WE MET BEFORE?
The Borderline/Narcissist Couple
By Shari Schreiber,
probably heard by now, that these two personality types are drawn
to each other, but might have wondered why this is true. I'll
try to demystify this mutual attraction, and provide a little
insight (as usual) along the way. For simplicity's sake, I discuss
female Borderlines and male Narcissists, but these roles can certainly
be reversed, and may include same-sex unions--in fact, the prevalence
of borderline pathology could be considered heightened
within the gay community.
issues are universal--and homosexual men and women struggle with
many of the same concerns heterosexual couples do, because of
their core disturbances throughout childhood. Frankly, I have
never met a lesbian who didn't have major issues with her mother--but
who contact me for help, are already aware of a distinct pattern
of attraction in their life. These romantic selections are thrilling
at first, but later become disappointing and pain-producing--yet
these patterns remain intact, despite self-promises to do it differently,
"next time." The only way to explain this odd phenomenon,
is to understand the basis for these unwise relational
choices, and that's what this literature attempts to address.
critical to understand that both narcissistic and borderline personality
disordered individuals incurred nearly identical types of wounds
to their developing sense of Self as infants and throughout childhood,
and isn't it simply natural to be drawn to someone with
whom you have things in common, or who echoes
personality aspects in yourself? Well, this attraction is
a lot like that~ it feels as though you've found your 'soul mate.'
There's a similar vibration or frequency you two share, due to
your primal abandonment issues. While the nature of those early
difficulties were alike, they've played out in different ways
for each of you--but the scars from that time remain, unless there's
been some serious core-focused intervention.
essential difference between the Narcissist and Borderline, is
that a BPD person's inner world is so chaotic/fragmented, they
have trouble distinguishing between reality and fantasy, which
is the actual definition of psychosis. The Borderline's inability
to separate fact from fiction distorts their perceptions, and
extreme emotional reactivity in reference to those distortions,
is a typical borderline personality feature.
Narcissists are frequently
'super-givers,' but authentic intimacy and closeness
are often avoided, given their engulfment fears. Caregiver types
can easily be drawn to borderline disordered individuals who match
their own attachment issues, so that 'safe' emotional
proximity remains for them a non-issue.
not presume that a Narcissist and Borderline can construct a successful
marriage. If they haven't resolved their respective childhood
traumas, they'll continually trample on each other's emotional
land mines, and trigger highly explosive episodes, while remaining
truth, the Narcissist is no match for the Borderline. It doesn't
matter how smart or powerful he is, she'll turn his world upside-down
to where he could lose his entire fortune, acquire a serious disease,
and become a shadow of his former self. The Narcissist's grandiosity
works against him in this type of coupling, because he has an
unquenchable need to win,
due to self-worth issues he's endured since early childhood. He
won't let himself be one-upped by anyone, but the Borderline is
always better at this game than he is. As he cannot tolerate
any loss of control, he'll literally fight to
the death to maintain it--never realizing what he's losing/giving
up, in terms of his good health or monetary fortune while he's
ultra-distracted, and obsessively immersed in surmounting this
Narcissist relentlessly tries to 'crack the code' with his BPD
lover, due to long-standing, faulty assumptions about himself
he adopted as a boy, when his parents required him to be the
perfect child. If he
succeeded, he might have received some praise. If he failed, their
disappointment was palpable, which triggered deep feelings of
shame. This child enters adulthood shaming
himself, if ever he senses that he's performed less than
perfectly. But what constitutes "perfection," and isn't
it always a subjective state of mind?
narcissistic partner believes that everyone can be as strong,
self-reliant and successful as he has managed to become. He's
been pulling himself 'up by the bootstraps' since early
childhood, and has surmounted tremendous odds to do so! This gives
way to his automatic presumption that if He can do it, anyone
can~ but this is just wishful thinking that's driven by his deep
need to alter another, so he can get his own needs met
by him/her. This fantasy is a carryover from boyhood and his indefatigable
efforts to get vital supplies of affection, attention and positive
mirroring that he needed from Mother, but could never secure.
