This is by far the most personal piece of writing I've done. In direct connection to the post I made a few months back about how I came to realize that several of my ex's had Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Starting with her, I began to document the aspects of our relationship that were dysfunctional, especially as they related to D/s, which is the relationship model that she and I practiced.
Since then, the relationship ended. The break was mostly amicably as we both understood that the relationship was unhealthy and needed to end in order to allow both of us the time to heal not only from the dysfunctional relationship, but from the circumstances that lead to it.
Even though the relationship ended, I continued to dig into and analyze the relationship and how dysfunctional it was and in doing so I realized how little was written about dysfunctional D/s dynamics, and especially about abusive behavior on the part of the submissive to the dominant. I began writing down my thoughts on the topic both as part of my personal healing process, but also in hopes that the lessons I learned could be of use to others who may be finding themselves in a similar situation.
I even found out that a concurrent and subsequent relationship I was in was with someone who thinks she may have BPD. Clearly this is a pattern that I've found myself in and need to address.
As I began to write out the various destructive and abusive patterns that were present in my relationships, I realized that my discoveries might be helpful to others who have found themselves unwittingly in a similar situation, and what began as an exercise in understanding the abuse patterns alone grew until it was far more than one post. I've therefore split this post into four posts: The initial appeal of a relationship with a Borderline, the destructive patterns present in a relationship with a Borderline (with emphasis on destructive D/s patterns), and finally breaking out of these pattens by understanding one's own pain and the role that Codependency plays in these relationships, with specific resources to look for more help.
I also want to apologize in advance for what may seem like an impersonal tone of my writing in these posts. As I said earlier, writing this has been extremely difficult for me as I've had to relive months and years of trauma. In order to get through it, I've noticed that my writing style, which is usually either casual or emotional has taken on a cold/distant tone. My guess is that this is due to some subconscious process that is providing me the distance to get through the work. In other words, in order to write this out, I've had to distance myself emotionally from what is otherwise a very difficult and painful topic.
I also have made a word choice that some may take issue with, that is I say "Borderlines" rather than "People with BPD". This is a complex linguistic topic. I have chosen to use Identity First Language for two reasons. Firstly, it is shorter, but secondly and more importantly, it is because I do not believe that Borderlines are bad people. They are people who have a personality disorder, and this can be very problematic for them and those around them, but the Borderlines that I know are also some of the kindest people I know. Some may find this decision to be overly labeling or pigeonholing. I understand this perspective and ask that you take what I've written here as an understanding of the issue and my chosen word choice as an acknowledgement of the complexity of this issue.
With those issues acknowledge and addressed, I'm hopeful that in writing this all out that if you are in this kind of dynamic, either as a Borderline or the partner of a Borderline, that my words will resonate with you and your experience, and that together we'll be able to help identify, label and address the unhealthy patterns in your dynamic.
To those of you who resonate strongly with these posts, and who may even find them triggering, I would ask that you keep an open mind. I am not denigrating either Borderlines or those who love them. I believe that with awareness and hard work, people can find the relationships that they're looking for, but that unexamined issues associated with childhood trauma can have a devastating effect on relationships and leave everyone involved in them unfulfilled or worse.
The Appeal of being with a Borderline
Our end goal is to understand the destructive patterns of an unhealthy D/s dynamic with a Borderline partner, but before we do that I think it's important to understand how one can find themselves in one of these relationships in the first place. Clearly if these relationships were only painful or only destructive, then they would end quickly. Instead, these relationships can start out feeling incredibly close, connecting and powerful. In fact, they can feel like the most intense romantic relationships that we've ever experienced.
The first and most immediate aspect of a relationship of this type is that it begins with an intense feeling of connection. This connection can feel like a lightening bolt, unlike other love connections in the past. It can feel like the most powerful love you've ever felt, and that feeling is immediate and intense.
This on its own is not a danger sign- strong loving feelings are not in an of themselves bad or dangerous, but what can be difficult for those on the outside to understand is just how immediate and powerful this initial connection can be. It can pale in comparison to other experiences of early dating.
Some in the BDSM and poly communities use the term "designer relationships" to describe the kind of purposeful energy and effort that we put into our relationships. For many of us, it can be a long time before we find someone else who expresses the same kind of interest and passion in the lifestyle, one in which roles are clearly defined. This kind of relationship can be so powerful that its appeal can override other concerns we may have, especially as many of us are (incorrectly) lead to believe that many of these problems can be addressed within the dynamic itself.
As a dom, I want to take charge of a situation. If I see something that needs fixing and no one is fixing it, I will want to take charge. People with Borderline often talk about needing a sense of purpose, of feeling best when they have established parameters. These sentiments sound very much like the sentiments of a submissive. Conversely, some borderlines talk about the need to control, the need to hold a tight grip over everything and everyone. To people who are submissive and are hearing this, it can sound very much like structured dominance.
This feeling is reinforced when the very act of practicing D/s can give the borderline exactly that structure that they crave. In my own life, those were with submissive partners, but they can just as easily be from a dominant partner using their need for structure.
The idea of "being needed" in a relationship is quite complex and something that I will explore later on in this series, but before discussing the pathology of being needed, I think nearly all of us can agree that feeling useful or needed is generally a pleasurable feeling. If this idea is foreign to you, then consider the feeling of people who are in old age home and talk about feeling useless. Having a partner who needs you is not the same as one who is needy. Needy implies a constant set of demands placed on you, where as being needed can be far more subtle and intrinsically rewarding.
The affection one gets from a partner with Borderline is virtually unmatched. The closest thing you might come to it is in a dog that hasn't seen its owner in months. The intensity of love, affection and caring is unparalleled. Thinking about this experience, it's very difficult to explain, but the fact is that the feeling of love one gets from a Borderline can be so pure, powerful and intense that it's nearly impossible to find elsewhere.
To summarize the previous sections, being with someone who is Borderline can feel as real as a scene- that is to say that being with a Borderline can feel hyper-real, better than life. It can feel like the best relationship you've ever had, all your wishes come true. If those wishes involved a power exchange that you've never experienced outside a scene, then that desire can be all the more strong and compelling. A relationship with a Borderline, at least at first, can be the dream that you've always had manifested for you. There's no feeling like it.
A relationship with a Borderline can feel intense, powerful, even addictive (a topic I'll cover in the next installment). For people on the inside, it can feel like a lock and key fitting together and the intensity of the relationship can be unmatched.
In the next section, I'll discuss the mechanism that happens when the relationship begins to break down (which it does eventually), the patterns that occur, and how very confusing it can be.