In a close relationship, they must walk a tightrope to balance the fear of being alone or of being too close.
To do so, they try to control with commands or indirect maneuvers, including flattery and seduction, to reel in their partner and use their anger and use rejection to keep him or her at a safe distance.
Whereas narcissists enjoy being understood, too much understanding frightens the borderline.
Generally, borderlines are codependent and find another codependent to merge with and to help them.
They seek someone to provide stability and to balance their changeable emotionality. Codependents and narcissists who act self-sufficient and control their feelings provide a perfect match.
They’re easily seduced by the borderline’s extreme openness, charm, and vulnerability.
In addition, the borderline’s passion and intense emotions are enlivening to non-BPD’s, who find being alone depressing or “healthy” people boring.
These partners vicariously come alive through the melodrama provided by the borderline.
The borderline may appear to be the more dependent underdog in the relationship, while his or her partner is the steady, needless and care-taking top dog, but in fact, both are codependent on each other.
It can be hard for either of them to leave. They each exercise control in different ways.
Codependents also yearn for love and fear abandonment.
Codependents already have low self-esteem and poor boundaries, so they placate, accommodate, and apologize when attacked in order to maintain the emotional connection in the relationship.
They often become caretakers. They do so sometimes to the point of self-sacrifice or enabling.
In the process, they give over more and more control to the borderline and further seal their low self-esteem and the couple’s codependency.
Giving in to their partner and giving them control does not make either of them feel more safe, but the opposite.
Borderlines need boundaries. Setting a boundary can sometimes snap them out of their delusional thinking.
Calling their bluff is also helpful. (See also my blog on manipulation.) Both strategies require that codependents build their self-esteem, learn to be assertive, and derive outside emotional support.
The relationship can improve when the partner takes steps to heal their codependency. (See Codependency for Dummies.
Making the Diagnosis
Like all personality disorders, BPD exists on a continuum, from mild to severe.
It affects women more than men and about two percent of the U.S. population.
BPD is usually diagnosed in young adulthood when there has been a pattern of impulsivity and instability in relationships, self-image, and emotions.
They may use alcohol, food, or drugs or other addiction to try to self-medicate their pain, but it only exacerbates it.
To diagnose BPD, at least five of the following symptoms must be enduring and present in a variety of areas:
1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
2. Unstable and intense personal relationships, marked by alternating idealization and devaluation.
3. Persistently unstable sense of self.
4. Risky, potentially self-damaging impulsivity in at least two areas (e.g., substance abuse, reckless behavior, sex, spending)
5. Recurrent self-mutilation or suicidal threats or behavior. (This doesn’t qualify for Nos. 1 or 4.) Around 8 to 10 percent actually commit suicide.