Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bordering on Happiness in Relationships?

Can someone with Borderline Personality Disorder ever find true happiness in a relationship?  If someone with BPD is prone to pushing others away, fears being vulnerable, exposing themselves to another person, or can’t maintain a stable attachment, is the only way for them to find happiness to overcome these obstacles, or is there another way to happiness?
In a word.  No.
 No, I don’t think someone with BPD will find true happiness in a relationship.
What the hell, Haven?!? Seriously? Why are we even bothering then? 
Whoa, whoa, whoa…. Hold on.  Let’s look at this objectively for a second. I’m not saying someone with BPD can’t experience happiness or won't be able to find happiness in a relationship EVER. That’s obviously not true. Especially if you’re like me, you’ll have wonderful highs and moments of pure pleasure found in the company of those we care for. Things anyone would consider happiness. But those don’t last either. Often they plummet in an instant. The lows all the worse for seeing the height which we fell from.
There’s so much fear, so much holding back, so much pushing away that it’s almost impossible to form a solid, steady bond with another person. Our minds our mean. They create shadows of suspicion and doubt. Ruminations that run wild and tear our relationships to shreds before our partner has even had a chance to make a move in any direction whatsoever.
That fear prohibits the development of trust. Without trust, every action can be called into question. Every word could have a double meaning. Every moment apart could be an opportunity to find someone better. Our minds are designed to drive us crazy.
At least my mind has been shown to do so. Really, all I can do is share how I walk through this world and feel in relationships. For me, I’ve never found true happiness in a relationship so I don’t know if it’s possible. This question sounds so simple but it’s immensely complicated. As a Borderline being in a relationship is what sets me off even more so than my usual day to day mood swings. I’m also Major Depressive so the concept of “Being Happy” is foreign to me on a whole different level as well. A good percentage of Borderlines have comorbid depression, as a separate entity, or as a result of being Borderline so maybe it’s not so unusual, but it’s something that needs to be noted. When your day to day existence is a form of depression, just being “Okay”, is cause to celebrate.

I also want to make the semantic distinction of “being happy in a relationship” versus “being made happy from a relationship”. No person or relationship can make you happy. Happiness is something that is individual and a person achieves within themselves. That’s not to say that external factors don’t contribute, they certainly do, but no one can make you happy. Happiness is a personal responsibility.
Relationships drive me crazy. I love them. I love when things are good. When things are good they’re euphoric, but when things are bad, they’re tragic. My mood swings more wildly when I’m in a relationship then when I’m single. I have something more to lose and that sets my world off balance. Everything is wonderful or it is dire. There’s no middle ground. There’s no equilibrium. I think that equilibrium is what true happiness in a relationship is. All relationships have problems and things that need to be worked through. Bumps and fights that come up along the way. People get angry or upset, but in a truly functional relationship those people know they can work things through and the relationship isn’t over because one thing went wrong. This doesn’t usually happen in the mind of a Borderline. Any mistake, mishap, or misstep is what could send us over the edge and smash our hopes for the relationship on the rocky bottom of reality below.  When you always walk on pins and needles, even those days of happiness are tarnished with the black film.  When your mood constantly jumps up and falls down it’s a perpetual state of uncertainty, that uncertainty causes tension, anxiety, panic… Does any of that sound pleasant? Does any of that sound like happiness?
Not to me.
I’m happier in a relationship. But I can also be unhappier as well.
Is there maybe another way to find happiness, like if someone did all the right things? Hah. Do you know anyone who always does and says the right things? There is no perfect Prince(cess) Charming when it comes to BPD. Even if someone were capable of doing all the right things, 100% of the time, it still wouldn’t be good enough because there are still all of those fears of intimacy, of vulnerability, of needing to maintain a separate identity and independence, of being smothered, too loved, potential to disappoint someone so perfect that we’re not good enough for, so it’s for their own good anyways if we leave.
So is there hope?
Of, course there is. There’s always hope. But like all things, it lies in your own hands. I don’t think it’s possible for someone with a Borderline condition to be happy, with anything, if they don’t work to manage the symptoms and causes that create the personal mental environment that allows for such unhappiness.  I think left to our own devices, with no effort towards personal growth, self-awareness, and healing… it can be extremely difficult to find real happiness. Fortunately, there are a lot of things we can do to seek treatment or simply help ourselves get a hold of the problems we face.  
I do believe happiness is possible; happiness in relationships, and ultimately happiness with ourselves. It will take effort and time to help ourselves heal from this disordered mentality.  I can’t promise it’ll be easy. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee it won’t be. But I can say that it is worth it to try.
In just the last year or two I’ve been working constantly to understand my behavior and make necessary changes. I still have my mood swings, but my reactions in the relationships I’ve been in lately haven’t been nearly so volatile. In fact, my reactions could be considered productive and have brought me closer to the people I want cultivate my feelings with. Am I rolling in puppies and rainbows? Well, no. But I’m not dissolving into a puddle of devastation every time something doesn’t work out the way I expect it to. I still have work to do though. I can see my mentality slowly switching to something healthier. Something steadier. Coupled with my medication (because I do have a depressive chemical imbalance) I see a rise in my mood… not a euphoric rollercoaster to devastation, but a contentedness. I have days where I’m pleased and relaxed, more so than I ever used to feel. And that translates into being more contented with the relationships that I’m cultivating now.
How can you be happy if you’re always hurting? If we don’t try to tame the wild emotions swinging through our minds, I don’t know how we can break the cycle of hurt we so often feel. I do know it’s possible to get ahold of these feelings and make them calm down. They may not go away forever, they may pop back up, but they won’t be unmanageable. When you create the tools to deal with the problems we create, you can maintain a level of comfort in knowing that the problem has a solution; the problem isn’t the end of the world… or the relationship. 
So, no, I don’t think a Borderline can find true happiness if left to our own devices, but yes, I do believe it’s possible for a Borderline to find true happiness if we’re willing to work on the problems that create the unhappiness we so often feel.

