Friday, February 8, 2013

Ask Haven: Can we still be Friends?

Today is supposed to be a Lucid Analysis day but I just don’t want to listen to myself rant. So we’re going to do an Ask Haven instead!

A Reader asks:

            Dear Haven,

My BPD gf and I broke up recently but I still want to be friends. She won’t even talk to me though! She said we could be friends but she won’t return any of my texts or calls.  It’s been 2 months! How can I get her to stop ignoring me?

Dear Ignored,

            First, congratulations on having a breakup that didn’t end in mutual hatred and loathing. That’s the dream.

            Second. You need to back off a little bit. You may be ready to be friends right away, but it doesn’t take a whole lot of reading in between the lines to see that she’s not. If you keep pushing you’re going to push away any hopes of a friendship completely.

There are a lot of reasons why we need space and maybe not the ones you’re thinking of.

1.      We need time to really get over you. Even if you say it’s over, even if we want it to be over, doesn’t mean feelings are spontaneously resolved. Unless there were no feelings there at all (and I’ve certainly had those relationships) then there are still things that need to be overcome. If we don’t have the space to move on, those feelings don’t just dissipate. They sit there, somewhere between our stomach and our throat threatening to compress our heart into a shriveled ball of resentment.  

2.      Hope remains. Especially if we’re not the one that ends it there may still be some small spark of hope. That’s only further stoked by the constant affirmation that we’re a good enough person to still keep in your life as a friend. Every kindness, every kind word, every decently human gesture is a question mark asking whether or not that means feelings are still there for something to be rebuilt upon. Being a constant presence just keeps those embers stoked. That’s not in a good way if the goal is to move on.

3.      Even if you know in your heart of hearts and at the very front of your brain that you don’t want to be with that person, because you broke up for all of the right very valid reasons, if they’re constantly in your personal sphere – feelings can inexplicably creep in and lead to the desire for impulsive bad decisions. And a relationship relapse that will only end in regret.

4.      Pain doesn’t end with good-bye. Regardless of who broke up with who, she may still be in a lot of pain. My last break up was very painful for me, even though it was my decision. It took me a month to build myself up to seeing him in person, and that was only because the situation wasn’t avoidable. Just because the relationship is resolved doesn’t mean the heartache is. That takes time to recover from…

5.      Just because you’re ready doesn’t mean she is. People, even people without the emotional sensitivity of BPD, need time to get over a break up before they feel functionally capable of seeing their ex. With BPD, that time frame should probably be extended x3. The longer and more intense the feelings of the relationship, the longer the recovery time. You need to recognize that her feelings are probably different than yours.

6.      She may have just been being nice. Saying you can be friends is a time honored tradition of break up lies for the sake of decency. It’s just what people say when they break up.

7.      I’ve said it before and it may be the object constancy talking, but absence makes the heart grow colder. When you’re trying to squelch the flames of relationships past, this is exactly what you need. Take time apart. Wait til she’s rebound. Allow her to move on. You can’t truly be friends if those feelings haven’t chilled out.

You don’t get to choose for her when she’s ready. You don’t “get to make her stop” ignoring you. The best thing you can do is let her know you’re there as a friend when and if she’s ready, and step away. Give her the space she needs. 


  1. I'm going through a similar situation with someone in my life. I'm not sure what to call her because we were GREAT friends who became intimate and emotions developed. However, we were never categorized as dating. We did have a mantra of Friends First.

    Additionally, she has never openly told me that she has BPD, but her symptoms are textbook. She was very open about fearing abandonment and had several other signs that point to BPD. I don't know if she has shared it with anyone else either which makes me think she's fighting this EMOTIONAL BATTLE completely alone, which tears me up inside.

    A BPD event occurred in late October that spilled over my boundaries and a messy argument ensued. We haven't seen each other since and we haven't had a conversation since December. I understand that I can't force her to talk to me and that ignoring me might be the easiest way to dismiss any feeling she may have had for me. What I don't understand is this: How can a BPD who fears abandonment so easily turn the tables and seemingly abandon someone else?

