Clearing the Fallout from a Borderline Break-up
By Shari Schreiber,
you've been dumped by a Borderline, it's a lot like coming down
with a deadly, exotic disease from a foreign land--you're not certain
you're going to survive it. A part of you may want to die
because you're in such tremendous discomfort, the thought of even
one more day in this agony, seems beyond anything you can endure.
difficult to imagine what it means to survive a Blitz by
Borderline, unless you've been there. You might as well try to describe
the worst pain
you've ever felt to a friend, and expect him or her to relate. Forget
members and friends haven't a clue, or any frame of reference for
the trauma you're experiencing, so their simple solutions of; "just
get over it" or "leave him/her, and find someone new"
never work. In fact, they can make you feel irritated or even more
ashamed, sad or overwhelmed.
borderline disordered individual is like a computer virus that starts
out as benign or innocuous, and then damages your entire system.
Internet worms can show up in a harmless email, but when you open
it, you're infected. This malicious virus screws with your PC's
functions and programs, to where you can barely navigate--and ultimately
crashes your hard drive. This is literally what happens to your
mind, body and spirit when you've had exposure to the Borderline's
toxicity for any length of time; you risk a system melt-down.
of this kind goes far beyond missing the Borderline, and the good
times you've shared. It's excruciating, because toxic shame
from childhood abandonment issues, is being stirred up right
now. It's as if this person has ripped the scabs off old ego injuries
you've worked really hard to surmount. You've been pretty successful
putting all that behind you up until now, which triggers even more
shame--as how in the world could you allow yourself be so vulnerable?
have told me that they just want to return to the 'good life' they
had before they met their Borderline. Whether you've been involved
in an extra-marital affair, or you simply craved some excitement
in your life prior to this association--if your existence had actually
felt rich and fulfilling before, you would not have been susceptible
to putting that at risk, with a lover so unstable!
I hate borderline disordered people? Absolutely not! What I hate,
is the fact that most of them will not seek therapeutic help. Instead,
they continue undermining the lives of their lovers/spouses, children
and family members. If they're aware of this disorder,
their attitude usually reflects a victim, martyr or waif
mentality, which basically asserts; "Oh well, poor me, I'm
broken--so deal with it." There's no remorse for the
destruction and havoc they wreak.
INSANITY (OR CRAZY BY ASSOCIATION)
the most disturbing element in this relationship with your Borderline
and the one that keeps you ensnared, is that he/she is the quintessence
of projection and
paradox. When the Borderline says; "I love you so much,
and all I want, is for you to be happy!" what he/she
really means is, this is what I'm wanting to hear from you--and
what I'm desperately needing for myself. That's right--it's
not about You! If it
were, their behaviors and words would match,
and you've had far too many contradictory instances that have made
you doubt and distrust their expressions of caring or affection.
Add to this, as you love them more--paradoxically, they
love you less.
is it then, that after all these dramatic ups and downs, you've
still held the fantasy that this individual can actually meet your
needs, and respond to you lovingly on a reasonably consistent basis?
Wishful thinking my dear--and the likelihood, that you learned to
combine/confuse love with pain early in your life. You've clung
to hopes that the Borderline might eventually love
you, because you haven't had a chance to form a Self-view that isn't
heavily biased and distorted by those
who raised you, yet you're still hard on Yourself for parental
failings~ and the Borderline revives this reflex in you.
of distortions--the Borderline can set you up for disgrace in public.
He/she may say something to you or act-out in ways they sense will
provoke you into reacting. Unfortunately, nobody else in
that restaurant or mall has been privy to the nasty catalyst that
has prompted your strong response--so guess what? You
end up looking like the crazy one! Needless to say, even your friends
and family might see your partner as charismatic, adorable, kind
and generous--and you're viewed as the nut, who can't appreciate
person's false-self mask is well developed--it's typically the only
part of them that is. What this means is, stuff goes on behind closed
doors with you, that others in their social or professional life
never see. Their therapist isn't even aware of their obnoxious
behaviors. A Borderline's public persona can increase your confusion,
because you've observed a degree of normalcy at times,
which runs contrary to your private experiences with them!
high-functioning Borderline may act respectable/responsible in their
outer world, but physically volatile at home. The mask they wear
outside their life with you, has them suppressing difficult
feelings, to keep up appearances. Repression always
magnifies emotions, and acting-out behaviors are greatly amplified
under these conditions; little earth tremors actually save us
from destructive earthquakes. Any type of upset will have your
Borderline taking their frustrations, anger and disappointments
out on you--regardless of who's triggered them! Unfortunately, you've
become the scapegoat for their unresolved rage left over from childhood.
