She rejected the diagnosis, fired the therapist and has kept on with her denial, borderline rage and abuse of her husband, her children and his children from a previous marriage. MarriedtoaBPD began an anonymous blog to journal the severe emotional abuse he experiences regularly from his BPD wife. He has given me permission to share his story in order to help raise awareness for male victims of domestic violence.
Married to a BorderlineWhat you are about to read is the first time I have had anyone look at this blog. I have to admit I’m scared. I’m scared my wife is going to find this and rage on me. I’m scared because I have to lie to her and tell her I don’t think she is borderline when we fight because she will go apeshit on me.I’m mad at myself because I can’t be honest with her about this. I’m scared because her family knows she is a ‘little crazy,’ but thinks I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to her. I’m scared that if we divorce that everyone that knows her as the nice, earthy, vegan, holistic mom will think I’m a major screw, an ass and a cheater.But mostly, I’m scared for her daughters she brought into the relationship two years ago when we married. They’re 7 and 9 now and they aren’t doing well. How can you when your mom yells at you, ‘I don’t have any time for myself and it’s your fault! Why are you doing this to me? Why are you stealing my life?!’My eldest child graduated from high school this past summer. My second child will graduate in early June 2014. I plan to divorce then if things don’t change. I have mixed feelings about leaving because I don’t want her girls to turn out like their mom, with abandonment issues about men. It’s like I’m watching a runaway train careening toward the slope of puberty where it will most assuredly become a fireball of a wreck, destroying anything in its path.I am also mad at myself for being deceitful, that, as much as I need to write and share this with other men, I am hiding and keeping secrets from her. During her borderline rages, she accuses me of keeping secrets and being a liar. I insist over and over again that I’m not keeping secrets. In reality, I am keeping secrets and I am a liar, because she doesn’t know that I am in individual therapy, or publishing anything.So having said that, I seal my fate to eventually being outed. Welcome to my world.
10/18/2013. I’m sitting here with my headphones on, being called a ‘prickless little man’ by my wife. This is so frustrating.Her daughter was slamming a door because because they were fighting. Wife said she was going to take the door off its hinges. I asked what I could do to help.
In the ensuing conversation that led up to our fight, I said, ‘Sometimes it feels like the whole world is off-kilter.’
I went to the bedroom to work on some stuff and she followed. She asked why I was crying about a little girl being angry. Things started to escalate in a tone that I’ve become accustomed to. I felt like something bad was coming and said, ‘This is not what we are supposed to talk about this week.’ She continued to rant about me and the girls. I said the safe word the therapist gave us, ‘Prism.’
She got angry, came over and started insisting that I argue with her or have what I call a high-conflict engagement. I said I did not want to talk and asked her to step away. She would not leave my space on my side of the room. I said I did not want to talk again and she said I was a prickless little man and needed to stop running and hiding.
I told her I wanted to go to my private place. She continued to stand over my shoulder, insisting that I talk to her. She said that me listening to headphones and trying to disengage was making her angry and I was responsible for it. I put the headphones on and was told I was not allowed to do that.
I said I wanted to journal. She stood over my shoulder and tried to read what I was typing. I asked her to step away. I had the headphones on and had not found a song on Spottily yet, so I could hear her. She kept saying, ‘I know you can hear me. Why don’t you act like a man and talk to me?!’
I kept asking her, ‘Step away please.’ I said this five times. She would not leave my area, so I finally lowered the lid on my laptop and turned to face the wall once the music started. I listened to a song or two and then looked over my shoulder to see she had left the room. I took the laptop off the desk and turned so the screen could not be seen from the room and continued to journal.
She went down the hallway to check on the girls. She came back a few minutes later saying about her daughter, ‘I can’t even believe it’s impossible for me to touch a toothbrush without her freaking out. I can’t deal with this fucking disease or a person who fucking can’t get over it,’ and walked back out.
After a few moments, she came back into the room and started folding laundry. She said something like, ‘Why are you messing around, you know this is over, so you should just leave. You can’t stand us.’ I can’t remember it exactly because I was starting to get angry. I had removed my headphones when I saw she was not in the room and put them back on. She crossed around the foot of the bed and attempted to get a sideways glance at my computer screen. She stood on my side of the room and asked/accused, ‘Oh what lies are you writing about me now?’
I decided I wanted to leave the room. I unplugged my laptop, got up and walked to the door. She blocked my way again, ‘again’ as in she’s tried to block my egress many times before. I asked, ‘Please move.’
She did not move.
I asked again, ‘Please move, I would like to leave.’ She insisted that she didn’t have to move until I answered her questions. I asked again, for the third time, and was told I had no right to leave until she got what she needed.
I held up my right hand and started to count on my fingers how many times I was asking to leave the room. I made sure not to touch her or shove past her. I continued to ask to leave and when I got to six, I started over on the same hand. She continued to block me from leaving the room.
