THE LESBIAN BORDERLINE
For the Love of Mother

By Shari Schreiber, M.A.
www.GettinBetter.com

 

I've never met a lesbian who didn't have significant issues with her mother. This isn't to suggest they don't exist--I just haven't encountered one during the course of my personal and professional life.

One of the most destructive relationship problems that exists in the dynamic between a Borderline and her mother is enmeshment (the inability to sense where the mother's feelings, needs and opinions end--and the child's begin). Crippling enmeshment difficulties keep the Self from maturing, evolving and finding a viable/healthy sense of autonomy in relation to a mother who has borderline personality features. In short, this child is brainwashed to see life solely from the mother's (warped) perspective from infancy onward, and her own sense of reality is dangerously distorted and precariously balanced.

An enmeshed child is unable to forge a sense of separateness, and believe she can continue to exist past the mother's death. Varying levels of anxiety are held concerning this matter, throughout her life. Think of this fused bond as being akin to Siamese twins. The mother is heavily reliant on her child for sustenance, in terms of attention, care and mirroring, and a daughter always complies for fear of emotional repercussions, or somehow contributing to the increased infirmity or imminent demise of her mother. This guilt is stifling on so many levels, it has to intrude on personal and professional choices.

The Borderline Waif mother makes certain her daughter knows that she can't survive without her, and that she's the guardian of Mom's pleasure and pain. These early dynamics set a young kid up for very specific relational patterns in adulthood, which can propel her into the arms of needy/clingy Borderlines. On a subconscious level, her valiant efforts to rescue/repair a partner and fortify self-worth despite the other's abandoning or abusive behaviors, replicate her girlhood blueprint for attachment. It's hard to struggle free from this hook, and many never escape dreaded feelings of obligation, until the parent is dead and buried.

A significant part of this reflex is a carry-over from childhood demands to be a 'perfect little girl' in order to get any nourishing attention--or avoid severe penalty for displeasing the mother. Borderlines typically despise and distrust other females (even their daughters), due to painful, unresolved attachment issues emanating from early relational experiences with their own mother.

Love's been inextricably entwined with anguish since infancy. Powerful needs for self-reliance are spawned by attachment difficulties with the mother, due to inadequate bonding in the first year of life. Symbiotic deficits during this phase of development are rife with lack of emotional attunement and missed opportunities for gratification, due to the mother's incapacity to intuitively respond to her baby's cries, and interpret their meaning as to immediate needs. This lack of attunement usually derails trust in others and Self for a lifetime, and causes one to couple with lovers who echo these early/primal frustrations.

Some lesbians have grown up needing affection, mirroring and love from a single mother, but had to submerge these needs, as Mommy was too busy giving the lion's share of her attention to various lovers. The hypothesis that a little girl's wish to become like those who got central focus and vital emotional supplies from her mom, seems (at least) intriguing, if not viable.

One might presume that homosexual couplings aren't as fraught with issues of mistrust that can be inherent within mixed gender partnerships. After all, we may readily understand our same-sex partner, because they're so like us. But this presumption can get us into hot water, if we're primarily meeting females who have personality disorder features.

Lesbians tend to throw themselves quickly into high-intensity relationships. The long-standing joke within this community is; What does a lesbian bring to her second date? A U-haul. There appears to be little emotional caution exercised among these females--and if sexual chemistry's present, that's all they need to plunge in head-first (you should pardon the expression), before testing the depths of those waters and discerning true compatibility. It's as if they don't want to look before they leap, for fear of disappointment or at best, delayed gratification. Still, the pain they fear, is precisely what they've invited.

Developmental arrest is a by-product of abandonment or abuse trauma. This catalyzes a subconscious determination to seek gratification for one's earliest cravings/yearnings relating to (primal) infancy and childhood needs, that were grossly disregarded or overlooked.

Without proper help, our earliest primal wounds remain alive, and the need to get them met can feel overwhelming. Attachments motivated by unmet physical needs of infancy and childhood for holding, touch, soothing, etc., propel the lesbian into fiercely intense bonding experiences which can ultimately turn painful, confusing and destructive. When sensual and sexual need satisfaction is compelling enough, she'll remain far too long, even though her adult needs for emotional, cerebral and spiritual connection aren't being met. Until these early deficits are resolved/healed, primal needs (for instant gratification) will always take precedence over grown-up needs.

Bi-sexuality isn't terribly uncommon among Borderlines, and perhaps it's part of their profound need for attention and nourishment from whatever sources are accessible in the moment. In essence, seduction opportunity is doubled.

THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON

Extreme, unresolved rage issues toward Mother could 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 an inside job. With each attachment to a new female, her hope for healing the mother-wound is revived. Sadly, few partners are equipped to provide this soothing, and a Borderline will usually triangulate relationships with partners who are--for an available/responsive lover doesn't trigger painfully intense sensations associated with unrequited longing for a mother's acceptance, approval and love.

An individual with BPD features can push your buttons like nobody else can. You'll keep trying to take the 'higher road' and intervene with her as calmly and rationally as possible, but your efforts are futile. Regardless of how hard you try to problem-solve without igniting her disproportionately volatile and dramatic reactions, you fail. She'll do and say things that'll trigger your rage, and there isn't a darned thing you can do about it. Just like a 3-year old, she needs to push the envelope with you, to find out where your limits are.

When this darker side of your nature gets activated, you'll feel ashamed and guilty afterwards. The Borderline might even add to this, by telling you how deeply you've hurt them (but they're the one who's lit that flame!). Still, this facet of you could have gotten drowned and discarded in childhood, because God knows, you never wanted to be like your rageful parent, who took their anger out on You. No in fact, you wanted to be just the opposite of that.

So you're damned if you take a stand for yourself--and damned if you don't. Sitting with that debilitating guilt you feel after one of those bouts, and the ways you punish yourself for these outbursts, is more painful than numbing-out with booze or pot, giving in--and just not making waves. And that's the rub that keeps you with this twisted, tormenting individual.

You'll feel compelled to stick around, no matter how critical and diminishing she is to you, which is tied to an issue called 'learned helplessness' that you acquired as a little girl--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 type of episode can function 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 this dynamic are compelling and addictive, anybody who awakens them, seems addictive too! In the rare instance an attachment is successfully formed, rejection by your lover can set in motion an internal re-enactment of childhood abandonment trauma, which drudges up excruciating sensations of inadequacy and shame that are almost impossible to tolerate. Punishment of the Self (compulsive, addictive reflexes or destructive, acting-out behavior) usually accompanies or follows this kind of setback.

JUST THE FACTS, MAM

It's 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 actually done any 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 a person involved with a Borderline for even a limited time, will be prone to adopting psychotic (BPD) symptomology, due to proximal exposure. That's why we call their behaviors, "crazy-making."

Borderlines grew up with so much instability and torment, the only way they learned how to survive, was to block out that pain--or take control of it. This is why they'll pick fights with you, and disrupt any loving/positive time you spend together. For a child who's basically grown up in a war zone, life never felt stable for very long--and as soon as it did, the rug was pulled out from under them again. This has lead to an adaptive reflex of always anticipating disaster; it's the only thing that brings them comfort, and eases the horrible anxiety of impending disappointment or trauma that surely awaits, after the calm. For the Borderline, pain is always around the corner--no matter what. Being the one to initiate the pain rather than being at the effect of it, gives them some semblance of control, which is their payoff for starting turmoil. It's also why they must abandon you, before you can do it to them!

Needing to be in control of the pain, is what actually prompts self-mutilation in Borderlines. Cutting and burning (skin) or voraciously digging at blemishes until there's significant damage to adjacent tissue, provides distraction and transient relief from their (uncontrollable) emotional anguish. Watching their physical wounds heal, gives them a glimmer of hope that other trauma may ultimately subside as well. These behaviors are automatic/reflexive; none of this is consciously driven or held.

The 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 all her (imagined) external flaws, she can feel happy and lovable. She could also 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--very much like self-cutting, burning or pulling out hair (Tricotillomania) temporarily ameliorates emotional distress.

THERE MUST BE FIFTY WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR LOVER.

Extracting yourself from this relationship is far easier said than done--and if that weren't true, you would have left long before now. Perhaps you're aware of her abandonment issues, health concerns, family dramas, etc., that have kept you feeling tremendous guilt about leaving, but now it's appropriate to take care of you! Borderlines are extraordinarily resourceful (survivors always are). She managed just fine before you came along, and she'll get through this too.

You will be inclined to assume your Borderline feels exactly as you do, about this split--but it's simply not true. Borderline personalities become proficient at dissociating from pain during infancy/early childhood. They don't relate to emotional or physical discomfort like you do, because they cannot hold onto feelings of any type for extended periods. This is why you've wrestled with all those come-here/go-away cycles in the relationship! Sustainable feelings (love, anger, joy) cannot be retained by someone with BPD--and neither can pain.

