Q. I've started seeing a woman who's having sex with another guy. Does this mean she's a Borderline? Should I break it off?
A. No, and no. It is as much a female's prerogative to be sexual with more than one partner, as yours--without earning a borderline diagnosis! If she's not in an emotionally committed relationship, she may be looking for one--but if not, it would seem you both know the ground rules of this deal, and there's no harm or foul if you want to keep dating. Ask important questions and get the answers you need, to help you determine whether this is worth pursuing on a deeper level. Determine what it is you're wanting, so that your ego and competitive spirit don't override your instincts, and good common sense.
Q. My Borderline girlfriend broke things off nearly a month ago. I miss her so much and feel so empty, I can barely get through each day without wanting to kill myself. Please help if you can.
A. First of all, we must attend to this depression. Get to a doctor for an antidepressant prescription, or start taking St. John's Wort (minimum 6 caps a day) to ease your pain. Do not drink alcohol with this herb or your Rx--as this will negate the benefits of both. Second, if you had a healthy sense of Self before you met this gal, you'd be able to move on from here. Low self-worth has drawn you to this kind of female--and if we don't work to fix that, your self-loathing will continue, which often results in suicides.
Q. Just wanted to send you a BIG thanks for your article; AT ANY COST, as it's helped me get through a really rough time. Being a clinical psychologist, I kept believing that I could help my lover. Over the many years we've been together, I've taken her back every time she's had affairs with other men--and even, a few pregnancies along the way. I just couldn't accept that she was so damaged and unreachable, that trying to save our relationship was a lost cause. I'm currently confronting this brutal reality--but it hurts, and I'm obsessing about what I might have done differently, to make us stronger as a couple. I'm aware I need to move on from this--but at present, I'm feeling ashamed and broken, and it's begun affecting my work. Can you help?
A. Yes, I can. Read this article, then phone me.
Q. Dear Shari, I've just now came across your website by chance. I went through the articles, and I related to a lot of the behaviors/characteristics attributed to Borderline Personality Disorder. I'm a 28 year old woman who grew up in an extremely unstable atmosphere. My dad's been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and as far back as I can remember, things were always in upheaval, and turbulent. We witnessed/were exposed to physical, but mostly emotional abuse. My mother tried to keep things together the best she could (there were 5 children), but I recall my childhood alternating between episodes of drama and neglect. I feel like I've always had some sort of anxiety or personality disorder. At 11, I cut my hand with a piece of glass, because I knew no other way to express the torrent of emotions I felt, and I wanted to make my mother feel bad. At age 23, my parents separated after my mom called the police during one of his abusive bouts. That same year my eldest brother had a breakdown, and was diagnosed with psychosis. Unable to deal with these events, I overdosed on Tylenol and was admitted to the hospital. My intention wasn't to kill myself (I've never felt like I wanted to end my life) but I couldn't see any other way to deal with the stress. My personal relationships have always been unstable--and the thing I fear most and am realizing now, is that I've played a huge part in that instability. My boyfriend of 6 yrs ended our relationship in 2007. I was devastated--but quickly attached myself to another man. In 2008 my ex came back, telling me that he'd made a "huge mistake." For the past 9 months I've been in a mental state, where I'm still seeing the new man, but am unable to commit to either. I am wracked with self-doubt and anxiety, and unable to make any decisions. I am frustrated with myself for not being able to do so. At the same time, I am afraid that one or both of these men will grow tired of waiting around for me to sort out my issues, and will leave before I've made up my mind. I'm at my wits end, and don't know how to help myself. I know there's something that I need to work on--but I don't know where to begin, or what to do. I don't trust my judgment and I feel that anytime I get close to a decision, it's not the 'right' one and that any choice will be wrong--since there's something wrong with me. Please help.
A. The first step toward getting better, is recognizing you have a problem, which you've courageously done. You will have 'buyers remorse,' no matter which man you select--and in either case, your attachment issues will get in the way of a loving, harmonious coupling (as evidenced by your romantic and familial history). Get into some solid, core healing work with a practitioner who specializes in treating narcissistic injury, and the personality disorders that result from having had to survive substantial emotional deficits early in life.
Q. When do Borderlines terminate a relationship?
A. Whenever the hell they want. There's no actual specific guideline to help you prepare, but this typically happens after they've felt especially close to you, or they've imagined that you're stepping back a little. You're damned if you love them, and damned if you don't--and this is the toughest part of being involved with one of these individuals.
