LOVE IS JUST A FOUR LETTER WORD
Understanding the Borderline Personality
By Shari Schreiber,
you've ever been involved with a borderline disordered individual,
you've struggled with massive confusion. The great disparity
between their words and actions alone, has you running in circles,
and trying to make sense of it all. Should you believe
your lover when he/she states they "love you more than
anything, and all they want is your happiness"--or should
you accept their destructive, diminishing behaviors as proof
that all those declarations aren't actually true? You'll reluctantly
doubt their emotional health/sanity, because one minute they're
adoring you--but just an hour or so later, they're shutting down,
cheating on you or wanting to break up!
to this, the Borderline could make statements to you about needing
to break it off--but the very instant you agree, or confirm that
this is possibly a sound choice, they'll accuse you
of wanting out! I'd had this happen with a BPD
client who engaged my assistance. After only two sessions (which
went very well) she phoned to say that she didn't feel comfortable
pursuing this work with me. As I validated her concerns and addressed
how my methods might not be a fit for her (based on her resistance
to even consider healthy change), she accused me of wanting
to terminate her as a client!! That was her projection;
she needed me to be 'the bad guy' and abandon
her, so she could retain her inner-narrative ("nobody
can help me/everyone leaves"), and managed to find fault with
me, just as she had her former therapist.
probably gone through this in your own dance with a Borderline,
but do not take it personally, or try to convince
them that they authored this upset. This is their cognitive
distortion at work, and you're not gonna change that. Many Borderlines
who call me looking for "healing," reject it as soon as
they discover that growth is part of this process. Growth
brings change, and change is terrifying to them. Thus, they remain
pitiful seekers of something they cannot accommodate, and
don't actually want.
are extremely insecure. They'll act-out their ambivalent
feelings and fears surrounding attachment, with anyone close--even
the professional they're engaging for help. They will do with their
clinician, what they've done with you. A solid/meaningful therapeutic
alliance jostles their defenses, and makes them want to retreat.
They need constant reassurance you won't kick them out of treatment--but
they'll test this relationship to see how far they
can push the envelope with last-minute rescheduling, missing appointments,
self-sabotaging (to avert growth), ignoring productive suggestions,
bandy about the word 'love' with casual abandon. You'll want to
believe them when they say it--but most Borderlines are pathological
liars; it's simply become part of their survival strategy, since
childhood. They can easily hide sexual and emotional affairs from
their partners/spouses, and if you're stupid enough to think it
won't happen to You, think again!
the 1964 movie My Fair Lady, Rex Harrison's character sings this
plaintive lament; "Why can't a woman be more like
a man? Men are so honest and thoroughly square, eternally
noble and historically fair." Truth is, Borderlines are
more like men--at least, at the onset of their relationships. They
present as comfortable/at ease with their sexuality (and what man
hasn't wished for that his entire adult life?). There are
facets of the Borderline that can make you feel like you're with
one of the guys. She's forthright, open, easy-going and
fascinating, all encased in one lovely package. She adores all the
things you do--and it feels amazing that this delightful
creature is so into you.
is The Hook of course--the honeymoon phase of your relationship,
which has you excusing/overlooking her debilitating, castrating,
abusive behaviors once you're on her fishing line--and that barb
is so deeply imbedded, you can't even think of struggling
free, for the injury it will cause you. You drop your guard when
she says she's "just into something casual--and you've
no cause for concern." You want to believe it--and
so you do. I mean, who the hell would turn down this gorgeous person
who wants to spend their days worshiping at your altar? The trouble
is, those bad/crazy episodes soon begin multiplying, and now you're
in the thick of it. You're hooked--and there's no turning back,
despite their push-pull emotional gymnastics, love you/hate you
stuff, etc. I have a favorite film, (500)
Days of Summer that epitomizes your struggle for the emotional
consistency and solid grounding with a Borderline, you'll never
have a chance to experience.
PICTURE'S WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS.
that you're sitting in a boat having baited a fishing lure, and
you're waiting for your next dinner to swim along and chomp on it.
That would be your normal expectation, wouldn't it? Well, the Borderline
ignores that lure in the water, and hoists herself into your
vessel! This is utterly fantastic for any guy who's insecure,
and wants to avoid the possibility of rejection, if he makes the
first move. It's also a sure thing you've got a train wreck ahead,
with another BPD girl. The only cure for
attraction to Borderlines, is growing genuine confidence and self-worth.
inch of you has been craving that glorious beginning you had together,
and I know how much you're wanting it back! It's tough to let that
fantasy die--but you must. Truth is, there may be moments
you think it's recaptured, but it will never
be what it was at first--because you're already seduced.
