Relationship Help! CPTSD/BPD separation crisis (my first post)


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Please help me. I'm a 30yo man, I met my wife and her 5yo kid (was boy, now nonbinary) 3 years ago, we moved in together 2 years ago, we married 1 year ago, we bought a house 6 months ago, and now I'm sleeping on a friend's couch and agonizing over whether & how to leave her. She claims to have CPTSD and rejection sensitivity, and I've become certain (in secret) that her behaviors additionally/instead match almost every pattern for undiagnosed borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Any and all responses would be so so important to me!

I was in a gray place when I met her - coming out of yet another unfulfilling girlfriend relationship (but this time in an unfamiliar city), wallowing in lockdown, and yet starting to find joy in new hobbies and budding friendships. I've always been a thrillseeking overachiever who struggled with identity, follow-through, and self respect/care. We met organically, she asked me out, and we dove headfirst into a passionate romance like I've always dreamed of. She was mature, brilliant, creative, tender, assertive, and whimsical. For dates we found houses for sale on Zillow to drive by and imagine moving into. She introduced me to her kid, I fell in love with both of them, I started spending some days and/or nights at their house, I got to play make believe with her kid for hours, I learned their home and how I shoulder some of her burdens, and I got her kid's permission and help to propose to her - she said yes and we were all so happy.

I want to say that's when the relationship started to change, but there were always some yellow flags. She seemed to neg me randomly and become disappointed by seemingly anything, but I brushed these barbs off as just coming from her perfectionism/neuroses and not really about me. She had so many burned bridges with friends and family that didn't make sense, but I was certain it wasn't my place to pry or judge - besides, my family is "norma" and you two could just join mine. She painted herself as a cosmic victim of everyone's cruelty, but I reassured her that most people are kind and besides I could protect her from these financial and social problems with my savings and extroversion. She and her kid were very particular about every aspect of the home, but I learned parenting from her and imitated her cooking/cleaning/words/routines to avoid mistakes and meltdowns.

For all 3 years, we've always had so much love and affection and tenderness... and all the good things relationships have... and energy... and I feel like right now I'm not in a state of mind to properly paint the really good parts. I just want to say before this story turns dark that there is still light in both of us, in all 3 of us and our bonds... but it's slowly fading to a flicker of its former glory.

She could be mean on occasion, but eventually she was so mean every week. She had trouble apologizing, but eventually she never did (without undermining it by simultaneously blaming me). She cherished my presence, but eventually she threatened divorce every month, then every week. It just descended slowly into madness and isolation and loneliness for both of us... and her kid was regularly a collateral victim or direct target of her rages. Changing my job, moving, marriage, quitting her job, wedding, buying a house, moving again, pulling her kid out of school... none of it helped, and it all got absorbed into her victim narrative. She pushed me a few times, and both a distant friend and a one-session therapist told me I was being emotionally abused - I informed her in the hope that we could work on it but she felt betrayed that I'd painted her so negatively to strangers and she got more volatile. She still had good days, but they got fewer and milder over the years. She gave up her main passions and barely kept up with the demands of life, but she found some expression in frequent thrift shopping and infrequent tattoos. Her mental health struggles eclipsed her awareness of and empathy for mine, and her resentment towards both me and her kid grew and got louder. In hindsight, our weekly cycles often revolved around my work-life balance, for whatever I could manage of that, and how that drained her with single parenting "two children" and her feeling defaulted to a stay at home mom role she never wanted.

Sometimes I would comfort her kid (who, after a year of bonding, I considered "our" kid), and sometimes her kid would try to comfort me (who, in the same time, came to call me "papa" in private and then "dad" in public). Mostly we both just deflected the verbal and emotional abuse and tried to fix things. I never took a vacation or slept elsewhere or cheated on her or really told anyone what was happening after that therapist meltdown - I just shrunk into the flailing family.

We saw couple's therapists with no real progress, but at different points we all 3 got good personal therapists and began to understand ourselves better. She had long ago been diagnosed with CPTSD from childhood neglect (abandoned by dad young, raised by careless mom and mean older brothers), and she came to mention "rejection sensitivity" as well. She has been in trauma-oriented therapy off and on for the last year, EMDR for a bit, now non-EMDR starting back up. Her kid was professionally diagnosed with depression and started antidepressants with great success, alongside play therapy for a year and now equine therapy. I realized my codependency and eventually (through reading this Supporter forum) learned about BPD and everything suddenly made sense and I didn't feel crazy or evil any more. I requested (before and maybe after my BPD revelation) that we return to couples therapy, but she didn't trust me anymore to not paint her negatively.

