- Excessive jealousy is a common experience for those with borderline personality disorder (BPD).
- Men with BPD may be especially likely to suspect that a partner is being unfaithful and lash out.
- Fear of abandonment appears to be related to a sense of emptiness in people with BPD.
Individuals suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) often experience jealousy about their romantic partners. Women with symptoms of BPD tend to focus on how their partners belittle them by paying more attention to other people or even hobbies than them. Men with symptoms of BPD often express extensive fear that their partners are involved in inappropriate relationships with others. This sometimes results in delusional jealousy that is often expressed as lashing out at their partners.
In the following conversation, Mitchell tried to call his wife, Monica, and she did not answer the phone when he called.
Mitchell: Why didn’t you answer my call earlier?
Monica: I didn’t hear the phone ring.
Mitchell: What were you doing that was so engaging that you didn’t hear my call?
Monica: I was probably on the train.
Mitchell: Any your cell doesn’t work on the train?
Monica: I don’t know.
Mitchell: So you are out fooling around while I am home all alone.
Monica: I wasn’t fooling around. I was interviewing for a job.
Mitchell: So you say.
Monica: What do you mean by that?
Mitchell: I know you have somebody else.
Monica: I don’t have somebody else.
Mitchell: It’s obvious from your behavior.
Monica: What behavior?
Mitchell: Your lack of interest in me.
Monica: Because I went on a job interview?
Mitchell: I know for a fact that the interview was over when I called.
Monica: And what do you think I was doing?
Mitchell: What you should be doing with your husband. You’d do anything to get that job.
In the above example, Mitchell assumes that since Monica did not pick up her phone when he called, she must be having an affair. Why does he make this inference?
Individuals with symptoms of BPD feel a deep sense of emptiness associated with their fragmented sense of self. This is what causes them to fear abandonment. They use others to fill in the part of themselves that they feel is lacking, fragmented, or unstable. This never works. You cannot replace parts of yourself with others. So, they get frustrated and then they get mad.
Females with symptoms of BPD tend to get mad at their partners for being either unable or unwilling to meet their [unmeetable] needs. They often berate their partners for either “not being man enough” or for being "too lazy" to attend to them sufficiently to relieve their inner sense of emptiness.
Men with symptoms of BPD often believe that the reason their partners are not meeting their [unmeetable] needs is that they are preoccupied with attending to the needs of another. This increases their fear of abandonment and often results in them becoming clingier and controlling.
In the following conversation, Shannon is telling her husband Terry that she is going food shopping.
Shannon: Terry, I am going to the supermarket. Do you need anything?
Terry: I will go with you.
Shannon: You don’t need to; I'll be right back.
Terry: Is there some reason you don’t want me to go with you?
Shannon: No. I just don’t think it's necessary.
Terry: I want to go.
Shannon: You hate shopping.
Terry: I like to be with you.
Shannon: It will be quicker if I just go and come back. We can have lunch when I return.
Terry: How long do you think it will take?
Shannon: Probably about an hour.
Terry: You are not going like that, are you?
Shannon: Like what?
Terry: Dressed sexy like that.
Shannon: I am not dressed "sexy." I'm wearing leggings.
Terry: They are too tight.
Shannon: I will be back in an hour.
Terry: Who are you meeting?
Shannon: I am not meeting anybody.
Terry: I know you are seeing the store manager. I can tell by the way he looks at you.
Shannon: This is crazy.
Terry: Then why don’t you want me to go with you?
Shannon: Fine, let’s go.
Terry: Are you going to call him and warn him that I am coming?
Shannon: This is all in your head.
In this typical exchange, Terry, who suffers symptoms of BPD, attempts to control various aspects of his wife’s trip to the supermarket because he is afraid that she will attract the attention of another and be swept away. He ends up focusing on the manager of the store. At this point, it becomes personal.
Some males who suffer from symptoms of BPD express their jealousy by focusing on specific individuals who are in their partner’s lives. As with Terry, their beliefs about their partner being unfaithful with a particular person may be based more on fears than facts. But they seem very real to people like Terry.
As Shannon demonstrated above, trying to reason Terry out of his belief is not only useless, but encourages him to embellish his beliefs. There is not much that Shannon can do to change his beliefs.
The repeated expression of jealousy and mistrust in an intimate relationship is toxic to the relationship. The survival of relationships depends on the jealous person realizing that the feelings of jealousy are misplaced from their own emptiness. Once they understand this, they can begin to fill themselves with themselves—and in doing so, diminish their codependent bonds on others. This is necessary to give relationships like Terry and Shannon’s a chance to heal.