    Any insight would be greatly appreciated?

    No one should have to go through this alone, especially her. She is an AMAZING woman whom I care about tremendously. I want to be there for her as a friend when she's down and help her as much as possible with the unique challenges she faces daily.

    1. I'm sorry for your loss. I've been through a very similar situation.

      The thing is, no matter how great the friendship, and no matter the mantra, no matter if it was categorized as anything at all, words are words and feelings always supersede.

      Also what you consider as being "so easily" able to walk away, was probably eating away at her for so much longer than you were ever aware of. We can be very good at hiding our despair in fear of losing someone we care for because we'd rather take care of their feelings and not be abandoned, rather than discuss the problem and risk it.... unfortunately caring about the other persons feelings above and beyond our own is half the problem. All that denial of what we need, turns to resentment until we've put up with all of the things our friend didn't realize they were doing for too long and something snaps. You probably just weren't aware of her struggle concerning your friendship until it had passed the breaking point for her.

      I have never met a Borderline that left a relationship without trying to put up with absolutely everything they can possibly tolerate for as long as they can possibly tolerate it. That you weren't aware of it, just means she put your feelings before hers until it broke her.

      At which point she finally realizes that she needs to express everything that was built up... which I imagine came out poorly and in a not very constructive way when it finally bubbled to the surface and came to conflict.

      Were you receptive to allowing her to vent everything then pursue open conversation about the things she said? She probably needed to vent all of the badness first before she could be constructive herself.

    2. Haven,
      Great insight. However, our falling out involved a text sent to another while she was out with me. We were having a great night, laughing, cutting up and having fun. After the text was sent the “fun" night came to an abrupt end. She attempted to explain that she was caught up in the night and wanted to feel loved instead of just having fun. The argument ensued. That night and the next day she called and sent several text to me saying she was sorry and hinting that she had feelings for me. I was hurt and it took me about a week to get over the anger, bitterness and what I felt was betrayal. To answer you question. NO I was not receptive to her explanation of the events at first.

      I had been researching BPD for about 3 months before this episode so I had an idea of the struggles she’s going through. I reached out to her and told her that I forgive her and wanted to be there for her as a friend because that’s the best thing I can be for her. We talked once or twice after that.

      December was a very challenging month for her personally as she was experiencing some major life changes. This is when I wanted to be there as a friend to support her the most. I sent her an email with some words of encouragement and this is when she told me that she can’t talk to me or see me anymore.

      In summary, we never really had argument or challenges that were real. Roughly, once a month we’d have a discussion about “secrets” (softer word) she liked to keep. I was never really angered by these secrets because our friendship/relationship was never defined.

      I understand that I am not the right person for her romantically and am moving on with that aspect of my life but she is still an AMAZING person. Someone who I’d like to be a FRIEND for the rest of my life.

      I still reach out to her every two or three weeks with a text to let her know I'm here and thinking of her.

      What I fear the most is if I don't reach out to her she will allow her mind to run with anything negative and begin to think that I am a really bad person.


    3. At Anonymous...I hear you bro!

  2. Speaking as a person who's currently trying to recover from BPD -- and resolve a lot of feelings about an intense friendship that crossed weird boundaries and then got more intense and messy (for me, at least) -- if you had a huge argument she may already feel that you've gone away. Once you feel like you've been abandoned it's difficult when the person comes back because it feels like they've opened a wound. Then you get ready for a new emotional bloodletting followed by abandonment again every time they come back into your life and then "leave" again. It becomes easier to just reject them completely and endure that pain once than experience it over and over again. I know that you may not think you've abandoned her, but that's how she might have experienced it.

    I think it's also a control issue. If I can control the terms of the relationship, I feel more like I can control the emotions associated with that relationship. All I can recommend is that you touch base with her regularly, let her know you're there, and if she wants to connect then take her up on the offer. And, for God's sake, don't be ambiguous about what's going on in the relationship. If you don't know yourself what's going on, then either talk about it with her if that seems possible -- or back off completely until you're clear on things yourself.

