|Regardless of how a person with Borderline Personality Disorder alters and tailor her appearance and actions to please others, she often presents with a clear and characteristic personality pattern over time. This pattern usually evolves through three stages: The Vulnerable Seducer, The Clinger, and The Hater. This evolution may take months, and sometimes even years to cycle through. In the later periods, the personality often swings wildly back and forth from one phase to the next.
Love: The Vulnerable Seducer Phase
At first, a Borderline female may appear sweet, shy, vulnerable and "ambivalently in need of being rescued"; looking for her Knight in Shining Armor.
Some partners of people with BPD worry the relationship was just a game, that their SO was using them and felt nothing for them. Thats not true.
I am a recovering BP.
Before, when I was in a relationship, my feelings felt genuine. I didnt have a conscious ulterior motive. There was an authentic connection; and while it may have been unhealthy and for the wrong reasons, it was, in my mind, real.
I acted as if I was in love because I thought I was.
Love when you have Borderline Personality Disorder...
The bond that occurred in the beginning of a relationship was incredible: there was a deep (false) sense of knowing the other person intimately, intuitively. He became my whole world and it was wonderful, rapturous. When my boyfriends left and they invariably left that world was anhiliated; everything fell to ashes.
The break-up that led to my hard-won recovery from BPD left me literally slumped on the floor, crushed in spirit, feeling as if there was no meaning in my life.
I was close to killing myself - too defeated and broken to even move. The saddest thing about the situation was that I was the cause of my pain, yet had little idea then that it was due to my own behavior.
So yes, the love is real, but only in the sense of how it feels to the person with BPD: the feelings seem real, they feel like love.
But its not love because its based on need rather than on true caring and intimacy, which is the real love we all deserve.
~Oceanheart (anonymous FtF member)
In the beginning, you will feel a rapidly accelerating sense of compassion because she is a master at portraying herself as she "victim of love" and you are saving her. But listen closely to how she sees herself as a victim. As her peculiar emotional invasion advances upon you, you will hear how no one understands her - except you. Other people have been "insensitive." She has been betrayed, just when she starts trusting people. But there is something "special" about you, because "you really seem to know her."
It is this intense way she has of bearing down on you emotionally that can feel very seductive. You will feel elevated, adored, idealized - almost worshiped, maybe even to the level of being uncomfortable. And you will feel that way quickly. It may seem like a great deal has happened between the two of you in a short period of time, because conversation is intense, her attention, and her eyes are so deeply focused on you.
Here is a woman who may look like a dream come true. She not only seems to make you the center of her attention, but she even craves listening to your opinions, thoughts and ideas. It will seem like you have really found your heart's desire.
Like many things that seems too good to be true, this is. This is borderline personality disorder.
It will all seem so real because it is real in her mind. But what is in her mind it is not what you perceive to be happening.
Love: The Clinger Phase
Once she has successfully candied her hook with your adoration, she will weld it into place by reeling in your attention and concern. Her intense interest in you will subtly transform over time. She still appears to be interested in you, but no longer in what you are interested in. Her interest becomes your exclusive interest in her. This is when you start to notice something. Your thoughts, feelings and ideas fascinate her, but more so when they focus on her. You can tell when this happens because you can feel her "perk-up" emotionally whenever your attention focuses upon her feelings and issues. Those moments can emotionally hook your compassion more deeply into her, because that is when she will treat you well - tenderly.
Its often here, you begin to confuse your empathy with love, and you believe you're in love with her. Especially if your instinct is strong and rescuing is at the heart of your "code." Following that code results in the most common excuse I hear as a therapist, as to why many men stay with borderline women, ".... But I love her!" Adult love is built on mutual interest, care and respect - not on one-way emotional rescues. And mothering is for kids. Not grown men.
But, if like King Priam, you do fall prey to this Trojan Horse and let her inside your city gates, the first Berserker to leave the horse will be the devious Clinger. A master at strengthening her control through empathy, she is brilliant at eliciting sympathy and identifying those most likely to provide it-like the steady-tempered and tenderhearted.