DIPPING AND THE DOUBLE STANDARD
the middle of a battle or break-up, your Borderline could flirt
with, bait and bed a whole lot of folks. This leaves you open to
contracting all sorts of STD's--but his/her attitude if You
venture out during one of your separations and date another, is
tantamount to provoking a ten point earthquake on the Richter Scale!
Ironically, it's perfectly acceptable for them to do the Mattress
Mambo with as many casual partners as they wish--but heaven help
you, if you draw outside the lines just one tiny bit; the seismic
reaction will be one you'll never live down. It makes no difference
how many times you point out his/her massive indiscretions during
this hiatus by the way--they've now got a 'dealbreaker' to clobber
you with, each time you try to reconcile.
presume they're telling the truth about their sexual history or
health. You may want to believe it when he/she says they're "clean,"
or just got an aids test--but in reality, they're
used to lying, and embellishing/fabricating facts to get what they
want, and you honestly can't know who you're dealing with, when
you've started dating. No matter what your instincts are
saying about this person, use protection!!! Not doing so, could
easily result in an unintended
pregnancy, a death sentence or living with a painful
virus like herpes or genital warts, they conveniently "forgot"
to tell you about.
WITH A BORDERLINE, IS ALWAYS A POWER STRUGGLE.
you'd finally succumbed to her constant nagging about marriage,
the issue of a having a baby was on the table. If you gave into
that, a home remodel or new house became the point of contention--and
on and on it went, until you finally started to 'get' that she or
he just needed something to hold over you, and bitch
about. A former female friend years ago, had an affair with a successful
(married) director. She wouldn't rest, until she got him to leave
his wife and family--and then made his life miserable, until he
married her. After that, she continuously harangued him
about having a baby. It wasn't that she ever wanted a kid--it
was that she had to break his balls for taking a stand against it,
and exercising any desires/needs of his own! I'm betting that
Lance Armstrong's new book on his relationship struggles with Sheryl
Crow will shed more light on this topic--but given his current romance,
could it be that he's jumped from the frying pan into the
could have bent over backwards to please her--but it was never enough.
No matter how luxurious the vacations or how lavish the jewelry,
she always found some way to diminish the gifts you gave, and use
them against you. A few men have reported that the Borderline asked
them to cut open an artery as proof of their devotion/love,
and be willing to die for them! If you're
ever asked to bring harm to yourself or anyone else--or
do something that goes against your moral code, you're with somebody
who's deeply dysfunctional. Take this hint from
and John Oates (I Can't Go For That), and run like
YOU SEEK QUIET AND CALM, THE BORDERLINE SEEKS
be told, Borderlines can't live with a real sense of peace and harmony.
They've learned to shut-down feelings (or dissociate)
during childhood--so it takes an enormous amount of stimulation
in the form of chaos and drama in adulthood, to break through
their non-feeling bubble, and relieve their sense of emptiness and
deadness. To put this plainly; they thrive on conflict,
for it helps them feel alive--and you just keep
searching for a foxhole that feels relatively
safe and sane! This is why you've come to fear that the
other shoe is gonna drop, when things have been 'good' between you.
abandonment terror is entrenched--and usually implacable. Archaic
primal wounds can have them remaining with even the most difficult
or abusive partnerships, to escape their core void.
Stunted emotional growth forms the basis of their inner emptiness
or deadness. The terrible discomfort that arises when nobody's around
to push against, is avoided at all costs--and frequently
spawns rebound relationships. A Borderline couldn't develop
during infancy--so when he/she is alone, they can literally feel
invisible, or like they've ceased to exist.
Borderline grew up with so much instability and pain, the only way
he/she learned how to survive, was to block out that pain, or
take control of it. This is why they'll pick fights with you,
and disrupt any loving/positive time you spend together.
For a child who's basically grown up in a war zone, life never felt
stable for very long--and as soon as it did, the rug was pulled
out from under them again. This has lead to an adaptive
reflex of always anticipating disaster; it's the only thing that
brings them comfort, and eases the horrible anxiety of impending
disappointment or trauma that surely awaits, after the calm. For
the Borderline, pain is always around the corner--no matter
what. Being the one to initiate that pain rather than being
at the effect of it, gives them a semblance of control
(which is their payoff for instigating turmoil). It's
also why they must abandon you, before you can do it to them!
to be in control of the pain, is what
actually prompts self-mutilation in Borderlines. Cutting and burning
skin or voraciously digging at blemishes until there's significant
damage to adjacent tissue, provides distraction and transient relief
from their (uncontrollable) emotional anguish. Watching
their physical wounds heal, gives them a glimmer of hope
that other trauma may ultimately subside as well. These behaviors
are automatic/reflexive; none of this is consciously driven or held.
