The following material was written for people trying to recover from a relationship that's had toxic consequences for them, and is not intended as a support resource for Borderlines or anyone with BPD traits. If you suspect that you have these traits, please leave this website and redirect your attention to alternative web content, which might feel more congruent with your personal views and needs.
Given the hundreds of letters I get from men who desperately "want to help" the Borderline after their troubling affair has ended, I suppose this article's time has finally come. I understand that you tirelessly tried to assist her, teach her and rescue her during that relationship, and you're wrestling with letting go of this fixation, weeks or months later. You may even be keeping your perceptions about what really went on in your dynamic under wraps, for fear of hurting her feelings--or risking that she will never speak to you again. In essence, you're still walking on eggshells, and putting her needs first.
The Borderline Waif seldom exhibits the harsh or volatile traits we've come to associate with other BPD types. Waifs usually appear fragile, needful and victimized by their relationships and life circumstances.
If your Waif lover has BPD Queen traits, she's dissociated from her dark or negative emotions (like anger), because she believes them to be unacceptable and "wrong," so she sure as hell won't make any room for yours! If she feels reprimanded or criticized, her natural anger will likely be submerged, but may get replaced by an imperious, judgmental, shaming tone, which she'll smack you with, from high atop her pedestal. The Queen always has to occupy the one-up position in all her relationships. If you trigger her core shame, she'll become highly indignant, and immediately deflect these feelings by going on the offensive to shame you.
Any male who grew up having to love an unhappy, discontent or depressed, worried mother will likely be attracted to a BPD Waif. The central reason for this, is that he tried tenaciously as a child to balance/improve his mother's mood, with the subconscious hope that he could win her affection, and help her become more responsive to his intrinsic needs for tenderness, play and joyful interaction. This means, he came to believe that if he could just repair Her, he might feel happier and at ease. As a kid, this was an automatic and reflexive defense he acquired, to get what he needed, and save himself from further distress. The trouble is, he learned to give, what he very much needed to receive, and that has set the tone for all his attachments in adulthood.
YOU'LL FEEL COMPELLED TO RESCUE A BORDERLINE FROM HER PAIN AND TROUBLES, WHICH SHOULD SET OFF YOUR WARNING SIGNALS.
These people might blame their struggles on elements outside their control, like karmic retribution; "I must have done something really awful in a past life, to deserve this!" When their relationships falter, they're the victim. If Waifs engage therapeutic support, it's typically in the midst of a severe crisis. Given they're inherently resistant to change and growth (which threatens their precarious sense of control) their progress in therapy tends to be very slow, and there are frequent setbacks and regressions.
Since 'helplessness' is the Waif's core emotional theme, options and choices that are healthier or more productive, are generally avoided. Perhaps your lover is continuously struggling with some sort of drama or challenge, and you've repeatedly offered sound suggestions and tried to help--but to no avail. As difficult as this is to fathom, when you throw a life preserver to a Waif, she ignores/disregards it (throws it back), or resents the gesture.
Don't assume this borderline is always physically thin/slender. I've observed plenty of these folks who are overweight or even rotund, but display classic victim, martyr, helpless/hopeless personality traits. Remember, BPD is often accompanied by eating disorders, and compulsive overeating is common--but may only show up later in life (take a look at all the actresses/actors who've become grossly overweight as they've aged). Vanity, plus stringent dieting, purging and other methods of weight control kept these people svelte during their younger years when professional opportunities were more plentiful, but they've ultimately given-in to their compulsions, and let themselves go.
Certain common denominators are present in individuals who attach to BPD Waifs. Generally, these are People Pleaser types, who have rescuing or fixing compulsions, self-esteem difficulties from childhood, intimacy issues, engulfment concerns, poor self-image, dysthymia (chronic/long-standing mild to moderate depression), etc. Foundational problems of this kind leave men vulnerable to being seduced and manipulated by these women. You may be extremely accomplished and successful--but the Borderline will methodically learn what's underneath these props, and use your most intimate secrets and self-doubts against you. Men drawn to waifs are addicted to helping others, and need to be in the one-up position in their relationships. They take great pride in their self-reliance, but they're afraid to need anyone~ and authentic loving means we need someone emotionally.