Narcissistic perfectionist believes; "If I'm feeling
bad in a relationship, it must be my fault."
The Borderline believes; "If I feel bad in a relationship,
it has to be your fault." This sets
up an endless cycle, within which the Borderline rages or retreats--and
the Narcissist attempts to 'fix it' by cajoling, pursuing, rescuing,
etc., to flee his childhood shame of feeling unworthy and unlovable.
not terribly unusual for two people with borderline
traits to engage, and regardless of the psycho-babble
you may have read elsewhere, anyone who's done any actual healing
work with borderlines would know this! Still, this coupling presents
a highly combustible mix; their respective pathology draws them
to each other--but the mutual harm/damage that's sustained by
both parties in this type of dynamic is considerable.
It should also be noted, that anyone involved with a Borderline
for even a limited time, could temporarily experience psychotic,
borderline personality symptomology, due to proximal exposure.
That's why we call their behaviors, "crazy-making."
same sort of 'mutual dysfunction' principle holds true for two
Narcissists who hook-up. Metaphorically, we have two crippled/impaired
partners trying to construct a normal life together (with no frame
of reference for it from childhood), when they can barely get
around on their own. Each has lived with (core) insecurity and
self-loathing for most of their life, due to unresolved infancy
and childhood wounds to their sense of Self. You can surely imagine
two individuals trying to navigate their environment in wheelchairs~
but it could become pretty challenging in cramped quarters.
have asked if a long-term relationship is "even possible"
with a BPD individual. Sure~ but it will always be a stressful,
chaotic coupling that's never relaxed, harmonious and loving.
ROOT OF ALL EVILS
injuries that undermine/derail self-esteem start during infancy,
and are reinforced and perpetuated throughout one's childhood.
In the simplest of terms, core disturbance
means that the 'hub' of your wheel is broken or damaged in some
fashion. When the very center of your being has been
compromised, all the spokes which emanate from this point, will
be weak and susceptible to breaking under any amount
of strain. Core trauma impacts every aspect of our existence.
It influences self-worth, and determines how we think about and
take care of ourselves, in personal and professional relationships.
Narcissist typically compensates for core self-worth
deficits, with rescuing or fixing compulsions, people-pleasing,
athletic, scholastic and/or professional over-achievements, carefully
choreographed charm and charisma, amassing material wealth, etc.
The Borderline compensates for core deficits--but does
it with her well-worn ability to seduce,
for that is the only arena where she feels any true sense of mastery
Narcissist and Borderline each continually seek an endless stream
of narcissistic supply~ concrete evidence if you will, that they
are attractive and worthy of someone's attention/adoration.
males are often drawn to females decades younger than themselves,
which is how the commonly used term, 'Trophy Wife' came into being.
Borderline females typically derive their narcissistic supply
by seducing professionally successful, well-off males, or someone
who can at least enhance their social status. BPD females near
middle age, may become enamored with guys who are much younger.
This stark age differential in romantic attraction and selection
is indicative of someone who lacks adult emotional development~
and is in essence, still an adolescent.
son of a Borderline is typically attracted to
females who echo the traits he saw in his mom~ and his boyhood
trauma will be resuscitated over and over again, with nearly every
romantic partnership he forms in adulthood. Healthier lovers who
don't inspire intense yearning, painful frustration or anxiety
within him are typically rejected, due to sensations of boredom!
This is not the fault of the girl~ but rather his inability to
flee his own inner depression, deadness or emptiness, which he's
desperately tried to outrun and avoid since boyhood.
grew up watching how their mothers behaved around men. They learned
how to act sweet, adorable and seductive, to manipulate people
into giving them what they wanted or needed. In short, they repeatedly
observed these tactics being deployed by a masterful and manipulative
teacher, and adopted them.
Borderline mother is frequently envious of her child's achievements
and successes, and could be flirtatious and/or seductive with
her daughter's romantic interests. She may have no compunctions
whatsoever, about stealing boyfriends/lovers from her teenage
or adult child.