Once my eyes were open to what was really happening, I started to secretly (as recommended) read books on BPD and learn communication techniques and the importance of boundaries and self care... but I was so unsure how to implement any of it. Immediately my defusing decreased and the rages got worse.

The next week when I walked away from an argument in front of her kid, she followed me down the hall, grabbed me by my collar, and, despite me pleading "stop stop"...

slapped me on my cheek!

Then she blamed me for gaslighting her as she walked away.

I started hiding from her rages in a locked bathroom, and the door took fists and thrown objects, and I started regularly calling the domestic violence hotline for reality checks, though she never hit me again. The next night I actually did what she regularly yelled at me to do - get out of the house. I stayed the night on a friend's couch. The next day we met at a cafe and both tried to explain our perspective and set boundaries, but we didn't get very far or very specific and we both went home after in silence.

The next week, when her kid was having a semi-normal meltdown, in addition to verbally abusing us both, she seemed to have also...

smacked them on their arm?...

...during the chaos of stopping them from throwing things (her kid has taken to throwing and breaking her things). I couldn't make out what happened from the other room (I'm ashamed), but later that night her kid reenacted a slap on my forearm. They were both indignant during/after, and her kid (now almost 8yo) asked me for a ride to their grandma's house for a sleepover (standard procedure for a bedtime rage) as my wife stated that she didn't mind because she'd be better off without them and shut her bedroom door. My wife's mom was too tired to snuggle them to sleep, so I did, and then I stayed the night for the first time at her house. In the morning, after leaving them there for preplanned daycare, instead of going home or to work I finally reached out for the help I've been needing for years, from a newly-reignited support network of friends and family. I also started staying on that friend's couch indefinitely. I realize now that I could be making her kid's life worse with my attempts at loving them both, and I'm also emulating toxic fatherhood dynamics from across my family tree (but to the extreme). All week I've been having emotional revelations and doing grueling self-work, but I need more time.

I'm meeting my wife on Friday to tell her my next steps, but all I know I want is more time and space away from her - meet in a month? I've painfully come to accept that I might never see her kid again, as I have no legal rights to them (a necessary step before I felt safe reaching out for help), but I had a lovely phone call with them a few days ago that reassured them of my situation and reassured me that they know I'll always love them. She's bombarding me with guilt tripping and affection and remorse and anger and everything I expected her to do, in line with my first-ever major step away from her.

She's asking for us to see a couples therapist whose website features CBT prominently, and I wonder if that's not a coincidence. I'm holding relatively firm on my boundaries of communication and space. My therapist helped me realize how much I need to work on figuring out who I am and what I want before any intense relationships right now, and I'm already making satisfying progress on that work this week. I finally feel safe, and I have a second chance at life... but I still have so much love in my heart for her and her kid and aspects of the family we made and future we tried to make... but I don't want to confuse or traumatize her kid any further... I don't know what to do!!! Divorce? (we're in a no-fault state) Counseling? Boundaries? CPS? Visits? Money? House? Custody? Years from now? Try? Pause? Run?

