Note: This article is not my work, but a compilation of a variety of articles written on the subject by various authors.
(From the book: Stop walking on eggshells by Paul T Mason and Randi Kreger)
Is someone you care about causing you a great deal of pain?
- Do you find yourself concealing what you think or feel because you’re afraid of the other person’s reaction or because it just doesn’t seem worth the horrible fight or hurt feelings that will follow?
- Do you feel that anything you say or do will be twisted and used against you? Are you blamed and criticized for everything wrong in the relationship – even when it makes no logical sense?
- Are you the focus of intense, violent, and irrational rages, alternating with periods when the other person acts perfectly normal and loving? Does no one believe you when you explain that this is going on?
- Do you feel manipulated, controlled, or even lied to sometimes?
- Do you feel like you’re the victim of emotional blackmail?
- Do you feel like the person you care about sees you as either all good or all bad, with nothing in between? Is there sometimes no rational reason for the switch?
- Are you afraid to ask for things in the relationship because you will be told that you’re too demanding or that there is something wrong with you? Are you told that your needs are not important?
- Is the person always denigrating or denying your point of view? Do you feel that their expectations of you are constantly changing, so you can never do anything right?
- Are you accused of doing things you never did and saying things you never said? Do you feel misunderstood a great deal of the time, and when you try to explain do you find that the other person doesn’t believe you?
- Are you constantly being put down? When you try to leave the relationship does the other person try to prevent you from leaving in a variety of ways (anything from declarations of love and promises to change to implicit or explicit threats)?
- Do you have a hard time planning anything (social engagements, etc.) because of the other person’s moodiness, impulsiveness, or unpredictability? Do you make excuses for their behaviour or try to convince yourself that everything is okay?
- Right now, are you thinking, “I had no idea that anyone else was going through this?”
If many of these comments sound familiar, we have good news for you. You’re not going crazy. Everything is not your fault. And you’re not alone. These things may be happening because someone close to you has traits associated with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Following are three true stories of people who discovered that someone they care about had the disorder.
Being married to someone with BPD is heaven one minute, hell the next. My wifes moods change by the second. I’m walking on eggshells trying to please her and avoid a fight for speaking too soon, too quickly, in the wrong tone, or with the wrong facial motions. Even when I do exactly as she asks, she gets mad at me. One day she ordered me to take the kids somewhere because she wanted some time alone. But as we were leaving, she threw the keys at my head and accused me of hating her so much I couldn’t stand to be in the house with her. When the kids and I got back from the movie, she acted like nothing had happened. She wondered why I was still upset and told me that I have problems letting go of my anger.
It wasn’t always like this. Before we got married, we had a whirlwind, fantasy courtship. She idolized me – said I was perfect for her in so many ways. The sex was incredible. I wrote her love poems and bought her expensive gifts. We got engaged after four months, and a year later we were married and on a ten-thousand-dollar dream honeymoon.
But right after the wedding she began taking meaningless little things and turning them into mountains of criticism, interrogation, and pain. She accused me of wanting other women constantly and would point out imaginary “examples” to substantiate her claims. She became fearful of my friends and began cutting them down. She said bad things about my business, my past, my values, my pride – anything connected to me.
Still, every once in a while the “old” her comes back – the one who loved me and thought I was the greatest guy in the universe. She’s still the smartest, funniest, and sexiest woman I know, and I’m still very much in love. The marriage counsellor thinks that my wife might have BPD, but she insists that I’m the one who is screwing up our relationship. She thinks that the counsellor is a quack and she won’t go back. How can I make her get the help she desperately needs?
The Extremity and Intensity of BPD Behaviour
People with BPD feel the same emotions other people do. They do many of the same things that other people do – or would like to do. The difference is that they feel things more intensely, act in ways that are more extreme, and have difficulty regulating their emotions and behaviour. BPD does not cause fundamentally different behaviour, but behaviour that is very far to one side of the continuum.
People with BPD are not on the border of anything. Researchers coined the term “borderline” in the first half of this century, when they thought that people who exhibited behaviours we now associate with BPD were on the border between neurosis and psychosis. Although this concept was discarded in the 1970’s, the name stuck.
Following are thoughts, emotions, and actions common to people with BPD. No one person with BPD will – or even could – have all of these. However, as the number of “yes” answers increases, so may the likelihood that this person may have BPD?
Thoughts That May Indicate BPD
Does this person:
|__________||Alternate between seeing people as either flawless or evil? Have difficulty remembering the good things about a person they’re casting in the role of villain? Find it impossible to recall anything negative about this person when they become the hero?|
|__________||Alternate between seeing others as completely for them or against them|
|__________||Alternate between seeing situations as either disastrous or ideal?|
|__________||Alternate between seeing themselves as either worthless or flawless?|
|__________||Have a hard time recalling someone’s love for them when they’re not around?|
|__________||Believe that others are either completely right or totally wrong?|
|__________||Change their opinions depending upon who they’re with?|
|__________||Alternate between idealizing people and devaluing them?|
|__________||Remember situations very differently than other people, or find themselves unable to recall|
|__________||Believe that others are responsible for their actions – or take too much responsibility for the actions of others?|
|__________||Seem unwilling to admit to a mistake – or feel that everything that they do is a mistake?|
|__________||Base their beliefs on feelings rather than facts?|
|__________||Not realize the effects of their behaviour on others?|
Feelings That May Indicate BPD
Does this person:
|__________||Feel abandoned at the slightest provocation?|
|__________||Have extreme moodiness that cycles very quickly (in minutes or hours)?|
|__________||Have difficulty managing their emotions?|
|__________||Feel emotions so intensely that it’s difficult to put others’ needs – even those of their own children – ahead of their own?|
|__________||Feel distrustful and suspicious a great deal of the time?|
|__________||Feel ignored when they are not the focus of attention?|
|__________||Express anger inappropriately or have difficulty expressing anger at all?|
|__________||Feel that they never can get enough love, affection, or attention?|
|__________||Frequently feel spacey, unreal, or out of it?|
Behaviours That May Indicate BPD
Does this person:
|__________||Have trouble observing others’ personal limits?|
|__________||Act impulsively in ways that are potentially self-damaging, such as spending too much, engaging in dangerous sex, fighting, gambling, abusing drugs or alcohol, reckless driving, shoplifting, or disordered eating?|
|__________||Mutilate themselves – for example, purposely cutting or burning their skin?|
|__________||Mutilate themselves – for example, purposely cutting or burning their skin?|
|__________||Threaten to kill themselves – or make actual suicide attempts?|
|__________||Rush into relationships based on idealized fantasies of what they would like the other person or the relationship to be?|
|__________||Change their expectations in such a way that the other person feels they can never do anything right?|
|__________||Having frightening, unpredictable rages that make no logical sense – or have trouble expressing anger at all?|
|__________||Physically abuse others, such as slapping, kicking, and scratching them?|
|__________||Needlessly create crises or live a chaotic lifestyle?|
|__________||Act inconsistently or unpredictably?|
|__________||Alternately want to be close to others, then distance themselves? (Examples include picking fights when things are going well or alternately ending relationships and then trying to get back together.)|
|__________||Cut people out of their life over issues that seem trivial or overblown?|
|__________||Act competent and controlled in some situations but extremely out of control in others?|
|__________||Verbally abuse others, criticizing and blaming them to the point where it feels brutal?|
|__________||Act verbally abusive toward people they know very well, while putting on a charming front for others? Can they switch from one mode to the other in seconds?|
|__________||Act in what seems like extreme or controlling ways to get their own needs met?|
|__________||Do or say something inappropriate to focus the attention on them when they feel ignored?|
|__________||Do or say something inappropriate to focus the attention on them when they feel ignored?|
|__________||Accuse others of doing things they did not do, having feelings they do not feel, or believing things they do not believe?|
Common Non-BP Thinking
These beliefs do not reflect the thinking of every person with a borderline in their life. You must judge what is pertinent in your individual circumstances.
• I am responsible for all the problems in this relationship. (Actually, each person is responsible for 50 percent of the relationship.)
• The actions of the person with BPD are all about me. (The BP’s actions may have nothing to do with you.)
• It’s my responsibility to solve this person’s problems, and if I don’t do it no one else will. (Each of us must take the lead in solving our own problems. And by trying to take charge of the borderline’s life, you may be giving them the message that they can’t take care of themselves.)
• If I can convince the person with BPD that I am right, these problems will disappear. (BPD is a serious disorder that profoundly affects the way people think, feel, and behave. You can’t talk someone out of it no matter how persuasive you are.)
• If I can prove that their accusations are false, they will trust me again. (Lack of trust is a hallmark of BPD. It has nothing to do with your behaviour; it has to do with the way people with BPD view the world.)
• If you really love someone, you should take their physical or emotional abuse. (If you love yourself, you won’t let people abuse you.)
• This person can’t help having BPD, so I should not hold them accountable for their behaviour. (The borderline in your life didn’t ask to have BPD, it’s true. But with help the can learn to control their behaviour toward others and may already know how to do so under certain circumstances.)
• Setting personal limits hurts the person with BPD and is wrong. (Setting personal limits helps both you and the BP.)
• When I try to do something to help my situation and it doesn’t work, I should keep trying the exact same thing until it does work. (If you examine your behaviour, you may realize that you’ve behaved as if you believe this. A better plan is learning from your mistakes and trying something new.)
• No matter what the BP does, I should offer them my love, understanding, support, and unconditional acceptance. (There is a big difference between loving, supporting, and accepting the person and loving, supporting, and accepting their behaviour. In fact, if you support and accept the behaviour you may be encouraging it to continue.)
• If I ignore the warning signs, everything will be all right. (You probably know the answer to this one already. BPD behaviour won’t go away on its own.)
Effects on the Relationship
Borderline behaviours such as verbal abuse, perceived manipulation, and defence mechanisms often shatter trust and intimacy. They make the relationship unsafe for the non-BP, who can no longer trust that their deep feelings and innermost thoughts will be treated with love, concern, and care.
Susan Forward and Donna Frazier (1997) explain that targets of emotional blackmail may become very guarded about certain subjects and stop sharing major parts of their lives, such as embarrassing things they’ve done, frightened or insecure feelings, hopes for the future, and anything that shows that they’re changing and evolving.
What’s left when we must consistently walk on eggs with someone? Superficial small talk, strained silences, lots of tension. When safety and intimacy are gone from a relationship, we get used to acting. We pretend that we’re happy when we’re not. We say that everything is fine when it isn’t. What used to be a graceful dance of caring and closeness becomes a masked ball in which the people involved are hiding more and more of their true selves.
Is This Normal?
It can be very hard to determine what kind of behaviour is normal and what isn’t. The following questions may help. The more “yes” answers you give, the more we recommend that you take a hard look at how the behaviour of the BP in your life might be affecting you.
• Do people in healthy, happy relationships tell you that they don’t understand why you are still putting up with the BP’s behaviour? Do you try to avoid contact with these people?
• Do you feel the need to cover up some of the BP’s behaviour? Have you betrayed other people or told lies to protect the BP or your relationship with them?
• Are you becoming isolated?
• Does the thought of spending time with the BP give you unpleasant physical sensations? Do you have other possibly stress-related ailments?
• Has the BP ever expressed their anger at you by attempting to cause you legal, social, or financial difficulties? Has this happened more than once?
• Are you becoming clinically depressed? Signs of depression include: becoming less interested in normal activities, taking less pleasure in life, gaining or losing weight, having sleep difficulties, thinking of suicide, having feelings of worthlessness, feeling tired all the time, and having trouble concentrating.
• Have you considered suicide? Do you think that friends and loved ones would be better off without you? (If yes, seek help immediately.)
• Have you acted in ways that go against your fundamental values and beliefs as a result of your relationship with the borderline in your life? Are you no longer able to take a stand for what you believe in?
• Are you concerned about the effects of this person’s behaviour on children? Have you ever interceded to prevent abuse from occurring?
• Have you or the BP ever put each other in physical danger or in a situation where physical danger was possible or likely?
• Are you making decisions mainly out of fear, obligation, and guilt?
• Does your relationship with the BP seem to be more about power and control than kindness and caring?
Now that we have discussed the ABCs or BPD, we will give you some steps in part 2 for getting off the emotional roller coaster and taking charge of your life. You can apply these steps even if the person with BPD does not change.
You will need to complete certain steps in part 2 before you can begin others. As an example, you must determine your personal limits before you can explain them to anyone else. Other steps are part of a lifelong journey and need to be practiced on an ongoing basis – for example, depersonalizing the BP’s actions, taking good care of yourself, and understanding yourself and your own behaviour.
As you read, it is important to keep in mind that we are discussing how to cope with borderline behaviour – not the borderline person themselves.
It’s important that friends and family members of people with BPD realize that we are much more than our behaviour. We are not “things” that have to be “dealt with” or “handled,” as in “how do you handle a borderline?” People should put themselves in our shoes and try to feel empathy, because borderline behaviour and feelings are just bizarre exaggerations of normal behaviour and feelings.
2. What is BPD?
Diagnostic Criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder
A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
(1) frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Note: do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behaviour covered in criterion 5.