Borderline's fierce competition with and jealousy toward her offspring
can begin very early in a child's life, and acutely influence
and derail his or her bond with the father.
variety of betrayals during childhood have deeply fractured
a Borderline's core, and psychic trauma from this period can't
help but seriously impact all adult relationship endeavors. Add
to this, the imprint from a narcissistic parent is retained, and
may be subconsciously sought after in her adult attachments~ for
who we grow up loving~ whether they return our affection
or not, is who we typically marry.
LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
have built-in grandiosity. This is their defense against feelings
of inadequacy and inferiority, and these deficits trigger their
compulsion to rescue, guide, teach/advise and train others.
narcissist automatically presumes to know what others are thinking
and feeling, and he can come across as an absolute authority on
various topics. Narcissists love to tell you what you're
feeling, rather than asking you about it~ which can be infuriating
for anyone. Borderlines have such a fragile sense
of Self to begin with, they'll usually act-out their frustration
with the Narcissist's 'Mr. Know-it-all' defenses by retreating
or raging. He may regard her as explosive or crazy, but he's
the one who's unwittingly lit her fuse. His ongoing need to be
in the one-up position and exert control, forms the basis of many
conflicts and struggles with this couple. The sad reality
is, he has typically observed these traits in his narcissistic
parents while growing up, and has unwittingly emulated and adopted
Narcissist lover will more readily trigger his borderline partner's
defensive acting-out behaviors, as his engulfment fears and self-involvement
trigger her abandonment concerns. This is a two-sided coin however,
as while she's craving his attention and affection, she
experiences painful sensations that were once confused/entwined
with loving an unresponsive parent~ and those
dramatic feelings are reinvigorated, and equated with distorted
sensations of what love is supposed to feel like.
Borderlines and Narcissists associate Love with painful
longing. This is the crux of all those come here/go away
(push/pull) cycles within this coupling, and a whole lotta
country western songs! In essence, love equals pain, and
their intense yearning for love is met, painful sensations they've
come to interpret as loving feelings, evaporate. At this
point, the Borderline feels bored or annoyed, and pushes away.
With a healthy/whole partner who requires continuity
of loving feelings, the Borderline feels emotional claustrophobia,
which compels her to disrupt episodes of authentic intimacy between
Narcissist deals with his needs for
independence, distance and autonomy, by selecting emotionally
unavailable BPD lovers who won't consistently trigger his engulfment
closeness and engulfment fears become heightened, both NPD and
BPD partners can experience anxiety, which prompts their need
to retreat or withdraw. The distance between them eases some tension,
but a narcissistic perfectionist makes it his fault,
and experiences shame. This catalyzes his frantic efforts to win
her over, again. It isn't that he's needing her--he's
needing reprieve from his toxic sense of unlovability and unworthiness~
which are shame-infused emotional remnants he's carried since
often asked if Borderlines are capable of loving, and
this appears to be a very central concern during the course of
these relationships--and afterward, when the discarded partner
needs to cling to the ideation that they were
in fact, truly loved. Borderlines felt pain in relation
to longing and striving for their parent's warmth and affection
throughout childhood, and learned to interpret
those difficult/dramatic feelings as "Love." Chasing
after partners who are emotionally or physically unavailable--or
married/attached, keeps their yearning alive, and inhibits
them from embracing somebody who's actually able to provide
love on a consistent basis. Narcissists are similarly
attracted to someone who's slightly out of reach, for this eases
engulfment concerns (more on this issue, a bit later). The search
for a partner who's able to magically surmount this specific
defense could continue for a lifetime, as the "right one"
virtually impossible for the Narcissist to accept that his BPD
lover has no real capacity for love, as during the 'good times,'
he's felt jubilant, calm and at peace. To begin questioning these
feelings, triggers significantly painful inner conflict for him,
as it challenges long-held definitions of love, and what
it's supposed to feel like! Attachment difficulties during childhood
strongly influence this struggle, as he had no suitable frame
of reference during infancy or boyhood for consistent, nourishing
attention, mirroring and affection. Any crumbs of nurturance he
got from his parents, may have solidified his immediate sense
of value to them--but these episodes were miniscule/brief compared
to their neglect or abuse. This early patterning has set the stage
for his obsessional
attraction to a borderline disordered individual, as he can't
painfully yearn for someone who's consistently present
and available! This childhood imprint has also impaired his self-worth,
and fostered people-pleasing and codependency issues.
