READERS REACT TO COLUMNS PAST
Over the last few months, the subject of borderline personality disorder (BPD) was a recurrent theme in this space as readers let us in on their personal struggles with afflicted loved ones. The most recent of these letters (Chronicles June 10) revealed one woman’s remarkable strength and perseverance in tackling this unsettling ailment. The following is a response to that letter.
Dear Supporting Spouse,
I read your letter with great interest and was struck by the empathy and patience you exhibit towards your spouse. I wonder how long you have been married and how you can be so superhuman as to endure the kind of treatment borderlines dish out.
For my part, I was kind and patient in the beginning of our 17-year marriage despite all the abuse and not even knowing what was wrong with my now ex-husband. I think back to all the lies, the cognitive distortions, the false accusations, the destructive behavior, and so much more, and I wonder how I survived.
But I didn’t. I went from being a happy, calm, confident and capable young woman to one who developed physical and mental ailments, one whose self-esteem went totally downhill and one who is in dire need of mental health services.
I got out to save my sanity, my children and myself. What I do know is that as I started asserting myself, I began to protect myself. Had I not stood up to the abusive behavior, I would have drowned long ago.
I wonder how symptomatic your husband is as there are degrees of borderline behavior. Some are extremely vicious and abusive, while others may present with more mild symptoms. My ex was definitely not extreme in his behavior and still I had to run for my life.
I marvel at your endurance and tolerance and feel that I must be missing a piece of the puzzle. But then I look back and recall the sheer madness that I lived with. It was horrible. Even though in many ways I am a basket case now and in need of help, I feel a sense of relief and freedom and am hopeful that I will be able to build myself back up.
Quite honestly, I’m not sure what to make of your account. Perhaps your husband is not so abusive towards you. Perhaps you have a rescuer personality. Perhaps you are desensitized to destructive behavior. Perhaps you are in the early stages of your marriage and still hopeful.
I think each one of us has a limit, and then we can take no more. Ultimately it becomes an issue of survival. I hope you never get there.
An intrigued admirer
You have it right — there are many “perhaps” in the picture (as in any situation we are not privy to). Besides, what may prove effective for one may not work for another. You did the best you could and were fortunate to get out when you did. You are a survivor and sound like you’ve got it together and are on your way to a full recovery. We’re rooting for you!
Readers will recall “A focused husband and father” who deplored his wife’s lack of femininity and notion of romance. “A focused wife and mother” took him on in a subsequent column (see Chronicles June 3 & 17) suggesting he earn his wife’s love and respect by pampering her and thereby improving their relationship. Another husband (below) takes issue with “A Focused Wife…”
I am part of the frum community and want to say to “Focused wife and mother” that she is correct from a female perspective but totally incorrect from a male point of view. Many of my male friends find their wives boring, unexciting and unwilling to take the relationship to the “next level” of intimacy.
This is why some of my friends, even though they are frum, look elsewhere to make up for what they are lacking from their wives.
We love our wives and families, but ironically it is that relationship on the side that keeps the marriage intact and allows us to tolerate the wife’s lack of responsiveness.
The unwillingness of the Jewish wife to become adventurous is well known in the frum community. I don’t know the answer to this, but perhaps the “focused wife and mother” can improve her level of intimacy with her husband and give him the loving he craves.
A Frum Husband from Brooklyn
There is no easy answer to this universal dilemma. No two people are alike, and though it is said that opposites attract, this certainly doesn’t hold true when it comes to intimacy in a marriage.
Be that as it may, the frum married man who feels he has a serious personal-relationship issue with his wife is advised to take it to his Rav who can counsel him accordingly. (No need for hesitation – a competent Rav has heard it all…)
Shyness is a desirable trait in a Jewish woman, her refinement a natural part of her essence. This tends, however, to hinder some women from accepting that “openness” with one’s other half is not only permissible, but preferred and appropriate.
On the other hand, resorting to extra-marital flings as a fix is reprehensible, and no amount of justification by you or your friends makes it right. For one, you are living a life of deceit, which in itself renders your marriage a sham. (Imagine your wife adopting your philosophy and reasoning that what you don’t know won’t hurt you.)
And if you’re thinking you’re safe for as long as you don’t get caught, think again. The threat of communicable disease (among other surprises) is very real, to which you selfishly expose your wife as well.
Instead of sneaking around and investing precious time in empty antics, consider imbuing more meaning into your daily existence by attending an extra shiur; learning Torah is known as a remedy for what ails you and will furthermore help educate you as to the real purpose of your life here on earth.
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We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.Rachel