BORDERLINES ARE MORE AT EASE WITH PAIN, THAN WITH PLEASURE.
If all one has ever known is struggle and survival, this is what feels familiar and "normal." The Waif has a very difficult time surrendering this well-worn groove, because there's comfort in it, no matter how dire her circumstances have become. It's as if she knows how to survive the waves that threaten to drown her, but never swims to shore, because safety and calm are radically foreign and frightening concepts. In essence, any feeling that is unknown to the Borderline, is an intimidating mystery that's better left alone.
Anyone who has grown up with a BPD waif-type mother has observed a pitiful, long-suffering woman who won't leave her harsh, abusive or neglectful husband, no matter how bitterly she complains about him. Why? Because pain is enlivening for her~ and without it she feels dead inside. Besides, who could she fault for her dissatisfaction, depression and emptiness, if she left that relationship?? This type of mother may be hyper-religious, as church-going is often used to provide a rigid container, which her childlike mind requires to teach her how to behave, what to believe, and how to think. It fills the hole in her soul, helps her feel safer, and assuages the need for independent thought.
The Borderline Waif mother typically scapegoats her children for their father's rage and abuse, rather than boldly intervening and protecting them from it, or taking her kids away to safety~ yet she may have held the flame that ignited his anger!
You may have had an angry, alcoholic father, but who lit his fuse and made him need to self-medicate his pain? Have you given any thought to why he might not have been around much of the time? Did he return home to a nagging, discontent or depressed wife after slaying dragons and putting out fires all day at work? Could you have grown up with a distorted/skewed sense of who was actually the more problematic parent?
It's not unusual for the son of a Waif to connect with his father in nourishing ways after the death of his mother, as he begins to perceive qualities in his dad he wasn't privy to, while Mother was still alive. His entire life may have been spent vilifying his dad, based on what he assumed was the source of his mom's anguish, and what she led him to believe about his parents' discord.
The Waif could be referenced or thought of, as "the quiet Borderline." You get the feeling she can't fend for herself, and you'll try to help her--even after it's over between you! Your altruism might be noble, if it weren't masking your sense of emptiness and emotional impotency where she's concerned. What's unfortunate, is your Ego is in serious need of mending in the aftermath of this relationship, yet much of your attention is still focused on how to make things better for her, help her avoid ruining other men's lives--and needing to think you've made some kind of difference in this woman's world. I have two words for you: Stop it! Selflessness isn't healthy~ it's merely a lofty euphemism for codependency.
Even if you've become "really close" with her family members or friends, and you feel an irrepressible need to share with them your newfound knowledge about Borderline Personality traits after countless hours of Internet research you'll only intensify her pain. The primary reason she's still in this position, is denial. Denial is a survival reflex that helps us defend against facing that which we're not ready to confront, and it's there to protect us. Besides this, within the realm of personality disorders, apples very seldom fall far from trees--and I can assure you, this news will not be appreciated or utilized by them!
DAMSELS IN DISTRESS AND YOUR HERO COMPLEX:
While dating, the Waif may share tales about a former spouse or lover who assaulted her, and you'll feel outrage. These accounts inspire your fierce need to protect her--while assuring yourself, "it'll be different with me~ why not--I'm one of the good guys!" During these ambitious story-tellings, you're made to feel heroic, exceptional and uniquely unlike all the others she's known. But no matter how convincing this female is, you must resist the temptation to believe what she tells you. While it might be true that she was tormented or struck, you may soon come to realize how those men were literally pushed to the brink of violence. Borderlines have grown up with abuse and/or neglect--tragically (again), it's what feels natural. Waifs might finally leave their abusers, but they'll often hook up with another, and another, and another--and nice guys (like you) finish last. Actress and singer Judy Garland (Wizard of OZ) was as perfect an example of this self-defeating pattern, as you might ever come across. Her personal life was always painful, dramatic, and in shambles.