Q. Do Borderlines ever feel guilt?
A. No. Guilt and remorse involve examining one's own actions, and admitting fault or failings--which Borderlines and Narcissists are too broken/fragile to do. This excerpt is borrowed from my male BPD piece: You can't initiate any conversations about these disconcerting (relationship) changes that aren't turned right back on you; "If you would only be more understanding, patient, supportive, loving, etc., this relationship could be great." You'll look for the grain of truth in his reasoning, because you're an adult who's learned to pull your own covers off, and take responsibility for your actions. But he'll never do this! You may occasionally hear an "I'm sorry," although he's way too damaged and narcissistic to admit any errors or shortcomings. Borderlines are masterful at projection, which makes You feel guilty for their screw-ups.
Q. First, thank you for the information you have posted re Borderline Personality women--I thought I was going crazy. My BPD ex-fiancee has not returned the engagement ring. Engagement terminated 30 days ago. She is financially well off and does not need the value of the ring. Am I making a mistake contacting her, and requesting (for the 2nd time) return of the ring? We're in our 50's. Second, I'd like to say; "I've figured you out. You are a borderline personality." Some revenge would feel good--but is this a no-brainer bad idea?
A. Sorry 'bout the ring. That's just awful. Demonstrates the Borderline's lack of integrity, particularly if she's the one who broke it off. Don't hold your breath, m'dear. As you've asked for the ring once, leave it alone--and find some way to come to terms with this (monetary) loss--which is adding insult to injury, I'm sure. The more you convey your need for this item, the more satisfaction (and control) she gains by keeping it! You're much better off going no contact. This lack of attention is interpreted as indifference, which disturbs the Borderline far more than anything you could ever say to them. They can always deflect your comments and project them back onto you, but nobody can defend against utter silence. It sends its very own, special and clear message.
Q. My live-in girlfriend and I were planning marriage and looking at houses and she suddenly dumped me after 3 years together. I spent 4 weeks reading books and researching on the internet while she still lived in my house and drove my car. My research began with "adult survivor of sexual abuse" and I kept denying all the links to BPD until I came across your article on the "waif borderline." It was like finally seeing the recipe for some meal I've been eating for 3 years--but had no idea how it was made. That article shocked me, because of how accurate it was to my situation. Some things were almost direct quotes! I still find it hard to believe. Now I need to figure out how to heal from this and was wondering if there is a book you could recommend about waif borderlines, or another resource?
A. There's little material written about the Borderline Waif. Christine Lawson wrote Understanding the Borderline Mother, which has a section on the Waif Mother. My articles are compiled from direct/hands-on experience with these issues--so I'm sorry, I can't guide you to more resources. Re-read that piece a few times, and reference my other BPD articles and forums for more info on this topic. You have a childhood template for this type of relationship--or you wouldn't have been drawn to this female, or stayed for as long as you have. Healing will probably require some therapeutic help.
Q. Can I trust my Borderline girlfriend not to have any more affairs?
Q. A guy that I know has started dating my ex-girlfriend who's a Borderline. Should I warn him about her?
A. Absolutely not! He'll find out soon enough on his own, and he won't listen anyway--would you have, during the Honeymoon phase of that relationship? If you're feeling discarded and impotent/empty, it's far more critical to work on building yourself back up and healing, than to keep focusing on her life. Stop trying to save others, and concentrate on saving yourself.
Q. Shari, I've been trapped in a toxic friendship off and on for the past 15 years. Each time I got fed up and separated myself, she sucked me back in through guilt, martyrdom, etc. This last separation started last February, and ever since our last Christmas contact, we have not spoken. We have mutual friends, and ignore each other at these group functions. The mutual friends haven't taken sides and have not been included directly in this. Now, after last speaking to each other, the toxic friend has returned a borrowed item to me by giving it to a mutual friend to forward. Toxic friend had to drive past my work and house to get to the mutual friend's house, to return this item. She could have mailed it or left it on my porch, saved time, and not involved the third person, in what I thought was over between us. Now the ball is in my court. I thought that friendship was over--but she's trying to suck me back in, like always. What should I do?? Any help is appreciated. Thank you.
A. Yes, it seems that your former friend is trying to suck you back in. This is a passive action to re-initiate contact. Ignore it. Do not hit this ball back across the net, engage in any dialogues with your other friends about it, or acknowledge receipt of this item--unless directly contacted by this person. IF that happens, keep it short and sweet; a simple Thank You is sufficient--and then remove yourself from contact. I think it would serve you to read my piece on the Borderline Waif, as there may be emotional underpinnings that have kept this relationship alive for so long, and had you returning for more, even sensing it was toxic. This woman may seize on your non-response as further reason to disparage and torment you--but hold firmly to your decision to not re-engage.