Borderline can make you behave in ways that you never dreamed possible.
He/she will bait you in a way that first seems innocent/innocuous,
by asking questions or making statements about your relatives, friends
or co-workers, and before you know it, you'll be having to defend
those other attachments, and trying to reason with this
person (which we've learned, never works).
probably a People Pleaser who harshly judges your darker
emotions, like anger. Nevertheless, the Borderline easily triggers
rageful reactions from you, because they're Master Baiters
(you should pardon the expression). They'll continually make disparaging
comments about your kids, your favorite uncle, your best buddy,
etc., that cannot help but fire you up! They do this, in
effort to cull you from the herd so to speak, and exercise more
power over you. The Borderline must systematically destroy other
ties so that you have no alternate reality or frame of reference
for normal behavior. If you resist these
tactical maneuvers, another battle ensues--and quite suddenly, you're
actually screaming out of a sense of sheer exasperation!
this darker side of your nature gets activated, you'll feel ashamed
and guilty afterwards. The Borderline might even add to this, by
telling you how deeply you've hurt them (but they're the
one who's lit that flame!). Still, this facet of you could have
gotten drowned and discarded in childhood, because God knows, you
never wanted to be like your abusive parent, who took their
anger out on You. No in fact, you wanted to be just the opposite
you're damned if you take a stand for yourself--and damned if you
don't. Sitting with that debilitating guilt you feel after
one of those bouts, and the ways you punish
yourself for these outbursts, is more painful than numbing-out with
booze or pot, giving in--and just not making waves. And that's the
rub that keeps you with this twisted, tormenting individual.
CRAZY, AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
and I have
a need to make sense of our life experiences. This need gets our
attention and holds it, until we can figure out where we stand,
and get a handle on interpreting the uncomfortable/bad feelings
that a person or event triggers in us! This normal reflex helps
us determine how we feel about what we've perceived.
When a lover's emotional responses to various situations are incongruent
(they don't make sense), it has us questioning our reality, and
feeling like we're on shaky ground.
the Borderline, our sense of congruency is constantly being
challenged. A Borderline's selective memory and distorted thinking
convincingly make us doubt our perceptions, and have us
believing that black is really white--thus we're always floundering
in chaos (this is called gaslighting). There comes a point,
at which we can't decipher which end is up or down--sort of like
being trapped beneath tons of snow, in an avalanche.
now obsessively focused on trying to dig our way out of this disaster,
by making sense of something that's utterly
nonsensical. We feel so crazy, we keep attempting
to fix it, or right the wrong! This alone
is often the hook that keeps us going back for more (it's part of
our control issue). Even after years of separation, you might be
inclined to think that things can be normal between you and your
ex--but you're mistaken. Listen to Paul
Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years, for confirmation.
you're holding yourself "responsible" for staying in this
relationship too long--especially if you're left with serious physical
ailments. Owning your part in any dynamic is important--but only
if it serves as a learning tool, to keep you from stepping
into that same hole in the road again. Would you continue to scold
a little child every day, for having made a costly mistake? Of course
not! It's time to let
yourself off the mat. If you could have done it differently,
you would have. Use this experience to learn, heal and grow.
PAST IS PRELUDE TO THE PRESENT.
become attracted to the Borderline--and remained far longer than
you should, because there's a forgotten imprint or template from
childhood, that gives this guy or gal special powers over you. In
simple terms, your early life experiences conditioned you for these
kinds of relational dynamics, and they feel normal or natural--because
on some level, they're familiar.
of it this way; the chicken pox virus is a precursor for
shingles. If you didn't have chicken pox as a kid
(or later on), you couldn't contract shingles when stressors
in adulthood became highly elevated--you simply wouldn't be vulnerable/susceptible
to them! In short, lack of exposure to that childhood virus
gave you automatic immunity to its excruciating viral spin-off.
and yearning for something (practically anything) are uncomfortable
and distressing feelings. If we're having these difficult
sensations, it means the person or object we need/want most
is beyond our reach, or unavailable. From this, we experience a
sense of lack, which triggers frustration, anger, sadness,
and a whole lot of other emotions that just feel
bad--but we keep striving for tiny bits
of relief along the way, that don't. In relationships,
this craving for that which we cannot have, is referred to as Unrequited
Love, and its root goes all the way back to our childhood
experiences with our folks.