The Waif seduces you with her fragility. If your childhood experiences turned you into a mediator, fixer or rescuer, this woman or man presents you with plenty of opportunities to feel powerful, in charge and in-control. You thrive on these, for they temporarily appease your need to be needed, which has formed the entirety of your self-worth--but have you ever felt valued and loved for simply being, instead of doing?
Your Borderline might have been so insecure and needy, you felt reasonably certain she would never leave you--but at times, secretly hoped she would. Her physical disorders inspired your sympathy and determination to protect her, but you often marveled at how someone so young could be so sickly! For the most part, your relationship moved along pretty smoothly, until you tried to express any personal concerns or needs. The Waif can't handle that; after all, it's clearly been your job to take care of her. The minute you had a need, she either made you wrong for it, shut-down, punished you or left.
A Borderline waif is often hypochondriacal. Illness and ailments are usually the direct result of years of unresolved emotional trauma, which cannot help but manifest in the physical body. They've learned that people generally respond with sympathy to victims, whether their unfortunate plight is due to health or financial setbacks. You'll feel guilty if you don't do whatever you can to help this person, even if it's finding them lodgings, a job, food for their kid or dog to eat, paying for their car repairs, etc. What you don't get, is that the list never ends! You're never off the hook for bailing them out of one drama or another, and even when they swear "this is the last time," they'll still turn to you for help the next time there's a need. A sucker is born every day--and the brutal reality is, if you won't come to her rescue, the next guy with a Hero Complex she bumps into, surely will. Borderlines are extremely resourceful at locating 'saviors,' and there's always someone around who'll pick up the pieces of their pitiful life. Problem is, he'll be used and discarded, precisely as you have been.
If your Borderline Waif can't get you to rescue her by acting helpless, hopeless and pitiful, he/she will shame you, shut you out or rage at you. Waifs are frustrated when their "poor me" tactics fail to get them what they want--and that's when you get lambasted for being a "bad" lover, friend, son, daughter, therapist, etc. The waif mother persistently controls her children in this way. If they don't respond to her victim/martyr act, there's literally hell to pay! The rejection, shame and guilt her children are forced to endure, isn't worth the anguish of failing to respond to her demands.
The Waif deflects your efforts to help or guide her/him toward more productive and effective solutions with "yah-buts"--or keeps shifting the topic, which is exasperating. Borderlines are wired differently than you. Accept it!
You must begin to realize that you will never save the Waif. The only time Waifs make progress with reference to healing or growth, is within a unique, extended-term therapeutic alliance that can help them recover from painful, buried core trauma. If they are deeply committed to achieving wholeness/wellness during this process, they could make some gains. Some of these individuals will be able to create productive, satisfying lives and form balanced, healthy attachments--and some will not.
THE WAIF IS A WOLF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING, BUT NO LESS HARMFUL OR DIABOLICAL.
A BPD Waif will retreat or shut down on you emotionally, when the/she is upset. She might not speak to you for days or weeks at a time, and a mother who does this to her child is abandoning him/her in the most sadistic way imaginable.
Your compulsions to return for another drink from a Borderline's toxic well despite how rejecting and injurious she is to you, stems from your painful need for reprieve from emotional exile. You're desperately wanting to escape the shame of having been banished from her kingdom, because it hurts way too much, and drudges up ancient abandonment despair from your childhood. These sensations were so distressing, you learned to bury them with various addictions and compensatory behaviors, but the Borderline brings those old wounds right to the surface.
Emotional exile can be excruciating, because we're essentially in limbo when someone withdraws, and we often blame ourselves for it. If you grew up in a home where you experienced emotional cut-off from Mom or Dad if/when you disappointed them, this pain is reactivated when your Borderline shuts-down and takes him/herself away. You might force their hand by doing something you think could catalyze even more pain for yourself (like their ultimate/final rejection of you), as that could feel more familiar--and therefore, better than this limbo state of not knowing which direction this thing will take.
