Are you in love with someone who has a personality disorder? What to expect from a relationship with someone who has BPD, NPD, or SPD.
Written By Dr. Elinor Greenberg
1. People with personality disorders do fall in love. 2. They have leftover problems from childhood that make it hard for them to form stable intimate relationships. 3. People with borderline, narcissistic, or schizoid personalities have difficulty sustaining mutually satisfying intimate relationships. 4. People with personality disorders define love differently than others.
If you have ever been in a serious romantic relationship with someone with a borderline, narcissistic, or schizoid personality disorder, you probably ended up feeling puzzled, alone and rejected.
People with personality disorders find it very difficult to sustain a stable intimate relationship because they lack the necessary relationship skills and their expectations are ultimately unrealistic. What they long for in a relationship has more to do with what they missed in childhood than what a normal adult expects from another adult.
Note: In this post, I will be using the terms borderline, narcissist, and schizoid (or BPD, NPD, SPD) as shorthands in describing people who meet the full criteria for one of these personality disorder diagnoses.
What Is The Borderline Love Pattern?
Most of my clients with borderline personality disorder are very focused on finding romantic love and avoiding abandonment. Love is their Holy Grail. They are seeking as an adult what they did not get enough of during their childhood. As a result, they tend to view finding their true love as the ultimate answer to all of their life problems.
While my narcissistic clients are seeking to idealize or be idealized, my borderline clients are looking for the perfect mix of a romantic lover and a caring, devoted, and protective parent figure. Although there are a few different borderline love patterns, this is the most common one.
These borderline clients want to be coddled and comforted and be reassured as often as necessary that their mate loves them madly and will do anything to make them happy. Some of my borderline clients are so insecure that they devise complicated tests of their partner’s love for them. Many of these tests are so unreasonable that they actually drive away even the most devoted of lovers.
Example—Suzi and the love proofs
My client Suzi was 26 years old, very attractive, and very unrealistic about dating and relationships. She had dated many men in her search for true love. None of these relationships worked out. Suzi blamed their demise on the men. She claimed that after the initial courtship, they made her feel unloved and abandoned.
Suzi started dating Ben, a wonderful man who was wildly in love with her. They appeared to be an excellent match and on the road to marriage. I was, therefore, taken aback when Suzi suddenly broke up with him and came into my office crying hysterically.
Here is an abbreviated version of our conversation.
Suzi: Ben doesn’t love me, so I had to break up with him.
Therapist: I thought he had asked you to marry him, and you were shopping for engagement rings. What happened?
Suzi: Well, I wanted to get married immediately. If we love each other, why should we wait? Ben said that was a big step and he wanted to get to know me better before we got married. He said that we needed to discuss some practical things first, like how we each envisioned the marriage going, how we would handle finances and pre-existing debts, and whether we both wanted children.