There is a lot of information out there on borderlines and narcissists but according to most psychological data borderlines are more commonly women and narcissists are more commonly men. What’s the difference? The differences can be subtle and hard to detect and I’m not going to go into it in this article. It is an article in itself. I feel it is more important to acknowledge that the further one strays from his/her true self, the less capable of intimacy that person is and the more deceptive he/she can be.
The greatest deception is the deception of the self as one paints a pretty picture over the top of a very wounded, fragmented, fearful, and needy self. The more wounded someone is the more he/she invests in convincing others how wonderful he or she is. This is why, often times, the most charismatic people are the most dysfunctional or disordered. Charm becomes a coping mechanism or ones method of seduction used to convince others of his/her greatness.
The greater the disorder the less likely one is to invest himself/herself in personal or spiritual growth. It doesn’t mean a severely personality disordered individual won’t go to seminar’s or to church, or even have a library of impressive books, but that person is not really able to look at himself/herself objectively. A deeply personality disordered individual also will not be able to have deep, intimate, self reflective conversations that involve taking responsibility for an action or behavior.
If you are someone who is willing to look at your part in a relationship, you may end up taking far too much responsibility when involved with a deeply disordered personality who deflects responsibility and allows you to accept it all.
In my experience those who are deeply disordered will go to great lengths to shun responsibility. This is why deeply disordered people cut off from their relationships often without warning. If you are the mirror that reflects that person’s behavior back to them, they are more likely to smash the mirror and walk away then look into it. Instead of feeling as if you have had a real relationship where both parties are involved and working out their issues, you feel like that smashed mirror. It is even more painful when you realize how quickly you are replaced by someone else who is willing to be that pristine mirror reflecting that person as he/she wishes to be seen.
For deeply disordered personalities people are expendable and used for positive reflections. Once you cease to be a positive reflection you have lost your value. These relationships can be great in the beginning because you buy into the illusion. Initially you see this individual in all his/her glory or shall we say “the act,” and you are reflecting that person back as the hero/heroine in your life. You are feeding his/her ego and he/she gets to feel really good about himself/herself.
Of course we all want to feel good about ourselves and we all want to be reflected positively. It can be painful to take a good hard look at our deficits or character defects. It takes courage. But until we are willing to take a good hard look at ourselves we can’t grow, nor can we have healthy relationships. None of us are perfect and our imperfections will surely rear their heads during our most intimate connections.
A healthy relationship doesn’t involve two perfected people. It involves two people willing to take responsibility for their own character defects and provide a container for the other person to learn about themselves. In healthy relationships we don’t expect perfection from the other. In disordered relationships we do. The less one is able to tolerate his/her own character defects the less that person will be able to tolerate yours.
Since extreme personality disorders are developed in dysfunctional familial relationships where the child felt he/she needed to be perfect in order to be accepted or approved of, or to avoid abuse, that person worked very hard on presenting a perfected image. Anything less than perfect can feel deeply shameful. Shame is at the core of personality disorders. Shame comes from a deep seated belief that one is flawed at the core.
As one grows up he cuts off from his/her feelings of core shame and lives in the perfected image of himself/herself. Any reminder of those intense feelings of unworthiness get cut off as well and if you are a reflector to someone who is deeply disordered you will be cut off. It is only a matter of time. You are not being cut off because you are unworthy, as many might feel because your own core shame is being triggered. You are being cut off because you are mirroring that person back in a more honest way and that person just can’t take it.
People who have been abandoned by a narcissist/borderline often find themselves wondering what they might have done differently to avoid the abandonment. But the truth is, short of giving up your person-hood all together, there is nothing you could have done differently. Those of us who strive to have a real, honest and open relationship are going to give honest, open feedback and the truth is, the more disordered the individual, the less likely he/she will be able to handle honest feedback. That person can whack you over the head with a two-by-four and unless you to say “that’s OK honey, I had it coming,” you will be in danger of being punished for your response/reaction. If we are the least bit healthy we will react to what we perceive to be “bad behavior” or abuse.
Narcissists/borderlines don’t want to be called on their bad behavior or abuse. They want partners who will allow them to get away with horrendous acts and never hold them accountable. Does that sound appealing to you? And if a narcissist/borderline does commit a horrendous act he/she is just as likely to cut off from you and go find the next victim then hang out awaiting your response. That leaves many of us who have had this kind of experience scratching our heads and saying “what the ….?”
There is no sense of closure because you never have the opportunity to say how you feel about the extreme injustice. That person never takes any responsibility. You might hear a dismissive remark like “well what’s done is done and I can’t do anything about it now.” You are left reeling in intense pain and agony while the borderline/narcissist is off on his/her honeymoon with the next guy/girl. Doesn’t quite seem fair does it? Well the sooner you realize that these kinds of people don’t play fair, the better. As kids we learn really early on not to play with other kids who don’t play fair. But as adults it takes us a while.
When people ask me how they can avoid getting involved with someone who doesn’t play fair all I can say is there is no “full proof” method of avoiding danger, just as there is no method of avoiding danger in life. Danger happens. It is what you do with it that matters most. The more you develop yourself emotionally and the more you connect to your true self, the more you will know yourself and trust your own intuitive guidance.
Reading the signs and red flags is one of the most important criteria for avoiding danger. But let’s say you miss the signs and find yourself involved with someone who doesn’t take responsibility, blames you for everything, and doesn’t play fair. How long will it take you to cut your losses and move on? That is the big question. Why do you hold onto someone once you realize he/she is not taking personal responsibility in the relationship? Do you believe that person will change? Forget it!
When we stay in a relationship waiting for the other to change, we are setting ourselves up for disaster. If you are the one who is unhappy with a partner’s behavior, then you are the one who needs to change. That’s right! You need to look at your own neediness and self sabotaging behaviors that keep you holding on far past the time you should have let go.
In my experience most people receive signs within the first three months of a relationship that something is not right. But most people ignore the signs and go forward anyway hoping that it will change. It never does. What you see is what you get. Like it or leave it. People are not fixer uppers. They come with all sorts of character defects. Some we can live with and some we can’t. You have to be honest with yourself about what you are willing to live with and what you are not. Most people, who desire a healthy relationship are not able to live with someone who does not take personal responsibility for their actions or behavior.
People who do not take responsibility for their own actions and behavior will either marry someone who allows them to get away with it or they will have serial relationships, discarding their partners when they attempt to hold them accountable. Either you will be someone who takes all the responsibility for the relationship, including your partners lies and affairs, or you will be one who is discarded when you call your partner on his/her stuff or confront the issues in the relationship. Either choice is not pleasant when involved with someone who is extremely disordered, but it is best to cut your losses early and move forward then to lose years of your life waiting for change to come.