But after every emotional Vesuvius she pleads for your mercy. And if she has imbedded her guilt-hooks deep enough into your conscientious nature, you will stay around and continue tracking this volcanic earthquake, caught in the illusion that you can discover how to stop Vesuvius before she blows again. But, in reality, staying around this cauldron of emotional unpredictability is pointless. Every effort to understand or help this type of woman is an excruciatingly pointless exercise in emotional rescue.
The world ails her. Physical complaints are common. Her back hurts. Her head aches. Peculiar pains of all sorts come and go like invisible, malignant companions. If you track their appearance, though, you may see a pattern of occurrence connected to the waning or waxing of your attentions. Her complaints are ways of saying, "don't leave me. Save me!" And Her maladies are not simply physical. Her feelings ail her too.
She is depressed or anxious, detached and indifferent or vulnerable and hypersensitive. She can swing from elated agitation to mournful gloom at the blink of an eye. Watching the erratic changes in her moods is like tracking the needle on a Richter-scale chart at the site of an active volcano, and you never know which flick of the needle will predict the big explosion.
It is like you are a Coast Guard cutter and she is a drowning woman. But she drowns in a peculiar way. Every time you pull her out of the turbulent sea, feed her warm tea and biscuits, wrap her in a comfy blanket and tell her everything is okay, she suddenly jumps overboard and starts pleading for help again. And, no matter how many times you rush to the emotional - rescue, she still keeps jumping back into trouble. It is this repeating, endlessly frustrating pattern which should confirm to you that you are involved with a Borderline Personality Disorder. No matter how effective you are at helping her, nothing is ever enough. No physical, financial or emotional assistance ever seems to make any lasting difference. It's like pouring the best of your self into a galactic-sized Psychological Black Hole of bottomless emotional hunger. And if you keep pouring it in long enough, one-day you'll fall right down that hole yourself. There will be nothing left of you but your own shadow, just as it falls through her predatory "event horizon." But before that happens, other signs will reveal her true colors.
Sex will be incredible. She will be instinctually tuned in to reading your needs. It will seem wonderful - for a while.
The intensity of her erotic passion can sweep you away, but her motive is double-edged. One side of it comes from the instinctually built-in, turbulent emotionality of her disorder. Intensity is her trump-card.
But the other side of her is driven by an equally instinctually and concentrated need to control you. The sexual experiences, while imposing, are motivated from a desire to dominate you, not please you. Her erotic intensity will be there in a cunning way tailored so you will not readily perceive it.
I love you means I need you to love me. That was the best ever for me means tell me it was the best ever for you. Show me that I have you.
Love: The Hater Phase
Once a Borderline Controller has succeeded and is in control, the Hater appears. This hateful part of her may have emerged before, but you probably will not see it in full, acidic bloom until she feels she has achieved a firm hold on your conscience and compassion. But when that part makes its first appearance, rage is how it breaks into your life.
What gives this rage its characteristically borderline flavor is that it is very difficult for someone witnessing it to know what triggered it in reality. But that is its primary identifying clue: the actual rage-trigger is difficult for you to see. But in the Borderline's mind it always seems to be very clear. To her, there is always a cause. And the cause is always you. Whether it is the tone of your voice, how you think, how you feel, dress, move or breathe - or "the way you're looking at me," - she will always justify her rage by blaming you for "having to hurt her."
Rage reactions are also unpredictable and unexpected. They happen when you least expect it. And they can become extremely dangerous. It all serves to break you down over time. Your self esteem melts away. You change and alter your behavior in hopes of returning to the Clinger Stage. And periodically you will, but only to cycle back to the hater when you least expect it, possibly on her birthday, or your anniversary.
Borderline Personality Disorder is a serious mental illness.
Roger Melton is a psychotherapist, teacher and writer in Los Angeles, California. For over twenty years, he has been a leading authority on the psychological impact of violence, dealing with exploitive-type men or women and managing the dangers of high-stress careers and occupations. He has frequently appeared on television and radio, including appearances on 20/20 and PBS. As part of opening relations with the Soviet Union in 1989, he participated in mutual training programs at Moscow University.