Waifs can be less overtly sexual or seductive than Siren Borderlines, which makes them seem like 'good girls.' They may readily apologize (sometimes, profusely) after your relationship tussles--which makes them appear capable of empathy. This is far more about abandonment concerns and enmeshment issues, than their actual capacity to see your perspective, and it perpetuates those come here/go away cycles in this dance. They'll tell you how wonderful you are--but then the slightest oversight lands you back on their shit list.
Men are usually incapable of letting themselves even imagine that their waif could cheat on them, or have an affair; "she's just not the type!" Her good girl image may have been backed-up with stories or comments that have led you to think of her in a sort of pristine fashion. The Madonna Waif makes you wait a substantial amount of time, before she's "ready" to get physical or sexual--which reinforces your sense of her virtue. Borderlines will only let you know what they're wanting or needing you to know. The fabrications and lies start from the very beginning--which is why it seems like you've noticed so many mixed signals and contradictions in this relationship.
Waifs seem to be devoid of darker emotions--or can be unwilling to express them. Again, they're the good girls who may come across as passive, meek and amenable to almost anything that's thrown at them. Unfortunately, this means they'll act-out their feelings passive-aggressively, rather than talking to you about them. It also means that you're the one who's stuck carrying the emotions for the both of you! When one partner is passive, the other must be active. Anger is usually expressed by the active partner--but punished by the passive one, which typically takes the form of withdrawal or retreat. Which one are you??
THE ADDICTION AFFLICTION CALLED CODEPENDENCY
Do not make the mistake of thinking this woman is helpless. She isn't! Most are extremely resilient and resourceful (survivors generally are), but they're reliant/needy around You. They might be highly proficient professionals, but the 'rescue me' act surfaces when you're around. Did she seem a bit troubled or tragic when you met? Did this later seem incongruent with her job title or work responsibilities? The Waif's duality lets her be independent in her world, but incompetent or frail in yours. How else, could she get you to be her Savior?
Perhaps in contrast to other borderline types, the Waif may be more likely to exhibit childlike qualities that you could initially find endearing--but later on, resent. As this relationship unfolds, you'll be noticing what seems to be her limited common sense, her inability to comprehend adult reason, her lack of impulse control and her non-reciprocation. Essentially, you'll be the grown-up who's always rowing this boat you're in, and she'll be the carefree child passenger.
At some point in this dynamic, you must ask yourself; "what's the payoff, in my wanting to be involved with a child? Does it help me feel more confident or secure? Must I be with somebody I have the need to control? Is it possible for me to love an equal partner who can have my back, as I have hers? Can I even be in a reciprocal relationship--or would that feel threatening for me?"
During this relationship or after a break-up, your lover might state that you'd be "better off" being with, or marrying another. This is pure martyrdom--and as lucid or empathetic as it may sound, it has nothing whatsoever to do with genuine concern for your well-being! She's giving you an out~ but if you take it, rest assured there'll be hell to pay, as you'll be forever guilted for it.
WHERE DO YOU END, AND I BEGIN (and vice-versa)?
The primary emotions you will feel in this relationship are frustration, shame and guilt. Enmeshment by a Waif Mother means learning in childhood, that her feelings always came before yours--so your happiness or the lack of it, hinges on her moods. Being raised by a Waif means we feel guilty, just for feeling good--unless those 'good' sensations are simultaneously shared by Mother.
No child can get his emotional needs met by a depressed, sad or discontent mother! He assumes that if he were important to his mommy and she valued him, she'd be cheerful and emotionally available to play with and adore him. When he doesn't get these supplies of affection and attention, he feels shame~ and believes he's not good enough to deserve them. This core belief follows an individual the rest of his/her life, unless/until effective help is engaged to dismantle and heal it.
