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How to Recover from an Affair Involving Borderline Personality Disorder

How to Recover from an Affair Involving Borderline Personality Disorder
By Tommy (

The feeling of pain and betrayal that an affair causes is something I would wish on almost no one, but when you add in the addition of borderline personality disorder it throws in a whole new set of variables. Our particular story is one that has a lot of mitigating circumstances, but that makes it no less painful to go through. In June of 2011 I lost my wife (at least that is what it felt like). June, 2011; I checked my wife into Prairie St. John’s facility in Fargo, ND for depression and manic behavior. She went into the facility a loving wife, devoted mother and successful business owner. She spent the first night there crying asking to be sent home to her family. She was met with doctors telling her that if she did not stop crying, asking to go home and start taking all the medicine they had for her that they would hold her indefinitely.

Over the next few days I watched, well more heard over the phone, my wife slip away. If you have ever taken anti-psychotic or anti-anxiety medications you know they start to affect you immediately. Add ungodly high doses , the addition of borderline personality disorder and irresponsible doctors giving horrible advice and you have a recipe for disaster. Long story short, 6 days after they admitted my loving wife and devoted mother; Prairie St. John’s released a heavily medicated, highly manic person that no one recognized. The doctors at the facility had told her she had too much stress at home and she should take a break, so she did and wound up having an affair with an individual she met in Prairie St. Johns. I did not see my wife for days after they released her to her own accord, after she had removed me from her contact list at the facility, so I could not even get updates on her.

For the next few months I battled supposed counselors, her behavior and her new group of “friends” she met at the facility. I had her old friend and my kids asking me, how Prairie St. John’s helped her and why they were allowed to operate in that way, why it was ok for them to destroy families. My only answer was, “I don’t know”. After a few months it all came to a head and I had enough, I reached my boundary and I filed for divorce. The facility, medication and new friends won, the wife I knew and spent 13 years with was gone lost to over medication and irresponsible doctors.

At this point your probably asking holy crap, where is the recovery? I will be the first to admit, this was not easy to go through. I went through massive depression and I still deal with some situational depression. The recovery came two fold. First my wife took herself off of the medications and stopped going to the facility, after the medications were out of her system came the realization of what she had done. What the mix of incorrect medications and BPD had destroyed. Now under normal circumstances this would be difficult, but when you add BPD into it, the shame and guilt is huge. I made a decision that I would take my wife back and try to work with her to rebuild our family. At the same time I had to identify and put very specific personal boundaries in place for myself and set clear expectations of what I need to happen in order to move forward with the relationship.

I am proud to say that we have made it through the first year and are on the road to recovery. It has been difficult and taken a lot of work on both sides. From her side she has had to work on things like Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to identify Borderline behaviors and triggers. She has had to work through not just the guilt and shame that she carried before the affair, but now the addition of more guilt and shame stemming from the affair and her behaviors. This is difficult and I have had to be supportive, even at times when it hurts, because the bigger picture is worth it. From my part, I have had to accept that the behaviors I witnessed were not the behaviors of my wife, but behaviors that were brought on by a facility not only over medicating, but over medicating the wrong medications for her condition. This is so difficult, because logically I know what they did, I saw it first hand, I heard the counselors tell her she had too much stress at home with kids and a business. I saw the ugly face of Borderline Personality Disorder, the protective lies, the raging, the impulse behavior brought on by medication. At the same time, emotionally I know what happened, I witnessed that first had, I received messages from the other man, I saw the coming and going. So I have logical vs. emotional and it is not easy.

I have been told many times even by other “nons” that they would not stay after an affair, and I cannot tell each person where to draw their boundary. I can also honestly say that if my wife had purposefully had an affair while in her right mind (or been a chronic repeater) I don’t think we would be back together, but the facts remain that I saw firsthand what Prairie St. John’s did to her. That being said, does not take away the pain and hurt. It has not removed the lies or other behaviors that took place. What it does do is allow for a platform of recovery. We, as “nons”, have to have an understanding of why someone with borderline personality disorder displays certain behaviors. One of the hardest to work through, especially after an affair is the lying. This behavior is discussed in an article titled BPD and Lying – again…

The motivations for telling a lie (or omitting truth) by someone with BPD are as follows:

1. When it is more painful to admit or tell the truth.
2. When she wants the other person to think “better” of her than she thinks of herself.
3. To avoid the judgment of the other person or judgment of herself.
4. When she can’t see the “truth” because of emotional reasoning brought on by the refractory period of the emotion felt. In other words, when feelings = facts.

Recovery begins with both people accepting (does not mean liking or approving with) what happened and why. Things like Radical Acceptance can make a huge difference. It also means working together to identify trigger points that might start an argument on each side. It is not going to be easy, and you have to recognize upfront that this is going to be emotionally painful experience. However, walking away from a marriage is an emotionally painful experience as well. The key is that both sides need to work together. Both people have to be willing to be supportive of the other person, even when things get painful. That being said, as a “non” you still need to recognize the limitations of your partner and their BPD. I am not perfect at this, and we still have some pretty heated arguments. I try to not throw things at her that are shameful; but I am human after all, have feelings, and sometimes those feelings are painful.

If you are in the midst of an affair or have gone through this experience I can only give my sympathies, but I encourage you to look past the initial rage and hurt to ask yourself if there are any mitigating circumstances and what is more painful for you to go through. If mental illness plays a role, you need to make sure you set your boundaries to protect yourself, while allowing healing and recovery to happen.

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