critical to understand that if a Borderline partner becomes healthier
therapeutic help, there will be considerably less chaos and conflict
in this coupling, which can drudge up feelings of deadness or
discontent in the narcissistic partner. He too, thrives on stimulation
(whether pleasurable or painful) which triggers feelings of aliveness
he can't produce for himself. At this point, he may feel the need
to look outside their relationship for more excitement, or behave
in ways that create disharmony between them. What this means is,
the Borderline is damned if she doesn't get well, and damned if
she does~ for she may no longer be able to hold her lover's attention.
A BIRD, IT'S A PLANE--NO, IT'S SUPERMAN!
wounds to one's narcissism, breeds narcissistic adults. If a child
had to shut down his needs and difficult feelings in order to
survive the rigors of his painful childhood experiences, he may
have acquired a sense of invincibility, and assumed he could handle
virtually anything that came up. This was his defense
or armor which shielded him from feelings of vulnerability/fragility.
Since he judges these sensations as unacceptable and "weak,"
they can lay dormant for many years, until he joins with a Borderline
who reawakens the excruciating pain he learned to put aside, dissociate
from and adapt to as a little kid.
core shame that's invoked within him when these feelings resurface,
is monumental. He remembers how powerful, in-control
and popular he was before he started up with the Borderline and
his world (and ego) began to collapse. He cannot reconcile his
current ("dispicable") frailty with the entrenched Superman
persona he erected in boyhood--and it causes him a deep sense
of embarrassment, frustration and despair. Self-worth repair within
core trauma work
can help him, but it's like 'boot camp' for the soul. Few will
make the effort to heal and grow past the grandiose false-self,
which was constructed in childhood, in order to survive a litany
of agonizing setbacks.
THIS IS ANOTHER FINE MESS WE'VE GOTTEN OURSELVES INTO!
chameleon's coloring will change according to its surrounding
environment; this reptile's protective camouflage helps it capture
its prey, and hide from natural predators. Borderline personalities
are chameleon-like--they'll quickly discern what's important to
you, and become that, in the early phase of your relationship.
Most of us have been seeking this sort of romantic congruency
our entire life. To even get close to finding it, can
seem like a miracle! The trouble is, as soon as this guy or gal
senses that they've captured you, their normal colors
return--and you're dealing with a very different sort of creature.
molting process of reptiles involves shedding their skin to accommodate
growth--it's like outgrowing a Tee-shirt you wore as a child.
Real growth requires concrete foundational change. This is threatening
to Borderlines, as underneath their perfectly adoring veneer is
a dark side they've hidden from you, just long enough to get you
hooked. Once you're really theirs, this dark part emerges--and
you spend the rest of your time in this dance trying to figure
it all out, and reconnect with that person you fell for initially.
watched this happen with a middle-aged BPD colleague, who married
her lover only six months after meeting him. On the eve of their
wedding, I'm sure he believed he'd finally found the pot of gold
at the end of his rainbow, in this perfectly adoring
female he fell for. Then it changed, and got pretty ugly. I've
observed her trying to make him think he's losing his mind, and
I honestly believe she'll eventually kill him.
TAMING OF THE SCREW
Borderline's captivating allure is nearly impossible to ignore,
particularly for a man in mid-life. Long term
marriages are often destroyed in the midst of affairs with considerably
younger women who've enlivened the Narcissist's sense of grandiosity,
along with his penis. Erectile dysfunction is generally blamed
on the wife of many years--when it's actually just a symptom of
pre-existing intimacy issues, that have reached critical mass.