Q. Why do Borderlines have affairs?
A. Because they can! The biggest problem here, is that you continue to take them back. What have they got to lose by cheating on you, if you're always willing to forgive and forget? I write more about the underlying reasons for triangulation, within this forum and some of my BPD articles.
Q. Hi Shari, I recently broke up with my borderline girlfriend of 3 years. While she hasn't been officially diagnosed, her behavioral patterns exemplify the borderline symptoms to a tee. My therapist, who is well versed in the disorder, confirmed this. I recently found out that she left me for a married man, yet she continues to text me, at least once a week. I have no idea why she won't leave me alone, and I don't have the heart to tell her to stop yet. In any event I still care about her and would love to at least put forth the idea that she get help. Should I even bother making the suggestion, or cut her out of my life completely? I'm seriously leaning toward the latter.
A. Go with your gut, and follow your latter inclination. I'm sensing you need to feel that you still matter to her--but this attention she's giving you is all about her need to escape her emptiness/deadness, and feed her narcissism. In short, it has nothing to do with You! Stop hitting this ball back across the net, dig deeper with your own therapy, and be sure to read this article.
Q. My BPD girlfriend keeps pushing me away, and then pulling me back. This is driving me nuts! Is there any way to break the cycle?
Q. How do I break up with a Borderline?
A. There must be 50 ways to leave your lover--but what's most important for you, is accepting that while you cannot control the outcome, you can control the action. Very likely, you've been putting another's needs before your own, much of your life--which makes leaving this person a nearly impossible task. Be kind--say something like; "I care about you, and I'm very sorry--but this isn't a solid fit for me now" and then break the contact, so that both of you can move on, and start to heal. In short, just do it.
Q. Hello Shari, late last night I came across your article. It's weird, because I was trying to get to sleep and I was tossing and turning when I jumped online and typed in this Google search, that directed me right to your page. It has helped me big time! It may be my daily mantra until things get better with me, AT ANY COST! A borderline came into my life about 8 months ago, and it's been a roller coaster. Your article hit home so hard, it was almost like it was written for me, by me! I have read it half a dozen times in the last 24 hrs, and each time brings me some relief. I really thought I was all fucked up, and my ability to love again was in grave danger. You've left me with some hope, and I'll continue to love myself enough not to fall into another web like this. I really want to trust and fall in love, and I thought "this was the one." I should have run for the hills! I was always bombarded with accusations about past relationships and going back to someone I haven't been with for years! Never did I have a clean slate with this one; she constantly accused me of taking off someday, and not being able to commit. When I traveled for work (which I had to do frequently) I battled daily rounds of accusations--like I was always doing something wrong. But when things were good they were awesome, and I thought I really loved her. Shari, thanks to your words and my totally relating to every detail you wrote, I had shivers down my spine. I could have never thought this was possible, or that I'd be a victim of this person. I have one question; I got fairly close to my borderline's sister, and I've been yearning to share my thoughts and concerns in order to help her somehow. If none of her past victims are doing this, how will she ever get better? Should I even care? I want to help her. Am I still affected--and should I just try to walk away?
A. Yes, you are "still affected." Walk away--and read this article to help you do it!
Q. Are close friendships important to Borderlines?
A. For many, they are--but connections are always on the Borderline's terms, and he/she must control their dynamic. Borderlines are incapable of genuine empathy, so relationships are seldom reciprocal--even if they're codependent caregivers. For the Borderline, 'friendship' means; "you'll always be there to meet my needs."
Q. I just wanted to let you know, I recently found your website in my attempts to help a man struggling with his borderline personality new wife (and new baby) and that you have the best information I've ever seen on this issue, as well as most others and combined mental health challenges. Your site is really for everyone; for people struggling and their families, and for therapists and counselors who aim to be of meaningful help and service. Thank you for your knowledge, wisdom, holistic approach, practical advice, frankness and courage. You are amazing. An LSW in Philadelphia, PA
A. You're welcome. It means a lot when helping professionals like yourself, find this material valuable/useful.
Q. Hi Shari, I'm a 37 year old from Australia, just writing to thank you for your articles on BPD--they've helped me immensely, to come to terms with my break up of 5 months ago. I have been racked with all the emotions you describe in your articles, and reading about this has lifted some of these out of my insides. You truly are an inspiration to me. With an 8 year old boy to look after, you have helped me to (finally) start my progress toward healing. My question is, how much work is needed for me, and what specific areas would you recommend I change, as to why I'm attracted to these women? I need to change these patterns, as I've had approximately 3 relationships with textbook Borderline women. I'm feeling scared and traumatized, and definitely can't go through anymore of these.