If there's no chase, the capture means nothing to a Borderline,
which is why so many guys get dropped on their heads immediately
after leaving their wife and family! No matter what
she says to the contrary, as soon as you're Hers, she doesn't want
you anymore (sexually
speaking, a well-fed, contented house cat will chase a mouse just
for the sport of it. Once the rodent is captured, if it's smart
enough to play dead, the kitty loses interest and walks away. If
the mouse struggles to get free of the cat's claws, our feline holds
on tighter and unwittingly kills its new toy. This is precisely
what happens in your dance with a Borderline. When you're available,
he/she isn't intrigued or excited by you.
IT HIM/HER THAT'S CRAZY, OR IS IT ME??
have major difficulty trusting anyone. This issue is left over from
infancy and early childhood due to poor parenting, so don't personalize
their lack of trust in you! You can't make this person trust you,
which has nothing whatsoever to do with how dependable or loving
you are. This issue existed way before you came
along, so stop holding yourself responsible for it.
the Borderline mirrors for you absolutely everything you've always
wanted to believe about yourself. As the relationship gets underway
though, they echo how you really feel about yourself, deep
down beneath your props or the markers of your
success (the fancy houses/cars, your prodigious skills in bed, your
thriving business, your splendid physique, etc.). You keep trying
to revive that first image of yourself
(at least, in their eyes), but it's futile, which triggers
core shame. It's this awful feeling of shame that drives
your feverish efforts to win him or her back, so you can get free
Borderline makes you feel responsible for their deceitful
and manipulative behaviors; they could make you believe that if
you just married them, they'd be devoted only
to you, and life would be marvelous--but don't
buy it! The truth is, the closer you get to a borderline disordered
person, the more they freak-out and push you away. This paradox
is due to their attachment fears.
act highly indignant if you question their actual motives, or even
hint that they've behaved without the
utmost honesty/integrity--but this is their defense against
failing to be perfect,
which (for them too) triggers toxic core shame.
might not have had much experience with real Love during
the course of your life, so these contradictory messages can feel
horribly confounding. The initial stages with a Borderline are sublime--and
quite unlike anything you've ever experienced before. You start
feeling as if you've finally found what you needed, your whole life.
Hence, when he/she begins pushing away or finding fault with you,
you'll be thinking; "this is only temporary--and I'll just
fix the problem, or wait until it blows over. Surely they really
love me, so this must be a simple misunderstanding,
or glitch in communication."
you know it, sorting
through this difficulty takes center stage in your world, and
you're committed to doing whatever it takes, to rectify
it. Even if you're not sure you've made an error, your partner's
reactions are sufficiently intense/volatile to suggest that you
must be the one who's at fault.
matter how much you try to resolve/work through this conundrum,
your lover has his/her own spin on it, and keeps needing to put
the blame for this rupture on you. They'll never be able to see
this issue from your perspective, nor will they accept
your explanations of what you think actually happened. They begin
bringing up things about you and your personality that just aren't
true, and you start having to defend yourself in the midst of trying
to fix the original upset. Now, you're completely thrown
off your game, and there's no end in sight. In short, this little
'speed-bump' has turned into a gargantuan hurdle--and to make matters
worse, your character is being impugned!
ROOTS OF A BPD ATTRACTION RUN REALLY DEEP!
you've learned as a kid to be an accommodator, and you're
accustomed to always putting other's needs/feelings first, you may
find yourself apologizing for crimes you haven't commited--just
to restore harmony and peace to this relationship. God knows, your
partner won't own their mistakes--and you've learned that
days or weeks could pass, before he/she stops punishing you by withdrawing,
and this cold war is finally over (for awhile, anyway).