(2) a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
(3) identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
(4) impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g. spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). Note: do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behaviour covered in criterion 5.
(5) recurrent suicidal behaviour, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behaviour
(6) affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g. intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
(7) chronic feelings of emptiness
(8) inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g. frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)
(9) transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.
Signs & Symptoms
According to the DSM, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR), to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a person must show an enduring pattern of behaviour that includes at least five of the following symptoms:
• Extreme reactions—including panic, depression, rage, or frantic actions—to abandonment, whether real or perceived
• A pattern of intense and stormy relationships with family, friends, and loved ones, often veering from extreme closeness and love (idealization) to extreme dislike or anger (devaluation)
• Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self, which can result in sudden changes in feelings, opinions, values, or plans and goals for the future (such as school or career choices)
• Impulsive and often dangerous behaviours, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating
• Recurring suicidal behaviours or threats or self-harming behaviour, such as cutting
• Intense and highly changeable moods, with each episode lasting from a few hours to a few days
• Chronic feelings of emptiness and/or boredom
• Inappropriate, intense anger or problems controlling anger
• Having stress-related paranoid thoughts or severe dissociative symptoms, such as feeling cut off from oneself, observing oneself from outside the body, or losing touch with reality.
Seemingly mundane events may trigger symptoms. For example, people with BPD may feel angry and distressed over minor separations—such as vacations, business trips, or sudden changes of plans—from people to whom they feel close. Studies show that people with this disorder may see anger in an emotionally neutral face and have a stronger reaction to words with negative meanings than people who do not have the disorder.
Suicide and Self-harm
Self-injurious behaviour includes suicide and suicide attempts, as well as self-harming behaviours, described below. As many as 80 percent of people with BPD have suicidal behaviours, and about 4 to 9 percent commit suicide.
Suicide is one of the most tragic outcomes of any mental illness. Some treatments can help reduce suicidal behaviours in people with BPD. For example, one study showed that dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) reduced suicide attempts in women by half compared with other types of psychotherapy, or talk therapy. DBT also reduced use of emergency room and inpatient services and retained more participants in therapy, compared to other approaches to treatment.
Unlike suicide attempts, self-harming behaviours do not stem from a desire to die. However, some self-harming behaviours may be life threatening. Self-harming behaviours linked with BPD include cutting, burning, hitting, head banging, hair pulling, and other harmful acts. People with BPD may self-harm to help regulate their emotions, to punish themselves, or to express their pain. They do not always see these behaviours as harmful.
What is BPD?
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness marked by unstable moods, behaviour, and relationships. In 1980, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Third Edition (DSM-III) listed BPD as a diagnosable illness for the first time. Most psychiatrists and other mental health professionals use the DSM to diagnose mental illnesses.
Because some people with severe BPD have brief psychotic episodes, experts originally thought of this illness as atypical, or borderline, versions of other mental disorders. While mental health experts now generally agree that the name “borderline personality disorder” is misleading, a more accurate term does not exist yet.
Most people who have BPD suffer from:
• Problems with regulating emotions and thoughts
• Impulsive and reckless behaviour
• Unstable relationships with other people.
People with this disorder also have high rates of co-occurring disorders, such as depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and eating disorders, along with self-harm, suicidal behaviours, and completed suicides.
Who Is At Risk?
According to data from a subsample of participants in a national survey on mental disorders, about 1.6 percent of adults in the United States have BPD in a given year. BPD usually begins during adolescence or early adulthood. Some studies suggest that early symptoms of the illness may occur during childhood.
Unfortunately, BPD is often underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
A mental health professional experienced in diagnosing and treating mental disorders—such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, clinical social worker, or psychiatric nurse—can detect BPD based on a thorough interview and a discussion about symptoms. A careful and thorough medical exam can help rule out other possible causes of symptoms.
The mental health professional may ask about symptoms and personal and family medical histories, including any history of mental illnesses. This information can help the mental health professional decide on the best treatment. In some cases, co-occurring mental illnesses may have symptoms that overlap with BPD, making it difficult to distinguish borderline personality disorder from other mental illnesses. For example, a person may describe feelings of depression but may not bring other symptoms to the mental health professional’s attention.
Women with BPD are more likely to have co-occurring disorders such as major depression, anxiety disorders, or eating disorders. In men, BPD is more likely to co-occur with disorders such as substance abuse or antisocial personality disorder. According to the NIMH-funded National Comorbidity Survey Replication—the largest national study to date of mental disorders in U.S. adults—about 85 percent of people with BPD also meet the diagnostic criteria for another mental illness. Other illnesses that often occur with BPD include diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic back pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. These conditions are associated with obesity, which is a common side effect of the medications prescribed to treat BPD and other mental disorders.
No single test can diagnose BPD. Scientists funded by NIMH are looking for ways to improve diagnosis of this disorder. One study found that adults with BPD showed excessive emotional reactions when looking at words with unpleasant meanings, compared with healthy people. People with more severe BPD showed a more intense emotional response than people who had less severe BPD.
Borderline Personality Disorder
Personalities are the relatively consistent ways in which people feel, behave, think, and relate to others. Your personality reflects the ways in which other people generally describe you – such as calm, anxious, easily angered, , thoughtful, impulsive, inquisitive, or standoffish. All people differ from their usual personalities from time to time, but, for the most part, personalities remain fairly stable over time.
For example, consider someone who has a generally jolly personality; this person enjoys life and people. However, when this person experiences a tragedy, you expect to see normal grief and sadness in this generally jolly person. On the other hand, someone with a personality disorder, such as BPD, experiences pervasive, ongoing trouble with emotions, behaviours, thoughts, and or relationships. The following sections describe the core problems that people with BPD frequently experience. The American Psychiatric Association has a manual that describes specific symptoms of BPD. The manual groups these symptoms into nine categories. Here, we condense these nine categories into four larger arenas of life functioning that are impacted by the symptoms of BPD in one way or another.
Although BPD has an identifiable set of symptoms, the specific symptoms and the intensity of those symptoms vary greatly from person to person.
People with BPD desperately want to have good relationships, but they inadvertently sabotage their efforts to create and maintain positive relationships over and over again. You may be wondering how they continually end up in rocky relationships. Well, the answer lies in the fact that their desire for relationships is fuelled by an intense need to fill the bottomless hole that they feel inside themselves. People with BPD ache to fill this hole with a sense of who they are, a higher level of self-esteem, and high amounts of outside nurturance, unconditional love, and adoration. But no one can fill such a huge personal chasm. Partners and friends are defeated the moment they enter the relationship. Their attempts to make their friends who have BPD happy inevitably fail. The people with BPD respond to their friends’ efforts with disappointment, derision, or rage.This intense negative reaction confuses partners of people with BPD because people with BPD typically start out relationships with enthusiasm, warmth, and excitement. New partners may feel entirely enveloped by love and caring at the beginning of their relationships, but, ultimately, things go terribly wrong. What happens to turn a relationship so full of love and excitement into something full of pain and confusion? Well, many people with BPD fear abandonment above almost anything else. Yet, at the same time, they don’t believe they’re worthy of getting what they really want. They can hardly imagine that another person truly does love them. So, when their partners inevitably fail to fulfil their every need, they believe the next step is abandonment. This conclusion fuels BPD rage, and, as a result, they push their partners away. Better to push someone away than to be pushed away, right? This series of reactions is extremely self defeating, but it’s born out of fear, not malice.
Human brains have built in braking systems, which, in theory, are a lot like the ones that five-ton trucks use to slow down as they roll downhill. These brake systems come in handy when the trucks drive down steep mountains, or, in terms of the human brain, when the intensity of emotions flares up in certain situations. Unfortunately, most people with BPD have brake systems that are adequate for golf carts – not five ton trucks – which are hardly enough to handle the weighty emotions that often accompany BPD.
Brain brakes, as we like to call them, keep people from acting without first thinking about the consequences of their actions. Like rolling dice in a game of craps, behaving impulsively rarely results in winning in the long run. Common impulsive behaviours in people with BPD include the following:
– Impulsive spending
– Unsafe sex
– Reckless (but not reckless) driving
– Excessive eating binges
– Alcohol or drug abuse
– Suicidal behaviour.
The emotional shifts of people with BPD can be as unpredictable as earthquakes. They can also be just as shaky and attention grabbing. After people with BPD unleash their emotions, they usually don’t have the ability to regain steady ground. The rapidly shifting emotional ground of people with BPD causes the people around them to walk warily. In the same day, or even the same hour, people with BPD can demonstrate serenity, rage, despair, and euphoria.
People with BPD also think differently than most people do. They tend to see situations and people in all or nothing, black and white terms with few shades of grey. As a result, they consider events to be either wonderful or awful, people in their lives to be either angels or devils, and their life status to be either elevated or hopeless.
The toll on family and friends:
Marriage isn’t as common among people with BPD as it is among people without the disorder. And, when people with BPD do marry, not as many of them choose to have children compared to the general population. Perhaps surprisingly, their rate of divorce doesn’t appear to be strikingly different from the rate among the rest of the population. Family members of people with BPD suffer right along with their loved ones. Watching their loved ones cycle through periods of self-harm, suicide attempts, out-of-control emotions, risky behaviours, and substance abuse isn’t easy. Partners, parents, and relatives often feel helpless. Friends often go from trying to help to walking away in frustration and anger. Furthermore, families of people afflicted with BPD must deal with the frustrations of scarce treatment programs, discrimination, and stigmatization. Even when families do secure treatment, the treatment process is prolonged and costly. Clearly, BPD casts a wide net of anguish that captures a lot of people in addition to its specific victims.
For many decades, most therapists viewed BPD as virtually untreatable. Studies were few and far between, and the ones that researchers did conduct failed to demonstrate reliable, positive outcomes. Fortunately, the past 20 years have produced a small handful of approaches that hold significant promise. Several specific types of psychotherapy appear to be the most effective forms of treatment.
Psychotherapy refers to a wide variety of methods used to help people deal with emotional problems as well as difficulties in their lives and relationships. Psychotherapy takes place in the context of a relationship between a client and a therapist. Techniques involve dialogue, suggested behaviour changes, provision of insights, communication, and skill building. A wide range of professionals, including social workers, counsellors, marriage and family therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychiatric nurses, provide psychotherapy to some of their patients.
The purpose of psychotropic medications is to lessen or alleviate emotional pain. Prescription drugs can be lifesavers for many people with emotional problems. However, in the case of BPD, medications don’t seem to be as helpful as they are for other emotional problems. Even so, most people being treated for BPD take some form of medication. And sometimes they take a surprisingly large number of medications. Mental health professionals often give their patients these medications with the hope that they’ll reduce some of their patients symptoms of BPD. However, to date, research provides only limited support for the usefulness of using psychotropic drugs to treat BPD. Many people with BPD also have other disorders, such as depression or anxiety disorders, that have been successfully treated with medication. Thus, using medications to treat other disorders in people with BPD can be a useful form of treatment.
To count as a sign of BPD, this sensation seeking symptom has to involve a minimum of two types of impulsive, self-destructive behaviours. These impulsive behaviours trigger adrenaline rushes and intense excitement and include the following:
Sensation seeking (impulsivity)
Sexual acting out
Uncontrolled spending sprees
Reckless behaviour, including
Highly aggressive driving
Destruction of property
The impulsive behaviours we’re talking about here are both risky and self- damaging. They often endanger the lives and well beings of the people who exhibit them. For instance, sexual acting out may consist of frequent, casual, unprotected sexual encounters with complete strangers, which can lead to STDs or unwanted pregnancies. Uncontrolled spending sprees can involve numerous, unnecessary purchases that max out credit cards and pile up debt. Shoplifting often involves stealing items strictly for excitement and can lead to jail time.
Self-harm is a particularly common and conspicuous symptom in people with BPD. People who exhibit this symptom may threaten or attempt suicide and do so often. Others may deliberately burn themselves with cigarettes, slice their arms with sharp blades, bang their heads, mutilate their skin, or even break bones in their hands or bodies. Although this symptom is separate from sensation seeking, it also involves a certain level of impulsivity. People who exhibit this symptom have to be impulsive enough to try to kill themselves again and again.
A common misperception is that suicidal threats rarely lead to real suicide attempts. In truth, though, you need to take any threat of suicide by a person (whether he’s suffering from BPD or not) seriously and seek professional help immediately.
People with BPD experience extreme emotional swings. They may feel on top of the world one moment and plunge into deep despair the next. These mood swings are intense but usually transient, lasting only a few minutes or hours. The emotional flip flops often occur in response to seemingly trivial triggers. For example, a co-worker passes by someone with BPD in the hallway without acknowledging her. This unintentional slight can spark powerful anxiety and distress in the person with BPD. Most people who are in a relationship with someone who has BPD find that these mood swings are quite difficult to understand or accept.
Dramatic bouts of anger and rage frequently plague people with BPD. Again, the events that trigger these rages may seem inconsequential to other people. As you can imagine, these explosions often wreak havoc in relationships and may even result in physical confrontations. People with BPD sometimes end up in legal entanglements because of their outrageous behaviour. Road rage is a good example of this symptom of BPD, although not everyone who exhibits road rage has BPD.
