My Husband’s a Narcissist, My Wife is a Borderline

Apr 1, 2022 | Family Law, Criminal Law, and Other Cases involving Mental Health Issues, The Mind Itself

Dr. Michael Oberschneider joins John Whitbeck to talk about navigating personality disorders in divorce proceedings. Together, John and Michael delve into narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and borderline personality disorder: what they are, how they present in real life, and what you can do to manage them.  

Oftentimes, divorce proceedings can become even more complicated and dragged out if one partner has NPD or BPD. John and Michael discuss how the person with the disorder and their spouse can reduce stress, find treatment, and protect their children in the process. Listen to the episode to hear Dr. Michael Oberschneider’s medical knowledge, practical advice and empathy for those who are suffering with NPD and BPD, and the people around them.    

Listen to John and Michael discuss personality disorders:  

“My Partner has a Personality Disorder” (7:15) 

Michael discusses the two most personality disorders he encounters: narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder. He defines what they are, and how these disorders—or claims of these disorders—crop up in divorce proceedings, domestic disputes and more.   

Diagnosis and Criteria (12:52) 

John and Michael discuss how the method of diagnosing has changed over the years, from a more rigid procedure to viewing disorders on a spectrum. John shares the 9 criteria that make up NPD, explaining that 5 must be met in order to be diagnosed. Unfortunately, partners and other family members of those with NPD can be negatively impacted.  

Inflated Sense of Self (18:30) 

In domestic situations, a grandiose sense of self can translate to a controlling partner. When divorce proceedings occur and that control is taken away from a narcissist, they will lash out. Michael discusses how the criteria for a personality disorder can show up in real life, and how that disorder can be triggered.    

Sense of Entitlement (24:40) 

John and Michael delve into how someone with NPD may push the divorce process into courts, as they believe they are entitled to more than they are receiving. Michael shares his advice for navigating a divorce and co-parenting with someone who has NPD.  

Lack of Treatment (30:40) 

In every marriage, people change. When it comes to NPD and BPD, that change may be harder to expect or even accept. Michael and John discuss the importance of finding treatment early on to avoid the negative consequences, as well as ways to avoid children being stuck in the middle.  

Empathy, Therapy and Time (35:00) 

Michael and John also touch on how a lack of empathy, either from the spouse with NPD or not, can truly complicate divorce and cause more problems down the line.  

During the time of divorce, self-care is extremely important for both partners. If self-care also looks like seeing a psychologist or a psychiatrist, Michael encourages the parent to do so. While there is not a formal treatment for NPD, those who suffer from it can improve with time and help. Additionally, setting up a structure can be helpful with co-parenting.  

Borderline Personality Disorder (43:00) 

John and Michael go over the criteria of borderline personality disorder. Michael breaks down how oftentimes, those with BPD first seem attractive and entertaining to others; their personality disorder can be confused with having a big personality. Unfortunately, however, those with BPD live an unstable life and often struggle to sustain relationships.  

Treatment for BPD (47:30) 

Michael explains how dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) has been proven time and time again to treat and improve those with BPD. With time and effort, those with BPD can get better and live more stable lives.  

Young Adults and Personality Disorders (49:24) 

As these disorders develop overtime, young adults are rarely diagnosed. It is only until adulthood that those with NPD and BPD are usually diagnosed and treated. Symptoms and behaviors can occur before 18, but mental health fields want to allow individuals to develop and potentially outgrow these behaviors.  

Michael distinguishes that those with NPD and BPD aren’t horrible people—it is the condition that is difficult. Oftentimes, people with NPD and BPD have suffered childhood trauma, abuse, and other hardships that spur these disorders.  

Advice for Divorce with Disorders (53:35) 

Michael’s number one advice for those divorcing someone with a personality disorder is to get the children the support and love they need. His second piece of advice is to get a great lawyer. You will need someone on your side who can help navigate this complicated situation. A great attorney is able to pivot when new situations are thrown your way.  


Hosts & Guests

John Whitbeck

Dr. Michael Oberschneider


Dr. Michael Oberschneider

Call (703) 723-2999

Get This Episode