I could type more, but that probably enough. Please reply with anything, it will help. I'm spinning. Thank you for reading.
Oh, and one more thing: I realize I didn't mention how scared she is. She's clearly panicked in every rage, every crisis, and she pleads with me to understand her triggers because she's so afraid and abandoned. I think this fits with CPTSD, but I know it's absolutely true for BPD. Diagnoses and labels aside, I can see how scared and alone and worried and out of control she feels. I feel so sad and sorry for her, but I don't know how best to help her... or if I should try to suppress that feeling of responsibility even further than I have this week... She needs help and I'm hopeful that she'll get it - she's smart and she works in the medical field and she's therapy-positive and she's so empathic. I just don't know what the right thing is for me before she's healthier and ready for me.
Hi... I went through a relationship rollercoaster from bliss to nightmare too... I'll spare you the details.
Suffice it to say, when we are in love, we see the best in each other and bring out the best in each other, so we're being our best selves and also seeing each other's best selve's through rose coloured glasses.
When an intense relationship turns from good-intense to bad-intense, basically the reverse process starts happening - we bring out the worst in each other, we see the worst in each other, we're our worst version of ourselves and view each other through the lens of mistrust and hurt feelings. It creates a perfect storm, where the person you once loved more than anything turns into your nemesis and seems to be basically a monster.
One comforting thing about this: it's not uncommon. Plenty of people have gone through this from-heaven-to-hell relationship spiral.
But yeah, it's deeply unsettling and it's a mindwreck.
And while you can maybe just get your own psyche to rein in it's worst instincts and stabilise, it's impossible to make your partner do the same thing - an most importantly, it's almost impossible to both calm down and deescalate at the same time, once things have gotten this bad. IME one person will try and deescalate, while the other person is still dysregulated out of their minds, which triggers the other person again and you go round another round on the merry-go-round and next time it may be the other person trying to deescalate, while now the first person is too dysregulated to react sanely.
I have no idea whether you have any chance of getting both of you to calm the F down and both realise you've been dysregulated and setting each other off.
From my own experience I'd say it's unlikely, but who knows, the two of you may achieve the seemingly impossible.
It's been 6 years since I went through this nightmare-breakup-mess thing and I'm still struggling to emotionally thrive again. I'm surviving but still a long way off thriving. These things can affect us pretty deeply.
Also - I was always sure I'd never get into this type of situation. My parents divorced when I was 11 and I saw all the hideous lead-up to it and the post-divorce fighting where they basically tried to destroy each other and ended up basically destroying themselves and their kids with them.
So, I swore I'd never in a million years end up in a similar situation and had been hypervigilant to make sure I'd avoid it.
Well, yah, guess what...? Happened to me anyway.
I have been in a similar position. Married a few years to a woman with BPD. Early 30's and she had kids. She took it all from me emotionally. Sometimes I felt like I was just making up how much it hurt.
She ended up cheating on me. I guess that was the one thing I couldn't make up. No excuse. It allowed me to let go even though I simotanously had to say goodbye to my relationship with her daughters.

What should YOU do? I would say trust yourself.

The things you trusted about yourself before you met her. It's tough to decipher the difference. Took hindsight for me.
Your own therapist thinks that you need space and to work on yourself and that the relationship isn't healthy or helpful to you right now. You yourself want more space and time away from your wife. And when you wanted to do more couple's counseling together, she used the copout of saying "she can't trust you to not paint her negatively" (which is really just her trying to control what you can and can't say outloud in therapy, when you should be able to say whatever you need to say and should certainly be able to speak your truth in therapy, a safe space). It seems like she has pulled a lot of controlling behaviors on you and is becoming increasingly abusive, and that you've tried very hard to stick with her already and things just keep getting worse. I don't think that there's anything more that you can do because she's the one who needs to work on herself and probably get on some type of medication to help manage her own outbursts and volatile mood swings. I would guess that she's only brought up going to couple's counseling again because you have pulled away and she is losing control of you and trying to bring you back. I think it's perfectly reasonable for you to meet with her on Friday and say you want another month of space and for both of you to work on yourselves individually. Give yourself the space that you need to get clarity for yourself and also be careful. I feel like, a lot of times, women's escalating abuse isn't taken as seriously as it would be if she were a man, but it is serious and alarming.
Bpd will most likely deplete every last bit out of you until you have nothing left to give. Sadly, unless she gets treatment and probably a lot of it, it will only get worse. Quora has a lot of good insight into bpd. The longer you stay, the worse it will be if she doesn’t get help and leaving bpd relationships is traumatic and painstakingly hard and agonizing for most.
Those who end up with bpd are generally narcissistic or have codependency and caretaking issues.
I’d suggest reading about it as much as you can and GTFO as quickly as you can. Sorry to say so but takes a lot of work for a bpd to change and is still a very difficult turbulent habitual behavior for them even when they try to change. They suck the life out of people and break hearts in ways one can’t imagine from splitting to replacing you overnight to saying the most horrible things. Save yourself the heartache and start recovering now.
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It took a mother with my amateur diagnosis of BPD and a wife with the same thing. CPTSD became a "thing" for me damn quick.

You are posting as a person in a relationship with someone with symptoms of CPTSD.

Don't become a member here. Find support but don't be one of us.

Exposure to what you are feeling is not good. I am not speaking ill about your wife nor experiences with her. I don't know YOUR path but the feelings of guilt.. betrayal...incompetence are not yours. Someone put them there. Same person that gave you all the feelings of love...accomplishments...

It will hurt like hell and I think it's supposed to. I wish I knew this the first time through.