The following material was written for individuals 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.
Untangling the snarled web of confusion, self-doubt and shame is by far the most difficult challenge of separating from a borderline disordered individual. For weeks, months or even years after your split, you're still trying to make the pieces of that puzzle fit, which traps you inside a labyrinth of obsession and yearning.
One of the more injurious parts of your relationship with a Borderline, is it's left you with the endless, tormenting question; "was it them, or me?" You've probably replayed this tape in your head hundreds, even thousands of times, regardless of how many articles you've read here (or elsewhere) that clearly define borderline traits, and help you comprehend your irresistible attraction to someone who's brilliant and stunning--but crazy-making and hurtful.
It makes absolutely no sense, that you could keep wanting somebody who's been your cruel/dismissive tormentor, and turned your world upside-down and inside-out. It's this inner battle between your rational mind and your painful longing, which has you continuing to wrestle with this toxic relationship, and that's what we're here to dismantle.
The aim of this article is to educate you about this pain you're in, and assist you with breaking free of it. You might resist reading this piece, because it's not as much about the Borderline as it is about You--and the reasons you're still drawn to him or her. Nearly all my articles on BPD address this in part, but this one's intended to awaken your consciousness even more, and start you on your way toward recovering from this trauma.
Was it them or you??
Each of you is broken in similar ways, and that's what has drawn you together, and kept you enmeshed in this torturous, no-win relationship.
After doing extensive recovery work with many non-BPD'ers and Borderlines, I can absolutely guarantee that You've struggled with the same childhood injuries that spawned abandonment and attachment issues in your BPD lover. If this were untrue, you'd be actively seeking partners who would treat you lovingly and respectfully, rather than in shaming, guilting, rejecting ways.
If you let yourself imagine that type of relationship, and you feel resistance coming up like fear of boredom or feeling trapped, I've succinctly made my point.
The truth of this matter, is that you've been dependent on a BPD partner to catalyze feelings of aliveness in you, because you're unable to manufacture them for yourself. This of course, sets you up for addiction to a roller coaster kind of relationship, and a borderline lover is the fix for that craving you feel.
THE SEEDS OF AN ANCIENT GARDEN
Every child who grows up in a home that doesn't give him enough affection, positive mirroring and encouragement, presumes it's his fault, and he must be untouchable or unwanted. A little kid of 3 or 4 doesn't have the reasoning capacity to discern that the parents are incapable of providing love. He puts Herculean efforts into earning their acceptance or praise, which usually spawns pathological perfectionism~ but even perfect efforts often go unrewarded. (You might recall a very similar frustration, while trying to please your BPD lover, which typically results in performance fatigue).
This child assumes that if he tries a little harder to win his parent's love, it will be forthcoming. Sadly, this fantasy can never be realized--but he blames himself: "I'm not good enough" becomes his tragic mantra that's regurgitated over and over the rest of his life, unless he can locate a healing modality that fosters self-worth repair and solid emotional growth.
We want to look up to our parents. They're our role models, and we want to respect them and trust them. A Borderline will often think of her mother as faultless, and someone she could never please or feel 'good enough' around. This child feels shame for not living up to her parent's expectations, and presumes it's her own fault~ but this is completely untrue. The deficit lies with the parent--not the child.
In truth, both you and your Borderline grew up having to split-off distressing parts of Mom or Dad in order to surmount pain, from the lighter aspects in them that helped you stay attached. Every small child regards his/her parent as a god--but when that 'god' turns alarmingly rageful before their eyes, it cannot help but implant distrust.
When this happens, you must work to reconcile these facets with the parts you love--but the only way to do that, is to excise them from your parent.
Many of us adopted this reflex in early childhood, when we had to separate, compartmentalize or box-up the rageful, crazy, injurious parts of our parents from their more normal/nourishing facets, so we could stay attached to him or her. Every time that box toppled off its shelf, banged us on the head and split open, we scooped-up the nasty, harmful contents that had spilled out, and stuffed them back in the box so we could feel close again, until the next time it happened. This is precisely what we've done with our BPD lover(s).
The 'Honeymoon' phase with our Borderline envelops us in intensely euphoric sensations that make us believe that we've finally found the acceptance and love we've craved our entire life. We are perfection in our lover's eyes, and under their adoring gaze we are at last, able to fall in love with ourselves; such is the definition of infatuation. These heady, warm/gooey feelings are part of an intricate combination of bio-chemicals which are flooding our bloodstream and brain, and they are literally addictive--which sets the stage for obsessive longing.
Unfortunately, this phase is somewhat short lived, and if you've ever come down off of cocaine or crystal meth, you know how steep and hard that drop is--and you'll give anything in that moment, for just one more hit.
Now is when our emotional blueprint from childhood kicks into high gear, and clouds our judgment. We know we're chasing that initial, intense high we felt with our Borderline which never works incidentally, but our vivid recall of that very first 'rush' keeps us striving for it.
We effort to overlook, excuse, forgive and forget every assault, indiscretion and betrayal they've perpetrated on us, because we remember the euphoric feelings we had at the start~ yet we don't cut ourselves any slack. (Surely, we must have done something to provoke them--hadn't we already learned that we were insignificant, flawed and unworthy of love from our folks??)
Without opportunity to begin recovering from psychic and emotional injuries that were implanted during infancy and perpetuated throughout childhood,shame and guilt often remain entrenched and implacable. These archaic core sensations powerfully influence our sense of lovability, and literally set the stage for under-satisfying and painful romantic selections; "if I don't believe I'm worth loving, how could You think I am?" This poor self-worth issue is continually ratified by our unconscious attraction to narcissistic or borderline disordered partners.
"STEP INTO MY PARLOR," SAID THE SPIDER TO THE FLY.