And now, your real drama unfolds. She may suddenly "want to talk," whereas before, you couldn't even approach having an adult conversation, without an act of congress! This has you thinking; Gee, maybe she really 'gets it' now, and there's a chance we can actually make it together. Wrong.

You've simply gotten her attention, 'cause you're half-way out the door, and you aren't allowed to abandon a Borderline. EVER! At this point, she'll likely come across as very lucid and mature, plead with you not to go, promise you the moon--or make it sound like she doesn't care that you're leaving. In any case, you cannot trust any of it as genuine/true. Yes, I know you'll want to, but you've probably been here several times before, and this time will be no different. She may monitor her behaviors for a week or so, but the same frustrating/perplexing patterns won't have evaporated, and you're right back in the soup. Once again all your hopes are dashed--and you're either depressed, or your (inner) child's optimism makes you wanna give it one last shot.

Each attempt at reconciliation resuscitates your exquisite dream that it may be different this time. You're ready/willing to make special concessions and adjustments, which side-step all the usual triggers that have disrupted your harmony before--if you can remember them. The trouble with a Borderline, is the rules keep changing--and there's no way to find a solid footing, or trust that you've finally gotten it right with this person. Does this remind you of anyone you know? (Mom, maybe??)

Showtime airs a reality series which is a spin-off from The L-Word. "The Real L-Word" acquaints you with the typical BPD drama, chaos and come-here/go-away behaviors of highly watchable, likable females who seek love, but push it away the instant it's within their grasp. It's fun to watch, and educational.

When you start letting go of the fantasy of having a functional coupling with a dysfunctional gal, you'll feel sad, empty and lonely. Grief is like that--and there's no way around it. Abandonment and loss issues from childhood get triggered, and you'll need a little help/support to navigate this phase in a manner that helps you heal and make solid sense of that relationship (and why the heck you stayed so long).

The Borderline may feel a need to rub salt in your wounds by making it seem like her life is spectacular after your affair has ended. This feels invalidating to you, and it's her defense against authentic feelings of loss. Do not believe this rubbish, even if it comes to you by way of your 'friends' who feel compelled to stick their noses where they don't belong. She might be rebounding, and in the Honeymoon stage with another gal, but her outcomes will always be the same~ it's just a matter of time.

AFTER YOU'VE LEFT, NO REPLY IS THE BEST REPLY.

When it comes to somebody who's borderline disordered, it ain't over till the fat lady sings--and walking out that door could truly prove to be the easiest part of this deal, both practically and emotionally.

If she has Waif or Hermit features, her victim/martyr aspects will get stirred, and you'll feel shameful for "deserting" such a fragile, pitiful creature. If she has Queen traits, you'll instantly hear about how easily you can be replaced. If there are Witch features, she'll make the most vile/abusive statements to you, which will have you wondering if she ever loved you in the first place!

If you're expecting to feel good about having left, because your rational and logical self understands this is a toxic relationship, you've got another thing coming. We're programmed from early childhood to believe that right choices bring favorable outcomes--but in reality, they usually leave us hurting, which makes us question the decisions we've made! Right choices are the hardest, because they test our mettle, raise self-respect and help our character grow.

If you've found the exceptional courage to break-off from someone with BPD, and you're bombarded/harassed with texts, emails and phone calls that feel guilting, cajoling/seducing, shaming and crazy-making because they're also pleading pitifully to have you come back, make certain you read this psycho-woman phone message log to help you maintain no contact! There's nothing to be gained by hitting this ball back across the net, but more misery.

Just reading or listening to her messages, will keep you swirling in massive pain and confusion. Delete them as soon as they come in--or send them to a 'save' folder, just in case you need evidence for filing a restraining order up ahead. I know you don't think it'll come to that, and I hope it won't--but you never know how far a Borderline will go, to harm you or your property.

You are not equipped to assist this female. Most trained professionals even have a tough time working with BPD patients/clients--and avoid taking them on for this very reason. Borderline Personality Disorder springs from archaic wounds that are way beyond your ability to respond to, manage or mend. I can respect your altruistic desires--but this'll be like trying to save someone who's drowning--and in the process, you'll risk submerging/sacrificing yourself.

The 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 lover, she's really looking to recover from her primal experiences. 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 specialized recovery work.

 

This is a work in progress. Thank you for your patience in the interim, and check back soon for more.

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