When the Relationship's Over, Part 2
Ten beliefs that can get you stuck, numbers 6-10
(read Part 1)
6) The belief that if you say it louder, you will be heard
You might think that if you explain your point better, put it in writing, or find the right words, a light bulb will come over your ex-partner's head. You may want to write letters, send a long email, pick up the phone, or have one last meeting.
Resist the urge. It will make things worse and rip off some of the scabs that have started to form--however painful their formation can be. You may find your ex has moved on and in love with someone else. This will be excruciatingly painful. Or they might be obsessed with you (or vice versa) and you will be right back where you started. You'll have high hopes that things have changed ("She promised things would be different this time") and you'll get right back on that rollercoaster.
This fantasy that the right words will unlock the door to understanding (when it never did before) has, at its roots, the lack of acceptance that your ex-partner has a pervasive disorder--one that you can't cure any more than you can cure cancer with a box of toothpicks and some glue.
The way through this is something called "radical acceptance." The web site www.DBTselfhelp.com defines "radical acceptance" this way:
"Radical" means complete and total. It's when you accept something from the depths of your soul. When you accept it in your mind, in your heart, and even with your body. It's total and complete... It's when you stop fighting reality...
Psychologist Tara Brach, who has written extensively about the subject, says in this interview:
Radical acceptance has two elements: It is an honest acknowledgment of what is going on inside you, and a courageous willingness to be with life in the present moment, just as it is. I sometimes simplify it to "recognizing" and "allowing."
You can accept an experience without liking it. In fact, let's say you are feeling stuck in anxiety and disliking the feeling. Radical acceptance includes accepting both the feelings of anxiety and the aversion to it. In fact, acceptance is not real and not healing unless it honestly includes all aspects of your experience.
There is an increasingly well-known adage that says "What you resist, persists." Your identity gets hitched to whatever you are not accepting. And the more you push something away or run from something, the more your sense of self is linked with that experience.
Your BPD/NPD partner will not be able to validate your feelings or acknowledge your pain. This is one of the most difficult aspects of breaking up--there is no closure in the way you might want it. Radical acceptance will help give you that closure.
Also try writing that letter; just don't send it. For an example of a letter that someone wrote and put online, see www.MyTripToOzAndBack.com. While the writer did send this to her ex, she says she realized it was a futile, meaningless gesture.
7) The belief that absence makes the heart grow fonder
Based on their fear of abandonment, you might think that your BPD partner may see the light if you deprive them of your love. However, people with BPD also have object constancy issues, i.e., "out of sight, out of mind." After two weeks of separation, they may feel same way you would feel after six weeks. In this case, absence makes the heart grow colder.
8) The belief that you need to stay to help them.
You might want to disclose the disorder (bad, BAD idea) and help your ex-partner get into therapy. Maybe you want to help in other ways while still maintaining a "friendship." Not gonna happen.
People with BPD are very much all or nothing. They don't deal well with in-between friendships with former partners. Also, you're no longer their caretaker and support person --no matter how well intentioned you might be.
The fact it that you're a trigger for your BPD partner's unstable feelings and disordered behavior. In addition, they're probably triggering some of your own codependency issues. Sure, you don't deliberately cause these feelings. But that doesn't change things. Its roots emanate from the deep central wounds of the disorder and your own issues.
You can't begin to solve this. You also need to question your own motives and your expectations for wanting to help. Are you still trying to mold your partner into what you think they should be? They didn't do this before. They won't now. It's their choice whether or not they want to address lifelong wounds.
Concentrate on yourself and your own recovery. Let your ex make their own choices, even if they're not the ones you might make for them. If they try to lean on you, it's a greater kindness that you step away. Difficult, no doubt, but more responsible.
9) The belief that they have seen the light
Your partner may suddenly be on their best behavior or appear very needy and try to entice you back into the relationship. You hope they are finally seeing things your way or really need you. You may venture back in or struggle mightily to stay away. RESIST THE URGE TO RECYCLE THIS RELATIONSHIP. YOU WILL REGRET IT, GUARANTEED.
Disengaging is a process, not an event. When this process becomes protracted, it becomes toxic. The emotional needs that fueled the relationship bond initially are now fueling a convoluted disengagement as one or both partners struggle against their deep enmeshment and their internal conflicts about the break up. Either partner may go to extremes to reunite - even use the threat of suicide to get attention and evoke sympathies.
Don't be lulled into believing that the relationship is surviving or going through a phase. At this point, there are no rules. There are no clear loyalties. Each successive break-up increases the dysfunction of both the relationship and the partners and opens the door for hurtful things to happen.
10) The belief that your BPD partner thinks and feels the same way that you do
If the falseness of this belief wasn't clear to you before, it should be by now. Your ex's thinking is distorted, and their convictions about you and your relationship can change hour by hour, minute by minute. Spurts of needed to get back together (if they occur) are probably driven by the fear of abandonment, not by any light bulb insight about why the relationship didn't work. You won't ever understand totally what went on in their mind. But that's OK. Time to move on.
My next post will be about what to do now that the relationship is over.