I think of ED more as Emotional Dysfunction, than any problems
with male physiology.
In most cases, this is a psychic/emotional impairment--not
a physical one.
male places himself in a double-bind, when he attributes his organ's
enthusiastic response to the female who's awakened it from a deep
slumber. Initially, some magical thinking presumes that she's
responsible for his newfound sexual prowess--and as such, they're
meant to sail off into the sunset together. Before long though,
all this power he assigns to her is a bit intimidating/scary
for him. A Narcissist may need to be needed,
but he can't allow himself to need anyone.
Sexual dependency on someone brings up deep fears about loss of
love and control, and here's where his distancing maneuvers
can kick in. The need for distance isn't consciously held
by the Narcissist, it's just an archaic defense mechanism, that
helps him maintain his emotional equilibrium.
healthy, whole woman might feel disappointed to miss out on a
phone call from her lover the morning after an especially close
and loving evening~ but the borderline-disordered female
interprets the most subtle signs of neglect, as loss of love and
affection. This activates sensations of core shame ("I'm
not good enough"), and her abandonment terror is instantly
efforts have her shutting down, raging, taking herself away or
severing all ties with the source of her pain (you). The Borderline's
been poised for abandonment or rejection anyway, due to significant
losses during childhood~ so she will imagine abandoning
behaviors, even when/where none exist. This issue often spawns
outbursts of irrational jealousy.
the self-protective defenses begin, as neither partner wants to
venture too far out on this limb, for fear of falling from their
love nest of infatuation. This mutually held anxiety can inhibit
genuine expressions of caring from the Narcissist, while triggering
frantic, premature declarations of "love" from the Borderline.
Like a small child, her emotional responses are unboundaried and
irrepressible. The toxic shame that's catalyzed when her 'love'
impulsivity isn't reciprocated makes her feel intolerable shame
and pain, which she foists onto her partner, via projections.
might be the glue holding these two together, while their respective
need for autonomy is motivated by fear about getting too close.
This ambivalence automatically sets off a series of controlling
maneuvers/behaviors from each, for being physically and
emotionally naked with someone, means feeling too exposed and
vulnerable; "what if he/she sees the real me, and
in the Borderline is an intricate issue. On one hand, she uses
it to escape her numbness and emptiness. On the other, she believes
that she can control lovers in this way. This personality
facet is magnified when there's been incest or sexual molestation
during her childhood, because she was made to feel 'special' by
accommodating and catering to an adult's prurient appetites. Her
self-worth is inextricably linked to performance and
will continue--especially with rebound (or auxiliary) lovers who
are struck by its exciting novelty. This issue was at one time,
referred to as Nymphomania. Sex
addiction is fairly common among male and female
could be sexually intoxicating--but that's generally because it
isn't 'safe' (or possible) to connect in other domains of this
relationship. In short, all the romantic energy between you gets
funneled--and flows wherever and however it can. Even
fighting can become a couple's primary means of connecting.
OPPOSITES ATTRACT . . .
individuals are frequently People
Pleasers, which means they're passive-aggressive. They're
more comfortable giving rather than receiving in relationships,
which is part of a control issue they adopted during childhood,
in response to parental neglect. In couplings, the one who needs
the least, is always the one in power--and the Borderline's
needs usually far outweigh those of her partner. The Borderline
is like a little child when it comes to impulse control and asserting
wants/needs, so she's the active partner in this dynamic.
The Narcissist has never really felt worthy of having
needs, so he suppresses them; he's the passive partner.
Somebody must be willing to carry the emotions
for this relationship, so that typically falls to the active partner--or
the Borderline. She'll keep pushing the envelope until she gets
a rise out of her partner. She literally thrives on drama and
chaos, but rebels like a three year old, when he takes a stand--even
though she requires the containment and comfort that
boundaries and limits provide.
RELATIONSHIPS ARE BASED ON MUTUAL NEED.
