This article is based on the chapter entitled "Fairy Tale Fathers in Dr. Christine Lawson's book, Understanding The Borderline Mother: Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship.
Dr. Lawson says what you might guess:
"The father's role in the drama between the borderline mother and her child is crucial in determining the outcome for the child." p.178
It has been my observation that very often the husbands of women with borderline personality disorder are either very dysfucntional with their own problems such as alcoholism, drug addiction, workaholism, or they are afraid of their wives and acquiesce to keep the peace. Rarely is there any kind of equal partnership between a husband and a wife with borderline personality disorder. He often keeps his distance or is caught up in her drama trying to stablize the current crisis. The children are often lost in the shuffle. The kids fall between the cracks of family life.
Often times the husband is caught up in his work or community affairs and the wife with borderline personality disorder is left to run the household. He may be so distant in fact that, as Dr. Lawson writes,
"...(he) may be so uninvolved in the family's emotional life that he may barely be noticed or missed if he leaves." p. 182
Sometimes, the husband of the wife with borderline disorder can be very principled. She is attracted to his strength of character because it offers her stability and security and predictability in anotherwise emotionally chaotic world. His self worth is invested in living up to his priniciples and he represses and disavows his own happiness. He is a good example of the joke supposedly told by Socrates that if a man marry well, he will be happy. If not, he will become a philosopher. Because of his moral rectitude and career success, he will be admired in the community and the children may may resent his good reputation given the fact that things are hurtful and unfair at home. They may see him as a hypocrit or weak for his failure to deal effectively with their out of control mother.
There can be a delusion of happiness that is maintained for the public while inside the family there are high levels of stress. I had cients who were in a family which was proclaimed "Family Of The Year" in the city they lived in and the children expressed their confusion over the honor wondering if they really were happy and a great family or was their family life all a charade.
The husband in the borderline family must repress many of his own needs if he is to remain in the borderline family. This takes a great deal of discipline and self sacrifice. He may do so for the welfare of his children. It is the father who validates his childrens' perceptions and emotions and protects them from the unfairness visited on them on a regular basis that saves his childrens' souls.
This is post #21 in a series on borderline parenting based on Dr. Christine Lawson's book, Understanding The Borderline Mother