In the [previous post][http://vircotto.com/borderline-and-co-dependency-in-the-scene-part-3-warning-signs-in-your-partner.html] on this topic, I discussed the patterns that one sees in a relationship with a Borderline, starting from the initial period of euphoria, and leading to destructive patterns that I outlined in parts two and three. In this post, I'll discuss how the relationship moves from being healthy to unhealthy, and touch on breaking the pattern.
== The Initial Attraction
The initial attraction to a Borderline can and often is extremely strong. They can feel like the most fascinating, wonderful person you've ever met in your life. There's just something about them that makes them compelling. In Part One of this series, I discussed this feeling in some depth, the what and now the how.
A Borderline person feels as if they do not full exist outside of their relation to another person. When they meet another person, they get meaning, insight, etc. The object of their attention and affection then gets something very special: The partner of their dreams.
This can be difficult to understand and may appear like manipulation. but instead, it's that a Borderline person has been so abused and denied their personhood that they literally lose their sense of individuality.
To be clear, there are probably some Borderlines who were not abused, and not all abused people will turn out to be Borderlines, but Borderline Personality Disorder is a common outcome of a person who was thoroughly abused. Another way of looking at this would be that if you were a tree in the forest and a storm knocked you over, and it happened repeatedly, one coping mechanism might be to be flexible like a willow, rather than rigid like an oak.
And in being so flexible, the Borderline literally does not know who they are, instead their sense of self blows with the wind. And if you're that wind, the person they will appear to be will fit very naturally into the person you want most. And they will mean it.
== The First Signs
The first time the seams begin to show, it's easy to dismiss them. Everyone has a bad day, and everyone can be a bit emotional. In fact, it may even be that the fact that your partner is so sensitive is one of the attributes you like about them, and so it would stand to reason that they'll be sensitive about this, and reactive.
But what looks like a bad day or normal fight can lead to some of the changes that we discussed in the second post, about being a little more careful next time not to upset your partner.
Still, once the fight is done, they may appear again to be that perfect person you thought you knew- the one who seems to be just what you need and just how you need it. And all is right with the world.
== The Decline
The process of decline is usually slow, taking months, but you may find that the small little incidents or fights become more frequent, and more pronounced. Your partner may seem incredibly sensitive, or depressed. They will often state a reason for their behavior, either their own failures "I'm a terrible person" or your failures "Because you did _, I did _" or even "If you weren't such a terrible _, then this wouldn't happen". Occasionally, and most dangerously, a Borderline will have a background in psychology or even Non-Violent Communication, and their phrasing will be more like "When you __, I feel angry because I'm needing ____", but unlike normal NVC communication, stopping the action does not change the feeling. They may also employ gaslighting techniques, such as "I never said that." or "But you said". For example, they might say to you "I thought you said we should be open with our feelings", after having dropped an emotional bomb.
In between the fights, you will have the same wonderful, incredible partner, and almost like a drug, the incredible pleasure of being with that partner will override the negative experiences. In fact, the feeling of reconciliation may feel all the more sweet. This feeling is something we'll explore more deeply when we talk about Codependency.
To explain the decline, we need to understand a bit more about BPD. I will discuss some of these mechanisms in a later chapter, but what is happening, generally, is that the Borderline is showing you their internal struggle, the internal turmoil that they find themselves in all the time.
Worse, when they blame you, they are partially right. These conflicts cannot exist in a total vacuum, so by existing and being in their world, you are triggering them. Unfortunately for you, this is not a process that you have a great deal of control over (even if they tell you otherwise).
== The Fork in the Road
One of the hallmarks of BPD is unstable relationships. That's because when confronted with the above, many people will simply leave. A psychologically healthy person, when confronted with these behaviors, will decide that it's not for them. Not everyone does leave, though. In my experience, the kinds of people who stay with a Borderline partner despite these problems will fall into one of three categories.
Firstly, there are the people who are relatively emotionless, or at least with flat affect. They are people who are so entirely disconnected from what they feel and may even believe that they don't have emotions. These people are often able to be with a Borderline partner because their flat affect does not trigger the Borderline reactions, and even when they do, they're so emotionally repressed that it doesn't bother them much.
Second up on our list of people who stay with Borderlines are abusers. These are bad people who use others. They will stay with the Borderline because they can use the Borderline to their own devices. The Borderline may even have familiar associations with this kind of person because they remind them of a figure from their childhood, who was also emotionally manipulative.