    1. Thanks for the response.
      In this particular friendship/relationship, it didn’t take long for feelings to evolve and we expressed our love for each other. In the end, I’m sure that I fell harder for her. However, there were other circumstances that created a safety net for her preventing her to go all in in the relationship. I understood and accepted the circumstances which left her with all of the control (trigger word for her). This is when we established the friend’s first mantra and the reason our relationship was never fully defined.

      I feel like all of our arguments were due to her pushing me away. As soon as I would establish distance she would reel me back in. In this particular argument she did push me away. I guess I'd like to get a sense of how embarrassment feels for a BPD. Is it easier to end a relationship with a great friend than to face them and talk things through? At this point we wouldn't even have to discuss it.

      One time she told me that talking about the past is ridiculous. That was foreign to me because a persons past gives you an idea of who they are as a person. Now that statement makes a little more sense.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I'm not sure about embarrassment, I don't really embarrass. What we feel to an obscene amount is Shame. I think this may clear things up for you a bit. She may not be consciously aware of what she is really reacting to or trying to avoid reacting to.

      Wanting to avoid talking about the past is definitely a loaded statement. She's clearly trying to avoid something, probably a lot of somethings.

    4. Thanks for your help Haven

    5. @Anonymous February 8, 2013 at 3:08 PM

      This is really helpful. Thanks from a Non!

    6. @Anonymous February 9, 2013 at 8:07 AM

      Oh man. Snap! Relief knowing I wasn't the only one.

  3. Omg Haven - the way you described hiding feelings and despair - and staying in a relationship - doing everything you can - before coming out finally and breaking up with someone.. Well, it's just uncanny. That describes what has happened to me several times. I have practically bought myself to breaking point - and been so stressed out - before finally calling it off. And all the while hiding how much despair I felt. I honestly thought I was the only one who dealt with things this way. As horrible as it is, I'm glad I'm not alone, and that I have a little more understanding of why I deal with things in this way. It's just such a tough way to live - but I keep trying!

  4. "First, congratulations on having a breakup that didn’t end in mutual hatred and loathing. That’s the dream."


    *pats himself on the back* :p

  5. Hi Haven,
    I am currently trying to recover from a breakup with a person who I suspect is a BPD, he never told me about it and he hid things from me but as per his actions I think he might be a BPD.
    The relationship only lasted two months but it was very intense. I actually thought I had found my soulmate and he had me in a pedestal. That made me open myself and give my all and of course I started showing I am not perfect. All of the sudden he just broke up with me saying he was not ready for a relationship, that he was feeling very scared and nervous. He said that as he got closer he started to feel more scared, anxious and nervous, so he asked me to be friends. Two weeks later he invited me to hangout. When he saw me, he got really excited, and started to act very euphoric, doing things to get my attention, holding me and saying how happy he was. He ended up asking me to get back together that he loved me very much, and started to make a few confessions he had hidden from me, like taking antidepressants. He said he didnt tell me because he felt embarassed and was afraid that I was going to leave him. Also he mentioned he felt I could be with a better person than him and so he wanted to push me away. We agreed on trying to make things work, he asked me not to give up on him.....two days later, he broke up with me again, feeling again so nervous and anxious and freaken out, saying he needed therapy because he was not ready.
    It's been two months since that. The first month I was there, asking him how it was going with therapies, but he got really cold to me. Then I stopped talking to him for a month.
    I am leaving in a couple weeks, I am returning to my country and the feeling of not seeing him ever again made me contact him again and asking him if love had gone. He said he didn't know. I asked him to hang out for my last two weeks here. He said he needed to think about it. Then he said he didn't feel comfortable hanging out with me. I asked if he had feelings and he said just as friends and not romantic. The question here is: if you dont have feelings, why would you feel uncomfortable hanging out for a couple weeks?
    This has been so painful for me, shocking, he knows he will never see me again, yet he didn't want to see me, and I really wanted to do closure, for myself.
    I decided to remove his contact and delete his phone number. So sad.
    Any imput to make me feel better and to understand about his behavior will be really appretiated.
    Thank you Haven!


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

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