I am dating a guy and things are going really well between the two of us. There are a few things that bother me about him. I know that no one is perfect, but I want to straighten everything out before our relationship gets too serious. I’m no psychiatrist or psychologist, but I really think that he has borderline personality issues. So, the problem is that we get along in every way, but he always gets into fights with people. I once asked him if he has any friends, and he says that he does, but then I find out that they are really not his friends, and when I tell him that, he says that they are jealous of him, and that he doesn’t like and trust anyone.
When we first started dating, I thought that he has a good relationship with his parents, but he talks badly about them, and I have seen how he disrespects them. He says that they didn’t pay too much attention to him when he was a child, and he sometimes felt neglected. He says that he respects his father, but not so much his mother. He says they don’t understand him.
He criticizes me that that I don’t have many friends or people I confide in. That’s true, but the friends I do have, I am very close with. One of my friends thinks that maybe he is on the spectrum. Also, there are people that he really hates. I am scared that one day he will hate me too. Is that how it works with such people?
I’m not perfect either. There are some things about me, and what happened to me in the past that he does not know about. But I’m scared if I tell him, he won’t want me anymore. I heard that a lot of people don’t always tell everything to the person they are married to. I want to be honest, but I also don’t want to lose him.
I will first address the issue you have with the guy you are dating, specifically your personal assessment that he suffers from borderline personality disorder, and your friend’s suspicion that he might be on the spectrum. People with borderline personality disorder have difficulty controlling their emotions. When things don’t go well for them, their reaction to such situations are significantly not conventional to the way another would respond. These people commonly overplay and excessively react to a circumstance that is startling. These are the types of people who are oftentimes told that they make a big deal out of nothing.
Yet, it is even more serious than that. Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness. Another name for it is emotionally unstable personality disorder. Patients with this diagnosis have troubled relationships with most people in their lives. Because they get triggered so easily, they get visibly upset to the extent that it can be alarming to somebody witnessing, and they cannot calm down as effortlessly as a healthy person. In that angry state they say things that they sometimes later regret, and at times they may even lash out in ways that are dangerous either to themselves with reckless behavior or to the person that offended them. Their intense mood swings that to a healthy person may seem to come out of left field make it very difficult to live with or have a close relationship with them.
I am not saying that people with this disorder cannot be married or live functional lives. It is only if they are left untreated that the issues are such that it is impossible to live with. Not only that, but their struggles with paranoia and suspicious behavior towards somebody that did nothing to deserve it can make it so that the healthy person will no longer want to be around them. It is interesting that you note that he was neglected as a child. With borderline personality disorder neglect is one of the triggering factors. You might want to reach out to a mental health specialist to receive professional guidance and vital information on how to be in a relationship with the guy you are dating. More importantly, is he under the care of a therapist as well as a psychiatrist?
Nowadays people tend to throw around the words “on the spectrum” unnecessarily. On the spectrum is autism spectrum disorder, and people with this disorder are mainly challenged in social situations. They have difficulty with friendships because they do not pick up common social cues, in terms of not understanding when someone is feeling uncomfortable. They cannot grasp facial expressions and body language in the same way as someone without this disorder. Consequently, they oftentimes come across as rude, and they may not get why others are upset at them. Depending on the severity, it can present with other symptoms too. But, as I said earlier, he needs to be under mental health care if he indeed is exactly as you describe him.
There are plenty of people without mental health disorders that don’t get along well with others. Yes, normal people can have strained relationships, be argumentative, and confrontational. Every situation is different. It is possible that could even be the case with him. To just label someone with any disorder would be unfair. I am bringing this up to you, because you mentioned that this guy says that you don’t have friends that you confide in. I am sure you have good reason to feel that way. In fact, I don’t think people should confide in more than one trusted individual. Why would anyone want to share their life story with every person they know anyway? It is healthy to desire a private life and disclose very little if anything to outsiders. Jealousy is rampant, and trust is earned. Not every person who claims to be a friend deserves to be recognized as such. Loyalty and trustworthiness must be proven first.
Speaking of trust, I will first address his situation. It is possible that something happened in his relationship with his parents that hurt him badly. Family relationships can be interesting, and oftentimes misleading to an outsider looking in. There are families who when they speak about something they disagree on can become very passionate about what they are saying, and since they feel so at ease with one another may even yell and sound disrespectful when speaking. To the stranger viewing this, it can easily appear that there are major issues between them, when in fact deep down there is nothing but love and protectiveness for one another.
I am concerned whether this guy has a job, and if so, what is his employment history? Does he like anyone to the extent that there are people he will never say anything derogatory about? Does he also convey an exaggerated positive image of himself, and does he compare himself to everyone else by proving he is better than they are? Is he overly judgmental? Does he look down at most people? If so that person he looks down at, can one day even be you.
Which brings me back to the questions I asked you about him. You need to look into his history and find out how long he has been able to maintain relationships of all kinds; academic, professional, and personal. And if it turns out that he has been unsuccessful in those areas, and it’s always the other person’s fault or that everyone is jealous of him, that should raise flags. To be fair, there are people who are prone to the destructive actions of jealous people, particularly if they are leaders in their field or very accomplished otherwise. Also important to take into consideration is if he is placing himself in situations where he is always amongst people who are jealous of him. There are circumstances where there are those who deliberately associate themselves with people who might be less talented or skilled to make themselves feel superior.
Could he one day turn on you, and hate you as you asked? Here is where I will direct the trust issue to you, and why you feel you cannot share information with him. Deep down you know that the likelihood of him turning on you is high. That’s why you are so worried about sharing with him whatever it is that you have not thus far.
It sounds like you don’t trust him and the relationship you have with him. You might be afraid that if anything happens and you break up, that he will turn around and start sharing your secrets with everyone. That has been known to happen way too often.
The problem is that the longer you hold back information of any kind, the harder to disclose it as time goes on. But not always. Sometimes it takes feeling comfortable with a significant other to divulge important information. I don’t know what it is that you have not shared with him, but if it is anything that could have any effect on a future marriage, then you owe it to both of you to spill the beans and reveal it all. If it is something that you did or have experienced in the past and you are certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that it would not have any consequence on the future, then it is OK to hold off until you are sure that you are going to marry him.
I am happy to hear that you want to straighten things out before your relationship with him gets too serious. That is very clever and astute. I urge you to take every concern that you have into consideration. Take as much time as you need, and do not feel pressured to increase the seriousness of the relationship until you are certain that you have a clear picture of what your life will be like with him, and if it is something that you can and are willing to deal with on a permanent basis.
Baila Sebrow is president of Neshoma Advocates, communications and recruitment liaison for Sovri-Beth Israel, executive director of Teach Our Children, and a shadchanis and shidduch consultant. She can be reached at Bsebrow@aol.com. Baila also hosts The Definitive Rap podcast for vinnews.com, Israel News Talk Radio, WVIP 93.5 FM HD2, and talklinenetwork.com. Questions and comments for the Dating Forum can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Baila Sebrow’s articles at 5TJT.com.