“He just left. Everything was great. Then all of a sudden he blew up at me over something small and that was it. Our relationship was over. I never saw it coming!”
Sound familiar? Relationships with a Borderline Personality Disordered person sometimes end abruptly. The Non Borderline in the relationship almost expects the turbulence and explosive endings, a buildup of anger or emotion over a period of time, but at least you see it coming. But sometimes it seems like things are great, and then all of a sudden, BAM! Game over.
I think there are two main contributors to this (other than the volatile emotions of a Borderline). Brace yourself, I may piss everyone off here.
1.) A person with BPD fails to communicate; what he or she is feeling, hides what is going on, and fears talking about what is causing some inner turmoil.
2.) The Non-BPD doesn’t pay attention.
Especially if you know you’re involved with a Borderline, if it seems like something is wrong, you ask, and she says, “No, it’s fine,”… Come on. This is a Borderline we’re talking about. How often are things usually ‘fine’? It’d be nice if people just spoke their mind and were straight forward with what is going on wouldn’t it? Most Nons don’t even do this very well. Don’t assume your Borderline is going to do this very well because I promise, they won’t.
It’s not the Nons fault that their Borderline doesn’t communicate well, but it is their fault if they ignore the difference between how a person is acting and what they’re saying. It’s easier to take a person at their word, then dig deeper to get to the real root of a problem.
People see what they want to see and believe what they want to believe. Even if one of those people has a Borderline Personality Disorder, it takes two people to be in that relationship. I visit a lot of forums for family members and people affected by Borderlines. There’s often a general attitude of, “I’m the victim of the Borderline in my life. I didn’t do anything. They just went crazy because they have a personality disorder.” This is extremely unfair, even if it’s not completely untrue. There may be some truth to this, but there’s also the other contributing factor; You, the Non-Borderline. You may not think you’ve done something, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t.
|Tha'ts not how it works.|
I’m not trying to blame the Nons here. Far from it. My point is, when it comes to relationships, be they parent/child, siblings, friends, or lovers, we each need to take responsibility for our own part in what occurs. One person alone, does not a relationship make. It’s takes two.
Bear with me. I’ve got some explaining to do.
Nons get very frustrated with us because our emotions and behaviors are often unpredictable and irrational. That’s very understandable. However they also get exasperated and angry when we can’t just ‘grow up’, act normal, and quit acting out. Our brains are hard-wired differently. (Click that for some Neurological Studies in BPD). Literally. This isn’t a choice. That doesn't mean we're not reseponsible for our actions, we are, but it's not a choice. Believe me, we don’t like being this way (At least I don’t. Many BPDs are undiagnosed and don’t think there’s a damn thing wrong with how they behave), but because something in our brain is actually wired differently, it’s not something that we can just do a little meditation on and have it be all better. As much as we might like it to be. How we think, how we feel, is fundamentally different. You want us to be something that is not what we understand how to be, because odds are, it’s an experiencing of life that we’ve never felt. Just like you can’t always understand why we react in such unpredictable or different ways than you would in reaction to some stimuli.
Just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t mean there isn’t a legitimate (to us) reason for it happening.
Communication. Communication is something that is so, SO, important in dealing with someone that is Borderline. Communication is necessary in any relationship but doubly so with BPD. Why don’t Borderlines just say what the problem actually is? There are a lot of reasons for this.
1. We don’t actually know the origin of our frustration. I know this sounds strange. How can you not know what is bothering you? If you’ve ever been depressed, or had general anxiety, where you just have this low level dread or frustration permeating your life, even though by all logic your life is pretty good, you’ll understand. Sometimes our feelings are like a disembodied presence just hovering over us. The origin of the feelings may have started a while back, or something may have triggered us, and the feelings while not directly attached to what is happening in the present, are directly correlated to something traumatizing in the past. A current event or situation can spark those memories and the emotions related to that experience can still creep back into our present lives.
2. We’re afraid the person will get mad at us for voicing a concern. This happens a lot with abuse victims. Hell, I just had this problem with Tech Boy (though I did push through this feeling and communicate my problem!). If we care about someone, we don’t want to lose them. If we’re not perfect, if we complain, they may believe that we think something is wrong with them, like we’re criticizing them. Criticism could make them angry. If they’re angry, they might leave. Or be upset with us. If they’re upset with us, they might take it out on us in another way. Even if they’re not the type to do this, we don’t want someone to be upset with us. This just reinforces the idea that we did something wrong. That there’s something wrong with us.
3. We don’t want to hurt you. We don’t want to inconvenience you. We don’t want to make you feel bad because something you did, unintentionally made us feel bad. If we care, we feel like we should be doing whatever we can to contribute to your pleasure, not burdening you with things that bother us. This is a natural extension to #2 and leads right into #4.
4. We don’t feel that we have the right to complain about something. For me, I’ve been told my entire life to ‘suck it up’, ‘deal with it’, ‘toughen up’, essentially take what life hands you and figure it out myself because everyone else has their own problems to deal and don’t have time for mine too. I know that everyone has their own issues. I don’t feel like I have any right to impose my problems on someone else. I should be strong enough to deal with the things that upset me. I shouldn’t ‘get bent out of shape’ about something that bothers me. So I suppress. We all know what happens when you bottle things up for too long though.
5. We don’t want to express vulnerability for fear of having it used against us. This is another product of abuse (though not always). Expressing any feeling or concern that will make us appear ‘weak’ is an awful feeling. I overcompensate for this big time. I’m a strong person, but I talk an even tougher game. When you let someone into the more fragile areas of your world, it’s like exposing your soft underbelly to the beast of rejection. Or worse, humiliation. Evil-Ex used to call me a robot because I was “too perfect”. He would tell me “being vulnerable makes you feel human”. And then when I would show those vulnerabilities, he would quickly find a way to turn them against me, hold them up as a reason I was “weak”, not as wonderful as people think I am, and point them out publically to humiliate me. Not showing vulnerability is like an emotional armor. We can appear to let things bounce off our skin, roll off, and roll away, while maintaining an emotional distance from the problem. Unfortunately this also inhibits true intimacy in the process. Of course, things don’t actually roll off our skin so easily. Things will still bother us, but the other person won’t know that they’ve found a crack in our armor, and therefore can’t use that thing to wound us on purpose.
6. We don’t trust. It’s hopeless. You wouldn’t understand. We don’t trust someone to treat us fairly, believe us, or be willing to help us. When you’re used to being criticized, when you’re used to being told that your needs are not as important as someone else’s, what do you have that will make you believe that someone will ever put you first? That someone will treat you fairly? It’s never going to happen; it’s hopeless, so why bother? They wouldn’t understand anyways. This is also particularly true with why my communication was so poor with my family growing up. Mistrust, and a pervasive hopelessness, is insidious, and pervasive. It’s always lying in wait just below the surface. Paranoid. Suspicious.
|Would you pick up this phone? I don't think so.|
This fear of communication is all sort of a misguided self-protection. It’s not something we’ve decided to do consciously. We’re not choosing to be difficult on purpose. We’re trying to protect ourselves from being hurt. I’m self-aware enough that I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the different reasons I do things like this. Most people with BPD don’t have these ‘reasons’ they just have the feelings without words so they can’t necessarily explain it. They just do it. What does any of this have to do with Nons having some part of this Borderline crazy?
Triggers. That’s what.
To find out what this means, you’ll just have to tune in tomorrow (Continued Part 2). Try not to get too angry at me just yet. Hear me out. Then get as angry as you want ;) Your opinions are valid too.