Going through a divorce is a difficult process. However, going through a divorce with a spouse who has a borderline personality disorder can be extremely difficult and unique ways. A borderline personality disorder is a mental illness that impacts a person’s ability to regulate their moods and control their behavior. Acting impulsively and without regard for the well-being of others is our hallmark description of a person with a borderline personality disorder. Going through a divorce if your spouse has borderline personality disorder means that you must be aware of these issues to account for them during the case.

Anger, anxiety, and periods of depression or all possible when it comes to a person with a borderline personality disorder. If you have been married to a person with borderline personality disorder, then you surely understand the rollercoaster between seemingly normal behavior and worrisome bouts of depression and anxiety. These are the most significant relational issues that can impact your and your spouse’s ability to conduct a divorce without major issues. If you have experience with your spouse acting aggressively or with anger towards family members that I can imagine that you are concerned about what a divorce may look like when it comes to any of these subjects.

You may have even chosen to remain in your marriage only because you do not want to have to deal with the stresses associated with going through the divorce with your spouse. Many people choose to remain in marriages that they probably shouldn’t for extended periods if for no other reason than they do not want to go through that hassle in trouble associated with a divorce. These could even be related to divorces where the two people get along relatively well. When it comes to managing your relationship with your spouse during a divorce every person has unique challenges. You probably have more challenges like that in my mind due to your spouse having a borderline personality disorder.

If your spouse has acted out in destructive ways since you have filed for divorce this is not completely to be unexpected. You need to be able to anticipate the reactions of your spouse to various events in your divorce. It isn’t necessarily fair that you must manage this additional element of your divorce but to be as well prepared as possible for the events of your case you need to be able to understand how your spouse is likely to react. Bear in mind that the purpose of a divorce is to not only end your marriage but to arrive at final orders that are most advantageous to you. This can be a scary proposition when it comes to imagining what you are spouse might be capable of when it comes to doing whatever it takes to win your case.

What are some of the traits of a person with a borderline personality disorder?

At this point, I should point out that I am not a doctor nor a psychiatrist. I have no training in any of these areas, but I am an attorney who has a great deal of experience and working with people whose spouses have mental health issues. As such, I would like to provide you with some of my observations about what kind of personality qualities and other considerations you may need to make when it comes to getting a divorce from your spouse.

Does your spouse make ill-fated attempts to avoid being left alone or abandoned by you? This is a classic thing for people with personality disorders will do. Does your spouse make grand gestures to “save” you or your relationship from imminent harm- usually caused by him or her? He or she may put themselves in a position where they are the hero of their story as they try to rescue you both. All the while, he or she cannot understand that they brought about the struggles that you all are going through by their short-sighted actions and anger issues.

Another characteristic that I would look to is a pattern of unstable relationships where your spouse switches back and forth between strong feelings of “love” or hatred of the person. That doesn’t just mean that you would be the person who is either loved or hated. It could be a sibling or parent of your spouse that he or she gets along with great one week and the next cannot stand to be around. The inconsistency in their relationships coupled with an inability to control and regulate their emotions is a major issue and red flag for marriage. These conditions, unfortunately, are not likely to stop during a divorce and may get worse because of the stresses associated with the normal divorce process.

We just finished talking about how people who have borderline personality disorder tend to be all over the place in their relationships. The same goes when it comes to their viewpoints on themselves as individuals. Your spouse may have problems having a consistent view of themselves, their goals, and their place in the world. This is bad enough being married to a person like this but imagine being in a position where you are having to negotiate a divorce settlement with him or her. Having consistent goals makes negotiating a divorce somewhat simpler. If your spouse is jumping all over the place this could present some serious issues.

Impulsive behavior is the next characteristic that I would look to when trying to figure out if your spouse has a borderline personality disorder. When I say impulsive behavior, I don’t mean pulling off into a drive-thru for a burger and fries just because that sounds tasty to you now. I mean seriously detrimental behavior that can have impacts on your marriage and your family. You could see it in spending a lot of money on something without any planning around that activity. Impulsivity could creep into your personal life through your spouse having affairs or wanting to use drugs. Even the way that your spouse eats or operates a motor vehicle could play a role in determining whether they have a borderline personality disorder.

Unfortunately, your spouse may have suicidal tendencies that are legitimate. The lack of structure, impulsivity, and inability to regulate their emotions are all scary when and if your spouse begins to discuss issues related to suicide. Even if your spouse is threatening to harm themselves you must take those threats seriously even if he or she has no plan to follow through with their threats. He or she may even harm themselves to a degree to get your attention or cause you to feel bad for them. Their ticket to keeping you around may be to continually threaten to kill themselves if you were to leave the home.

Happy one minute and sad the next- mood swings are part and parcel with a borderline personality disorder. All of us are prone to moments of intense joy and then intense sadness. However, for most of us, it would require a dramatic change in circumstances to get us there. However, if your spouse seems to fly off the handle at you in one moment and the next is apologetic and effusive in praise of you this may demonstrate that he or she has a borderline personality disorder. These mood swings make handling a divorce very difficult when you consider that the person will be unpredictable when it comes to their demands, negotiating positions and in other areas, as well.

