What does any of this have to do with Nons having some part of this Borderline crazy? Triggers. That’s what. Or just those day to day things that most people would mention but the Borderline frets about in silent simmering fury and frustration. Just because you’re not aware that you’ve done something, doesn’t mean you didn’t do it. And unfortunately, because someone with BPD may continually not speak up, you may do these things over and over without realizing that you’re doing something that is hurting them.
For Example: When I was 17 a guy I knew tried to rape me. He was unsuccessful but he put in a damn good effort. I’d known him for years prior and every time I saw him he’d always say “Hey kid, how’s it going?” or “Hi there kiddo”. Any time anyone calls me ‘kid’ I automatically think of this man that tried to rape me. Sometimes people in my daily life will say “Let’s go kid” or something like that. Harmless, non offensive, but still triggering for me. Usually I tell people not to call me ‘kid’. Sometimes though, like if I’m in a professional setting, I don’t, because I don’t want to have to explain why this bothers me. I think it’s understandable that I wouldn’t want to share an experience like this but it also leaves the Non believing that it doesn’t bother me and leaves open the potential that they can, and probably will, call me ‘kid’ again. And therefore, trigger me again. Is it the Nons fault that they don’t know that this is a trigger for me? No, of course not. Is the Non still triggering these traumatic memories and feelings? Yes. Yes, they are.
I havea lot of triggers. I have a lot of things that cause me frustration, upset, and anger. Humans in general aren’t as considerate as they’d like to think. There’s a lot of opportunity for small slights. There’s a lot of opportunity for doing things that don’t bother you one bit, but may come across as inconsiderate to someone else. This is really pretty normal. And a normal person would usually speak up and say, “Hey buddy, would you mind leaving the seat down after you use the toilet?” for example, without worrying that there would be repercussions. A Borderline, however, always thinks about the potential repercussions. Remember how I talked about ruminations and hypersensitivity? When you’re hypersensitive to how another person might feel, and ruminate on dozens of different ways a comment could be taken, the potential for disastrous repercussions becomes a very real possibility. So logically (for us), it’s better to just not say anything and not risk offending anyone and therefore not having to suffer the consequences.
Right. Hah. Sure. Because the problem stops there. < ---- Sarcasm.
This is where that ‘unexpected vanishing’ comes in. You’ve been with your Borderline for a long time, everything seems wonderful. Sure there’s some moodiness and maybe the occasional push-pull but nothing unmanageable. Unbeknownst to you, you’ve unintentionally been triggering problem areas in this person’s life. Or just doing things that get under their skin. When someone pokes you in an annoying spot for long enough, it begins to grate your nerves raw. Resentment begins to build. It’s small at first and ignorable. But over time, these things keep happening and that resentment turns to frustration. You should know! Can’t you see that this thing that you do makes my smile strain? Can’t you see that every time you do a particular thing, and then ask me if I’m ok, there’s a pattern there? You’re not paying attention! I want you to care enough to figure this out! But how can you do this if I don’t say something? But there’s all these reasons I shouldn’t. Back and forth. The hurt slowly builds to anger. Until we just can’t take it anymore. Our tolerance hits a boiling point and unexpectedly pops. All that anger, frustration, and upset, that had been triggered over a long period of time, that you had no clue about, finally surfaces in one gloriously unexpected explosion.
It appears that this perfect relationship has suddenly been devalued. You’ve been unexpectedly split into some demon of a significant other and you have no idea why. This is a problem in the perception of the Non, and the communication of the Borderline. It’s not that it just happened suddenly, at the drop of a dime, because we had one random mood swing. It’s because these things have been building up over a period of time, but unlike how normal people behave, the problems haven’t been expressed. Without expressing them, they can’t be addressed. They can’t be worked through. They can’t be released. They can’t be healed. We can’t move on. Instead, we hold onto each incident with a death grip, pushing it down, and compacting it under all of the things that eventually pile up upon it. When we can’t communicate, we just get more frustrated! Instead of protecting ourselves, we’re perpetuating our own problems.
Because of all these fears though, often we don’t even know how to ask for help. Even when we really do want it. How do you initiate a conversation about what concerns you, if you’ve always been afraid of doing this? Or if you’ve always been told that have no right to talk about something? It’s foreign territory that we don’t know how to navigate. We literally don’t know how to seek help for certain things. We need help, learning to ask for help!
I’m not going to pretend that having any kind of relationship with a Borderline is going to be easy. It’s often not. Depending on the relationship it can be extraordinarily difficult. The relationship I had with my parents, and my siblings was much, much more volatile than almost any of my romantic relationships (other than the abusive ones – but I’m not responsible for the abusive actions of those others). Especially when I was younger, getting me to talk about anything was like pulling teeth out of a rabid mutant bear-shark hybrid. Take a minute to digest that image. Ok. I’ve never been good at communicating my needs and concerns.
Never? Well, crap. How hopeless is this situation? It seems inevitable that all Borderline relationships are doomed! I disagree. So how do you overcome these problems? It will take a little more vigilance and probably a lot of patience, but it’s not necessarily a one way course set towards disaster.
Communication is really important. This doesn’t mean hounding someone every time they say ‘they’re fine’. That would annoy the best of anyone. But it does mean keeping your eyes open, and watching for signs that something isn’t right. A strained smile, a deeper forced breathe, pursed lips, wringing hands, tense shoulders… body language is incredibly telling. Pay attention. Be gentle, be approachable, and pre-emptively cultivate trust in communication. Reassurance is really important to a Borderline. It’s important that we know that you will be willing to work with us on a problem, without walking out on us. Sometimes you might get angry, sometimes we might get angry, but if we believe that you’ll stay with us while we work it out, it’ll be easier for us to believe that we can talk to you about things that are a problem. When you notice a sign that something might be wrong, say, “It seems like something is bothering you. Can you tell me about it? I’d like to know what’s going on with you. Maybe there’s something we can do to fix it together. Your feelings are important to me and it’s important to me that your needs are being met too.” Maybe not quite so clinical, but in a way that conveys that it’s safe to discuss what is going on. Borderlines, we need to know our triggers. When we learn what they are, we need to communicate them so they aren't set off.
Being safe. Often we don’t feel this. I’m not sure I’ll ever know what it is to truly feel safe with another person. Not emotionally anyways. I’ll never know unless I try. I won’t be able to try if the other person isn’t willing to work with me though.
Two people, two ways. It takes both to work on a relationship. Don’t wait until it’s too late to turn back before trying to fix something that isn’t too broken to repair.
Alright, so that was for the longer relationships when your Borderline just disappears seemingly out of nowhere. What about the one's you've known for a shorter time? Why do they disappear? Why will I see a Borderline a lot and then it seems they drop off the face of the earth? Well now, I guess there's just more to this story now isn't there.