Worries about abandonment:
People who exhibit this symptom obsess over the fear that a loved one will leave them. Their terror over abandonment may cause them to appear clingy, dependent, and outrageously jealous. For example, a husband with BPD may check his wife’s phone logs, E-mails, and car odometer readings daily, always looking for evidence of infidelity. Paradoxically, the obsession with keeping loved ones close usually drives them away.
Unclear and unstable self-concept:
This symptom describes a failure to find a stable, clear sense of identity. People who exhibit this symptom may view themselves quite favourably at times, yet, at other times, they exude self-disdain. They often have little idea of what they want in life and lack a clear sense of values or purpose. Frequent changes in jobs, religion, or sexual identity may reflect shifting values and goals. Navigating life without a clear self concept is like trying to find your way across the ocean with no compass.
Many people with BPD report feeling painfully empty inside. They have cravings for something more, but they can’t identify what that something more is. They feel bored, lonely, and unfulfilled. They may attempt to fill their needs with superficial sex, drugs, or food, but nothing ever seems truly satisfying they feel like they’re trying to fill a black hole.
Relationships involving people with BPD resemble revolving doors. People with BPD often see other people as either all good or all bad, and these judgments can flip from day to day or even from hour to hour. People afflicted with BPD often fall in love quickly and intensely. They place new loves on pedestals, but their pedestals collapse when the slightest disappointments (whether real or imagined) inevitably occur. People in relationships with people who have BPD (whether they’re lovers, co-workers, or friends) experience emotional whiplash from the frequent changes from idolization to demonization. As a result, many people find difficulty in maintaining meaningful relationships with those who have BPD.
Feeling out of touch with reality:
Professionals describe dissociation as a sense of unrealness. People who feel dissociated or out of touch with reality say they feel like they’re looking down at themselves and watching their lives unfold without being a real part of them. When people with BPD lose touch with reality, they usually don’t do so for long periods of time. But sometimes when they lose touch with reality, they hear voices telling them what to do. At other times, they may suffer from intense, unwarranted mistrust of others.
As you can no doubt see, these signs and symptoms overlap and feed on each other. Thus, if someone explodes with little or no provocation, demonstrates unusual moodiness, and clings excessively to his loved ones, you can understand why that person’s relationships suffer. And when relationships go poorly, self-concept can plummet.
What are the Borderline Personality Disorder Traits?
Here are the traits of Borderline Personality Disorder as defined by the DSM. A diagnosis requires that the subject present with at least five of these. In I Hate You — Don’t Leave Me! Jerold Kriesman and Hal Straus refer to BPD as “emotional hemophilia; [a borderline] lacks the clotting mechanism needed to moderate his spurts of feeling. Stimulate a passion, and the borderline emotionally bleeds to death.”
Traits involving emotions:
Quite frequently people with Borderline Personality Disorder have a very hard time controlling their emotions. They may feel ruled by them. One researcher (Marsha Linehan) said, “People with Borderline Personality Disorder are like people with third degree burns over 90% of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement.”
1. Shifts in mood lasting only a few hours.
2. Anger that is inappropriate, intense or uncontrollable.
Traits involving behaviour:
3. Self-destructive acts, such as self-mutilation or suicidal threats and gestures that happen more than once
4. Two potentially self-damaging impulsive behaviours. These could include alcohol and other drug abuse, compulsive spending, gambling, eating disorders, shoplifting, reckless driving, compulsive sexual behaviour.
Traits involving identity
5. Marked, persistent identity disturbance shown by uncertainty in at least two areas. These areas can include self-image, sexual orientation, career choice or other long-term goals, friendships, values. People with Borderline Personality Disorder may not feel like they know who they are, or what they think, or what their opinions are, or what religion they should be. Instead, they may try to be what they think other people want them to be. Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder said, “I have a hard time figuring out my personality. I tend to be whomever I’m with.”
6. Chronic feelings of emptiness or boredom. Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder said, “I remember describing the feeling of having a deep hole in my stomach. An emptiness that I didn’t know how to fill. My therapist told me that was from almost a “lack of a life”. The more things you get into your life, the more relationships you get involved in, all of that fills that hole. As a borderline, I had no life. There were times when I couldn’t stay in the same room with other people. It almost felt like what I think a panic attack would feel like.”
Traits involving relationships
7. Unstable, chaotic intense relationships characterized by splitting (see below).
8. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
- Splitting: the self and others are viewed as “all good” or “all bad.” Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder said, “One day I would think my doctor was the best and I loved her, but if she challenged me in any way I hated her. There was no middle ground as in like. In my world, people were either the best or the worst. I couldn’t understand the concept of middle ground.”
- Alternating clinging and distancing behaviours (I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me). Sometimes you want to be close to someone. But when you get close it feels TOO close and you feel like you have to get some space. This happens often.
- Great difficulty trusting people and themselves. Early trust may have been shattered by people who were close to you.
- Sensitivity to criticism or rejection.
- Feeling of “needing” someone else to survive
- Heavy need for affection and reassurance
- Some people with Borderline Personality Disorder may have an unusually high degree of interpersonal sensitivity, insight and empathy
9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms
This means feeling “out of it,” or not being able to remember what you said or did. This mostly happens in times of severe stress.
- Miscellaneous attributes of people with Borderline Personality Disorder:
- People with Borderline Personality Disorder are often bright, witty, funny, life of the party.
- They may have problems with object constancy. When a person leaves (even temporarily), they may have a problem recreating or remembering feelings of love that were present between themselves and the other. Often, Borderline Personality Disorder patients want to keep something belonging to the loved one around during separations.
- They frequently have difficulty tolerating aloneness, even for short periods of time.
- Their lives may be a chaotic landscape of job losses, interrupted educational pursuits, broken engagements, hospitalizations.
- Many have a background of childhood physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or physical/emotional neglect.
3. Defence mechanisms used by die BPD
Projection, Emotional Reasoning, Avoidance and Splitting
Due to the chronic feelings of emptiness and identity disturbance that people diagnosed with BPD experience they feel incredibly lonely and that is intensely painful. To cope people diagnosed with BPD will put these feelings on to others so if we are thinking negatively about ourselves then surely everyone else is thinking the same and agrees with our thoughts. A person diagnosed with BPD may project their own faults onto others in the process.
We refuse to accept our emotions, behaviours and feelings and project them onto someone else often in an accusing manner. People diagnosed with BPD sometimes say partners or friends have the disorder instead because they have projected their own difficulties on to them.
The extreme feelings that a person diagnosed with BPD feel are usually believed to be facts so if a partner is slightly irritated with a person diagnosed with BPD, the person diagnosed with BPD then perceived the irritability to be hatred.
In the unconsciousness of a borderline they hope that by projecting onto you that they will feel better, unfortunately that doesn’t last and so it begins again to make the person diagnosed with BPD feel better.
People diagnosed with BPD tend to live with their emotions ruling their thinking and decision making. To a person diagnosed with BPD the emotion is the fact. If their feelings don’t match that of the fact they will change the fact to match that of the feelings.
With partners this emotional reasoning can explain why the person diagnosed with BPD memory of events which has caused an argument is different to theirs.
Avoidance is behaviour of withdrawing from relationships due to a fear of rejection, criticism and exposure, it is a defensive measure. Borderlines may react with avoidance after an argument, once the argument has finished and no matter what the outcome is the person diagnosed with BPD may continue as if the argument didn’t happen, even going as far as saying they don’t remember the argument. Partners or the opposing side are left dazed and hurt due to the argument and confused that the person diagnosed with BPD can just brush it off and seem to forget mainly any hurt that was caused as a result of the argument. They expect everyone to carry on as usual.
A person diagnosed with BPD may also avoid doing anything they feel will cause them hurt or increase their risk of rejection and abandonment, this means they will refuse to go to social gatherings, even arranging a meeting with one friend can be daunting as if that friend suddenly has to cancel then the person diagnosed with BPD is left feeling rejected. Paranoid thoughts can come into it and a person diagnosed with BPD may begin to think that the friend has ditched them for someone else and that they are not worthy of that friends company.
This term is also called Black and White thinking. With people diagnosed with BPD it’s all or nothing, there is no grey area. The phrase “I hate you please don’t leave me” shows a black and white thought. People diagnosed with BPD can go from idealizing someone one minute to devaluating (despising) them the next. If a person does what a person diagnosed with BPD perceives to be an attack on them they will push that person away and cut off all ties with them to protect themselves. Yet that person even half an hour later can show an ounce of kindness and a person diagnosed with BPD will love them again. People diagnosed with BPD tend to put people they idealize up very high on a pedestal, that person can do no wrong, they are the best, but if that person then does something opposite to a person diagnosed with BPD beliefs then they have crushed them and to the person diagnosed with BPD it feels like rejection/abandonment, which they just cannot cope with.
4. The stadia of your relationship with a person with BPD:
How a BPD love relationship evolves
Regardless of how a person with Borderline Personality Disorder alters and tailor her appearance and actions to please others, she often presents with a clear and characteristic personality pattern over time. This pattern usually evolves through three stages: The Vulnerable Seducer, The Clinger, and The Hater. This evolution may take months, and sometimes even years to cycle through. In the later periods, the personality often swings wildly back and forth from one phase to the next.
Love: The Vulnerable Seducer Phase
At first, a Borderline female may appear sweet, shy, vulnerable and “ambivalently in need of being rescued”; looking for her Knight in Shining Armour.
In the beginning, you will feel a rapidly accelerating sense of compassion because she is a master at portraying herself as she “victim of love” and you are saving her. But listen closely to how she sees herself as a victim. As her peculiar emotional invasion advances upon you, you will hear how no one understands her – except you. Other people have been “insensitive.” She has been betrayed, just when she starts trusting people. But there is something “special” about you, because “you really seem to know her.”
It is this intense way she has of bearing down on you emotionally that can feel very seductive. You will feel elevated, adored, idealized – almost worshiped, maybe even to the level of being uncomfortable. And you will feel that way quickly. It may seem like a great deal has happened between the two of you in a short period of time, because conversation is intense, her attention, and her eyes are so deeply focused on you.
Here is a woman who may look like a dream come true. She not only seems to make you the centre of her attention, but she even craves listening to your opinions, thoughts and ideas. It will seem like you have really found your heart’s desire.
Like many things that seems too good to be true, this is. This is borderline personality disorder.
It will all seem so real because it is real in her mind. But what is in her mind it is not what you perceive to be happening.
Love: The Clinger Phase
Once she has successfully candied her hook with your adoration, she will weld it into place by “reeling in” your attention and concern. Her intense interest in you will subtly transform over time. She still appears to be interested in you, but no longer in what you are interested in. Her interest becomes your exclusive interest in her. This is when you start to notice “something”. Your thoughts, feelings and ideas fascinate her, but more so when they focus on her. You can tell when this happens because you can feel her “perk-up” emotionally whenever your attention focuses upon her feelings and issues. Those moments can emotionally hook your compassion more deeply into her, because that is when she will treat you well – tenderly.
It’s often here, you begin to confuse your empathy with love, and you believe you’re in love with her. Especially if your instinct is strong and rescuing is at the heart of your “code.” Following that code results in the most common excuse I hear as a therapist, as to why many men stay with borderline women, “…. But I love her!” Adult love is built on mutual interest, care and respect – not on one-way emotional rescues. And mothering is for kids. Not grown men.
But, if like King Priam, you do fall prey to this Trojan Horse and let her inside your city gates, the first Berserker to leave the horse will be the devious Clinger. A master at strengthening her control through empathy, she is brilliant at eliciting sympathy and identifying those most likely to provide it-like the steady-tempered and tenderhearted.
The world ails her. Physical complaints are common. Her back hurts. Her head aches. Peculiar pains of all sorts come and go like invisible, malignant companions. If you track their appearance, though, you may see a pattern of occurrence connected to the waning or waxing of your attentions. Her complaints are ways of saying, “don’t leave me. Save me!” And Her maladies are not simply physical. Her feelings ail her too.
She is depressed or anxious, detached and indifferent or vulnerable and hypersensitive. She can swing from elated agitation to mournful gloom at the blink of an eye. Watching the erratic changes in her moods is like tracking the needle on a Richter-scale chart at the site of an active volcano, and you never know which flick of the needle will predict the big explosion.
But after every emotional Vesuvius she pleads for your mercy. And if she has imbedded her guilt-hooks deep enough into your conscientious nature, you will stay around and continue tracking this volcanic earthquake, caught in the illusion that you can discover how to stop Vesuvius before she blows again. But, in reality, staying around this cauldron of emotional unpredictability is pointless. Every effort to understand or help this type of woman is an excruciatingly pointless exercise in emotional rescue.
It is like you are a Coast Guard cutter and she is a drowning woman. But she drowns in a peculiar way. Every time you pull her out of the turbulent sea, feed her warm tea and biscuits, wrap her in a comfy blanket and tell her everything is okay, she suddenly jumps overboard and starts pleading for help again. And, no matter how many times you rush to the emotional – rescue, she still keeps jumping back into trouble. It is this repeating, endlessly frustrating pattern which should confirm to you that you are involved with a Borderline Personality Disorder. No matter how effective you are at helping her, nothing is ever enough. No physical, financial or emotional assistance ever seems to make any lasting difference. It’s like pouring the best of yourself into a galactic-sized Psychological Black Hole of bottomless emotional hunger. And if you keep pouring it in long enough, one-day you’ll fall right down that hole yourself. There will be nothing left of you but your own shadow, just as it falls through her predatory “event horizon.” But before that happens, other signs will reveal her true colours.
