You've 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.
Relationship 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 that's another article.
Many people 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.
It's 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.
Both Borderlines and Narcissists struggle with what I've coined, Bottomless Pit Syndrome or BPS. The codependent narcissist has become a super-giver to compensate for feelings of inadequacy, and doesn't realize when he's given enough. The Borderline has become a super-seducer and user, to validate/codify their sense of worth. Neither can fill the ghastly hole in their soul with these measures~ but each will compulsively attempt to, until the day they die.
IDENTICAL INJURIES, DIFFERENT OUTCOMES
In my opinion, no emotionally available, self-respecting, healthy, whole person attaches him/herself to someone who is not. Their respective vibrational frequencies would surely repel each other. It simply wouldn't feel like a match. This is a "birds of a feather" kind of issue.
The 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.
Do 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 hopelessly enmeshed.
In 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 literally 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 poor self-worth he's endured and tried to compensate for 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 the narcissistic male 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 the irresistible, intriguing challenges he faces with a borderline disordered partner.
A 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?
The 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.
The 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.
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 done any worthwhile 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."
This 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 sitting in wheelchairs~ but it could become pretty challenging in cramped quarters.
Given the identical core injuries these two share, I've too often heard, "why can't we heal each other?" Nobody who is damaged in this profound, fundamental way can heal themselves~ much less, another. Full recovery requires heart repair, and even the most skilled thoracic surgeon wouldn't be operating on his/her own chest if he/she needed bypass or heart valve repair.
Some 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.
THE ROOT OF ALL EVILS
Core 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.
The 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 or self-confidence.
The 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.
Narcissistic 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 who in essence, is still a teenager.
The 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, self-respecting gals who take their time vetting and getting acquainted to sense if it's safe to give him their heart, and 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 the inner emptiness/deadness, depression and self-loathing, he's tried desperately to outrun and avoid since boyhood.
THE MAKING OF A BORDERLINE
Borderlines 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.
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The 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.
The 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.
A 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.
WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
Narcissists 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.
A 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 them as his own.
A 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 "real love" is supposed to feel like. In the event he becomes consistently available to his BPD partner emotionally, her craving for him ceases.
Both 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 vice-versa.
When 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 them.
The Narcissist deals with his needs for independence, distance and autonomy, by selecting emotionally unavailable BPD lovers who won't consistently trigger his engulfment fears.
When 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 boyhood.
I'm 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" never quite materializes.
It's 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 minuscule/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.
It's critical to understand that if a Borderline partner becomes healthier through core-focused 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.
IT'S A BIRD, IT'S A PLANE--NO, IT'S SUPERMAN!
Early 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.
The 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 ("despicable") 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.
SO THIS IS ANOTHER FINE MESS WE'VE GOTTEN OURSELVES INTO!
A 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.
The 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.
I'd 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.
THE TAMING OF THE SCREW
The 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.
The narcissistic 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.
A 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 triggered.
A Borderline's self-preservation 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.
Now, 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 very young child, the Borderline's emotional responses are impulsive, unboundaried and irrepressible. The toxic shame that's catalyzed if her 'love' impulsivity isn't reciprocated makes her feel intolerable shame and pain, which she then foists onto her partner, via projections.
Sex might be the glue holding these two together, while their respective need for autonomy is largely motivated by fear about getting too close. This deep 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, because "what if he/she sees the real me, and leaves?"
Hyper-sexuality 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.
The Borderline's 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, commonly referred to as Nymphomania. Sex addiction is a typical trait among male and female Borderlines.
Your coupling 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.
WHEN OPPOSITES ATTRACT . . .
Narcissistic 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 limits and boundaries provide.
ALL RELATIONSHIPS ARE BASED ON MUTUAL NEED.
A 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 or 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 them blind.
When a Borderline encounters a successful, charismatic Narcissist, she sees power in him, and security/comfort for herself. Since she has never felt safe or protected in her world, this male is perceived as her ticket to safety.
The Narcissist 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 can resist.
Based 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.
Having 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 perceived 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.
It's 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.
DRAMA QUEENS AND PERFECT LITTLE PRINCES
The 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 but perhaps fragile or impaired mother who may have significantly limited his freedom and sense of independence.
His 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 initial Honeymoon stage).
If 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 did.
Codependency 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."
For the Narcissist, commitment has long 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 girl perfectly fits this paradigm--at least at the start of their relationship. Any male who persistently chooses borderline disordered women, has attachment fears that run as deep as those of the females he's courting.
To 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 personal and professional associations. Leaving triggers his guilt as well, which is an old remnant from childhood individuation struggles.
I've seen instances where a man's only viable option for exiting his relationship with a BPD wife without crucifying himself with guilt, is to die. The ongoing stress in these unions can catalyze serious illnesses, and lead to one's demise years before mortality would normally be anticipated.
AS THE TWIG IS BENT . . .
The 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 embedded 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. Intermittent episodes of adoration interspersed with abandonment revive familiar patterns from boyhood, that he has normalized. This singular frame of reference in childhood keeps him striving for continuity of affection which is unattainable--but feeling bored or uncomfortable with any female who can provide loving constancy.
The 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 attachment.
If a male was raised by a Queen or Witch-type Borderline, he'll be drawn to women with similar traits or characteristics, who will re-traumatize 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.
Men 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 and implacable.
Narcissistic 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, for even a limited time frame. At this point, their defenses are lowered, and we have a chance to construct a Man from a scared, broken little boy.
Solid 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.
WHEN WILL I BE LOVED?
A 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 type.
I 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.
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 even her minuscule 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.
Extreme, 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 under-satisfied or absent during childhood.
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 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? In my view, not without specialized recovery work.
SHE LOVES ME, SHE LOVES ME NOT . . .
To their partner, the Borderline's behaviors seem bizarre and counter-intuitive, 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.
The 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!
When 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.
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