And that’s not to say that we can’t have functional, fun, and loving relationships if we’re untreated or not working on healing. I just don’t think there will be a stable, true happiness of deep contentment if mood swings are always so volatile. This is just my opinion. Who knows? Maybe if the right person came along and I fell head over heels in mutual love and obsession I’d forget all my fears. It’s never happened to me though (the mutual part) so I can’t say for sure.

How about you? What do you think? What’s your experience with happiness and relationships been?


19 comments:

  1. I worry that because I have BPD I'll never be happy ENOUGH in a relationship. I worry I'll never find someone who can handle "it". And how am I supposed to hope for someone who can when I myself can't even handle it? I'm not saying I'm hope-less... I'm just, hope-little.

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    1. I have this same worry. That's why I think it's so important to learn your triggers, pay attention to the things that you react to, and increase self awareness. When you do these things it makes it easier for you to handle yourself, which in turn makes it easier for othes to handle. There is hope, it just takes some effort.

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  2. true,true,every word
    'there is no way to happiness,happines is the way'
    -budha(meaning that happiness is an inner state of being,a product of a functional way of dealing with life,rather than a product of external possesions or situations)

    because objective reality is always subject to interpretation,people with personality disorders(and therefore,dysfunctional schemas) always experience a distorted pathological subjective world,full of betrayal and dangers.
    But there is hope.The basic goal of therapy is to help the client question their preconceptions of people and the world and see life as it is,rather than focus on the parts that correspond and confirm their pathological schemas.
    I'm speaking both as a victim of dysfunctional schemas in healing and a future therapist.

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  3. yeah i knooowww.. its a sea of subjectivity.. haha, so tiring! I question my preconceptions.. but mostly i question the other persons..so meshed up. to find happiness in a relationship.. got to find happiness for yourself. to find that.. got to be in yourself. trickay.

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    1. Tricky indeed, especially when we're not always sure who we are...

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  4. I agree to an extent. It is extremely hard to be able to trust another person with every little insecurity and fear. The mood swings can bring you down as well as your partner. I can't count the relationships I've lost simply because the other person just couldn't handle my mentality. I also agree that no person or object can directly make you happy. I tend to find, though, that finding someone who can sit through a breakdown over and over again and not change their perception of you as well as be okay with reassuring of things more than what would be considered as normal for most other people can actually help along the healing process. Can it make you /happy/? No. Can it help you help yourself? I believe so. Of course there are always the doubts and fears, but in the back of my mind I always feel that what I've got is both real and mutual and I believe it's made me stronger and is helping me learn to deal with my condition.