Continuous hyper-vigilance is required to discern the Waif's emotional state, so we can determine our own. When our Waif Lover is sad, so must we be. The only way to flee the heavy darkness of her despair and not feel so guilty about it, is to kick into high gear and fix whatever has prompted her bad mood--so that we can rebalance, and feel okay again. You were groomed for this as a little kid, and it has influenced all your romantic choices and endeavors.
Enmeshment is the inability to discern and separate one's own feelings and needs from another's. A simple example would be, when a couple's trying to decide on which restaurant or movie they want, and each is unable to assert his or her preference, for fear of incurring the other's disappointment. This usually prompts the vicious cycle; "well, I don't know--what do you want to do?" These people live with considerable ambivalence, inner emptiness and deadness. Personal feelings and needs were discarded early on, when the Waif Mother's need was to keep her toddler from separating/individuating, which is when his codependency and narcissism were born. You'll continually feel sorry for your waif--and have the compulsion to repair or rescue her, so you can feel happier or at peace. You will also be apologizing for disappointing her, way more than you should. Feel your emotions, let her experience hers, and stop this "sorry" nonsense now!
During a relationship upset, your Waif is far more likely to cry or get weepy, than rage at you. The 'waterworks' always make you feel guilty--so you'll do and say almost anything to elevate her mood, and make it better. But what do you do when she shuts down, takes herself away, and won't speak with you for hours or days at a time? The Waif's coldness and unresponsiveness can feel torturous--you might even prefer that she'd scream at you, rather than shutting you out!
When your Waif feels ready to grant you reprieve from exile, she could try to initiate lengthy, dramatic conversations about the recent rupture, and you'll spend too many exhausting phone or face to face hours trying to get over this speed-bump! You'll feel relief when you're finally back on semi-solid ground--until the next time this cycle hits, and you're back in the soup.
THE DRAMA OF THE 'TOO GOOD' ADULT CHILD OF A BORDERLINE:
Children of Borderline Waifs often enter helping/healing professions, as their early years were spent trying to mitigate the mother's fears, worry, sadness, hopelessness and emotional withdrawal. Psychotherapists, doctors, nurses, rescue workers, etc., can acquire an intense need to feel needed and make a difference, in a way that was never possible to accomplish with their parent. The Waif Mother enmeshes her kids, by making them feel responsible for her mood, survival and well-being.
Every child who perceives upset/discord in his parent's facial expressions or demeanor, thinks it's his fault--and experiences shame. A youngster hasn't acquired the capacity for reasoning or analysis of events, so his/her natural response to the most subtle signs of the parent's frustration, discontent or sadness, is interpreted as they are to blame for it!
Children are extremely sensitive to vibrational changes around them. When any child notices their parent's distress, he/she will ask; "Mommy, what's wrong?" A loving, healthy, whole mother understands her child's need for comfort and reassurance that it has nothing to do with him, and replies with an explanation he can understand, along with assurances that her sadness or anger will shortly pass. But the Waif Mother handles this very differently, and projects her core belief that "life's too hard" ~and maybe you're to blame, onto her child. From this, he feels shame and develops a subtle anxiety that asserts; "if something should happen to you, what will become of me?" and all later attachments are fraught with this concern. Hence, rescuing or fixing compulsions are indelibly etched in stone.
An emotionally underdeveloped mother is not connected to her own feelings or needs. When a child needs affirmation that the mother's moods have not been due to any "bad" behavior on his part, but she replies "nothing's wrong," he experiences confusing disparity between what he's seen and sensed, and the response he is given. This destroys his ability to trust his perceptions, instincts and intuitions all through adulthood.
A serious problem arises from this disparity between what a child sees, and how his/her parent responds to that perception. He learns to doubt/discard his innate senses (instincts, intuition, visual/verbal cues, etc.), which leaves him shooting in the dark with respect to all his adult interactions, be they personal or professional. He's got no inner compass to guide his decisions, and he's almost always second-guessing himself! This is the sad outcome of having learned to think his way through life, rather than feeling his way along.