Ultimately a person with borderline personality disorder acts in this way because they have an actual mental health issue. There is likely a chemical imbalance in that person’s brain that causes these significant problems that I have covered so far in today’s blog post. However, we need to be aware that while these conditions may be treated with medication and therapy it can take a lot of work to have him or her find peace in themselves and their relationship. Even if you work hard with him or her it can be frustrating when your spouse finds no happiness in who he or she is. A lack of sense of self can lead to significant feelings of being alone and without purpose.

Anger is usually the emotion that most people associate with a borderline personality disorder. It starts with problems regulating emotions surrounding trivial issues and can then bleed over into issues related to your relationship, your family, and your children. Any attempt to help your spouse regulate these emotions and feel like a threat. A threatened person often will back him or herself into a metaphorical corner. From there, it is almost impossible to talk with or reason with a person. Add into this situation the emotions of your marriage and you may find yourself in an insurmountable hole to dig yourself out from.

Finally, I would recommend that you look for paranoid thoughts or behaviors coming from your spouse. I have had clients who swear that a person is out to get them or that their spouse has been engaging in nefarious behavior. The reality is that your spouse cannot likely regulate their imagination. When that imagination operates on fear then entire interactions with you and your family can be seen as one big attempt to harm your spouse. While this may be the furthest thing from the truth your spouse can act negatively.

How to work with your spouse during a divorce if he or she has a borderline personality disorder

Just because your spouse has borderline personality disorder does not mean that you should delay getting the divorce. The circumstances that you find yourselves in may require you to act with even more decisiveness in terms of getting your ducks in a row, hiring an attorney, and ultimately filing the case. Every person is different, and every case is different. You can use your best judgment to determine whether to get a divorce. However, once you decide that a divorce is right for you then it very rarely makes sense to wait to get a divorce in hopes of a more opportune time.

The simple truth is that your spouse’s personality may become an even more exaggerated version of itself when it comes time to get a divorce. Their paranoia and anger issues may be kicked up another level now that he or she is having to deal with the proposition of no longer being married to you. Harsh words, threats, or even attempts to disrupt your case may occur on the part of your spouse once he or she becomes aware of your trying to get a divorce.

I have seen spouses may be incredibly off base and make non-factual allegations against people only because their sense of self is spiraling out of control because of the divorce. While you may understandably want to defend yourself and make accusations of your own, I would caution you to think strategically and long term. It may feel good to react this way. I would understand why this may be your first instinct. However, a divorce is a long-term case and can impact your family in many ways. It is best to keep your opinions to yourself and to let off steam with friends or preferably with your attorney.

Once you fight fire with fire it may send a small fire into an inferno that threatens to engulf your entire divorce. This is not an ideal circumstance to find yourself in. Rather, I would attempt to temper your language and instead use the pure facts as evidence to bolster your case and diminish the threat of an ongoing legal battle brought about by your escalating war of words between you and your spouse.

While you have spent the better part of your marriage trying to put yourself into your spouse’s shoes it is almost impossible for your spouse to do the same with you. I recommend trying to walk a mile in your spouse’s shoes before jumping to conclusions about any issue in the divorce. However, this does not mean that it will be impossible to negotiate with him or her. Use their short-sightedness to your advantage. Even if your spouse chooses to not participate in the divorce this doesn’t mean that you will not get a divorce.

Divorce becomes a business transaction rather than the dissolution of a marriage at a certain point. That business transaction requires you to be as objective as possible and not get caught up in other issues that are unrelated to your case. Where people get into trouble when the spouse has a borderline personality disorder is when they use the verbal barbs of a spouse as an excuse to relitigate past grievances. Although it may feel good to do so this would fall under the category of unproductive conversations. Instead, why not take the time to communicate with your spouse about how you see the divorce going?

You should work with your spouse and their attorney to determine the most effective way to communicate updates about the case. Sometimes you may find that in-person communication is not beneficial for anyone. As a result, phone calls and simple emails may be the most preferred method of communication for your divorce. Limit the amount of emotion that can be conveyed means that you may instead focus on the business aspects of your case and reduce the likelihood of an emotional outburst.

Your attorney can be a great resource in this regard. Ask him or her how he or she handles situations where the opposing spouse in a divorce has a personality disorder. You may be surprised at how your attorney responds in terms of devising a strategy to negotiate with your spouse. As long as you and your attorney have developed a high level of trust with one another I see no downside in you consulting with your attorney and then moving forward in working with your spouse and their lawyer to resolve your case as quickly and fairly as possible.

The last issue that I will mention in today’s blog post is that if you have concerns about your safety or that of your child then you should speak to an experienced family law attorney right away. The idea that you can sweep these issues under the rug is ridiculous. Your whole marriage may have been spent having to tread lightly with your spouse due to their mental health challenges. That is not a recipe for a strong marriage, and it is difficult to pursue an effective case strategy this way, either. Instead, focus on what you can control starting with choosing to hire an experienced family law attorney to represent you.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.


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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Child Custody Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding child custody, it’s important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Child CustodyLawyersright away to protect your rights.

Our child custody lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles child custody cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, KingwoodTomballThe Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris CountyMontgomery CountyLiberty County, Chambers CountyGalveston CountyBrazoria CountyFort Bend County, and Waller County.