Borderline needs the qualities in you, that are lacking in herself;
honesty, dependability, strength of character, etc. She possesses
an uncanny ability for finding men who've built stable, flourishing
lifestyles (whether married or not), but who have insecurities
and self-doubts left over from boyhood. The Borderline methodically
goes about finding out where your vulnerabilities are buried;
when she discovers what's behind your props, she cleverly
uses your weaknesses against you, for her own advancement/gain.
Decades ago, these women were referred to as gold-diggers or home-wreckers.
The male version was a Gigolo or Casanova
who took sexual/emotional advantage of females, and/or robbed
a Borderline encounters a successful, charismatic Narcissist,
she sees power in him, and security/comfort for herself. Since
she has never really felt protected in her world, this male is
perceived as her ticket to safety. He may never have felt especially
attractive or worthy of attention from a girl who's a
real 'traffic stopper'--so he's flattered out of his pants by
the Borderline's seductive pursuit. His grandiose false-self has
craved this type of attention his whole life--even though he's
never actually felt deserving of it. Thus begins their dance,
which replicates an intoxicating pattern that neither
on a Borderline's level of emotional desperation, she may not
choose men who've attained significant acclaim, stability or success.
Abandonment fears always influence partner selection, and are
key to these attractions. Essentially,
the greater your need is for this female (sexually, emotionally,
psychologically or financially), the more easily she can keep
the upper-hand and control you--and it's always
about control for the Borderline.
been raised by narcissistic people who couldn't respond to her
needs for consistent mirroring and affection, the Borderline feels
at home when she locates a partner who initially showers
her with adoration--but then retreats, or finds fault with her.
Girlhood longing for love felt
painful, so she's programmed to keep striving
for that which can never be satisfied. Each disruption
of loving attention reactivates her core despair, so she settles
for scraps of love, that echo her early conditioning.
A lover who's more available, loving and responsive, doesn't fit
her childhood blueprint--or inspire her passionate response.
impossible to avoid personalizing the Borderline's abusive behaviors--but
her rage isn't about you. It's misdirected feelings of
disappointment, anger and hurt she's stored for a lifetime--and
could never feel safe expressing to Mother.
QUEENS AND PERFECT LITTLE PRINCES
narcissistically injured male continually seeks females who can
perfectly mirror his attributes and qualities--and whom in some
manner, need him. He then gets to assuage his abandonment
concerns--but the flip-side of being needed, is being
engulfed. The Borderline can initially smother/suffocate her prey
with attention that causes him to retreat or distance, because
while it's flattering and eases his abandonment fears, it triggers
vaguely familiar sensations of engulfment he had to endure
as a boy with a controlling mother.
constant challenge then, is staying close without being swallowed-up
by the Borderline's needy, clingy, demanding nature. This challenge
is lessened of course, by the Borderline's continuous pattern
of seduction and retreat. In this way, the Narcissist's fear of
engulfment/too much closeness, becomes a non-issue. If
he were truly emotionally available, he could not tolerate these
erratic, come here/go away patterns--and would seek a female who
is more consistently responsive to him and his needs (past the
this male's mother had BPD
Waif features, he grew up having to meet her needs
for attention, mirroring, flattery, emotional soothing, etc. She
could have made him her confidant in adult matters--especially
concerning issues with his dad. A little boy is overburdened by
these complaints, and doesn't relish this role--but at the same
time, all this special attention from Mother imbues him with a
sense of value/importance--which forms the core
of his self-worth. Her awareness of his needs is painfully
limited, so he welcomes this 'surrogate husband' job, which (at
least) provides vicarious satisfaction. This sets him
up for codependent relationships in his adult world, for being
needed was his only way of replenishing any viable self-image,
and escaping shameful feelings connected to disappointing
a female, like he was programmed by Mom to believe his father
and engulfment concerns resulting from this type of dynamic, are
then transferred onto all later attachments. There's an automatic
reflex that comes into play with a mother-enmeshed man. Sensations
of closeness are entwined with loss of Self.