THE WAIF IS A MARTYR WHO INFUSES LOVE WITH GUILT TO MANIPULATE AND CONTROL YOU.
Quiet or benign Borderlines can be every bit as injurious to you, as the more volatile types! They wield their hyper-sensitivity as a sword, to slice you and dice you into little shreds of a guy who readily accepts blame for crimes you haven't even committed, thanks to neglectful and/or cruel programming you received in childhood.
If you fail to respond perfectly to the Waif's needs/wants (which requires you to be a mind reader), she'll come across so hurt and disappointed, you'll believe you've committed a heinous act! It doesn't matter how noble or thoughtful your intentions and gestures were, a Borderline will exact a pound of flesh from you for not intuiting her desires or needs, and letting her down. The upshot is, you will feel horrible about yourself, and that's the intended consequence~ how else could she convince you to jump through all those hoops of fire, just to please her??
The man-child of a Waif Mother is anxiously attached to females he dates, and consistently chooses partners he thinks will never leave him--or that he won't painfully miss when they do. The needy/clingy Waif or emotionally vapid Siren perfectly fits this profile--until she deserts him for another. This is when his fragile ego takes a nose-dive, and core abandonment shame is re-triggered. He may know he doesn't really want this gal--but he desperately needs to be wanted, to ease the hideously painful shame he feels from her rejection. This shame was implanted in him during childhood. The Borderline simply reactivates it.
This issue alone, can send him into perilous pain and longing for any woman who has pried the lid off his Pandora's Box of self-worth injuries. Thus, his frantic, misguided pursuit to win her back, begins in earnest.
Males with long-standing self-esteem issues, frantically keep trying to bolster their bruised, battered egos by reminding themselves of how good looking, well educated or successful they are; "how can this girl leave Me?" is always their plaintive cry. But external conditions and attributes don't matter, when you've felt inferior and empty inside, most of your life.
Borderlines are brilliant at making you feel shameful and guilty, but the Waif is the most masterful at playing the Blame Game. You will be bending over backwards to please her during your relationship, because the guilt she'll be heaping on you if you don't, isn't worth all the sleepless nights you'll spend trying to get back into her good graces, and beating yourself up!
Long after your romance has bitten the dust, you will keep trying to redeem yourself--after all, this relationship failed because of You, right? Sure, that's what she's got you believing, so you'll continue your servitude to her until one of you literally expires! Aside from that junk tapping directly into your self-esteem issues, this has crucial ramifications for any future attachments you may forge. That's right, The Waif's needs will always have to come first, and the next Mrs. So-and-So will have to be content with being relegated to the back seat. Don't be a fool. Get some therapeutic help to recognize what you did right in that relationship, before you screw up the rest of your life.
The BPD Waif tries to keep you around, just in case she needs a favor--or wants to reengage you when her rebound guy with a Savior Complex doesn't pan out. She might even ask you in the midst of your breakup (regardless of who initiates it), what'll happen to her, if she "needs" you and you've moved on and found another! You will simply be used to fill the ghastly hole in her soul, and continue to be her indentured servant.
DON'T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER; READ BEYOND THE FIRST PAGE!
The Borderline Waif might be a caregiver type with long-held codependency issues. From the start of this relationship, your needs may have been very well attended to, and her nature was generous and kind--in fact, sometimes she gave far more than you felt comfortable receiving. But as this love affair progressed, you were continuously made acutely aware of how and when you let her down, disappointed her or hurt her feelings. Naturally, this made you feel terrible about yourself, 'cause how could you possibly be so ungrateful? This may tap into childhood guilt, that involved trying to please or protect your mom--but painfully coming to realize that you couldn't. Boyhood shame can drive Herculean efforts to be a mind reader or mommy for these women (who lacked solid bonding with their mothers) but no man is capable of assuming these roles, or healing the archaic issues that drive her demands.
