Friday, February 15, 2013

Ask Haven: Push Me - Pull Me

Dear Haven,

I’ve been with my BPD boyfriend for almost a year. I love him so much but sometimes he’s really hot, and then artic cold! I don’t understand how he can be so loving one minute and then it can be like that love was never there at all the next minute. Do people with BPD push-pull people they really want to be with?

Pushed and Pulled

Dear Pushed and Pulled,

I don’t want to say we only do the Push-Pull thing with people we want to be with, but we really ONLY Push-Pull people that we want to be with. Or more accurately, Push-Pull people we want in our life and want to be close to in some way, be it family, friends, lovers, significant others, whatever.
At least that’s my experience.

It’s going to be different for different people and depend on how sensitive they are to the particular situation. We must remember that everything is relative to the individual. However, from my experience, if I don’t like you, aren’t close to you, or just generally aren’t interested in you… you can’t evoke the emotional connection in me that makes me want to be super close, and then freak out at the potential consequences of loss that that closeness could bring. In short, if you’re not someone I’m close to, there’s zero probability that you’ll get the Push-Pull.

That’s not to say that you can’t piss me off or get some kind of emotional response. But unless there’s some kind of major incentive I probably won’t try to reconcile with you, and even if I do, it’s not the same thing as an intense Pull Back, it’s simply a matter of maintaining some aspect of social or professional accord.

For the whole Push-Pull to be an issue at all, it means there has to be some deep emotional connection or a desire for one. The Push is usually inspired by that person reacting to the idea of losing that connection, or feeling suffocated from that connection, because the loss would be heart breaking or they feel like they’re losing themselves in some way b/c the connection is overpowering their tentative sense of identity. But once the Push has occurred and that’s had a minute to sink in: then the realization of that loss is right there in our face, and we feel what it is to not have that person in our lives, and that is a whole new kind of terrifying.

There’s a lot going on with the whole Push-Pull ordeal: Herecheck it out, I’ve written a lot about it. But I’m fairly confident in my assessment that it doesn’t happen with people that we don’t want to be close to.

Disclaimer: this does sometimes occur during the break up process when we know we don’t want to be with someone, but the loneliness is also unbearable. It can be confusing to feel the loss, not understand what’s really going on with your feelings and then reacting to the loss in a way that isn’t actually healthy: returning to the failed relationship. We’ll call that a “negative” Push-Pull… when the Push-Pull is inspired from actually not wanting to be in the relationship.

Communication is key! Also, pay attention to the previous context of your relationship. If it really feels like it’s out of the blue and up until that point their interest has been right with you and intense, then it’s probably a “positive” Push-Pull where they want to be with you, but they’re afraid to be with you.
If they’ve generally been distant, unresponsive, snippy or confrontational, and uninterested… they may just not be that into you. That happens with BPD too. I’ve dated lots of people that I just didn’t connect with, felt really bad about hurting them so I’d stay longer than I should have (Boring-Ex), but ultimately I didn’t want to be with them.

However for you, if he’s being very loving and it feels like he wants to be with you, then all of a sudden he’s a million miles away, it’s probably more along the lines of the “positive” Push-Pull. It happens, the best thing you can do is try to communicate and get to the heart of the issue so you can reduce the occurrence in the future.  Hope this helps! 


  1. Wow thanks. Can really relate to the 'negative push pull' situation. Went back to an ex even though I knew it wasn't right. Stayed 6 months longer than I should have, and put myself under so much pressure to make it work. It helps to have terms around this stuff so I can recognize it next time.

  2. Years ago my GF and I tried to be together. There were complications then that really prevented that from happening at the time, but I sure remember the push-pull from her. I was then and really still today the only other guy she TRULY was in love with. She has told me that. We have always been very attracted to each other on many levels. We went our separate ways and never talked for YEARS. We BOTH had too many issues to be together then. She walked away abruptly ending it then, but was still very much in love with me. I think the heart of her issues are BPD in nature, for the signs of VERY high functioning BPD seem present to me. She does NOT have the rage, but when she is pushed, stressed, frustrated passed her threshold, she can be a bit caustic and short. She's been in and out of a variety of types of jobs and over the past year finally decided on what she really wants to do (and work for herself), but Boy I don't see that entrepreneural drive to make it work. She's told me that she pretty much always wanted to have a loving passionate relationship but has chosen people to be with that she doesn't have that with.

    YEARS later we found each other again and the sparks immediately began flying. Still have some issues, but things generally are much better… until her parents stopped talking to her over things said and done. Now it seems every time GF tries to reengage parent, WE have problems and she pushes me out. Usually saying I'm to much for her, or she Loves me, but sometimes doesn't like me! Both times she pulled the "silent treatment" on me in this past year words like that were said and also "need to rethink how much time we spend together". Also when asked by our counselor if she ever did this kind of behavior before, she said "no, only with him". But then again, if all her other "BF" really were just friendships, then the need to run might not have been there. Again the reason why she always chose people she liked a lot to be with, but did not love (and she WANTS that passion). I'm trying to stick with this, but it's getting more difficult. And then I have to realize the lifetime relationship I'd like with her, SHE might not be able to do!) She does NOT believe anything is "wrong" with her. I don't care nor need labels, I just need to find ways of this pattern coming to an end with her. It is NOT the LTR I THOUGHT we could have! We are early 40s now, we met the first time when we were in our late 20's. NOT sure how much can change at this age and NOT facing the truths. She has throughout her life worked on her "emotions"… likes learning and growing, so THAT could be helpful as long as I keep "BPD" label away maybe?!

    Seems like so much of what you say here fits what happens to her/us when a trigger happens. And I'm pretty sure it's connected to her parent's silent treatment of her and her other current big life's stresses

    Thank you for letting me ramble!


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

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