Third is the Codependent. A Codependent will look at the Borderline's behaviors and try to understand, it, try to reason with it, try to help them control it. They may feel not only love, but also a deep simpatico with the Borderline, or they may feel that the Borderline just needs a bit of help. Whatever the reason, the Codependent will come up with some justification, either intellectual or emotional, why the behavior is allowed to continue, or even escalate.
If you're reading this, you've probably been in a relationship with a Borderline. Maybe it only lasted a short while, or maybe, like me, you were (or are) Codependent, and you allowed things to continue to an unhealthy degree.
== Codependency (a side note)
So far in this series, I've focused on the role of the Borderline in the relationship, but a relationship requires two parties. While we'll continue to explore Borderline Personality Disorder, we'll also need to explore the role of the Codependent and how they contribute to the dysfunctional relationship. Codependency and Borderline manifest differently but have similar origins. They are both usually born out of deeply dysfunctional family of origin and a childhood that was tumultuous and contained abuse. While I haven't mentioned much about Codependency, if you resonate with the experiences I've mentioned, if you've connected deeply with and stuck by a Borderline partner while they hurt you, then you're likely a Codependent, and these posts are about you as much as they are about them. Only through understanding yourself and your role will you be able to heal.
If you are finding yourself in a relationship with a Borderline, at some point things get so bad that you feel hopeless. This hopelessness stage may last a long time. In my case, it lasted two full years. But during this time, a few people who had experiences in BPD relationships began to drop hints to me. suggesting books I could read or asking if my partner was diagnosed as a Borderline. I dismissed these suggestions at first, but once I began the process of learning about BPD, I was voracious. This is a common sentiment. I would consider this series of posts a form of learning, and I will suggest more resources towards the end of the series.
== The Decision to Change
If you're in this kind of relationship, you have to ask yourself if you want it to change. I met a man at a conference recently who described a relationship that sounded very unhealthy, he complained about feeling abused, about her stealing from him, her cheating on him, her living off him, about being emotionally and physically abusive. I told him that it sounded like his partner might be borderline, and that he may have to take a serious look at the situation and its long term viability. He looked at me and said "Well I'm subby and a masochist and it just feels too good!"
If you and your partner do nothing to change the situation, then it will not magically change. A Borderline does not wake up one day saying "What have I done?! I'd better stop" and a Codependent doesn't wake up one saying "I'd better establish boundaries!" without something external to themselves causing that to change.
Change is painful. Change is also scary, and may mean that the person you loved or love will not be there again. They may never be part of your life again, and you have to decide if that's a change you're going to have to take in order to be healthy.
== The Turmoil
It would be lovely to tell you that if you decide to change, everything will be smiles and rainbows. My experience and other's experience is not that. Instead, what you have to look forward to is a great deal of turmoil in your life. Your partner, even if they say they are supportive of your decision, may not be able to change in the way you need. Or you may find they do not change enough for you. The people in your life who you believed were friends may decide that the "new you" is not the pushover they liked, or you may find the people you used to like are people you no longer feel connected to or interested in. We'll discuss more on the specific steps to take in order to change in a later post.
== The Goal
All the literature on the topic talks about a turning point, a place where you attract new friends and lovers who meet your needs, where you may find the dynamic you want (or a new dynamic you didn't think you wanted but now do). I wish I could tell you readers that I am there, looking back from the other side, but I'm not. Things have begun to change and improve in my life. I no longer have the quiet desperation that I once had, and I've made great strides in my mental health- but I do not have the romantic or D/s relationships that I want yet. Nonetheless it can be a relief to look back at the painful times in my life and see how different I am and how even when things get bad, that they never get as bad as they once were. I will not feed you the bullshit line of "And if that's all that there is, I'm happy with that.", but I will say that I'm mentally happier and healthier than I've ever been, and each day I work at it, I see the improvements.
In this post, I quickly outlined how the relationship starts off positive and how that begins to turn, slowly, into something deep, dark and awful. I talk about some of the early steps in changing the patterns, as well as pointed out the role of the Boderline's partner and how, more often than not, they're Codependent. In the next post, I'll break down my understanding of BPD and Codepdedency, their origins, their symptoms and how they differ.