A. Unresolved pain from childhood has very strongly influenced your romantic choices, and you're still carrying this early trauma. As an adult, you presume you have the capacity to interact with these women and get your needs met, in ways you could not with your parent. In essence, you're subconsciously trying to rewrite history--but choosing the same person over and over, to do it with--which of course, never works. Resolving these issues requires self-esteem repair, which definitely makes for healthier partner selection.
Q. Hi Shari, my hubby is a borderline - I try not to breathe his air. We have a thriving business together, and I do all the sales. I don't think leaving him is an option, since it would disrupt continuity with customers, to accomplish it. I have been keenly aware that he's built a fortress (prison) knowing that I'm so security minded--in other words, won't let me hire anyone to help me sell (controlling). Most of the day is free for him to roam, though I am not wholly convinced he cheats. He claims his high blood pressure keeps him from being amorous (for the past 3 years) but spends large chunks of time away from the house in mid-day, and rarely lets me know his whereabouts. He demonstrates a sense of entitlement, but the worst is when he does the rage thing, while I'm trying to conduct business. I have a warehouse and land with him, so he figures I won't leave. I'm 50, and feel hard pressed to begin anew. The question is, how best can I inoculate myself and live my own happy life in quiet non-desperation? He deserves to be cheated on, but I'm not the type. Maybe I just need help to strengthen my resolve to leave. What da ya think?
A. My dear lady, I believe you may be closer to desperation than you think you are at this time--and if you aren't, perhaps you should be. It appears you've already determined your priorities, and I truly hope they serve you. Masochism and heavy denial come across in your letter. Since you've ignored my advice of 5 months ago when you first wrote me about these issues (and your 'hubby's' enmeshment with his mother), it seems you want to maintain this toxic dynamic. Just be advised, that your health could be at serious risk if you stay--and no amount of money in the world, is worth that. You don't have to disrupt a business, just because you dissolve a marriage. I believe you willneed help to leave, but it'll require more than an online reply.
Q. Dear Shari, first, I would like to thank you for the articles you've written on Borderline Personality Disorder, but I just wanted to ask why you always write your articles purely aimed at female borderlines, and not males? I understand the one relating to the issue of borderlines using pregnancy as a trap/hoover, obviously. I dated a Borderline male and it was devastating, as most female 'nons' would attest to. It would have been good to have our experiences recognized and validated too.
A. You're welcome. Google Roger Melton, M.A., and read about borderline men. My earliest article was Blackmailed into Fatherhood. There was such resounding response to this topic, it kept growing, and took on a life of its own. Creative expression springs from passion; each of my articles is born from a passionate response to a specific issue. Sorry you felt this subject was handled unevenly. I've been hearing from females who've switched the gender in my BPD articles, realized they were with Borderlines, and asked for help. Post Script: Due to popular demand, my article on borderline men is now available.
Q. What's the best therapeutic approach for Borderline Personality Disorder? I've heard that DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) helps--is this true?
A. At the root of Borderline Disorder is core injury, which leaves one with serious emotional/spiritual wounds to their sense of worth/lovability. These injuries are very central to how someone orchestrates his/her relationships, because at the baseline of this disorder is fear of attachment, abandonment terror, shame, etc., which triggers all the acting-out behaviors or defenses. I view BPD far more as trauma to one's psyche and spirit, than a behavioral issue. DBT may help curb some of the violent/volatile behaviors, but it can't mend the core wounds; it's sort of like treating the symptoms of a disease, but ignoring the cause. In my experience, what's most effective is nurturing, patient, long-term, therapeutic care that compensates for the deficits left by dysfunctional parenting--while providing nourishing and corrective emotional experiences, that help the client steadily grow beyond where they're trapped developmentally--which is usually between three to thirteen years of age.
Q. My girlfriend's been pressuring me for a commitment. Our relationship has been great on so many levels, I'm open to moving forward. We've been talking about living together as the next step--but now she's telling me she wants to date others! I'm very confused and hurt by this, and don't know how to handle it. Why'd she need me to commit, if she wanted to be with other men? I just don't get it.
A. It sounds like your girlfriend may have attachment issues. She's wanted you closer--but as soon as you're more available, she apparently needs to distance. She could have Borderline Personality features, which means she's ambivalent about real closeness/connection, and you should proceed with extreme caution. Pay attention to any 'come here/go away' behaviors that echo what you've described above; these issues are likely to intensify during the course of this relationship.