Thus, his inner narrative becomes; "if I get too close
to you, I'll have to relinquish too much of me." Commitment
has gotten confused with engulfment,
which means having to give up important needs and freedoms. Hence,
profound control issues have evolved, and he'll only choose females
with whom he thinks he can maintain the upper hand. A
needy, BPD female perfectly fits this paradigm--at least at the
onset. Any man who persistently chooses borderline disordered
women, has attachment fears that run as deep as those of the females
contemplate leaving a Borderline presents significant
inner struggles, for not only is the Narcissist enmeshed,
he's terrified of potential ramifications his departure might
catalyze. He's all too familiar with her acute instability, and
frightened that she'll either bring great harm to herself--or
to him. Some men have described a lover's suicide and/or murder
threats and attempts, trumped-up domestic violence charges, stalking,
vandalism to their property, etc., when they've tried to flee
these tormenting relationships. The tragic reality is, it's often
easier to remain than to leave--but this can spawn risks to his
health, his livelihood, his family ties, and all other associations.
Leaving triggers his guilt as well, which is an old remnant
from childhood individuation
THE TWIG IS BENT . . .
mother of a Narcissist could make her son feel that he is the
center of her universe. He is the Golden Boy
who can do no wrong--but only when he's perfectly responsive
to her demands and wishes! A couple of problems arise here; she's
imbedded and fueled his grandiosity--even though he's unable to
discern why he's so "special," but has simultaneously
implanted self-esteem issues, which surface when he experiences
himself as flawed or imperfect. A borderline lover always reconstitutes
this early confusion and wounding with her come here/go away,
push-pull emotional gymnastics. Intermittant episodes of adoration
and abandonment revive familiar patterns from boyhood, that he
has normalized. This keeps him striving for continuity
of affection which is unattainable--but feeling bored/uncomfortable
with any female who can provide loving constancy.
Borderline Waif mother makes certain her son knows that she could
not survive without him, and that he is the guardian of (both)
her pleasure and pain. These early dynamics set him up for very
specific relational patterns in adulthood, which have driven him
into the arms of needy/clingy Borderlines. On a subconscious level,
his valiant efforts to save her and fortify self-worth
(despite all her loving and alternate abandoning
behaviors), replicate his boyhood blueprint for
a male was raised by a Queen or Witch-type Borderline, he'll be
drawn to women with similar traits or characteristics, who will
retraumatize him. It's also possible that he might select a female
who's relatively devoid of those features, and with whom
he can access more empowerment and autonomy, than he could as
a child. These needs can propel him toward someone with waif traits--but
even the Waif
must exert control over her partners.
raised by borderline disordered mothers frequently adopt and retain
BPD features, due to an inability to trust and forge close, intimate
bonds during boyhood. This has them persistently choosing relationships
with women who are poorly equipped to meet their needs for connection
and closeness, and turning away from those who are able to offer
genuine love and caring. They might fantasize that a female will
come along who can magically break down their attachment avoidance--but
this fantasy won't be realized, unless they engage focused core
trauma help. Even then, their defenses could remain entrenched
males generally cannot commit to esteem-building work, until their
'props' have vanished--meaning, they've lost their fortunes and
good health, usually throughout involvement with a Borderline.
At this point, their defenses are lowered, and we have a chance
to construct a Man from a scared, broken little boy.
inner work can invoke feelings of needing the therapist,
which instantly produce anxiety for one with narcissistic traits.
This dreaded needfulness catalyzes his compulsion to sabotage
that relationship with 'tests' he vaguely suspects could result
in abandonment. If this occurs, his entrenched belief that anyone
who could have value or importance to him will let him down or
leave, becomes prophesy fulfillment which provides
some level of confirmation and gratification, as he'd rather be
'right' than be well. Tragically, this self-defeating reflex keeps
real love at bay, and he'll continue to dabble with Borderlines
(and clinicians) who have no actual capacity to meet
his intrinsic needs.
WILL I BE LOVED?
Borderline's needs were severely neglected in infancy and childhood,
which left her with painful self-worth issues. She may have only
received praise for her looks, or being the "perfect"
little girl, and this became the basis of her self-esteem.