Sex will be incredible. She will instinctively tune in to reading your needs. It will seem wonderful – for a while.
The intensity of her erotic passion can sweep you away, but her motive is double-edged. One side of it comes from the instinctively built-in, turbulent emotionality of her disorder. Intensity is her trump-card.
But the other side of her is driven by an equally instinctually and concentrated need to control you. The sexual experiences, while imposing, are motivated from a desire to dominate you, not please you. Her erotic intensity will be there in a cunning way tailored so you will not readily perceive it.
“I love you” means – “I need you to love me”. “That was the best ever for me” means – tell me “it was the best ever for you”. Show me that I have you.
Love: The Hater Phase
Once a Borderline Controller has succeeded and is in control, the Hater appears. This hateful part of her may have emerged before, but you probably will not see it in full, acidic bloom until she feels she has achieved a firm hold on your conscience and compassion. But when that part makes its’ first appearance, rage is how it breaks into your life.
What gives this rage its characteristically borderline flavour is that it is very difficult for someone witnessing it to know what triggered it in reality. But that is its primary identifying clue: the actual rage-trigger is difficult for you to see. But in the Borderline’s mind it always seems to be very clear. To her, there is always a cause. And the cause is always you. Whether it is the tone of your voice, how you think, how you feel, dress, move or breathe – or “the way you’re looking at me,” – she will always justify her rage by blaming you for “having to hurt her.”
Rage reactions are also unpredictable and unexpected. They happen when you least expect it. And they can become extremely dangerous. It all serves to break you down over time. Your self- esteem melts away. You change and alter your behaviour in hopes of returning to the “Clinger Stage”. And periodically you will, but only to cycle back to the hater when you least expect it, possibly on her birthday, or your anniversary.
Borderline Personality Disorder is a serious mental illness.
5. Your reactions to a person with BPD
(Paul T. Mason; Randi Kreger – Stop Walking on eggshells)
Non-BP Responses to Borderline Behaviour
Borderline behaviour causes many reactions in non-BPs. Some of the more common responses are addressed in this section.
At first everything looks and sounds as normal as apple pie. Then, unexpectedly, strange twists and reversals of reality occur; off-kilter shifts in the time-space continuum hurl me onto the floor. Suddenly, I realize I’ve crossed into the Borderline Zone!
2. Loss of Self-Esteem
Beverly Engel (1990) describes the effect of emotional abuse on self-esteem:
Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be longer lasting than physical ones. With emotional abuse, the insults, insinuations, criticism, and accusations slowly eat away at the victim’s self-esteem until she is incapable of judging the situation realistically. She has become so beaten down emotionally that she blames herself for the abuse. Emotional abuse victims can become so convinced that they are worthless that they believe that no one else could want them. They stay in abusive situations because they believe they have nowhere else to go. Their ultimate fear is being all alone.
3. Feeling Trapped and Helpless
The borderline’s behaviours cause a great deal of anguish, but leaving seems impossible or improbable. Nothing the non-BP does seems to have any lasting positive effect. Non-BPs may feel trapped in the relationship because they either feel overly guilty for perhaps “causing” the BP to feel and behave the way they do. The BP’s threat of suicide or threat to harm others can, at times, paralyse the non-BP and make them feel as if leaving the relationship is too risky.
The non-BP may leave the situation, either emotionally or physically. This could include working long hours, remaining silent for fear of saying something wrong, or terminating the relationship. This may result in the person with BPD feeling abandoned and acting out more intensely. Also, the non-BP may leave children alone with the BP for longer periods of time. If the BP acts abusively toward the children, the non-BP isn’t there to try to protect them.
5. Guilt and Shame
Over time accusations can have a brainwashing effect. Non-BPs may come to believe that they are the source of all the problems. This is extremely damaging when applied to children, who look upon parents as God-like figures, and who do not have the capacity to question an adult borderline’s accusations or assumptions.
Parents of people with BPD are also vulnerable to this. They believe that they have been horrible parents when they simply made the same mistakes that most parents make. Some parents we interviewed berate themselves endlessly, putting their mistakes under a microscope in an effort to figure out what they did to cause their children’s disorder. When they can’t find the “smoking gun,” they conclude threat the problem must be biological. But that doesn’t take them off the hook either, since they then feel responsible for the child’s “flawed” biological heritage (unless the child was adopted).
6. Adopting Unhealthy Habits
This includes excessive drinking, overeating, substance abuse, and so on. These unhealthy habits are typical ways many people, not just non-BPs, try to cope with stress. Initially, drinking, overeating, and substance abuse soothe anxiety and stress. As these coping strategies become more habitual and ingrained, the non-BP will begin to experience the negative consequences of the habit, which are then mixed in with the original stressors, compounding the situation.
The unpredictable behaviour and moodiness of people with BPD can make friendships difficult. Making excuses or covering up the borderline’s behaviour can be emotionally exhausting that some people find it’s not worth the effort to sustain friendships. Many non-BPs say that friends often suggest solutions that are simplistic or unacceptable, which leaves the non-BPs feeling misunderstood. Some say they lose friendships because their friends disbelieve them or grow tired of hearing about their struggles.
Frequently, non-BPs become isolated because the BPs in their lives insist that they cut off their ties with others. Too often, the non-BP complies. Once a non-BP becomes more isolated, several things can happen. They may become more emotionally dependent on the BP. Because they are out of touch with the real world, the outrageousness of BPD behaviour may seem normal, once there is nothing to compare it to. Friends can no longer observe the relationship and talk to the non-BP about unhealthy components of the relationship. With things bottled up inside, the non-BP is left to deal with their problems with the BP on their own.
8. Hypervigilance and Physical Illnesses
It is very stressful to be around someone who may severely berate you at any moment with no visible provocation. In an attempt to gain some control over what appears to be very unpredictable BP behaviours, non-BPs often find themselves “on alert” to forecast or predict the occurrence of the distressing behaviours of the BP. If one can forecast or predict when these behaviours will occur, then the non-BP can prepare to either defend themselves or avoid being overrun by the rage and acting out. However, being on alert requires a heightened sense of arousal both physically and psychologically that, over time, can wear down the body’s natural defences against stress. As a result, physical symptoms of stress begin to manifest in the form of headaches, ulcers, high blood pressure, and other illnesses.
9. Adoption of BPD-like Thoughts and Feelings
The moodiness and “matching” of emotions that non-BPs experience is the result of their inability to identify or utilize more effective strategies to separate, protect, and nurture themselves in the face of these intense emotions and stress. Non-BPs often begin to see thinks in black and white and see all-or-nothing solutions to problems. Moodiness is also extremely common in non-BPs, since they’re often in a good mood when the borderline is up and a bad mood when the BP is down. In a way, the person with BPD takes the non-BP with them on the roller-coaster ride that is their life. If this happens to you, you may wish to use this experience to glimpse what it’s like to actually have BPD.
The non-BP often performs valiant and heroic acts of kindness, no matter what the price to themselves. In an effort to help the person they love, they swallow their anger, ignore their own needs, accept behaviour that most people would find intolerable, and forgive the same transgressions again and again. This is a common trap for non-BPs – especially if the borderline had an unhappy childhood and the non-BP is trying to make up for it.
Many non-BPs assume that by subordinating their own needs for the sake of the BP (or simply for the sake of avoiding a fight), they are helping. While the non-BP’s motives are commendable, this actually enables, or reinforces, inappropriate behaviour in the person with BPD. Borderlines learn that their actions will have few negative consequences; therefore, they have no motivation to change.
Also, continuing to put up with BPD behaviour rarely makes the BP really happy. And even if the non-BP endures this behaviour, the BP may become isolated because other people won’t stand for it. Furthermore, how long will the non-BP be able to keep this up? One family member who smoothed things over for years in order to make up for his borderline wife’s terrible childhood said, “I was concentrating on not abandoning her, no matter what she did. One day, I realized that instead, I had abandoned myself.”
I felt like such a failure in this relationship. I thought that if I could just persuade my wife to get the help she needed, everything would be all right.
Despite the abuse, I felt like I couldn’t leave. How could I abandon someone who’d already suffered so many misfortunes in life? I thought that if I just tried a little harder, I could fix her and make up for all the abuse she suffered when she was a kid. This was confirmed to me once when I did try to leave. I’ll never forget the look on her face as she told me with big sad eyes that she was happy I came back. “Why are you glad?” I asked. She responded, “Because who else is going to make my life better?”
I decided to see a counsellor, and told the whole story to him over many months. One day he said to me, “Aren’t you being a bit pompous? Who do you think you are, God? Well, you’re not God. You are not responsible. And you just can’t fix this. Your job is to accept that fact. Live with it and make the decisions you have to make to live your life.”
Here are some common side effects of being in an abusive relationship, whether the abusive individual has a personality disorder or not:
1) Censoring your thoughts and feelings. You edit it yourself because you’re afraid of her reactions. Swallowing the lump in your throat and your hurt and anger is easier than dealing with another fight or hurt feelings. In fact, you may have stuffed your own emotions for so long that you no longer know what you think or feel.
2) Everything is your fault. You’re blamed for everything that goes wrong in the relationship and in general, even if it has no basis in reality.
3) Constant criticism. She criticizes nearly everything you do and nothing is ever good enough. No matter how hard you try, there’s no pleasing her or, if you do, it’s few and far between.
4) Control freak. She engages in manipulative behaviours, even lying, in an effort to control you.
5) Dr Jekyll and Ms Hyde. One moment she’s kind and loving; the next she’s flipping out on you. She becomes so vicious, you wonder if she’s the same person. The first time it happens, you write it off. Now, it’s a regular pattern of behaviour that induces feelings of depression, anxiety, helplessness and/or despair within you.
6) Your feelings don’t count. Your needs and feelings, if you’re brave enough to express them, are ignored, ridiculed, minimized and/or dismissed. You’re told that you’re too demanding, that there’s something wrong with you and that you need to be in therapy. You’re denied the right to your feelings.
7) Questioning your own sanity. You’ve begun to wonder if you’re crazy because she puts down your point of view and/or denies things she says or does. If you actually confide these things to a friend or family member, they don’t believe you because she usually behaves herself around other people.
8) Say what? “But I didn’t say that. I didn’t do that.” Sure you did. Well, you did in her highly distorted version of reality. Her accusations run the gamut from infidelity to cruelty to being unsupportive (even when you’re the one paying all the bills) to repressing her and holding her back. It’s usually baseless, which leaves you feeling defensive and misunderstood.
9) Isolating yourself from friends and family. You distance yourself from your loved ones and colleagues because of her erratic behaviour, moodiness and instability. You make excuses for her inexcusable behaviours to others in an effort to convince yourself that it’s normal.
10) Walking on landmines. One misstep and you could set her off. Some people refer to this as “walking on eggshells,” but eggs emit only a dull crunch when you step on them. Setting off a landmine is a far more descriptive simile.
11) What goes up, must come down. She places you on a pedestal only to knock it out from under your feet. You’re the greatest thing since sliced bread one minute and the next minute, you’re the devil incarnate.
12) Un-level playing field. Borderlines and Narcissists make the rules; they break the rules and they change the rules at will. Just when you think you’ve figured out how to give her what she wants, she changes her expectations and demands without warning. This sets you up for failure in no-win situations, leaving you feeling helpless and trapped.
13) You’re a loser, but don’t leave me. “You’re a jerk. You’re a creep. You’re a bastard. I love you. Don’t leave me.” When you finally reach the point where you just can’t take it anymore, the tears, bargaining and threats begin. She insists she really does love you. She can’t live without you. She promises to change. She promises it will get better, but things never change and they never get better.
When that doesn’t work, she blames you and anything and anyone else she can think of, never once taking responsibility for her own behaviours. She may even resort to threats. She threatens that you’ll never see the kids again. Or she threatens to bad mouth you to your friends and family.
6. Loving someone with BPD
Getting involved with a Borderline can feel glorious. Remaining with one can feel torturous beyond your wildest imagination.
So many of my articles speak directly to what spawns Borderline Personality Disorder. Not only do they help you understand what makes them tick, they also uncover and explain the root of your attraction to this type of individual.
This piece reveals precisely how you feel, as a BPD relationship evolves past the Honeymoon stage. It’s intended to help you learn that your experiences with a Borderline are not unique, so you can begin untangling the hold this person has over you, and regain your sanity.
First, you’ll feel a sense of disbelief when it starts going bad. You will think of this incongruency with the guy/gal you’ve fallen for, as a ‘fluke’ that will quickly be remedied.
You will feel disappointment and frustration that your efforts to resolve a problem can’t be talked through and rectified~ especially when it appears to be such a simple, trivial issue.
You’ll feel disheartened that the more you try to resolve even a slight upset, the faster it escalates~ and in the process, the fault of that upset is always attributed to You.