The enmeshed Caregiver-Waif often makes statements like; "I'm very proud of you," but this relates to parenting deficits within her childhood. Her need to have heard these confirmations from her mother, is being transferred onto you, via projection. This means, she's actually needing what she's bestowing on you, while modeling appropriate parental support and care: Vicarious satisfaction is gained by the child who somehow manages to take better care of his/her parent, than they've managed to receive. At the very heart of codependency, is the capacity to derive pleasure from giving what we desperately seek and need for ourselves! This unhealthy reflex begins when we're toddlers.
The Borderline's mixed messages keep you confused and off-center. It's not that they behave this way deliberately, but their distorted perceptions and labile moods make you feel like a horse, who's constantly having his reins jerked right and left, to where he's overwhelmed and paralyzed--or furious enough to buck that rider off his back! You're damned when you react, because a Borderline seizes that as an opportunity to sanction her punishing and abandoning behaviors--and you're damned when you don't react, because you're often forced to flee your disquieting ambivalence about remaining or leaving, with alcohol or drug abuse, working longer hours, overeating, etc., just to cope!
Think that therapeutic professionals are immune to Borderlines? Think again. Dialogues with personality disordered individuals leave us all feeling like we need a shower to wash off the toxic sludge their devaluations and guilt trips leave behind. The quicker you terminate these conversations, the better.
UNDERSTANDING THIS MATTER, AND HOW YOU'RE AFFECTED BY IT.
Waifs started building survival skills throughout infancy and childhood. Very early on, they learned that others responded to them when they appeared hurt, fragile and helpless. They could seldom get nurturing attention from Mother, unless they were very sick or bleeding after a fall. A child at risk for acquiring mood disorders and/or personality disorders senses very early, that he/she cannot consistently depend on anyone for their care. Quite often, they'll misbehave to get negative attention, which helps mitigate feelings of invisibility and lack of worth or importance to the parent. Some kids actually fantasize about meeting with a horrible accident--or even dying, in order to gain some sense of the parent's tender concern, and feel valued. Could this have also been true for You? Has it prompted dramatic bouts of crying when you've felt totally exasperated in this BPD relationship?
Suicide threats could keep you from confronting her about behaviors you see as unsavory or dysfunctional, and you'll want to avoid 'rocking the boat' for fear she may attempt to harm herself. Your tacit, passive avoidance is never an effective strategy with a Borderline--whether she's a waif-type or not. If self-harming threats or actions come your way, you must remain objective, as you are not equipped to keep someone alive, if/when they're determined to check out (nobody is--not even their therapist).
Your Borderline needs to control your emotions. Rather than speaking to you about genuine feelings of sadness or depression when she's in need of some soothing, she'll make dramatic, histrionic statements of wanting to die or do away with herself (to get attention), which effectively leave you impotent to help her! She will blame you for not intuiting her needs when she's feeling fragile--but she doesn't know how to ask you for comfort, any more than she knew how to ask her mother or father for it during childhood bouts of deep despair, when fantasies of killing herself first took hold.
While you're in this relationship and afterward, this woman keeps projecting her own feelings of inadequacy/shame onto you. She can't take ownership of her shortcomings, or see the cracks in her own mirror; she's too fractured to withstand any self-reflection that might reveal her flaws. You of course, are a picture screen for her life-long complexes and frustrations--and she makes sure you know it! You'll often feel like you're viewing yourself in a Fun House mirror, for her perceptions of you are grossly distorted. After this affair ends, she will not consider that she's even partly at fault--and given her inherent lack of boundaries, might contact your friends or family members to absolve herself of any blame or shame for this current outcome! Naturally, she's always The Victim, and the sad demise of this relationship is all on You. Pretty cunning, huh?
Some men have reported a shocking/sharp decline in their ex's appearance, after a long-term marriage or affair ends. While this relationship managed to survive the Waif's resentment and rebellion (as you'd expect from a petulant child), it might have been the only thing that kept her relatively stable and on-course. We may be tempted to speculate that her newfound "freedom" prompted this psychic/emotional instability, which lead to decompensation--but in truth, a panoply of contributing factors (like alcohol/drug abuse) could have played a role. The most apparent signs of deterioration are significant weight loss, facial eruptions/breakouts, bruises, cuts or scrapes--and other distress cues, such as poor grooming. In short, she literally looks waif-like.