The Black Widow spider devours her suitor instantly after mating, which is a fitting metaphor for what happens when you're in love with a Borderline. All those dark secrets you've shared are now being used for ammunition against you, each time it suits him/her to push you away and punish you for even imagined transgressions. In short, you've supplied the bullets for their firing squad.
What this means is, the exact same emotional wounds you've grown up with which made you think you were unlovable, are now utilized to re-shame you, by this monstrously sadistic and dysfunctional individual. The tragedy here, is that you accept what he/she says to you as gospel, because this is how you were programmed to feel about yourself during childhood, and it never occurs to you, to consider how untrustworthy and lacking in character they are.
You might be brilliantly accomplished in your chosen field, but the Borderline is exquisitely adept at discovering where your deficits and vulnerabilities are buried, and presenting him/herself as A Guru on topics relating to wellness, spirituality, emotional growth, etc. He or she might consistently coax you to let down your guard, and allow yourself to be assisted by them in an arena you haven't quite successfully navigated thus far (like "real loving," for instance).
A part of you can acknowledge your diminished skill within this domain, and may have wished for a lover you could (some day) count on, to help you with it. So you work hard to remove any armor or obstacles that impede this aim, and hand your heart over to your partner, for they've convinced you that this is the essential key to unlocking theirs!! You really want to trust it's true, so you can maintain this intoxicating bond--but that's when you're dropped on your head.
They might pick a fight with you right before/after your engagement party or wedding, which could involve their "lack of trust in You," for cheating on your spouse (with them) or a litany of other incidents that happened eons ago! It doesn't matter how absurd their argument is, you are constantly vilified for a 'sin' you will never hear the end of--and you can take that to the bank (or your grave, which ever comes first).
You might have been nagged for months/years to leave your family, and live happily ever after with your BPD lover--only to be rejected, as soon as you're free. The game is over, when a Borderline can make you jump through hoops of fire, to give them what they say they want. Any exceptions? No.
Any individual who respects and likes him/herself isn't swept up in this type of dynamic, because their lover's perspective of them in no way even closely resembles their own! Emotionally sound/healthy people sense the difference between a misunderstanding or need for conflict resolution, and abuse.
AS THE TWIG IS BENT, SO GROWS THE TREE.
Children presume their parents know them better than anyone else, but this is actually seldom true. The narcissistic parent wants his/her child to be a perfect reflection or 'clone' of him/herself, and there's absolutely no room for that kid to develop his own talents, abilities or personality traits, separate from Mom or Dad. If he's not just like the parents or (God forbid), echoes any negative aspects in them, he is ridiculed, criticized or punished, which prompts shameful feelings. He accepts/integrates this parental view of him-self, because he lacks an alternate frame of reference for comparison!
Even when this kid gets kudos or kindness from other adults, he will distrust it--because how could they see qualities in him, his own parents haven't??
As adults, when the Borderline's jealousy cuts us off from other attachments to family and friends and he/she begins finding fault with us, it goes directly to the heart of our childhood injury. We're reflexively prone to believe that their warped view of us is accurate--exactly as we did when we were little, and didn't yet have the reasoning capacity to know it wasn't our fault!
Core damaged people are hard on themselves. They could have left home to escape abuse--but keep it alive, with habitual self-criticism, which is self-sabotage that goes well beyond any harm another can inflict on us.
Our need for relief from self-flagellation makes us return to the Borderline's poisonous well for another drink--no matter how hurtful they are to us. Their abuse is easier to tolerate than ours when we're alone, for when we're beating-up on ourselves, we can't defend against our attacker.
CORE SHAME, SPLITTING, AND DEATH OF THE REAL SELF
The 'splitting' reflex in BPD gets entrenched during childhood, and we automatically use it against ourselves. The caregiver, fixer/rescuer-type person has effectively amputated all darker facets and emotions out of their own persona. He/she has become a cardboard cutout of a person, who is devoid of natural human dimensions like anger, envy, sadness, etc. It's impossible to feel whole and complete with these missing personality aspects, and we're subconsciously drawn to those who have them, to achieve a greater sense of balance or wholeness.
Both Borderlines and non-Borderlines have adopted this split-off kind of self-view, which drives passive-aggression and irrepressible explosive outbursts that undermine any relationship dynamic (no matter how well it begins).
Nobody can live 'in the light' all the time. It's unnatural and unhealthy. Even Christ my dear readers, had a temper.
Given your Borderline has split him/herself into black and white all-good/all-bad, they do the same with you. As they cannot tolerate 'imperfect' traits in themselves, and have excised them from their personality structure, how can they accommodate any of yours? Still, you "love" them anyway--even if it's triggered by a sense of obligation (a moldy leftover from your childhood).
Each time their more favorable/desirable aspects show up, you think they're here to stay--and determine that you must be the insane one. This became your survival strategy as a child, or you would have packed a knap-sack and taken off on your own, at three or four! Sticking around despite the pain, has been practical/logical from a youngster's standpoint--but you're still doing it.
Learned helplessness is a remnant from your painful childhood drama, which is perpetually re-enacted, until you make up your mind to get Well.
Because your childhood left you with self-worth issues, you've done a great job of compensating for that, with codependency and/or becoming successful in your chosen field--or perhaps you're thought of as the pillar in your church or community. The trouble is, you sometimes feel bored, or kind of empty or dead inside. When you look around at all you've accomplished, you can talk yourself out of those feelings--but you haven't put them totally to rest.
Intellectually you understand that you're a good, giving and responsible man or woman, but it doesn't assist you during the quiet times in your life, when you're scanning your inner landscape for reasons why you feel unlovable, and being hard on yourself about those. This is counterproductive behavior that harms you, and you must obtain help to learn how to stop it.