You might be tempted to "take the higher road" and bridge
this chasm, but has anyone ever done this with you--or is it only
your job to make things right?
person who contacts me for help to recover from these relationships
is immersed in guilt and shame. This doesn't feel like any other
break-up, and you can't just walk away--not with your ego intact,
anyway. You're raw and hurting--and the worst part is, you're beating
yourself up for it! A long-held belief might be;
"If I feel bad in a relationship, it must surely be my
fault" but that's an erroneous assumption you cultivated
as a child, due to faulty parenting.
of your confusion and torment might have begun way back then, if
you had an abusive/critical or neglectful mom or dad, and the other
parent told you it was "their way of loving you." Being
wounded by a mother or father, and having their spouse routinely
offer 'comfort' by convincing you that this pain you felt
was really Love, could distort your sense of that emotion,
and screw you up for a lifetime! Should you doubt your own parent
on this point, or not accept the lie they fed you? How might you
do that as a little kid, with no alternate frame of reference??
you unquestionably loved your parents--even as they were the source
of your pain, you learned to accept that 'loving' came with anguish--and
this became your relational blueprint, from which all your adult
attachments have been built. Borderlines were similarly influenced,
and all those painful childhood experiences frequently give rise
LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
is an abstract concept for somebody with BPD--and it's associated
with pain. The Borderline's yearning for love is experienced
as dramatic, painful emotions that were confused with affection
for an unresponsive/unavailable parent during childhood, that constituted
unrequited (or un-returned) love. Could this have
also been true for you?
Borderline carries tremendous toxic shame from never having
felt worthy of love since infancy/early childhood. They've lived
with sensations of having to buy a parent's
love (getting 'em expensive gifts, visiting when they really don't
want to, etc.) to gain approval and acceptance. They've done this
with you, as well. Each time they've acted adorable, generous and
seductive, it's to get their deep need for validation met--which
has nothing to do with You.
nature of a Borderline is difficult to wrap your head around, as
their reactions are often the opposite of how you'd think someone
should respond, and it messes with your mind. For instance,
the closer you get to him or her, the more they need to distance.
For healthy folks, love and trust grow with time, and intimacy
deepens. With the Borderline, as soon as they feel safe and good,
abandonment concerns are stirred, attachment fears are right behind--and
they have to push you away. Their survival depends on it, for to
love, means devastating pain will follow. You can't
Borderline's deep hunger for love doesn't go away, but when you
actually nourish it, dramatic feelings associated with wanting/longing
for that love evaporate! Infatuation is
exhilarating, but fleeting. Love is sustainable--and therefore,
intolerable for a Borderline.
an analogy, you could crave a favorite food. You're needing this
appetite satisfied, and nothing else will quite hit the mark. After
you eat that meal, your craving is appeased, and you're sated. With
the Borderline, as soon as you gratify their craving for
love, the sensations of "love" vanish. Given that love
and pain have become entwined for them, someone with BPD believes;
if it doesn't hurt, it must not be love--so folks who are
capable of providing the love they really need, are taken for granted,
punished or cast aside. Can it be, that you've also done this with
others during the course of your lifetime?
matter of paradox can be nothing short of excruciating, if we've
always sought a parent's or older sibling's approval and affection,
and keep coming up short--no matter how much we've contributed
to those relationships! Ties that bind can also feel imprisoning,
when our self-worth has depended on the distorted reflections
from dysfunctional others. This is like daily looking into a warped
Fun House mirror, and coming to accept that
image of yourself as accurate and real. The Borderline simply retraumatizes
might come to surmise that you're both core-damaged, so
why can't this make for a compatible,
successful relationship? Have you ever observed two little children
playing well together--but if there's an upset between them, they
lack conflict resolution skills, and it takes an adult
to intercede? Lack of adult development means that conflicts escalate,
and there's no such thing as problem-solving, which
is why couples therapists thrive! Perhaps
you've experienced this with your borderline partner, and either
gave-up/gave-in, or had to break away until all that tension eased--only
to return to find it had blown over with no resolution,
and this cycle repeats over and over.
DEVELOPMENTAL PERSPECTIVE ON LOVE, LOSS AND LOATHING:
isn't that Borderlines haven't wanted love--it's
that they have never been able to trust it. Partners who
occasionally meet their need for closeness are less threatening
than those who can provide it on a consistent basis.
to gain the upper-hand by being someone you're not just
to keep your Borderline interested in you, never works.
The roots of this are deeply
buried in your childhood where you learned to surrender huge
chunks of yourself, for the sake of getting a little care, approval
or affection from your folks. If you think you can control this
relationship by protecting your heart, you're in for some serious
pain. You cannot win with a damaged/dysfunctional
individual, but your ego will certainly want to keep trying--even
against all odds.
a Borderline means you're always walking a high-wire, which is based
solely on their emotional comfort, feelings or needs--and
there's zero room in that relationship, for yours!
You'll spend a lot of time and energy thinking about how to balance
on this tightrope, so you don't fall and crack your head open--but
it's a futile exercise. In truth, the more you give-in to this person,
the less they respect you. How can they, if you can't respect yourself
enough to take a firm
stand for your own needs and desires??