You will feel shocked and hurt by your lover’s accusations, and the fact that he/she views you so negatively! You’re suddenly seen as “selfish, dishonest, hurtful, inconsiderate, weak/needy, mean, evil,” etc. This won’t compute, but you’ll start questioning yourself, just the same.
You’ll desperately attempt to defend yourself against your lover’s inaccurate statements, while trying to soothe his/her “hurt” feelings, and make it right.
You’ll marvel at how he or she could have adored you just moments before this upset, yet perceive you as so ugly, despicable and unlovable now.
All you know, is that you must do everything in your power to reconnect with that loving partner you’ve known from the start~ but this begins to feel like a losing proposition.
You presume that this rupture must in some way be Your fault, and you start obsessing about what you might have done wrong to trigger it, so that you can avert this kind of incident from ever happening again.
Just when you think the dust is settling, and your lover is finally starting to forgive and forget, another catastrophe hits.
You’ll be hyper-vigilant and walk on eggshells to avoid unsettling your lover, and risking another horrifying explosion.
You’ve barely recovered from the last dramatic episode, but now “you’re to blame” for prompting another one~ and on and on it goes.
You’ll feel like you can never ‘get it right’ with your BPD partner, and he/she will find fault with you no matter how hard you try to do it differently.
Just when you think you can please him or her the rules change, and you’re frantically trying to keep-up with their new or modified expectations of you.
You’ll find it mystifying, that your lover could have such awful perceptions of you, but the more you defend yourself and point out how wrong they are, the worse your argument gets.
You’ll gradually learn to stop engaging when your BPD lover acts crazy, for there’s no way to reason with him/her when they’re on the attack. You start to think that your silence will diffuse the attack, but it seldom does.
Just when you’re starting to think about leaving the relationship, your lover acts sweet, caring and rational. The recent upset seems to have evaporated, and they might even apologise for their previous behaviour.
You want to believe him/her, and so you do. It feels pretty good for a few days or so, and then out of the blue another rampage hits, and you’re back in that painful, familiar struggle again.
7. Breaking up with someone with BPD
Breaking up with someone with BPD
Few things are more intoxicating than a partner who is brimming with infatuation, or more inexplicable than to watch this same person become resentful and start disengaging for no apparent reason. In a relationship with a person suffering with the traits of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) these extreme highs and lows are commonplace.
In the most troubled of relationships, it is not unusual for a “BPD” partner to abandon the relationship or do something so hurtful that you cannot continue. Your partner may emotionally discard you or become abusive and leave you to feel confused and broken-hearted. Or you may have invested yourself in the relationship and all the latest communication and relationship tools and now feel the relationship has continued to erode and you have no more to give.
So they leave you – or you break up – or one of you finally decides not to reconcile, yet again. If any of this sounds like your relationship, please read on.
Disengaging from this type of intense relationship can be difficult. Rationally, you most likely understand that leaving is the healthiest thing you can do now, yet your emotional attachment is undeniable. You find yourself hopelessly trapped by your own desires to rekindle a relationship that you know isn’t healthy, and in fact, may not even be available to you.
Often we obsess and ruminate over what our “BPD” partner might be doing or feeling, or who they might be seeing. We wonder if they ever really loved us and how we could have been so easily discarded. Our emotions range from hurt, to disbelief, to anger.
This guide explores the struggles of breaking away from this type of relationship and offers suggestions on how you can make it easier on yourself and your partner.
Breaking Up Was Never this Hard
Is this because you partner was so special?
Sure they are special and this is a very significant loss for you – but the depth of your struggles has a lot more to do with the complexity of the relationship bond than the person.
In some important way this relationship saved or rejuvenated you. The way your “BPD” partner hung on to your every word, looked at you with admiring eyes and wanted you, filled an empty void deep inside of you.
Your “BPD” partner may have been insecure and needy and their problems inspired your sympathy and determination to resolve and feel exceptional, heroic, valuable.
As a result, you were willing to tolerate behaviour beyond what you’ve known to be acceptable. You’ve felt certain that “BPD” partner depended on you and that they would never leave. However challenging, you were committed to see it through.
Unknown to you, your BPD partner was also on a complex journey that started long before the relationship began. You were their “knight in shining armour”, you were their hope and the answer to disappointments that they have struggled with most of their life.
Together, this made for an incredibly “loaded” relationship bond between the two of you.
Ten Beliefs That Can Get You Stuck
Breaking up with a “BPD” partner is often difficult because we do not have a valid understanding of the disorder or our part in the “loaded” relationship bond. As a result we often misinterpret or partners actions and some of our own. Many of us struggle with some of the following false beliefs.
1) Belief that this person holds the key to your happiness
We often believe that our “BPD” partner is the master of our joy and the keeper of our sorrow. You may feel that they have touched the very depths of your soul. As hard as this is to believe right now, your perspective on this is likely a bit off.
Idealization is a powerful “drug” – and it came along at a time in your life when you were very receptive to it. In time, you will come to realise that your partner’s idealization of you, no matter how sincere, was a courting ritual and an overstatement of the real emotions at the time. You were special – but not that special.
You will also come to realise that a lot of your elation was due to your own receptivity and openness and your hopes.
You will also come to realise that someone coming out of an extended intense and traumatic relationship is often depressed and can not see things clearly. You may feel anxious, confused, and you may be ruminating about your BPD partner. All of this distorts your perception of reality. You may even be indulging in substance abuse to cope.
2) Belief that your BPD partner feels the same way that you feel
If you believe that your BPD partner was experiencing the relationship in the same way that you were or that they are feeling the same way you do right now, don’t count on it. This will only serve to confuse you and make it harder to understand what is really happening.
When any relationship breaks down, it’s often because the partners are on a different “page” – but much more so when your partner suffers with borderline personality disorder traits.
Unknown to you, there were likely significant periods of shame, fear, disappointment, resentment, and anger rising from below the surface during the entire relationship. What you have seen lately is not new – rather it’s a culmination of feelings that have been brewing in the relationship.
3) Belief that the relationship problems are caused by some circumstance or by you
You concede that there are problems, and you have pledged to do your part to resolve them.
Because there have been periods of extreme openness, honesty, humanity and thoughtfulness during the relationship, and even during the break-ups, your “BPD” partner’s concerns are very credible in your eyes. But your “BPD” partner also has the rather unique ability to distort facts, details, and play on your insecurities to a point where fabrications are believable to you.
It’s a complex defence mechanism, a type of denial, and a common characteristic of the disorder.
As a result, both of you come to believe that you are the sole problem; that you are inadequate; that you need to change; even that you deserve to be punished or left behind.
This is largely why you have accepted punishing behaviours; why you try to make amends and try to please; why you feel responsible. But the problems aren’t all your fault and you can’t solve this by changing.
The problems are not all of your partner’s fault either.
This is about a complex and incredibly “loaded” relationship bond between the two of you.
4) Belief that love can prevail
Once these relationships seriously rupture, they are harder to repair than most – many wounds that existed before the relationship have been opened. Of course you have a lot invested in this relationship and your partner has been an integral part of your dreams and hopes – but there are greater forces at play now.
For you, significant emotional wounds have been inflicted upon an already wounded soul. To revitalise your end of the relationship, you would need to recover from your wounds and emerge as an informed and loving caretaker – it’s not a simple journey. You need compassion and validation to heal – something your partner most likely won’t understand – and you can’t provide for yourself right now
For your partner, there are long-standing and painful fears, trust issues, and resentments that have been triggered. Your partner is coping by blaming much of it on you. For your partner to revitalize their end of the relationship, they would need to understand and face their wounds and emerge very self-aware and mindful. This is likely an even greater challenge than you face.
5) Belief that things will return to “the way they used to be”
BPD mood swings and past break-up / make-up cycles may have you conditioned to think that, even after a bad period, that you can return idealization stage (that you cherish) and the “dream come true” (that your partner holds dear), this is not realistic thinking.
Idealization built on “dream come true” fairy-tale beliefs is not the hallmark of relationship maturity and stability – it is the hallmark of a very fragile, unstable relationship.
As natural relationship realities that develop over time clash with the dream, the relationship starts breaking down. Rather than growing and strengthening over time, the relationship erodes over time.
The most realistic representation of your relationship is not what you once had – it is what has been developing over time.
6) Clinging to the words that were said
We often cling to the positive words and promises that were voiced and ignore or minimalize the negative actions.
“But she said she would love me forever”
Many wonderful and expressive things may have been said during the course of the relationship, but people suffering with BPD traits are dreamers, they can be fickle, and they over-express emotions like young children – often with little thought for long term implications.
You must let go of the words. It may break your heart to do so. But the fact is, the actions – all of them – are the truth.
7) Belief that if you say it louder you will be heard
We often feel that if we explain our point better, put it in writing, say it louder, or find the right words … we will be heard.
People with BPD hear and read just fine. Everything that we have said has been physically heard. The issue is more about listening and engaging.
When the relationship breaks down and emotions are flared, the ability to listen and engage diminishes greatly on all sides.
And if we try to compensate by being more insistent it often just drives the interaction further into unhealthy territory. We may be seen as aggressive. We may be seen as weak and clingy. We may be seen as having poor boundaries and inviting selfish treatment. We may be offering ourselves up for punishment. It may be denial, it may be the inability to get past what they feel and want to say, or it may even be payback.
This is one of the most difficult aspects of breaking up – there is no closure.
8) Belief that absence makes the heart grow fonder
We often think that by holding back or depriving our “BPD” partner of “our love” – that they will “see the light”. We base this on all the times our partner expressed how special we were and how incredible the relationship was.
Absence may makes the heart grow fonder when a relationship is healthy – but this is often not the case when the relationship is breaking down.
People with BPD traits often have object constancy issues – “out of sight is out of mind”. They may feel, after two weeks of separation, the same way you would feel after six.
Distancing can also trigger all kinds of abandonment and trust issues for the “BPD” partner (as described in #4).
Absence generally makes the heart grow colder.
9) Belief that you need to stay to help them
You might want to stay to help your partner. You might want to disclose to them that they have borderline personality disorder and help them get into therapy. Maybe you want to help in other ways while still maintaining a “friendship”.
The fact is, we are no longer in a position to be the caretaker and support person for our “BPD” partner – no matter how well intentioned.
Understand that we have become the trigger for our partner’s bad feelings and bad behaviour. Sure, we do not deliberately cause these feelings, but your presence is now triggering them. This is a complex defence mechanism that is often seen with borderline personality disorder when a relationship sours. Its’ roots emanate from the deep core wounds associated with the disorder. We can’t begin to answer to this.
We also need to question your own motives and your expectations for wanting to help. Is this kindness or a type “well intentioned” manipulation on your part – an attempt to change them to better serve the relationship as opposed to addressing the lifelong wounds from which they suffer?
More importantly, what does this suggest about our own survival instincts – we’re injured, in ways we may not even fully grasp, and it’s important to attend to our own wounds before we are attempt to help anyone else.
You are damaged. Right now, your primary responsibility really needs to be to yourself – your own emotional survival.
If your partner tries to lean on you, it’s a greater kindness that you step away. Difficult, no doubt, but more responsible.
10) Belief that they have seen the light
Your partner may suddenly be on their best behaviour or appearing very needy and trying to entice you back into the relationship. You, hoping that they are finally seeing things your way or really needing you, may venture back in – or you may struggle mightily to stay away.
What is this all about?
Well, at the end of any relationship there can be a series of breakups and make-ups – disengaging is often a process, not an event.
However when this process becomes protracted, it becomes toxic. At the end of a “BPD” relationship, this can happen. The emotional needs that fuelled the relationship bond initially, are now fuelling a convoluted disengagement as one or both partners struggle against their deep enmeshment with the other and their internal conflicts about the break up.
Either partner may go to extremes to reunite – even use the threat of suicide to get attention and evoke sympathies.
Make no mistake about what is happening. Don’t be lulled into believing that the relationship is surviving or going through a phase. At this point, there are no rules. There are no clear loyalties. Each successive breakup increases the dysfunction of relationship and the dysfunction of the partners individually – and opens the door for very hurtful things to happen.
8. Saving your life after loving a Borderline
AT ANY COST:
Saving your Life after Loving a Borderline.
By Shari Schreiber, M.A.
You’re hurting. You’ve never felt this excruciating pain before, and you need it to stop. Perhaps she’s left you for another – or just abruptly left, and this terrible lack of closure has you confounded. You’re constantly replaying each moment of this relationship in your mind, to comprehend why she’s suddenly gone – and you keep blaming yourself. It’s hard to make sense of these awful feelings, because there could have been times you thought of leaving – but you’ve patiently hung on, hoping it would get better. Your emotional roller-coaster ride has finally ended, but all you can think about is having her back.
When you’re involved with a borderline disordered female, you feel ebullient when things are “good” between you, and miserable when they’re not. You might think of her like a drug you can’t live without, because you’ve felt alive and buoyant when she was attentive, available and loving, and tortured and empty when she was indifferent, detached or cruel. During frequent breakups or periods of distancing, you may have desperately longed for her return, and resorted to elaborate means to re-engage her.