Sadly, her mother may have been envious of the attention she got,
and jealous of the connection she shared with her father--or any
male, for that matter. Thus began a steady erosion of her sense
of Self, especially when it threatened the mother's sense
of worth. Borderline mothers usually detest other females. First,
they view them as threats--and second, there's such primal
rage left over from infancy deficits with their
mom, this hatred is transferred onto all other women. For the
Borderline, even miniscule hurts or disappointments can
mean fatal ruptures to solid, nourishing relationships of any
saw a TV advertisement one day, for a 'Little Miss Perfect' beauty
pageant. I must tell you, I felt nauseated and heartsick at seeing
these little girls in adult costumes and full makeup, and I thought;
these are the Borderlines of tomorrow! We're aghast when
one of these children is abducted, raped and killed, but in my
view, any society that sanctions these contests is demented.
Borderline's perfectionism can drive endless plastic surgery procedures,
which may begin earlier, rather than later in life. Her inner
pain, emptiness and self-loathing dramatically distort how she
views her physical being--and she believes that if she fixes even
her miniscule external flaws, she can feel happy and lovable.
She could also over-invest in body ornamentation like tattoos,
piercings, jeweled implants, etc., that temporarily ease her self-hatred
and dysphoria. An endorphin rush is triggered by these painful
procedures, which is part of their appeal, much like self-cutting
or burning of skin, distracts from (and temporarily
assuages) emotional anguish.
unresolved rage issues toward Mother, can catalyze a Borderline's
detachment from any/all aspects of femininity within the Self,
and spawn bi- or homosexuality,
transvestism or transgenderism and sexual reassignment surgeries.
She may continue searching for an external solution to
her despair and dissatisfaction--but happiness is always an inside
job. With each attachment to a new female, her subconscious hope
for healing her crippling mother-wound is revived. Sadly, few
partners are equipped to provide maternal-like emotional nourishment,
and the Borderline typically triangulates
relationships with partners who are--for an available/responsive
lover doesn't trigger the same dramatically painful sensations
associated with yearning for parental love that was routinely
undersatisfied or absent during childhood.
Borderline continuously searches for affection, acceptance and
approval, due to extreme deficits in childhood. Her needs for
closeness and emotional safety overwhelm her--but while she might
seek these elements in a male, she's actually looking
to mend her primal wounds from infancy with Mom. These profound
needs are displaced
onto romantic partners--but as she begins to feel that they can
actually be responded to, deeply entrenched abandonment terror
is invoked. This reaction is automatic and reflexive--and so is
her retreat. Does this perpetual no-win cycle ever end? Not without
LOVES ME, SHE LOVES ME NOT . . .
their partner, the Borderline's behaviors seem bizarre and counterintuitive,
and I get questions about this all the time; "If they're
so afraid of abandonment, why do they push people away?"
Here's my analogy: If you've chosen never to go through a divorce
because you've seen the destruction it's wreaked in others lives--wouldn't
you have to avoid getting married? The Borderline is terrified
of abandonment. He/she doesn't allow themselves to attach,
for fear of the annihilating pain that could follow if they do!
You will never change this for them.
Borderline will punish/deride you for failing to love her well
enough--but she'll push you away, the instant that you do! Quite
literally, you're damned when you adore your Borderline,
and damned when you don't. This is totally confounding,
and leaves you with a sense of hopeless longing for that which
cannot be gratified. The lack of reciprocation of loving affection
reactivates your childhood wounding, and it's highly
toxic to you!
you've grown up gaining a sense of worth
from being the perfect child or accommodating a parent's needs,
and backing up that need in you with rescuing or fixing impulses
in adulthood, you're pretty confident you'll turn this deal around--if
you just keep working at it! If you can just stabilize your
partner, all will be right in your world. After all, you've accomplished
other great feats, and this will prove no different,
right? Wrong. This is your narcissistic
injury talking, and it's needing to be healed. Core issues
that are not resolved, are doomed to keep repeating.