Can a Borderline Sustain a Relationship?
December 5, 2010
Can a borderline personality make a relationship work? When I listen to Skye’s stories my heart breaks all over again. I want to tell her that it will all work out. I want to say it will work out because she has two kids. Because I know the failure of her marriage would be devastating for everyone involved. But the fact is people with BPD have a hard time with intimacy. Without intimacy, you just have two people going through the motions. And that’s on a good day. Here are some thoughts from David Oliver, the founder of BorderlineCentral.com:
The fact is, a person in the throes of Borderline Personality Disorder is incapable of adult emotional intimacy, because the very nature of the disorder decrees that they have not matured enough emotionally to the degree that is required to have emotionally healthy adult intimacy. They are caught in a cycle of emotional Push/Pull, or “love-hate.”
One of the major characteristics of Borderline Personality Disorder is that those with the disorder will push away the very people they love (need) the most. This stems from child abuse or abandonment they suffered at an early stage of development, which led to them having Borderline Personality Disorder in the first place …
… Another reason why your relationship with a person with Borderline Personality Disorder will be such a stormy one is that they will have the unrealistic expectation of you that you can take care of them, when the reality is that they cannot even take care of themselves. Another characteristic of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder is that they are needy and demanding. Again, however, with the push/pull cycle, they will seem needy and demanding one minute, and push you away the next minute (even as you try to meet their needs). They will seem to seek intimacy, yet at the same time they will reject that same intimacy, sometimes with anger and rage that you cannot understand. They can’t understand it, either…
I know these are harsh words for a borderline’s delicate ear, but they must be reiterated. I hesitate to post it, because I hate to discourage people like Skye when they are already struggling. But maybe it will help people understand that it’s not entirely their fault. BPD is powerfully destructive force that was forged long before a person has even met his/her borderline partner. So it is unreasonable to think that these forces can be wrangled under control before the borderline has had a chance to fully recover. But there is hope:
… The only way a person with Borderline Personality Disorder can change their destructive behavior is to seek help – they need psychotherapy; specifically, a type of therapy called Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which is designed to help people with this disorder.
Over time, it is possible for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder to become better; perhaps, even, to maintain an emotionally healthy adult relationship, if they are willing to seek help for their disorder, and if they are willing to change their destructive behaviors. Until a certain amount of healing is done, and insight achieved through help from a qualified therapist, someone with Borderline Personality Disorder is just not capable of emotional intimacy.
This is why it’s so important to raise awareness about BPD. So that people can avoid rushing into relationships they can’t handle. To get involved in a relationship before healing, can only spell disaster for everyone involved. In a perfect world, a borderline would avoid serious relationships until after they have recovered. But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world where a borderline’s fear of being alone is as great as their fear of intimacy. Another one of life’s cruel jokes.
If you’re already in a committed BPD relationship, I wish you luck. Your only chance of survival depends on the borderline continuing treatment. But the partner of a borderline has to be willing to put up with the emotional rollercoaster in the meantime. Most therapists aren’t even trained to deal with BPD. How can we expect the average person to cope? Not to mention the fact that most borderlines go out of their way to choose partners who are incapable of ever meeting their impossible needs.
Many times borderlines choose partners in the heat of the moment. They choose partners that resemble their parents. Parents who were most likely in a loveless marriage, one filled with chaos and turmoil. Parents who either abandoned them, were emotionally unavailable or abused them. They choose bad boys or femme fatales, thinking that they will magically transform into the perfect spouse. They choose partners who have that badass attitude they so love and then expect that person to be loving and nurturing.
Or if they happen to stumble upon a nice person who cares for them, they find away to push them away. Nice people just aren’t a borderline’s “type”. Eventually, they will become bored, because a BP craves conflict and tension. And will create it, if none of this drama exists. Their self-esteem is so low, they think someone must be defective to love them. In other words, if a partner treats a borderline with kindness, a borderline will pay him/her back with abusive behavior. Eventually, a borderline will probably cut him/her out of his/her life. A borderline has a way of antagonizing even the most faithful of lovers. This is how a person behaves when they fear intimacy.
Yes, you are suppose to be together “in sickness and in health”, but I don’t think the author of those words was thinking about BPD when he/she wrote that.