This metamorphosis could tug at your heartstrings, and make it really tough to resist the temptation to assist her in any/all ways that you think you can, but this is driven by your inability to feel compassion for yourself--and that's where our inner work needs to be done. You've spent so much of your life becoming powerful and in-control, there's been absolutely no room for vulnerability of any type. In essence, while you've disconnected from more fragile aspects in yourself, you're seeking these missing pieces in your Borderline, to give You a sense of completeness.
THE BIGGER PICTURE, AND MULTIPLE DIAGNOSES:
Borderline Personality Disorder houses a panoply of other diagnosable issues that disrupt and demolish relationships. Borderlines are often misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder because their temperament and moods may fluctuate wildly. Some individuals should be dual-diagnosed, as mood and personality disorders frequently coexist. In my opinion, BPD is the broad umbrella under which other issues usually sit; Attachment Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder, Eating Disorders, etc. Even Anxiety and Panic Disorders can be part of the Borderline's symptomology. The hallmarks of BPD include; desperate attempts to gain attention, intense/irrational abandonment fears, lack of empathy, lying, extreme jealousy, poor impulse control, extramarital affairs, drug/alcohol abuse, hypersexuality, 'crazy-making' interactions, low self-esteem, rebound relationships, passive-aggression, cognitive distortion, suicidal ideation, self-harming behaviors, splitting (love you/hate you), etc.
Many of the Borderlines I've seen had dual or mixed diagnoses, which made assisting them, especially challenging. Any cyclical neurological issues such as Bipolar Disorders and ADD/ADHD exacerbated their mood instability, and frequently contributed to setbacks and regressions. Acute declines generally responded to temporary, slight adjustments to their meds, but unfortunately still prompted intense/irrational abandonment fears, self-harming behaviors, relationship conflicts and suicidal thoughts that erupted until brain chemistry rebalanced.
Some therapists are acquainted with personality disorder concerns, but many are not. Surprisingly, this topic is barely addressed during undergraduate or graduate course work--yet narcissistic and borderline traits weigh heavily on societies all over the globe, and play a prominent role in relational conflicts.
I'm guessing that because of this lack of education and/or experience, most clinicians might fail to recognize The Waif, as she fits a different paradigm than the more highly reputed, radical/volatile features in other Borderlines. I can assure you first hand though, The Waif instantly inspires your sympathy and protection. Initially, you'll want to help her surmount every life stressor--but before you know it, you're confronted with problems that are way beyond your layman's ability to control or manage. This can invoke feelings of guilt and shame, as you've struggled to repair something that's irreparable. This is your job as you've come to interpret it since childhood--but it sets you up for an endless cycle that triggers feelings of inadequacy, you've tried hard to outgrow since very early in life.
You've discovered ways to compensate for these inner deficits, but they've spawned narcissism in you. It's narcissistic grandiosity that has you believing that this girl cannot survive without you. This is a 'leftover' from your childhood with Mother, and it should be resolved, so you can make more gratifying and healthy choices.
If you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod this app will let you hear this material; http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/web-reader-text-to-speech/id320808874?mt=8
For women: learn about the Male BPD Waif, (in subsection, THE BOY WHO CRIED WAIF).
If you've been drawn to this piece, it's very likely you have rescuing or fixing compulsions. I think you'd benefit from getting my book, DO YOU LOVE TO BE NEEDED, OR NEED TO BE LOVED? for understanding and insights about this shame-based tendency. My writings are intended to be anecdotal and helpful. They can assist you with gaining valuable information about yourself, while offering a blueprint for building healthier attachments. These materials will not 'cure' you, but you might begin to see the wisdom in doing some solid inner work to help you heal and grow.