In the wake of this involvement, you’re probably obsessing about what she’s feeling or doing, who she’s screwing – and wondering if she’s thinking at all about you. Your emotionally treacherous dance with a borderline girlfriend or wife may be over – but if your feelings of regret, shame and emptiness are so unbearable, that you want her back at any cost, this was written for You.
A man I’ve known for years once said, “I don’t care if somebody manipulates me, as long as I’m having a good time.” His statement was really funny to me back then–but it perfectly encapsulates a man’s initial experience with a Borderline. Decades later, this guy craves but avoids romantic involvement, because all the women he’s ever attached to, have been Borderlines!
“No good deed goes unpunished,” was his favourite lament – and I guess this was the story of his life, given these unwavering romantic selections. Sadly, his only frame of reference consistently yielded painful outcomes associated with loving. Current wisdom has informed him, this prize is no longer worth the price he’d pay for another go at it. Alas, even aging has its rewards.
Certain aspects or common denominators are present in males who attach to Borderlines. Generally, these are People Pleaser types, who have rescuing or fixing compulsions, self-esteem difficulties from childhood, intimacy issues, engulfment concerns, poor self-image, dysthymia (chronic/long-standing mild to moderate depression), etc. Foundational problems of this kind leave men vulnerable to being seduced and manipulated by these women. You may be extremely accomplished and successful – but the Borderline will methodically learn what’s underneath those props, and use your most intimate secrets and self-doubts against you. These involvements derail your trust in women, but also in yourself–which is unfortunately, the worst part of this deal.
Every man’s ego takes a jab when a woman leaves – but a Borderline leaves you feeling guilty, ashamed, castrated, unlovable, emasculated, worthless, etc. You start believing that if she returns, you’ll be able to get rid of these horrible sensations, and feel okay again. Once in awhile, your rational mind recalls the torment of that affair, and you’re not certain you want that part of it again – but anything must be better than what you’re feeling right now!
I’VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN
This conflict between what you need and want, confuses and intensifies your struggle, because you’re hopelessly trapped in yearning for a woman you’ve sensed isn’t healthy for you! Your ambivalence is completely normal – but it adds to your feelings of shame about being out of control and a little ‘crazy.’ There’s a ridiculously simple explanation for all of this; you’ve been trying to have a functional relationship with a dysfunctional female.
Heaven knows, you’re not perfect – but you’ve overlooked an awful lot, just to keep this woman caring enough to stick around. There have been times that taking care of her feelings and needs was a full time job – but you’ve gladly taken it on, and tirelessly kept trying to get a few crumbs of loving attention along the way. If you disappointed or let her down in any manner, the character assaults and twisted perceptions of you as an inconsiderate or “selfish” man, made you feel just terrible about yourself. These comments usually came on the heels of the good times, so you began to believe them, which made you try even harder to please her!
There’s always a childhood template that sets up our attraction to someone personality disordered. It’s very likely your Borderline has traits similar to mother and/or father, so you’re familiar with the relationship dynamics you’ve struggled with in this attachment (which keeps it exciting, despite all the pain it causes you).
You’ll keep wanting to blame yourself for this relationship faltering, but this is directly tied to experiences in childhood, which left you with self-esteem wounds. A young child can’t make sense of why he isn’t getting enough love, affection or support from a parent, and he doesn’t even know how to ask for it! He’ll try to find reasons for this lack of attention in his head – but the only rationale he can come up with is, it must be his fault; “I must not be good enough, smart enough, cute enough, lovable,” etc. You’ve carried these self-worth injuries into your adult relationships, and now they’re alive again. This damage must be repaired, or you’ll continue being attracted to Borderlines.
The dangerous, diabolical hook with Borderlines, is they initially come across as genuine, and completely without pretence, guile or disguise. This helps you drop your guard, and makes it easy to trust that their statements to you are real–and they’re authentic, integrous individuals. The ease you have felt with them is so natural and wholesome, it seems you’ve waited for this your whole life! These early behaviours are central to their Seduction Plan; as soon as they sense that you’re captivated, you’re captured – and these episodes of delicious intimacy become fewer and farther between.
You will never know where you stand with a Borderline, because they’re not capable of discerning this for themselves – well, not beyond a few moments or hours at a time, anyway. One minute you’re the centre of their universe, but before you know it – you’re dirt under their feet. You’ll continually wrestle with this discrepancy, ’cause you’re trying to make sense of it! Don’t bother. It’s nonsensical, until you start to accept that this is typical BPD behaviour.
A bit further down in this piece, I expose the myths surrounding Borderlines. That sub-section (THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY) is intended to help you start thinking logically about this mess, untangle the hold this female’s had on you–and begin to recover! These myths are anecdotal, to centre you and assist you in surmounting this awful struggle.
SHE LOVES ME, SHE LOVES ME NOT . . .
A borderline disordered female may lure you with explicit sexual imagery, or how much she loves or misses you when you’re apart – but never deliver once you’re together. Long-distance relationships that are initially cultivated and maintained over the Internet are very common in this regard, and leave men at a loss, as to why those enticing promises aren’t fulfilled. If she has Waif features, she may explain that she thinks you should ‘wait’ until you marry, which can have you believing you’ve found a virtuous girl, and respecting her wishes – but what’s happened to that sexy vamp who seduced you in the first place?? You might be willing to accommodate this bait and switch routine, but give serious weight to this disparity between her words and actions – and let it be a warning flag of what’s to follow! The Waif may also use physical ailments as excuses to leave you hanging out to dry – and there you sit, with your dick in your hand.
Borderlines can leave solid, long-term attachments or marriages very suddenly. You’ll be feeling shocked and bewildered by this – particularly when she cites frustrations or problems you were never made aware of, to justify her abrupt departure. You might vacillate between numbness and tormenting confusion, but what’s even worse, is she’ll have you thinking you’re responsible for this outcome! When you’ve done virtually everything to keep her satisfied and happy throughout this relationship (which has included putting your personal needs and desires aside to accommodate hers), you’re left only with a sense of sheer exhaustion, painful craving and deep betrayal.
You cannot help agonising over how she could leave-given all the times she told you this was the “best sex” she’d ever had, how much she needed you, and that she could never even imagine living without you! You’ve believed you were the centre of her universe, and it was finally safe to let your guard down, and trust that she was here to stay. Losing a Borderline is like being in a hit-and-run accident. You’re in trauma, and she speeds away without a moment’s consideration for the carnage she’s left behind. That’s brutality!
Abrupt departures during mid-life are particularly significant, because while she could have been exhibiting borderline symptoms for decades, these may become far more pronounced during marked hormonal changes, such as pre- or peri-menopause. This concern is also heightened with regard to menstrual cycles, PMS, pregnancy, ovarian removal and/or hysterectomies, etc., which can easily catalyse more acting-out behaviours and psychosis.
Rebound relationships are extremely common among Borderlines, and leave men feeling used and discarded – but the same disturbing patterns that you wrestled with during this relationship, are replicated with other suitors. It’s literally just a matter of time before they’ll meet with a similar fate, and be suffering as you are. In short, your Borderline will not miraculously become normal/well with some other guy! Her disruptive behaviours stem from deeply entrenched survival reflexes. Without highly skilled therapeutic intervention, she just can’t help herself.
With respect to her rebounding, you’ll be on high-alert as to how long she’s staying with the next guy. This is torturous to you, because if she manages to remain a bit longer than you think she should (based on the literature you might have read) you’ll be driving yourself crazy with self-doubts and shame. A Borderline always leaves you feeling shameful, because she makes you believe you’re the one at fault for this thing not working. A long-held rotten leftover from your boyhood might be; “If I feel bad in a relationship, it must be my fault,” but it’s time to throw it out!!! Every male who’s gone through what you’re going through right now, lugs around old/deep self-worth issues from childhood, and this erroneous belief is simply a part of that old, faulty programming.
The Border line is inherently narcissistic due to his/her lack of emotional development – but you’ve also observed other problems, such as; desperate attempts to gain attention, intense/irrational abandonment fears, lack of empathy, extreme jealousy, lying, poor impulse control, extramarital affairs, drug/alcohol abuse, hypersexuality, ‘crazy-making’ interactions, low self-esteem, rebound relationships, passive-aggression, cognitive distortion, self-harming behaviours, eating disorders, suicidal ideation, stalking, etc. In truth, a panoply of pathologies may be associated with borderline disorder, and Histrionic Personality Disorder is just one of these.
You might have perceived a bit of ‘craziness’ early on, when she’d become disproportionately volatile about minor issues that were troublesome to her. When she shared stories about (vilified) former boyfriends or lovers, you felt honoured to be privy to these intimate revelations, while assuring yourself it would be different with you; why not – you’re one of the ‘good guys!’ During these storytellings, you were made to feel exceptional, heroic and uniquely unlike all the others. The way she hung on your every word, gazed into your eyes, touched you and wanted you, was beyond anything you’d experienced before, and you felt privileged to have found her. Basically, you were on top of the world – and could never have imagined falling off.
WHO ARE YOU–AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY GIRLFRIEND?
If you’ve dabbled in drugs, loving a Borderline is like chasing after your first hit of Cocaine, and trying to recapture that initial ‘rush’ the rest of the night. In the early stages of this relationship (the Honeymoon), you felt hopelessly captivated, and intrigued with her intensity. A novel sense of contentment, wholeness or ‘finally arriving,’ became part of your everyday experience. The sensations she engendered in you, had only existed in vague fantasies-no matter how many close encounters there had been with other females. This might be the first time you’d gotten really intimate with someone, and felt like you were worthy of such a prize-especially if you struggled with self-esteem issues, earlier in life. Did you learn to love pain as a boy, in order to adapt to and survive it? Abuse by a Borderline is quite literally, a heart attack.
Self-worth difficulties could have drawn you to this type of woman, and kept you ensnared beyond all instinct and reason. They could have allowed you to tolerate/accept her abusive or distancing behaviours,way beyond what you’ve known was reasonable or right for you. She’s irresistibly seductive, and may be the most exquisitely beautiful creature you have ever been with – so any notion of walking away when the going got tough, seemed inconceivable. If you’re relatively inexperienced in the realm of ongoing, intimate relations, you might naturally assume “all women are like that,” but they’re not!!!
In direct contrast to the instability you’ve observed in this woman, there are times you’ve glimpsed what appears to be her wisdom, her spirituality and her incredible knack for stating things that make her sound like an absolute authority on health/well-being. Borderlines are often plagiarists or copycats. They may have read a plethora of self-help books along their way, that have helped them assemble their broken shards of ceramic into a mosaic of sorts, that resembles a whole/definable image. They have the remarkable capacity to mimic or parrot information they’ve read or heard – which helps you regard them as healthy and sane. This characteristic is particularly common among Borderlines in the “helping” professions – which amps up the volume on your ambivalence and confusion about these women. The primary issue with their Guru Complex, is they can talk the talk – but there’s no way they can walk it! That would require integrity, which is a by-product of moral development.
Borderlines have an uncanny ability to paint themselves into corners legally, financially, professionally or interpersonally – and then attempt to make You responsible for the consequences of those choices! It’s impossible to make them see that their impulsivity brought about this peril, and it’s payback for their short-sighted behaviour. Allow them to enter adulthood. Resist the urge to bail them out.
GOD KNOWS HOW MUCH I LOVE YA BABY, BUT IT’S EXHAUSTING!
Your Borderline might have been so insecure and needy, you felt reasonably certain she would never leave you – but at times, secretly hoped she would. Her physical ailments inspired your sympathy and determination to protect her, but you’ve often marvelled at how someone so young could be so sickly! For the most part, your relationship moved along pretty smoothly, until you tried to express any real concerns or needs. The Borderline Waif can’t handle that – after all, it’s clearly been your job to take care of her. The minute you had a need, she either made you wrong for it, punished you or left.
Having a serious adult conversation with a Borderline, is like trying to get a three year old to comprehend, and rationally respond to the issues at hand. Just when you’ve worked up the courage to approach a sensitive topic, she deftly diverts the dialogue by starting a fight, or accusing you of not loving her, caring about her feelings, wanting her, etc. At this point, tremendous time and energy is spent consoling/reassuring her, and reinforcing how much you really care! The inevitable upshot? Your original concern is successfully deflected, and any hope for resolution is abandoned. You may adore a child, but you can’t have an interdependent adult relationship with one.
The Borderline’s duality generally exacerbates this deflection issue. She may bully you – but the very moment you fight back, she can shape-shift into her (victimised) “poor me” role, and make you out to be the monster! You will wrestle with this time and time again – because she’s typically the instigator, but you can never make her see it, or own it. Change cannot occur, because a borderline disordered person doesn’t experience remorse – and when there’s no genuine remorse, there can be no emotional growth or healing.
Regardless of how proficient or successful she is in her professional sphere, issues of an emotional nature make you feel like you’re dealing with a little girl, who’s living inside a woman’s body – and this continually perplexes you! Just know that your perceptions are extremely accurate, and developmental arrest is the culprit behind this odd incongruency.
Borderlines are ignorant about men, and human nature in general. They fear that if they let you feel good about yourself, you’ll leave them for somebody better! Such is the extent of their insecurity and abandonment terror.