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    1. "finding someone who can sit through a breakdown over and over again and not change their perception of you as well as be okay with reassuring of things more than what would be considered as normal for most other people can actually help along the healing process. Can it make you /happy/? No. Can it help you help yourself? I believe so."

      This is ideal. Choosing a person that is compatible with you and how you function mentally can really increase the odds of finding a functional relationship. When you know you are able to function with another person it forms a strong foundation that can weather the storms that eventually come. Having support and understanding acts to increase trust in the relationship and will ease those doubts and fears even if it can't eliminate them. But having them lessened greatly increases the chance at potential happiness.

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    2. Exactly. My boyfriend has been so good at reassuring me and providing stability. Having that solid basis has made me much happier and trusting, which in turn has eradicated my jealousy and normalized my irrational thoughts. We are getting better every day, now we rarely argue. When we started dating, it was fights, arguments, tears two times a week.

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  5. This question is meant as a means of learning. Not finger pointing or blaming. How do the partners, significant others or family memebers handle the "set-ups" to failure or Catch 22's? We know the person with BPD has conflicted feelings about many things. When we are asked to do something, we may get one of two results. If we do it, we could get a "I knew he/she would do that, but they don't REALLY care" reaction. If we don't do it, we may get a "See, I knew they'd let me down (again)" reaction. I realize this is NOT a conscious plan. Far from it. Yet it is a pattern we on the outside must be able to deal with. So, how can the Nons help the person with BPD work through it and try to avoid the mix-up in the first place? Is it even possible? NOTE: This situation typically comes out when the request carries emotion or perceived trust issues. ANY help from ANYONE would be greatly appreciated.

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    1. I think for this it's very important to work on trust, support, and understanding. Take a proactive, pre-emptive, approach. Provide reassurance and show that you care whenever you can and follow through on the things that you say. Encourage your Borderline to talk about what is going on so that you can alleviate or work through their issues. When they see that they can talk to you, and you take them seriously, it will help them see that you do care. Especially if, in the future, you remember to take into account the things you've discussed previously.

      If it's already a situation of "I knew they'd let me down", make sure you communicate why you couldn't do something, specify that it wasn't because you didn't want to do it for them or because you forgot about them, but communicate the actual reasons and then try to follow through if it's still possible.

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    2. Plus the BPD should learn her triggers and increase self-awareness so she doesn't intentionally trap her Non in a catch 22. :)

      Thanks, Haven. You're an incredible help.

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    3. Yes, absolutely. It's very important for a Borderline to learn their triggers. Self-awareness is a major tool in our arsenal ofor sanity.

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  6. I don't have BPD but dated someone who did and it was extremely difficult.

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    1. I believe my ex~husband of 10 years is a BPD along with depressive issues. He has never been diagnosed by a doctor but while I have been reading posts, they descibe him fully. He has been far beyond difficult & no matter what nothing I ever did or do is good enough. He is this love of my life & it breaks my heart that we cannot be a couple but he refuses that he needs help, believe that he does no wrong regardless of what it is he done or doing, accuses & interrogates me during most conversations. I am at my wits end. I dont know what to do. Any suggestions ANYONE!! Thank you

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    2. I believe my ex~husband of 10 years is a BPD along with depressive issues. He has never been diagnosed by a doctor but while I have been reading posts, they descibe him fully. He has been far beyond difficult & no matter what nothing I ever did or do is good enough. He is this love of my life & it breaks my heart that we cannot be a couple but he refuses that he needs help, believe that he does no wrong regardless of what it is he done or doing, accuses & interrogates me during most conversations. I am at my wits end. I dont know what to do. Any suggestions ANYONE!! Thank you