old friend once said, in reference to his borderline disordered
ex-wife; "If she'd just thrown me a bone now and then,
I'd still be there!" My response, was that he'd likely
be battling some serious illnesses, if he'd stuck around.
from these awful setbacks you've suffered due to the Borderline's
lack of empathy or emotional response-ability, the extreme stress
with this lover could have left you with some physical ailments
as well. Yep, you're feeling tired, run-down and ill--yet
you've courageously hung on, and tried to make sense of your experiences,
and why this guy/gal is unlike the others you've been able to walk
away from--at least, in your adulthood. All these intense feelings
have you leaning toward magical thinking, like; "I'm supposed
to be with this person" but you're not
(past the learning phase, anyway)--and this tormenting dilemma can
GHOST OF BORDERLINES PAST
the aftermath of this break-up, you could be needing some sort of
closure to help you come to grips with his/her sudden departure.
You may have tried to initiate dialogues to help you gain some understanding
about their swift exit, and mitigate the shame you're feeling after
being abruptly discarded. It makes no sense whatsoever, that only
hours ago, your Borderline professed their undying love
for you--and now you're abandoned and alone!
business of this type haunts us, like nothing else can--especially
when mass confusion is a part of the mix. If our ex-lover agrees
to speak to us, they'll make us believe that we're at fault
for their leaving. While it may be true that we made contributions
to the relationship upsets--a Borderline has to
make it sound as if it was all our doing!
They'll typically pick one or two things you did (or didn't do),
that forced them to jump ship. This is their trump card,
which puts the blame back on you, whenever you confront their
mixed messages, infidelities, lies, broken promises/commitments,
blame-game is actually a transference
issue. Their unresolved childhood rage is directed at you--because
you're the safer/more convenient target for it. Don't take this
stuff personally. It really hasn't much to do with you, even when
it sounds perfectly plausible.
will a Borderline take ownership of their failings/flaws. Never.
Closure allows a meeting of souls, a healing acknowledgment of each
person's part in the demise of the relationship, and an opportunity
for both to learn from their mistakes. No such thing will
ever exist for the Borderline. Oh, you may receive a perfunctory
"I'm sorry," but there is never genuine remorse.
So why is this, do you think?
equals Ego Death to a Borderline. They're
so fractured/fragile, they really can't manage any hint of abandonment
or loss. They're so full of self-loathing, they can't handle anyone
being aware of their shortcomings. Their defenses are deeply entrenched,
automatic and reflexive because they need them, to survive.
Point out your Borderline's weaknesses, and you might as well drive
a stake through their heart--if they can take it in. Most
cannot, so their denial remains. For you this can mean
no harm, no foul.
YOU EXPECTED TO BE A MIND READER OR MOMMY?
Borderline's difficulties began within the first year of life. His/her
maternal misattunements during infancy, left them with
self-worth injuries that have driven all their acting-out behaviors
and defenses. There's a desperate need in every Borderline to find
and experience the symbiotic
attachment that he or she missed out on, during their earliest
phase of development. A healthy mother can intuit her baby's
needs, and understand what his cries mean. But a woman who's disconnected
from her own feelings and needs can't do that.
Borderline expects you to intuit his or her needs and desires.
If you fail to do this, there's hell to pay! Even when your generous
and kind gestures aren't exactly as your Borderline
thinks they should be, you're criticized and shamed for
being a bad friend, lover, relative, etc. You may literally
begin to feel like 'no good deed goes unpunished.'
partner who is at first perceived as nurturing and good,
can trigger comfort for the Borderline--in that he/she might finally
get early primal needs met. The only problem
is, there's no core trust or frame of reference to back
it up, or give any sense that this will be lasting--which spawns
intolerable anxiety over potential loss! Again, this represents
uncontrollable pain, which triggers acting-out defenses. Always
playing in the background, is unresolved primal rage over abandonment
by their mother. If you've wondered why no amount of care, devotion
or affection makes any difference for your Borderline, this is at
the baseline of it. They're broken. And you cannot
Borderline's incapacity to tolerate rejection (of their grandiose
false-self or ego), drives obsessive attempts to get you back--or
get back at you, with incessant phone calls, texting, stalking,
etc., long after your relationship has ended. Hitting this ball
back across the net, only prolongs your suffering and theirs,
as well. Try getting acquainted with your own feelings--without
trying to analyze or judge them. It'll help you become stronger
and more whole.
the rare event you've actually accomplished any sort of friendly
exchange that approximates closure and feels gratifying or wholesome,
it reactivates intense longing that took you months or years
to get over last time! All of a sudden, you're going through that
horrendous withdrawal again--and wishing you'd never reached
out. You're texting--and she's silent. The pain is back.