Giving love and affection to a Borderline is like trying to fill a well that has a huge fracture at the bottom; she simply cannot hold it. In truth, you’ve had to constantly assure her of your devotion all along – but no matter how much you have, she just can’t seem to integrate it. A three year old sees his/her world in a black or white sort of way. They think that you either love them or hate them, based on your facial expressions, tone of voice and behaviors. As they haven’t yet developed the capacity for mood regulation, they’ll react to the slightest frustration or disappointment, by hating you! As soon as their immediate upset passes, they revert to loving you again. Their feelings and perceptions of you can shift on a dime; within the vernacular of borderline pathology, this love you/hate you phenomenon is referred to as ‘splitting.’
Borderlines have been torturing men, probably since time began. If you’re a fan of ‘Oldies’ music, you might remember this song from the late sixties; Build Me Up Buttercup, by The Foundations. It was upbeat and fun, but the lyrics say it all. It may cheer you up a bit, so take a second, and listen (just hit the ‘back’ button on your internet browser afterward, to return here).
CAN’T WE STILL BE FRIENDS??
You’ll likely hear this question posed in slightly different ways by your soon-to-be-X-Borderline. Take a moment here, and ask yourself what friendship means to you, and if you’ve ever been treated with such disrespect, lack of concern and dishonesty in any relationship you’ve come to regard as one you could trust. Friends aren’t just acquaintances-these are folks we’ve learned (over time) we can rely on, to have our back, as we have theirs. “A friend in need, is a friend indeed” is a truism-unless you’ve been broad-sided by a Borderline! The BPD Waif tries to keep you around to meet every little need she has, no matter how inconvenient it might be for you drop everything in your world, to respond to her frantic outreach-be it the middle of the night, or otherwise. The unfortunate truth here is, this has never been a reciprocal relationship-and it ain’t about to become one now. If your fixing/rescuing compulsions are so deeply entrenched, that you’re bound and determined to dangle on the sidelines as her emergency life-support unit, you’re signing up for even more destructive, debilitating times up ahead, and you’re a chump. You have been duly warned. Proceed at your own great peril.
If you’re the one wanting to maintain this connection – in spite of all the pain this gal has caused you, you’re only trying to escape the toxic shame you’re experiencing in the aftermath of that relationship, and understandably trying to bandage your ego. If you think this female can’t be seriously wounding to you when sex isn’t part of your dynamic anymore, you’re kidding yourself!
THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY–KNOW THY OPPONENT
I’m now going to debunk some myths about Borderlines: First, they won’t all behave identically. You might assume that certain patterns you’ve heard or read about can be anticipated with every Borderline-but it just isn’t true. For one; after an upset or break-up, her return is not chiseled in stone! It’s likely she’ll come around when she wants or needs something from you, but this is only when it suits her – which could take weeks, months or years.
Second, Borderlines can make tangible progress with solid therapeutic help, but you may have a better shot at flying to the moon strapped to a banana, than keeping them in treatment long enough, to accomplish any real growth or healing. Don’t forget-they’re terrified of attaching, and relying on anyone for their care. They’ll act-out by devaluing the therapist, acting belligerent or picking fights, being non-compliant and/or seductive, missing appointments, rescheduling at the last minute, or lying in effort to control the therapeutic relationship. Week to week, the therapist hears them diminish you or glorify you, and this splitting reflex (of course) happens continuously.
Third, no matter how much you try to please her or love her better, you’re in for a rocky ride. Borderlines can be attracted to narcissistic or abusive men, because of poor self-image and attachment fears: What could be safer, than trying to get someone to love you, who’s incapable of loving? The more you demonstrate that she’s lovable, the more disdain she feels toward you. It’s kind of like that old saying; “I wouldn’t want to join a club that would have me as a member,” holds true here. You can’t be someone you’re not, just to keep this woman interested in you – but your need to be who she needs you to be, is deeply rooted in boyhood!!!
Fourth, when you’re imagining that she’s feeling exactly like you are, stop it! There are times you’ll show up on her radar, and times you won’t – no matter how much history you’ve shared. An individual who lives with psychosis does not have the same feelings or emotional responses as you. To presume that they do, is unrealistic thinking, narcissistic and potentially very dangerous.
Fifth, if you’re thinking you need her to suffer like you have – and that being seen with someone new will make her want you again, watch your back! This is an extremely hazardous game you’re about to play, regardless of whether or not she’s left you for a rebound relationship. Dating a new woman? Keep a low profile, and put your car in the garage! Is this fair? No, but it’s safer.
Sixth, if you’re reflexively making yourself “wrong” for conjuring up all sorts of terrible fates befalling her, ease-up on yourself! Your anger is appropriate under these circumstances, and it’s an activating emotion – which gives you temporary respite from this dreadful depression. Rage is a normal aspect of your healing process, but try to hold these feelings without self-judgment, rather than acting on them (unless you wanna do some push-ups). In other words, express this energy in ways that won’t harm you, or anyone else.
Seventh, if she calls or “checks in” to see how you’re doing in the aftermath of this relationship, it’s never about you! Your needs didn’t matter while she was with you, and they don’t matter now. You may feel grateful she seems to care enough to keep the connection alive – but her sole purpose is keeping you around to meet her needs (no matter what she says to the contrary). A three year old hasn’t developed any capacity for empathy (that comes much later on), so don’t presume that she’s calling for your sake.
Eighth, no matter who left whom, emotional cut-off is second nature to this woman. It’s natural for you to wonder if she ever really loved you, or meant the things she said while you were together-particularly if she’s diminishing you or your importance to her, now. Was she “faking it?” No, but you must understand, this is part of that splitting reflex described above, and just one of the survival tools she’s carried since infancy. You cannot fix this.
Ninth, the minute you make contact with her, you’re giving away your power! No matter what you think you need to say to this female, these dialogues will leave you feeling worse, not better. You may compulsively replay these conversations in your head afterwards, and think you did a really good job – but it won’t be long before you’re doubting it, and torturing yourself. Do not intercept her calls; if you decide to return them, do it when you’re feeling more centered, and it’s easy/convenient for you. Don’t reply to any emails or text messages, and do not respond to her “emergencies!” It won’t win her back, or make her think more highly of you. Besides, the crisis will blow over very shortly; by the time you get back to her, she’s onto something else. It’s best if you don’t hear her voicemails, or read what she sends. Doing so, only prolongs your pain. Delete, delete, delete!!!
Tenth, Borderlines don’t change, because they don’t have to! Her great looks and captivating charms continually allow her to seduce men, which feeds her narcissism. Your ego’s taken a serious beating, so you probably can’t believe this right now-but you deserve better.
Eleventh, if you’re fairly certain she’s rebounding with someone who’s better looking, wealthier, brighter, taller, more loving, etc., in most instances, this is a totally erroneous assumption! It’s unlikely you’ll accept this at present, but she’s more prone to choosing an easier mark the next time around – even if it’s a fellow who feels stuck in an unfulfilling marriage. In truth, most men are utterly shocked when they finally discover who she’s deserted them for. This relentless preoccupation with who the other guy is, taps into childhood deficits that undermined your self-worth. If you grew up with a dad who was narcissistic, tyrannical, weak/sickly-or wasn’t around much, there’s a strong likelihood that his needs superseded yours – at least, where your mom was concerned. In short, you’ve had to compete for a woman’s attention and love your entire life. It is this aspect that allows you to take her back, after each sexual betrayal with another man – regardless of how castrating it feels.
Twelfth, stop assuming that this female is the keeper of your pleasure and pain! You are the sole proprietor of these sensations; in short, they belong entirely to you – not to her. You might be inclined to credit her for bringing these intense feelings into your life, but they’ve been inside you all along, since you were born – she’s simply awakened them. In a sense, you’ve been sleepwalking since childhood, when you had to discard certain emotions your parents treated as unacceptable, or “bad.”
Thirteenth, and perhaps most important: There will be moments where she’ll seem rational and lucid-both while you’re with her, and after the break-up. These episodes have insidiously kept you in this destructive relationship, by fuelling your capacity to overlook, trivialize or normalize abnormal behaviors. These phases are very transient/fleeting-but they’ve indulged your fantasy that this lover is really whole, or sane. Watch out for this one!!!
Fourteenth, Borderlines lacked a healthy symbiotic bond in infancy with their birth mothers, which is the core of this difficulty. You may have sensed that she’s wanted/needed you to be a mind reader or Mommy, when these primal needs got displaced onto you–but no male on God’s green earth is equipped to take on these roles, or heal the archaic issues that drive her demands.
Fifteenth, Borderlines do not “get better” with age! Re-reference my mid-life paragraph above. While some of their acting-out behaviours can mitigate over time, these generally transmute into other issues – unless there’s been solid therapeutic intervention along the way; the Witch or Queen Borderline could adopt Hermit or Waif traits, for instance. We’re not as aware of these folks, because they’re no longer out ‘trolling’ in Our World. Have you ever noticed disheveled old people who are living on the street, begging, acting crazy and muttering to themselves? You’re observing Borderline pathology in the aged, and/or more severe mental disorders, such as Schizophrenia.
Sixteenth, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can construct a relationship with a “high-functioning” Borderline. They may be adept in their professional life, and far too many are psychotherapists-but their romantic partnerships suffer the same come-here/go-away interpersonal dynamics, as all the rest! Sure, they’re exceptionally bright and capable-but emotionally undercooked and damaged. As hard as it is to believe, these may be the most diabolical and wounding relationships. Why? They’re brilliant at making you think that you’re the one who’s defective and nuts!
Seventeenth, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is NOT a “mental illness,” and if someone is highly motivated to heal and do the challenging work needed to grow emotionally, it can be resolved. The ‘sympathy’ you feel for your Borderline is directly associated with vulnerable/fragile emotions and aspects in You, that you had to disown and eliminate since early in childhood. In short, it’s projection.
FEMME FATALES, AND OTHER THINGS THAT GO ‘BUMP’ IN THE NIGHT
Hundreds of men have asked me why Borderlines are “so darned seductive.” Are you by chance, a fisherman? Have you ever experienced a time when you were successful at fishing, without baiting the hook?? A Borderline’s ‘bait’ is impossible to resist. She’s usually beautiful, alluring, charismatic, sexy, etc.
Borderlines lie, or fabricate and embellish the truth. That’s what they do, to defend against their insecurities, and make you see them as more worthy of your love/desire. Your instincts might have alerted you to this facet, and you may have brushed them aside, or decided they were insignificant – but could you ever really trust her?
This woman could make self-aggrandizing statements concerning her appeal or allure to other males. She may tell you about men who’ve flirted with her during an event or outing when you weren’t nearby – or she’ll often reference a boss, friend or co-worker who’s “got a thing” for her. This is a manipulation that’s designed to cover several bases – but it’s mainly about control.
First, it’s a distancing technique that keeps you on edge-meaning, uneasy and off-kilter (the better to control you with, my dear). It’s great sport for her to seduce you back – especially after she’s angered you (make up sex is hotter). Her comments are nothing short of emasculating – and a conscious, sound female doesn’t do that to someone she loves! Rubbing your nose in this stuff (whether true or not) is the equivalent of lopping off your balls. You’ll resist feeling small and insignificant – but she generally hits her mark. Second, this behavior triggers your competitive reflex, because boyhood self-esteem issues get activated (along with abandonment concerns), and you’re compelled to do something about that! This can take the form of buying her costly gifts, fawning over her, taking her on elaborate trips/vacations, etc. Her diabolical maneuvers are designed to make you feel insecure/unworthy, view her as more valuable than she sees herself, and manipulate your desire and emotions. That’s just the beginning – but bottom line, we need to build your self-worth, so you’re not susceptible to this crap in the first place.
Given that most Borderlines are exceptionally bright, they’re usually capable of convincing you that it’s your fault or shortcoming, which has ruptured this relationship. Did you ever buy into this – even when overwhelming evidence was stacked against her argument, and you were unequivocally certain she was wrong? Her brilliant (but twisted) logic and verbal dexterity could distort facts and details, to where her perceptions often made sense – even if she completely contradicted herself, from one hour to the next! You might have doubted yourself at these times, and questioned if you were going insane. These feelings were directly related to spending time with someone whose psychic/emotional balance is profoundly unstable, to say the least.
WHEN LOVE IS JUST A FOUR LETTER WORD
Years ago, I worked with a client who steadily eroded her lover’s self-worth. He was a good guy, but she’d beat him up emotionally and psychically every single day – and told him she wanted him out. When he finally complied and left, she frantically tried to get him to come back. When I pointed out that she’d pushed him out the door – which is what she’d always said she wanted, she stormed out of my office, yelling “this isn’t my fault” and never returned.
This was clearly an error in judgment on my part – but in my defence, I knew absolutely nothing about borderline pathology back then. Still, I often regret the lack of education and preparedness that may have helped at the time.
Once she’s kicked you out or you’ve managed to leave, her attempts to lure you back again, could become pitifully desperate/hysterical-she might even threaten to KILL herself, if you don’t return! This is the ultimate emotional blackmail, which could be used to influence your behaviour – but resist feeling flattered. These frantic measures are very primitive reflexes that are being triggered by overwhelming needs, which have nothing to do with you! If your chaos has reached this point, urge her to see a mental health professional.