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  7. I have only recently been told I have this disorder which came as no surprise, I am pretty high functioning and manage to hold down a job in mental health (9 years), I have an active social life with some friends who I have known since I was very small. I am very creative and find writing, song writing and painting very cathartic. The main issue with me is this desperate longing for a romantic relationship - how I came across your blog - but my inability to trust, maintain attraction (beyond 6 months), cope with everything being in a relationship seems to entail means that I feel being single is the only way to retain any sense of stability. I have a history of becoming infatuated with men who I know are untrustworthy, emotionally unavailable and who I know I will never get. The serious relationships I have had have all been fraught and I have become unwell towards the end with an increase in self destructive behaviour and emotional shutdown alternating with fits of rage and tears. The last relationship I had seemed like the answer to all of my prayers - I've never felt so understood and we shared so much. The trouble was he was like me, two disordered personalities in a relationship seemed in the beginning to be the perfect remedy but it soon became toxic and I left and finally cut him off completely. Thing is I have become aware since that last break-up that I don't think either of us have properly moved on and that terrifies me, also I have realised that I am drawn to people who are damaged in similar ways to me. So if a partner came along who would be good for me I am likely to not find them appealing. Sorry for rambling, coming up to a year since my break-up and I'm worrying whether or not my ex sends me another email or not (whether he does or doesn't it will upset me). The all or nothing thinking means that any time I do get in a relationship I become completely consumed and lose sight of everything else in my life, I suppose at least while I am alone there's a better balance and I have a much fuller life.

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  8. I've been in a relationship for a year now, never thought that could happen. My boyfriend is very understanding and he's been so comforting through all of my depression, breakdowns, etc. He has his own depression though and a lot lately, I feel like we're both in our own depressed worlds. I'm also really bored. Next month will be a year together, but it already feels like 10 years...the emotional highs and lows, the drama each one of us can bring. It's not all bad. He wraps his arms around me when we're lying together and I feel whole, safe, no worries in the world. Anyway, I've been feeling soooo bored lately! My birthday was recently and he was sweet enough to get me the Samsung Galaxy s3. He said "I wanted you to have it so you can play around with your phone while I play my videogame." He claims he was joking when he said it, but I know there is truth in jest. Lately, he's been more and more playing his videogame. I'm just so bored and maybe he is too. Maybe that's why he's on his videogame more. I guess I need to come up with more things for us to do, but that can trigger my anxiety and general hatred for people when I'm out in a public situation. Sometimes it feels like I can't win. But I need some excitement! I do not want to cheat on him and I will not, but there's gotta be something more. When I was single and bouncing around from guy to guy, that was extremely unhealthy and dangerous, but fun. I don't want to do that again, I remember all the hurt and pain it caused me. I can't rely solely on my b/f to make me happy. I need my own hobbies, I need my own friends, I don't work because I can't right now. I'm so lost and...BORED!!!!!! Maybe I'll start attending a depression and anxiety group next Tuesday. I don't even want to do that, but at least it's something.

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  9. I'm a non in a 3 year relationship with a person who has BPD. Most people with BPD (around 70%) have it due to past experiences. On the plus side, boredom from a BPD results from a feeling of safety and security...Your bf isn't causing problems in the relationship, and he probably isn't abusive. If he was, you wouldn't be bored. Great call on your part thinking about attending a depression and anxiety group instead of alternatives that could hurt you (and him)! That alone shows you have some awareness of yourself, and is really impressive. I've found that even going on occasional dates helps my partner feel good and reminds her that I care about her. I started out in places least likely to trigger a trauma response. Movie theaters are usually a good choice. It helps that I am able to regulate my own emotions more and more as the relationship progresses. Walking on eggshells around someone with BPD is, in itself, a trigger.

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  10. Tallulah11, it's like you just mirrored so much of what I have been going through over the years. Two days ago, a dear friend of mine I have known a very long time, and I thought I might marry someday, told me he never wanted to see me again. Again, every day is a heartbreak because I lose someone or fear I will lose someone, or think about the people I have lost. I am still young, but I spend my spare time, holidays, and weekends alone in my tiny dark apartment where I sometimes don't leave for 3 days. I look around and see everyone getting married, having kids, going out with their friends, traveling, and doing all the things I wish I was doing. I'm missing out on my life. It's like everyone else gets to live the life I want except me. I've become very melancholy over the fact that because I am more sane and stable when I am alone, even if my thoughts constantly race around and around in my head, versus finding someone who could handle me. I'm always told I'm too complex and I'm too aggressive. My exes don't want girls like me, they want effortless and simple girls. I want to be normal, but lately I'm feeling like I will always be alone because no one understands me, and has the unconditional love and patience that I require.

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Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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