IN RUBBLE AFTER THE GRENADES HAVE STOPPED FLYING
The Borderline can turn your
entire world upside-down--no matter how stable or secure it was,
before you met him/her! In general, our relationship upsets throw
us off-kilter--and demand our time, focus and problem-solving efforts.
We have a hard time giving our energy/attention to various other
demands, while there's discord with our lover.
Within a healthy relational dynamic, we can work through
our misunderstandings, rebalance with our partner and go on from
there. But with the Borderline, as soon as you've surmounted one
speed-bump, another comes up almost immediately! Hence,
there's virtually no down time, or opportunity to reunite in a way
that restores warmth, trust and emotional safety--and tension
becomes your constant companion.
The upshot? Before too long,
you're getting fired from your job, or your own
business is in the toilet. You're now scrambling to make ends meet,
but still having to give the lion's share of your attention to relationship
issues, which take priority--'cause how can you function effectively,
without a stable base? Dozens of men and women have shared their
devastating financial ruin with me, but to make matters worse, they
now need considerable assistance to rebalance from the emotional
fallout they're left with, after these affairs.
POTPOURRI OF PATHOLOGIES
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.
why don't we just put all these under a Borderline diagnosis, and
be done with it? Damned if I know. It probably has a lot
to do with the paperwork for insurance companies--and how they treat
various diagnostic codes, in terms of determining our coverage.
And besides, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
(DSM-IV & DSM-V) would be much skinnier without all of it! (God
ON THE ROAD TO GETTIN'
BETTER . . .
Maybe you've managed
this relationship, and broken away--but you've had doubts about
this decision, because you only remember the good times;
painful memories are usually like that--or women wouldn't sign up
for childbirth more than once! Regardless, it could
be tempting to return when the pain has eased up a bit, you've had
time to regroup, and you're thinking of trying again. Do everything
humanly possible, to fight that urge!
This is when you must
take inventory of all the chaos and torment you were subjected to
during the last go-round. You might have changed and grown
a bit--but the Borderline hasn't! Make a list of their torturous,
confusing, ugly behaviors and stick it on your bathroom mirror and
refrigerator, so you'll read it at least once a day.
A few clients have told me
their Borderline is doing "a ton of therapy," which has
inspired them to stick around. That's lovely, but in my experience,
psychotherapy doesn't help resolve BPD issues~ and if it did, I
wouldn't be attracting so many Borderlines into my practice. While
cognitive behavioral methods (CBT or DBT) might curb their volatile/violent
acting-out impulses, the Borderline can't actually heal and grow
from these modalities of treatment.
Resuming your relationship
with a Borderline--no matter how much distance you've gotten, or
how well you think you've recovered, affects you just like a relapse
of a bad flu virus! Suddenly, you're feeling very sick again, and
trying to survive. The confusion and torment you're feeling from
his/her constant contradictions, lies and manipulations feel exactly
as they did before. The education and insights you've gained haven't
made a dent, in terms of your inner experience of this relationship,
and how it erodes your stability, sanity and self-worth.
had these difficult/painful sensations before, and this is like
a rerun of a bad movie. You can't remember these
feelings from childhood, because you blocked them out in order to
survive, when you were too young or scared to do anything
about 'em (like leave home)--but they're certainly back in full
may be feeling as if you need unequivocal proof that your guy or
gal is indeed, borderline disordered. This is a universal concern
for nearly everyone who contacts me for help. If the material you've
read on this site has been resonating for you, try and trust that
it wouldn't, if you were
with someone more healthy and whole!
disbelief about the BPD issues is understandable. It's tough to
accept that you could want someone who's so damaged, that
he/she has psychotic traits--and of course, it challenges how you
I've explained in my other articles about BPD, it's not that you're
needing this person back--it's that you're needing to get
rid of these horrible feelings of inadequacy and shame
you're left with, after they've dropped you on your head. The Borderline
pulls the scabs off archaic
wounds from when you were a child. You might have become wildly
successful in your professional life to compensate for
self-worth issues--but now they're smacking you in the face, and
you feel discarded and broken. This isn't the end for you--it's
really just the beginning
of building a more rewarding life, and relationship experience.
you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod this app will let you hear
here, to determine if you're in an abusive relationship!
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