Yes of course, you’ll feel sorry for her! She’ll tug relentlessly at your heart-strings when she’s sobbing and telling you how empty, alone, desperate and sad she is, and you’ll feel compelled to offer solace and comfort, but don’t. Given your childhood programming, it’s far easier for you to feel compassion for another, than for Yourself – and we definitely need this energy focused on you growing stronger and healthier. She will survive. She always has.
While she provides a lovely distraction from your own pain and emptiness, the moment her current crisis blows over, she’ll revert again to that ragefull, crazy-making gal you’ve known all along-and you’re back out in the cold.
HERE I AM, TO SAVE THE DAY! UH, HANG ON – WHO AM I AGAIN???
The Borderline’s mixed messages keep you confused and off-centre. It’s not that they do this stuff deliberately, but their distorted perceptions and labile moods make you feel like a horse, who’s constantly having his reins jerked right and left, to where he’s overwhelmed and paralysed-or furious enough to buck that rider off his back! You’re damned when you react, because the Borderline seizes this as an excuse to sanction her punishing or abandoning behaviours-and you’re damned when you don’t, because you’re forced to flee your disquieting ambivalence about remaining or leaving, with alcohol/drug abuse, working longer hours, overeating, etc., just to cope!
Borderlines can turn good men into monsters. They’ll steadily erode your self-worth with subtle/snide comments and other passive maneuvers, even if their words can’t be identified as wounding or cruel. Their delivery and tone will make you feel infantalized – as if she’s the critical parent, and you’re the little kid, who’s done something terribly wrong. She’s masterful at shaming you – and the saddest part is, you keep buying into it! Some men are actually moved to violence in these relationships – even if aggression is completely foreign to their natures.
You’ll feel compelled to stick around, no matter how abusive or diminishing she is to you. This is directly tied to an issue called ‘learned helplessness’ you acquired as a boy – and it’s left you with masochistic tendencies:
A lover who’s elusive, cruel, or just emotionally and/or physically unavailable can trigger painful sensations that replicate what you may have experienced as a child, seeking a loving/responsive parent. This emotionally inadequate, yet dramatically felt kind of episode functions as a powerful catalyst, that inspires a tenacious (and vaguely familiar) pursuit to seduce this object of desire into reciprocating your attention and ardor. Since the intense feelings that are invoked by such a relationship are compelling/addictive, somebody who awakens them, is addictive as well. In the rare event an attachment is successfully formed, rejection by your lover can set in motion an internal re-enactment of childhood abandonment struggles, and drudge up excruciating feelings of inadequacy and shame, which are almost impossible to tolerate! Punishment of the Self (compulsive, addictive reflexes or destructive acting-out behaviour) usually accompanies or follows this kind of setback.
Think that therapeutic professionals are immune to Borderlines? Think again. Dialogues with personality disordered individuals leave us all feeling like we need a shower to wash off the toxic sludge their devaluations and guilt trips leave behind. The quicker you end all contact, the better.
Control issues may have kept you in this game far longer than you should’ve stayed, but skirmishes with the Borderline are always a no-win proposition. No matter how brilliant/bright you are, you’ll never get the upper hand with this female. Frustrating challenges might taunt you to keep trying, but this reflex is usually tied to early life events that helped you feel more valued or in-charge, and fuelled a false sense of self-worth. Boyhood experiences such as mediating when your parent’s argued – or comforting Mom when she was upset/depressed, could have cemented your rescuing fantasies. Altering your mother’s mood or your folk’s interactions could have helped you gain a sense of mastery/control in your family environment, which has naturally influenced all adult dynamics – but a harmonious/loving relationship with a Borderline is rarely possible, which can be very costly to your mental and physical health.
The continuous stress of emotional/psychological warfare affects the human condition more than physical abuse, and some men develop serious ailments during their time in these relationships. Prostate problems, heart conditions, blood disorders, herpes breakouts, migraine headaches and glaucoma are a few of the souvenirs men have retained from these relationships – regardless of how physically powerful they were, before they met the Borderline! One of my ex’s was married to a borderline disordered female for twelve years. He’s now suffering with a form of Parkinson’s Disease – and just trying to survive.
By the time she’s done with you, you could feel like a shadow of your former self – an empty shell of a man. The Borderline is an emotional vampire; she steadily wears you down with constant brainwashing and drains your vitality. Her skewed perceptions make you feel as if you’re viewing yourself in a Fun House mirror, and you begin thinking that this distorted reflection of you is accurate! You’ve been in survival mode-now you can begin to mend.
NICE GUYS FINISH LAST
Every male who has attached to a Borderline has great difficulty accepting that he’s adored someone who has psychotic characteristics – no matter how pronounced her disturbing behaviours have been! They all compulsively want “unequivocal proof” that this woman is crazy, or even dangerously unstable. Resistance is understandable, as acceptance involves confronting intricate layers of conflict within one’s own psyche; the most prominent layer of this emotional lasagna is shame. Entrenched denial of the borderline’s pathology allows a man to side-step asking himself, “if I’m hopelessly enamored with an individual who isn’t healthy or sane, what’s wrong with me?” This shame response is the leftover from childhood that inspires his need to normalize bizarre behaviours while in this relationship, rather than recognizing them as aberrant, and getting the hell out! The roots of this attraction are deep and started so early in life, that it’s almost impossible to avoid the Borderline’s noxious allure. Certain men’s boyhoods were punctuated with distressing or painful experiences that left behind a relational blueprint, which has strongly influenced self-worth and partner selection. This archaic blueprint continues to undermine all relationship endeavours, not just romantic ones-and curtails productive, healthy personal and professional alliances.
This excerpt is borrowed from my male borderline piece. It may provide more insight as to why this gal has gotten under your skin, for we typically choose romantic partners who echo traits of the parent with whom we had the most issues, in childhood: A man who was raised by a volatile, violent father and passive/victim mother, will likely settle on partners who have his father’s traits, while adopting the mother’s passivity as his own. Since she’s elicited his sympathy and concern, she’s the parent with whom he can identify (and is the lesser of two evils, in fact). Childhood beatings do not in themselves, spawn Borderline pathology. The roots of this disorder involve betrayal by an adult caregiver, who fails to protect a child from harm, or another’s cruelty. Perhaps performer Michael Jackson was a tragic victim of this upbringing.
Again, when you’ve deeply fallen for a Borderline, you could come away from this experience having lost your trust in women – but also, in yourself. In my view, this is the most tragic consequence of these relationships. Everything you’ve grown up believing that you should want in a female, has come into question during the time it has taken you to survive and recover from this emotionally wrenching affair. Along similar lines of a post-traumatic stress disorder, you are no longer able to feel confident, that your perceptions and instincts will serve and protect you. In short, you’re left with considerable scars – and while your head might tell you that not all women are going to wreak such havoc, your heart is never again quite sure. Later on in life, you might be willing to take another risk, but hurtful memories start to replay each time you contemplate loving again – and you could talk yourself out of it, before you’ve even begun. Part of this pain that’s remaining is primitive, meaning it touches on very old/deep layers within you from childhood; why else would you have such difficulty getting close to someone again?
There is nothing wrong with determining you’re not up to the task of loving again-but be fair to the people you’re dating, and be honest about it at the start! Otherwise, you’re doing to someone else, what was done to you.
The greatest difficulty you may have after this relationship blows apart, is that when you’re unresponsive to her or you’ve distanced yourself, you feel guilty. When she neglects or rejects you, you feel tremendous shame. Both of these sensations are deeply troubling-which causes substantial conflict within. In truth, these feelings have been living inside of you since boyhood, which is why they feel so loaded or emotionally charged. Unfortunately, they also trap you in a state of limbo, because it feels bad to stay connected, yet bad to cut it off. With a little help, this issue can be resolved.
Love is an ever-expanding sense of trust in another, along with admiration and respect for their character, attributes and qualities. The feelings you’ve had for this woman aren’t actually “Love,” they’re infatuation, addiction and obsession. Using this word in reference to her, keeps you trapped in painful yearning – so try and drop it from your vocabulary. You were understandably inebriated with how her attention helped you feel about Yourself, but real love is neither painful nor obsessional. Pain could have become associated and confused with loving throughout your childhood – but it’s the antithesis of consistently stable, nourishing relationships.
1) If you decide to stay in the relationship
How to Communicate With Your Borderline Personality Disordered Loved One
Receiving the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD) can come as a relief – finally knowing what is wrong and that there may be some solutions. But even after diagnosis, many attendant conflicts remain. There are few medications that work for BPD, and certainly no “magic bullet.” The disorder is known to be so complicated that many professionals shy away from taking on clients with the diagnosis. This being the case, it is no wonder that family members and friends find their loved one’s symptoms – intense episodes of distress and anger, attempts at self-injury or repeated threats of suicide, and the extreme reactions to seemingly normal conditions – to be confusing and frustrating, if not impossible to bear.
If you are the child of someone with borderline, or you have committed to a relationship with someone with BPD, it can feel sometimes that you are stuck – no way out of frequently bad interactions. People with BPD seem to wear their emotional skin on the outside, and, much like small children who cannot yet regulate their emotions, they are frequently angry, shocked, overjoyed, astonished, hurt, outraged, and infuriated – all in the matter of a half-an-hour. Moods shift frequently, and several intense emotions and moods are likely to be expressed by your BPD loved one in the matter of only a few days.
Some BPD Therapies Useful for Everyone
Some of the therapies that help people with BPD may be useful for their family members and loved ones as well. There are therapies that teach people with BPD how to tolerate distress and how to calm and sooth themselves when confronted with peak emotions, rather than reacting to those emotions. Because the behaviours of people with BPD are frequently high volume, learning to turn down one’s own responses to these behaviours is a good start.
The good news is that your loved one is likely not a child; he or she can learn how to regulate her/his emotions, just as you can learn how to modify your feelings, reactions, and even your beliefs in order to change your communication with your loved one – to impact it in a more positive direction. While your BPD loved one works on distress tolerance and emotional reactivity (provided she or he has committed to getting treatment), there are some important things you can do to stay sane, and to try to maintain a healthy relationship.
Tips for Loved Ones of People With BPD
1. Recognize the truth in this statement: Feelings are not facts. Your BPD loved one likely has a range of intense emotions which compel him to say things that feel unkind, unfair and even cruel at times. Recognize your BPD loved one’s reality: he has a mental disorder. His extreme feelings are highly changeable, as you have seen over and over. They are so changeable because your loved one has BPD, and because they are feelings, not truths. Try your best to keep this in perspective no matter how emotionally volatile your BPD loved one may become.
2. Recognize your part in disputes. It is easy to point the finger at the one with the diagnosis, especially when that diagnosis revolves around interpersonal dysfunction, but it is important to recognize that demonizing a person with BPD is unhelpful and is likely adding to the creation of chaos in your relationship. Likewise, seeing your BPD loved one as a “victim” of an illness or disease is also unhelpful. No matter who we are, we must learn to be accountable for our behaviour, and that includes people with BPD as well as those who have a relationship with them.
3. Have a self-check in place for the potential feelings of FOG – fear, obligation, and guilt – in response to your BPD loved one, and a plan for handling these ungrounded responses. Susan Forward, PhD, coined the acronym “FOG” for the emotions likely to arise in people who are repeatedly emotionally manipulated. These feelings are unhealthy and unproductive. Change your reality until you have no true cause to fear your loved one; recognize that because your BPD loved one is an adult, no matter her relationship to you, so you are in no way obligated to remain in her life; and understand that guilt serves no healthy purpose. It can be used as a form of subtle manipulation, but manipulation, from someone with BPD, is more a matter of desperation, not real forethought or planning. She is seeking desperately to ensure she will not be abandoned (even while doing things that push you away from her).
4. Recognize, always, the degree of reaction your BPD loved one is likely to have in response to perceived or imagined abandonment. Because this is the deepest fear of someone with BPD, be careful and wise with potentially abandoning or rejecting words or phrases. If you decide to warn your BPD loved one that you may no longer maintain contact with him for any reason, be certain that you: 1) absolutely mean it; 2) are not saying it out of anger or cruelty; 3) are prepared for the potential fallout. No amount of fallout should keep you from going no-contact if this is what you believe to be best for you, but always be aware of the extreme ways your BPD loved one is likely to react, and be prepared.
5. Encourage your BPD loved one to learn distress tolerance, mindfulness, and other ways of handling unwanted emotions by taking part in these therapies yourself. Treatments such as dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), or mentalization therapy are known to be effective for people with DBT, but they can be quite helpful for anyone who wishes to improve their states of mind and more deeply understand human interaction. Your willingness to participate may be an encouragement to your BPD loved one to seek and continue treatment, and it may be good for you as well.
BPD is called “the Good Prognosis Diagnosis” because although it is one of the more difficult mental health diagnoses to contend with, many people have a high chance of getting better or recovering entirely. If you believe in your loved one and choose to stick by him during treatment, you may see real rewards. Many, many people who once experienced pervasive difficulty in interpersonal relationships as a result of BPD are now healthy and fully functioning after treatment and a lot of self-work. Keeping an open mind, working on some of your own responses and reactions, and being honest with yourself about the realities of BPD may just bring you to a fuller sense of self and happiness in time.