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Affair and Midlife Crisis Personality Dynamics

By Kenda-Ruth Stumpf

What is life like with the OW? What is it like to be in a romantic relationship with a person who is confused, depressed and married to someone else? What type of person would choose to be in such a relationship?

Personality Disorders (PD)

A personality disorder is a cluster of rigid patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving that directly influences methods of relating and reacting and does not conform to the specific culture of the individual. They are disorders of the imagination; it is not the disorder that is imaginary, rather it is quite real, but the manner in which the person envisions their world is malfunctioning. They are only capable of seeing the world in one way, as though they are wearing a permanent filter over the lenses of their eyes; their imagination is incapable of creating alternatives.

I am not trying to imply that personality disorders are standard problems for MLCers or OWs. Everyone may at times exhibit behaviours common to personality disorders and there may be greater predominance for such behaviours in certain life circumstances or stages. A midlife crisis is a temporary phase, whereas a personality disorder is a permanent condition beginning in adulthood which may or may not fade with maturation. I feel these are important because the DSM IV Axis II Cluster B personality disorders describe many commonalities with those I have seen described by the spouses of MLCers in the typical Affair Down OW and because during MLC a person may exhibit certain traits within personality disorders--particularly narcissism, though these are not generally to the level of the Personality Disorder. I have reviewed each Cluster B (dramatic and erratic) personality disorder and provided the symptoms list directly from DSM IV.

  • Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD): A borderline is certain she will be abandoned.
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD): A narcissist must persistently prove his existence through external acknowledgment.
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD): A histrionic is afraid that without constant positive attention she will cease to exist.
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD): The antisocial is certain the world is against him and that someone is intentionally going to harm him.

Cluster B individuals are characterized as overly emotional, unstable, or self-dramatizing to others and a degree of overlap between them is common. For diagnosis of a personality disorder, behaviour must appear in two of the following:

  • Self perception and perception of others
  • Emotional intensity, appropriateness and duration
  • External relationships
  • Impulse control

What those without a personality disorder experience as their Shadow is the exposed persona--the ego--of the person with a personality disorder. Their conscious persona is the darkness that for others is within and unknown and the light that for others is conscious, is the buried and repressed Shadow. Their thought processes regarding others are negative or splitting, whereas a person without a personality disorder has the ability to recognize both negative and positive attributes simultaneously.

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