Just Listen

The secret to getting through to anyone, anywhere, anytime

War of the Roses—(Sadly) Coming to a Relationship Near You

Does this sound like any couples you know?

When a narcissistic man and a borderline woman get together, the excitement, ecstasy and passion at the beginning of a relationship are only exceeded by the vitriolic, venomous, repulsion at the end.

What is the cause of the intense animal attraction between a narcissistic man and a borderline woman (the genders can also be reversed, but that is far less common) that can turn into vindictive, vicious repulsion?

Some of the most common characteristics of someone with a borderline personality is that on the surface they often seem vivacious, attractive, exciting and someone you feel you’ll be able to (superfically) show off. Three of the most common negative characteristics of a person with a borderline personality are their feeling of emptiness, their penetrating fear of being alone and their distrust. When those feelings of emptiness or aloneness take over, the person with a borderline personality is unable to calm or comfort or reassure themselves. That is why they seek out someone who can fill the emptiness and relieve the aloneness. And because of the chaos in their prior relationships (and often in the inconsistent caring from a parent or parents as a child), their deep distrust causes them to expend 90% of their emotional energy in keeping others from controlling or abandoning them.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

The most positive characteristics of a person with a narcissistic personality is that they appear to be strong and confident about knowing what they want, and their opinions and extremely passionate and generous when initially you are the object of their pursuit and desire. The most negative traits are when what you thought was strong turns out to be rigid, when what you thought was confidence turns out to be arrogance, when what you thought was having strong opinions turns out to be highly opinionated (with no tolerance for differing opinions), when what you thought was their being passionate and generous about you was really about how you made them feel about themselves.

And of course the most negative characteristic of either is the chilling level of rage that they each too readily feel and express, when disappointed, let down or God forbid, criticized.

Sadly, one of the things that frequently triggers the beginning of the war is when this couple has children. When that happens, the borderline woman feels less alone and less empty with her bond to her child and then the need for adoration, attention and worship from her narcissistic male partner rapidly begins to become a turn off and the worse he acts when he doesn’t keep having his ego fed, the more revulsive and then repulsive he can become to his female partner. It doesn’t end there. Down the road this can spell significant problems for the child of an overly attached mother and a self-centered narcissistic father.

What to do to avoid the War of the Roses?

The answer is simple, as soon as you identify that a potential partner has either a narcissistic or borderline personality, cut your losses and run.

And the most simple ways to identify such a person are:

  1. Get into a difference of opinion with them (religion, politics, money and sex are usually effective triggers if you need one) and see if and how rapidly they escalate it into a disagreement and then an argument.  A reddened neck and face and/or spit in the corner of their mouths are pretty good tip offs.
  2. Find out about prior relationships and what they thought caused them to end. Beware of the person who takes no responsibility for any of the problems and who didn’t learn any lesson about what they needed to do differently (besides picking a better partner) to succeed in a relationship.
  3. Find out about how they felt about their parent of the opposite sex. If it looks like they are still holding a grudge, beware. Even if they have legitimate reasons to be disappointed or even hurt, if they haven’t learned that the best revenge is living and loving well, stay clear of them.
  4. Ask them what they need to be and get better at to make a relationship successful and how they selected that and what they are doing to get better at it.
  5. Ask them what and who they are grateful for and why. People who have trouble being grateful for anything are often people who feel entitled and have trouble sincerely saying “Thank you” or “Congratulations.” Stay away from people who aren’t able to come up with anything or anyone to be grateful for and to.
  6. Ask them what they are most curious about in life. People with narcissistic or borderline personalities are usually more interested in having or getting something, because in both cases they are trying to take or get something from the world and other people to (temporarily) fill a personality defect.
  7. Finally, ask them: “Tell me something I shouldn’t know about you.” Watch their reaction and then if they answer, ask them, “Why that?”

Resource: The 6 Secrets of a Lasting Relationship: How to Fall in Love Again… and Stay There (Perigee, $15.95) – We don’t fall out of love, love falls out of us.  This is guide to how to “reprogram” your relatedness and bring your relationship back (Narcissists and borderlines need not apply or buy).

Mark Goulston, MD, is the author of the new bestselling book Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone.

more...

Subscribe to Just Listen

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?