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There's the telephone. You could call the police. I know your every thought, Laura. You're wondering if they can protect you. Who knows? They may issue an order instructing me to stay away from my own wife. Nothing can keep me away. I love you, Laura. I can't live without you. And I won't let you live without me.
~ Martin to Laura Burney.

Martin Burney is the main antagonist of the 1991 romantic psychological thriller film Sleeping with the Enemy. He is a charming, handsome and very wealthy investment counselor who's also a possessive, abusive and controlling person with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) and OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and the husband of Laura Burney, the film's protagonist.

He was portrayed by actor Patrick Bergin.


Laura Burney lives in a beautiful home by the beach on Cape Cod with her husband, Martin, a charmingly handsome and wealthy investment counselor who is also possessive, abusive, and controlling. It becomes clear that he has Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), and an extremely severe case of Borderline Personality Disorder. And while she tries to abide by his needs, she seems to suffer under the strain. Martin believes Laura has been flirting with an attractive neighbor, and he physically beats her as punishment. The abuse is an ongoing routine, which began immediately after their wedding. To escape Martin, Laura plans and fakes her own death at sea in a storm while the couple are boating. Laura had deliberately led Martin to believe that she could not swim, so he believed she had died once she was lost overboard. However, having recently taken swimming lessons at the YWCA she was able to swim safely to shore. She secretly returns home, retrieves some clothing and cash she had hidden away in preparation, disguises herself, and leaves home after flushing her wedding ring down the toilet.

Laura moves to Cedar Falls, Iowa. In preparation, she has told Martin that her mother, Chloe Williams, died and pretended to attend the funeral, but secretly she had moved her to a nursing home in Iowa. She rents a modest house and adopts the name Sara Waters. In Cedar Falls, she meets Ben Woodward, who teaches drama at the local college. A relationship develops, but suffers a setback when Ben discovers that her real name is not Sara. After a date, Laura is unable to be physically intimate with Ben, and the next day, she confesses that she is on the run from an abusive husband.

Meanwhile, Martin receives a chance phone call from a friend of Laura's from the YWCA and learns of Laura's swimming lessons. His suspicions aroused, Martin heads home and finds Laura's wedding ring in the toilet bowl where it failed to flush. From the Cape Cod nursing home, he learns that Laura's mother is alive, and has her traced to the nursing home in Iowa. He visits Laura's mother without revealing his identity and learns from her that Laura is seeing a college drama teacher in Cedar Falls.

Martin finds Laura and Ben at a local fair, then follows her to her home. After leaving idiosyncratic clues around the house for Laura to find, Martin confronts Laura. Ben appears at the door and Martin, brandishing a Heckler and Koch P9S pistol, threatens to kill Ben if she doesn't make him leave. Laura talks to Ben and he appears to leave, but then breaks down the door and struggles with Martin, who knocks him unconscious. As he aims the gun at Ben, Laura distracts and attacks Martin, who drops the gun, and she manages to take control of it; she fires at Martin but misses.

Laura holds Martin at gunpoint while she calls the police. She then tells the police that she just killed an intruder, hangs up the phone and shoots Martin three times. When Martin falls to the ground she drops the pistol and collapses, sobbing. Martin, not yet dead, picks up the gun and tries to shoot her but the gun only clicks empty. Then Martin dies. Ben is revived by Laura and they embrace as Martin's dead body lies on the ground with Laura's wedding ring inches from his hand.


Martin Burney has two apparent mental disorders, the primary one being Borderline Personality Disorder and the second being Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Martin's OCD results in him following a strict routine (such as listening to the same song every time he made love), always keeping a neat and tidy house and putting everything away (such as the cans and towels) in a very specific way. While Martin has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, this is not what makes him an abusive, controlling, possessive and obsessive person. What drives his actions is an extreme case of Borderline Personality Disorder, for which he meets nearly every symptom. This illness, also called Emotional Dysregulation Disorder, is a mental disorder characterized by unstable moods and relationships. He meets at least eight of the criteria for this disorder, including having intense relationships, mood swings, obsessions, splitting (black and white thinking), impulsive behaviors, paranoia and unjustified anger; though the most obvious is the main symptom of the disorder is frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. His obsession with preventing his wife from leaving him leads him to take extreme measures to prevent this, even if it means threatening her or others. He won't let anything stand in his path to love and have Laura for himself, which results in him attempting to murder three people, including Laura's own mother.

Despite his monstrous actions, Martin appears to truly love Laura, showing that he is not a psychopath but rather an extremely disturbed individual who craves intimacy but is unable to elicit the proper emotional responses to achieve this. Oddly, all of his vicious actions towards Laura were actually meant to prevent her from leaving but ended up having the opposite effect (typical of someone with a severe Borderline Personality). Martin, when paranoid that Laura was flirting with their neighbor, hits her to try and scare her into staying with him, only to immediately thereafter apologize and attempt to win her approval back with roses. Martin would also threaten her, saying that he would always find her if she ran away and that going to the police would only make things worse. Once she does actually leave, he relentlessly tracks her down, hiring a team of private investigators and even doing his own detective work to accomplish this. Martin's love for Laura is further evidenced by him attempting to resume their marriage without a hitch even after she had faked her death, changed her name and moved across the country to escape him. Despite his love for Laura, once she attempted to murder him, his love rapidly turned to hate (again, typical of Borderlines) and he attempted to kill her.

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