When I got to eight, she reached up, grabbed my hand and closed my fingers. I said, ‘I want you to stop touching me and I want to leave the room.’ I continued to say these two things as I counted on my right hand.
She taunted me, wanting to know why I was counting. I replied that I was counting so I could accurately journal how many times I had asked to leave the room and was being blocked.
She said the time to journal was when I was at work and this was not the time for it. When I got to the twelfth time I said, ‘I have asked a dozen times to leave my room and you are preventing me from moving freely and this is a right I have.’ She replied, ‘Oh I see how it is. Well you might as well start packing,’ and she finally stepped aside.
I went to the front room, sat down with my laptop and started to journal again. She followed and stood by the front door, trying to get a sideways glance of my screen again. I stood up again with my laptop and walked downstairs, so I could be alone and type. After a while, she sent me a text message. It contained a picture of a Maggie Smith quote which said, ‘Speak your mind, even if it makes your voice tremble.’ I replied, ‘When we have had the next session and our therapist says it’s time, then we can discuss. Until then, I am going to journal what is happening. Please do not text or message me. I would like some privacy please.’ She sent me three more messages:
‘You understood her wrong.’
‘If you would like a separation for a week to get away from my amazing children and I, go right ahead! That’s the only way this will work for you.’
‘Pack it up!’
Then, I was on Facebook trying to coordinate a deal for an engine and she sent a message on Facebook:
‘Hmm, you’ve ben on here a long time.’
‘Someone more interesting than me?’
10/23/2013. So right after our last couples therapy session, my wife sent me a text saying, ‘That was pretty slick.’
I replied, ‘What was slick?’
During the counseling session, the counselor asked point blank about any history of diagnosis with mental health issues. Two marriage counselors ago, we had a counselor ask if she had ever been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. My wife went into a rage about that and to this day calls that woman a quack and someone who shouldn’t have a license.
I decided to drive around and think about things. She called. I took a few minutes to ready myself, then I called back.
*Note. This is pretty overwhelming, I’m going to take a break and journal some more later.
**As an aside, I last journaled at lunch. More has happened since this afternoon and I had to leave the house this evening. I’m typing this at a Starbucks nearby.
So when I called her back, I was surprised to find out something odd. She said, ‘So I have one question to ask and I want an honest answer. Did you talk to the counselor without me there? Have you been in communication with her?’
I replied that I hadn’t and would not do that. What she said next was no surprise because this is the siren call of my wife’s BPD.
‘I know you’re lying and I can tell you have talked to her because of what she asked in counseling today.’
Absolutely, unequivocally, as soon as the words, ‘I can tell…’ have been uttered, I know I’m in for a ride on the roller coaster of emotional insanity. What is even more bizarre is the twisting that happened around the stuff our counselor told us to do.
After last week’s episode where I was prevented from leaving the bedroom, the counselor flat out told her she needs to stop preventing me from leaving. I was glad for this because it’s a small step in the right direction. The counselor told her the things she was doing would be considered abusive. This was great also.
Right now at Starbucks, she’s constantly texting and calling trying to get me to come back to the house. It’s very frustrating because she was told to leave me alone when I want space and for me to leave the house if things were feeling confrontational. I’m told I’m being ‘vicious’ right now because I said I would be home when I was done instead of coming right home when she told me to.
She is insisting I come home under the guise that I have a cold and she ‘wants to take care of me.’ I’m not sure how this will continue to roll on, but I’ve just got to be strong and ignore these rants. The only way they are eventually going to stop is if they no longer create a reaction in me.
So to back up a little bit, the reason I’m down here is that she told me the counselor said we need to be separated for two weeks. What the counselor said was that we need to separate the conflict from our relationship.
In a previous session, we also decided on a safe word to use when things got out of hand. I used that word just now in a text message response to her accusing me of being vicious because I asked her to stop. I used the word and she isn’t stopping. Now she is going on about how her shoulder is messed up and she needs to go to the chiropractor and get taken care of and why won’t I take care of her. Interesting turn from the ploy of trying to get me to come home to take care of me.
Ah yes, here they come, the staples in any borderline’s text routine, multiple question marks “???”
Now she’s calling again, but I have to honor the safe word from counseling and not break the communication or give in to the urge for her to suck me into conflict or a manufactured emergency.
In His Own Words is a joint effort between DAHMW, Shrink4Men and AVoiceForMen to help raise awareness about the invisible victims of domestic violence, men. If you would like to submit your story, please follow the guidelines at the end of this article.
DAHMW (Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women)
If you are in an abusive relationship and don’t know what to do or where to turn, DAHMW provides a 24-hour free helpline (+1 888 HELPLINE ).
Shrink4Men Counseling, Coaching and Consulting Services
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides confidential, fee-for-service, counseling, consultation and coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.