Couples in a new blended family struggle to create stability in their homes after coming from a dysfunctional life. The new family strives to achieve harmony by working out their differences. They try to weave lessons learned from the past relationship into the new household. One of the top triggers in their stress list is the difficult Ex.
Common complaints about the difficult Ex in a blended family are badmouthing, inability to stay cordial in each other’s presence, intruding on new family’s ways, standing ground on past agreements if circumstances change, uncooperative on new issues, disregard for children’s best interest, alienating the other parent, resenting the new spouse, or feeling a need to get even.
For the average couple in a new blended family, these complaints are considered necessary adjustments. But, what if the difficult Ex-spouse calls the police every other week for perceived neglect of the children? What if the Ex-spouse files legal charges when she feels ignored?
What if she comes to the doorstep demanding her rights to see the children unannounced? What if she abandons the children for a number of years and insists that it is time to be a parent again? What if she has abused the children in the past in her care verbally, emotionally and physically? What if she has some mental health issues?
Dealing with this kind of difficult Ex is very discouraging and defeating. For the new spouse, it is very emotional exhausting to get along with someone whose version of reality is different from a typical parent. A worse scenario occurs if you are dealing with a mental illness called Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
Do you want to know if your Ex-spouse is just being difficult or is your Ex-spouse exhibiting classic traits of Borderline Personality Disorder?
Try to reflect on the questions below to differentiate a difficult Ex-spouse from a Borderline.
Does your Ex keep your family on their toes?
Is the person always denying your perspective of truth?
Do they often point a finger at your parenting skills?
Is all your hard work for the children criticized?
Do they act competent and controlled in some situations but extremely out of control in others?
Do they engage you in confrontation and brutally, verbally abuse you?
Memories come back vividly from the past.
Do you recall when the Ex has threatened to leave the relationship and take the children?
Do you remember the Ex-spouse freaking out in restaurants, social and family events?
Is “Let me speak to your Supervisor” a common intimidating tactic for them?
Do you think of the times when you were emotionally blackmailed?
Do the children blurt out how the Ex have physically abused them, such as slapping, kicking, and scratching them and another minute the Ex act as if nothing happened?
If you answered “yes” to majority of the questions, the difficult Ex-spouse is a Borderline.
Here are some tips for new couples in a blended family to deal with their Borderline Ex.
1. Don’t underestimate the Borderlines
Borderlines have an amazing ability to look credible. Thus, Borderlines can put together a distortion campaign in a limited period of time. If you are unprepared with facts, dates, witnesses, and family law, you are going to dive into a trap. Borderlines will threaten lawyers, counselors, physicians, police officers, government authorities, and court judges especially if they don’t side with them.
2. Keep calm.
Due to the stress that a Borderline creates, consider relaxing techniques to safeguard your sanity and health. These may include an active prayer life, breathing exercises, fitness regimen and getting away from the situation once in a while.
If they cannot get your attention with persistent calls and unexpected visits, they will move a step further and contact other people in your life. Since they cannot control their impulses, it is not difficult for them to create a public scene. The larger the audience, the better it is for them. Maintain a non-provoking stance.
2. Limit information
The Borderline has a tendency to assert and push their reality. The tremendous urge to explain will drive information out in the open. Often times, they strike “below the belt” to rile you up to react. These are frequent tactics of Borderlines to extract information. They use their own child as a pawn. Borderlines take advantage of a child’s innocence and rephrase questions to get the answers they want.
3. Educate people around you on BPD
Borderlines will try to approach all people in your child’s life. It may include contacting the child’s principal, teachers, physician, counselor, neighbors and friends. It is a Borderline tactic to drum up sympathy from eager people captivated by dramatic stories. Borderlines go to the extent of displaying uncontrollable sobbing to win over advocates to their plight.
It is important to provide others with pamphlets or resources to gain knowledge of this disorder. Otherwise, these folks will become apathetic to your concerns not knowing whom to believe. With clear expectations, everyone is prepared for the distortion campaign. Then, the imagined power of the Borderline dissipates. Borderlines are empowered if people are baffled, intimidated and threatened.
4. Don’t react
Though a lot of people will discourage you from listening to a Borderline’s complaint, their trend of thought manifests itself on their ranting. Pay attention because they will often expose their course of action. But do not react even if they get on your nerves. Borderlines are looking for signs of fear to gain control.
5. Keep a journal, keep a journal, keep a journal
One secret to winning with your Borderline Ex is by documenting events in a journal. If done on a regular basis, the Borderline’s patterns will be obvious. You will be surprised to know that the Borderline records every detail of your dealings with them as well.
6. Get your family in counseling/ therapy
It is hard enough for an adult to understand the complexities of this mental disorder. What more for your children? It is important to get a counselor who understands this disorder. Do not hesitate to have more than one therapist. The recommendations of the therapists are a critical factor in your defense. The therapists will always protect the best interests of your children.
7. Join support groups on Borderline Personality Disorder
Most victims have a tendency to isolate their families because of the embarrassment that the Borderline generates. This is exactly what the Borderline hopes to happen.
Find a support group in your local area. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has some list of support groups. One can also join online support groups on bpdcentral.com and various yahoo groups. Their discussions are dedicated to an understanding of the disorder and provide insights to other people’s experiences. It is important to feel that you are not alone.
8. Be prepared for a court battle
Since the Borderline will never be willing to compromise, a court battle is unavoidable. They think that the court system is the ultimate authority to punish you. Be proactive with your defense strategy. Get a lawyer before you need one.
Your biggest mistake is to rely solely on your lawyer for your defense. Your accurate documentation of events and testimonies of witnesses will substantiate your defense. Though the process is tedious, it is well worth the effort to assemble evidence and formulate an argument beforehand. Your lawyer can only present to the court what you provide him.
Do not hesitate to ask questions to your lawyer no matter how foolish it may seem. A cost-effective way is to compile your questions and email it to your lawyer rather than spend hours on the phone. You will be billed less and their responses will be documented for future use.
9. Keep children’s interest foremost.
Though we have an innate desire to protect the children, we must teach the children some coping skills to deal with their Borderline parent. Help them to distinguish the illness from their parent. It helps when children know what to expect.
A family must have a plan in place when chaos happens. If not, the children will be emotionally disturbed and distracted. Behavior problems will arise. It is important for your children to see that you are calm. If you panic, they panic.
10. Empower your new blended family
Show patience to your current spouse because they might not be used to this situation. At all cost, do not direct your stress to your family. When the Borderline Ex creates some tension in your life, diffuse the anxiety by treating your current spouse and family to dinner, movie and fun activities.
In conclusion, do not doubt your concept of reality. You are the rationale one. You know what is best for your children. Realize that the Borderline has no more power over you if you find the peace in the storm.
Tags:10 Ways to Handle a Difficult Ex ? Focus on Borderline Personality Disorder