When the Relationship's Over, Part 1
You're hurt, disbelieving, and angry. At first, you loved the way your borderline and/or narcissistic partner hung on your every word, looked at you with admiring eyes and filled that empty void within you. Their insecurity and neediness inspired your determination to be that one special person who was going to fix them for good. You felt exceptional, heroic, and valuable.
Now you feel tortured and empty.
As this person's savior, you tolerated behavior beyond what is acceptable. You've were certain that your partner depended on you and they would never leave. However challenging, you were committed to seeing this relationship through. But now you just can't. Or maybe your partner left you. Or who knows, because you've broken up and gotten back together more times than you can count.
Now, you feel trapped by your determination to get back what you've lost and the haunting suspicion that what you had wasn't even real. Even so, you're obsessed about what your partner is doing or feeling--or especially, who they might be seeing. Maybe you've sworn them off, but fear that if they contact you you'll get involved again for sure.
Let's face the facts: this is no way to live.
At this point, blame is useless. The urge to understand what happened, learn more about BPD, and vent to others about what you've gone through isn't helping you recover from a relationship that turned toxic for the both of you. You can't do any more for that person, no matter how much you loved each other. It's time to move beyond blame and start healing yourself.
Ten Beliefs That Can Get You Stuck
1) The belief that this person holds the key to your happiness
You may think your ex is the master of your joy and the keeper of your sorrow. This is not true. You have imbued this person with special powers they don't really have. You had a special bond because you were each meeting unconscious needs in the other that most likely originated in childhood (see the books of Harville Hendrix). You were probably very receptive to your partner's heightened attention for reasons that may involve your self image, family background, and unconscious needs.
2) The belief that you caused all the problems in the relationship, so you can fix them
You did your best to be what your partner wanted you to be and do what your partner wanted you to do. But that was impossible because their needs and opinions changes from day to day. But neither you nor your behaviors were ever the real issue. Your partner unconsciously projected their own self-hate and feelings of worthlessness onto you. The longer the relationship lasted, the more you started to own those feelings. That's one of the reasons you held on so long: who else would have you?
It's going to take some time to regain your self-esteem and sense of self. You put those "unacceptable" parts of yourself on hold for a long time, isolated yourself, and lost track of what you needed or wanted. Your top priority is getting that back.
3) Clinging to the words that were said
You and your ex have made lots of promises and declared your love many times. But people suffering from BPD idealize people and put them on pedestals before they knock them down. They see people in black and white (one reason you've probably broken up and gotten back together so many times). This isn't something you can change or "love away." Only years of effective therapy with a highly motivated client can make a difference.
You must let go of the words. It may break your heart to do so. But the fact is, the actions of the person with BPD speak louder than words. The words "I love you" are meaningless when their actions are unloving.
4) The belief that love can prevail over everything
This relationship opened wounds on your already wounded soul. You invested so much in this person and dreamed you'd spend a lifetime together. Does giving up on them mean giving up on love?
Our society--TV, movies, songs--tell us that love is all you need. The truth, however, is not so simple (in fact, even John Lennon got divorced). Even in relationships in which neither person has BPD, there is a complex array of issues that make two people compatible or incompatible, and make relationships healthy or not so healthy.
Also, sometimes it's hard to separate healthy love from relationship addiction or romance addiction. Romance addicts are looking for those highs; that buzz provided by new relationships. Relationship addicts:
- Quickly dive into relationships based on intuition rather than real shared interests, values, or goals. They do this because they want a relationship, yet fear truly revealing themselves because of their "flaws."
- Hang on when things are obviously bad because they don't feel they could survive without the other person.
- Believe they can "make relationships happen by sheer force of will; they believe they can make others love them through sheer tenacity.
- Lie to themselves and others about the sacrifices they make (including value judgments) and even put their children's well-being below their need for a relationship.
- Feel that love and suffering go together that coffee and cream. They romanticize the suffering and martyrdom that people do for love that is so popularized in our culture.
5) The belief that things will return to "the way they used to be"
The idealization stages of a relationship with a BPD partner can be intoxicating and wonderful. But, as in any relationship, the "honeymoon" stage passes.
The idealization stage that one or both of you would like to return to isn't sustainable. It never was. The loss of this dream (or the inability to transition in to a healthy next phase of love) may be what triggered the demise of the relationship.
BPD mood swings and cycles may have you conditioned to think that, even after a bad period, you can return to the "idealization phase." Your BPD partner may believe this too. A more realistic representation of your relationship is the one you have recently experienced.
See beliefs 6-10 in Part 2 next week.