DANCE OF THE DIVA
occasionally contacted by psychotherapists needing help with particularly
difficult BPD patients/clients.
A few clinicians have given over control of that therapeutic relationship
to the Borderline--and there's intense drama, chaos and abuse that
comes their way within sessions. During our consultations, I coach
them on setting very firm limits and boundaries, and taking back
their power. A rageful, abusive Borderline is literally screaming
for containment. The therapist must be willing to treat these patients
differently than others, and protect themselves during their entire
process--even if it means leaving his/her office for a few minutes
throughout the session. Bottom line, there's no excuse for abuse--and
you cannot reason with a three year old.
might be concern that a waif-type could self-injure, in response
to this firmer, direct treatment, but quite the opposite is true.
As I've mentioned in some of my other literature, the Borderline
is much like somebody without a skin holding them in. Like
a good parent, you must provide the container for them,
and not put up with any nonsense. It's the only way they feel cared
about and safe. When husbands learn to do this with BPD wives, their
home life becomes a lot more bearable, and even pleasant.
Diva's emotionally a toddler who lacks impulse control
and boundaries. Don't
believe me? Ask any film director. Expect rebellion,
but stay firm.
small child cannot hold feelings for very long, and emotional dysregulation
is natural to this phase of development. They're monumentally disappointed
if you've promised something you can't deliver--and they'll hate
you, throw a temper tantrum or pout, when they don't get their way.
It's usually a pretty short period before their temperament shifts,
and they're giggling and loving you again--and if you've spent any
real time around a toddler, you know how easy it is to cheer them
up. It might only take a lollipop!
of this acting-out involves their need to learn where your limits
are, and how far they can push the envelope with you, before they
get punished. This stage is usually referred to as 'the terrible
two's,' but it lasts for awhile--and you'll get so frustrated at
times, you might find yourself thinking; how can I flush this rascal
down the toilet?! The Borderline hasn't developed their own container--and
like a small kid, they're dependent on you
to make the rules, so they can feel protected. They're continually
having to test these limits, because they haven't grown
any of their own--and their absence of impulse-control is what Dr.
Sigmund Freud termed the "Id" or infancy
impulses, that define their need for instant gratification.
infant is ruled solely by instinctual, libidinal urges.
There is no capacity for mood regulation, empathy, higher thinking
or sensing right from wrong. Their needs are primal/selfish, because
their survival depends on it. If adult development
hasn't been successfully acquired, narcissism typically results.
An emotionally underdeveloped person continually wrestles with relationship
difficulties, addictions, personality disorder traits, low self-esteem
and poor tolerance for delayed gratification.
Borderlines within the psychotherapeutic community, may have developed
solid clinical skills--but frequently maintain erratic
push-pull dynamics in their romantic relationships. Nourishing friendships
and collegial attachments are often sabotaged, when another is viewed
as wiser or more gifted than they, because their core shame
is (inevitably) invoked.
materials on the Internet speak about 'hoovering.' I generally resist
using hackneyed terms associated with this disorder, but this one
perfectly describes a Borderline's nature to want/need you, as soon
as they're aware they can't have you. The challenge of sucking you
back in when their craving erupts, is what that word encapsulates.
Once their appetite abates, they're done with you all over again--and
this repetitive cycle continues, until one of you gets sick and
tired of it. Literally.
might want to escape this toxic relationship, but you just can't
imagine "abandoning" your Borderline. Let's be clear:
A Borderline's troubles started long before
you came along, and you're not going to rewrite their history, no
matter how hard you try! You are not 'abandoning' this person (their
parents managed to do that), you're
simply leaving to take better care of You!
weren't able to form solid bonds of trust during infancy with their
mothers. They couldn't get enough attention, mirroring and nurturing
in the earliest stages of life. Every child needs these crucial
emotional supplies to believe they're lovable, and build a sturdy
sense of Self. Children who grow up without these elements, assume
those deficits are their fault--and they must be flawed
and unlovable. If you've become a People
Pleaser, this could also have happened to you! In truth, you've
both wrestled with similar
core wounds, so it feels like his/her puzzle fits with
yours, and vice-versa.
you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod this app will let you hear
here, to determine if you're in an abusive relationship!
MY BPD LOVER BE RIGHT ABOUT ME??
may phone for assistance, but I
do not offer online/written therapy. Only emails under
150 words are read, due to time constraints. Please
be clear/concise, and expect a straight answer within fourteen days.