Monday, February 20, 2012

The Borderline/Narcissist Couple


You've probably heard by now, that these two personality types are drawn to each other, but might have wondered why this is true. I'll try to demystify this mutual attraction, and provide a little insight (as usual) along the way. For simplicity's sake, I discuss female Borderlines and male Narcissists, but these roles can certainly be reversed, and may include same-sex unions--in fact, the prevalence of borderline pathology could be considered heightened within the gay community.

Relationship issues are universal--and homosexual men and women struggle with many of the same concerns heterosexual couples do, because of their core disturbances throughout childhood. Frankly, I have never met a lesbian who didn't have major issues with her mother--but that's another article.

Many people who contact me for help, are already aware of a distinct pattern of attraction in their life. These romantic selections are thrilling at first, but later become disappointing and pain-producing--yet these patterns remain intact (despite self-promises to do it differently, "next time"). The only way to explain this odd phenomenon, is to understand the basis for these unwise relational choices, and that's what this piece attempts to address.

It's critical to understand that both narcissistic and borderline personality disordered individuals incurred similar types of wounds to their developing sense of Self, and isn't it simply natural to be drawn to someone with whom you have things in common, or who echoes personality aspects in yourself? Well, this attraction is a lot like that--it feels as if you've found your 'soul mate.' There's a similar vibration/frequency you two share, due to childhood abandonment issues. While the nature of those early difficulties were alike, they've played out in different ways for each of you--but the scars from that time remain, unless there's been some serious core-focused intervention.

Narcissists are frequently 'super-givers,' but authentic intimacy/closeness is often avoided, given their engulfment fears. Caregiver types can be drawn to borderline disordered individuals who match their own attachment issues, so that 'safe' emotional proximity becomes a non-issue.

Do not presume that a Narcissist and Borderline can construct a successful marriage. If they haven't resolved their respective childhood traumas, they'll continually trample on each other's emotional land mines, and trigger highly explosive episodes, while remaining hopelessly enmeshed.

In truth, the Narcissist is no match for the Borderline. It doesn't matter how smart or powerful he is, she'll turn his world upside-down to where he could lose his entire fortune, acquire a serious disease, and become a shadow of his former self. The Narcissist's grandiosity works against him in this type of coupling, because he has an unquenchable need to win, due to self-worth issues. He won't let himself be one-upped by anyone, but the Borderline is always better at this game than he is. As he cannot tolerate this loss of control, he'll literally fight to the death to maintain it--never realizing what he's losing/giving up, while highly focused on surmounting this challenge.

A Narcissist relentlessly tries to 'crack the code' with his BPD lover, due to long-standing, faulty assumptions about himself he adopted as a boy, when his parents required him to be the perfect child. If he succeeded, he might have received praise. If he failed, their disappointment was palpable, which triggered feelings of shame. This child enters adulthood shaming himself, if ever he senses that he's performed less than perfectly! But what constitutes "perfection," and isn't it always a subjective state of mind?

A Narcissistic perfectionist believes; "If I feel bad in a relationship, it must be my fault." The Borderline believes; "If I feel bad in a relationship, it has to be your fault." This sets up an endless cycle, within which the Borderline rages or retreats--and the Narcissist attempts to fix it by cajoling, pursuing, rescuing, etc., to flee his (childhood) shame of feeling unlovable/neglected.

It's not terribly unusual for two people with borderline traits to engage, and regardless of the psycho-babble you may have read elsewhere, anyone who's actually done any work with borderlines would know this! Still, this coupling presents a highly combustible mix; their respective pathology draws them to each other--but the mutual harm/damage that's sustained by both parties in this type of dynamic is considerable. It should also be noted, that a person involved with a Borderline for even a limited time, will be prone to adopting psychotic (BPD) symptomology, due to proximal exposure. That's why we call their behaviors, "crazy-making."

This same sort of 'mutual dysfunction' principle holds true for two Narcissists who hook-up. Metaphorically, we have two crippled/impaired partners trying to construct a normal life together, when they can barely get around on their own. Each has lived with (core) insecurity and self-loathing for most of their life, due to unresolved infancy and childhood wounds to their sense of Self. You can surely imagine two individuals trying to navigate their environment in wheelchairs, but it could get pretty challenging in cramped quarters.


Core injuries that undermine/derail self-esteem start during infancy, and are reinforced and perpetuated throughout childhood. In the simplest of terms, core disturbance means that the 'hub' of your wheel is broken or damaged in some fashion. When the very center of your being has been compromised, all the spokes which emanate from this point, will be weak and susceptible to breaking under any amount of strain. Core trauma impacts every aspect of our existence. It influences self-worth, and determines how we think about and take care of ourselves, in personal and professional relationships.

The Narcissist usually compensates for core self-worth deficits, with rescuing or fixing compulsions, athletic, scholastic or professional over-achievements, charm/charisma, amassing material wealth, etc. The Borderline compensates for core deficits--but does it with her well-worn ability to seduce, for that is the only arena where she feels any true sense of mastery or self-confidence.

The son of a Borderline is typically attracted to females who echo the traits he saw in his mom or dad--and his boyhood trauma will be resuscitated over and over, with nearly every romantic partnership he forms in adulthood.

Borderlines grew up watching how their mothers behaved around men. They learned how to be adorable and seductive, to manipulate people into giving them what they wanted or needed. In short, they repeatedly observed these tactics being deployed by a masterful teacher, and adopted them.

A Borderline mother is often envious of her child's achievements/successes, and could be flirtatious or seductive with her daughter's romantic interests. She may have no compunctions whatsoever about stealing boyfriends/lovers from her teenage or adult child. Competition with her offspring might begin very early, and acutely influence/derail the father-daughter bond.

A variety of betrayals in childhood have deeply fractured a Borderline's core, and psychic trauma from this period can't help but seriously impact all adult relationship endeavors. Add to this, the imprint from a narcissistic parent is retained, and may be subconsciously sought after in her adult attachments.


Narcissists have built-in grandiosity. This is a defense against their feelings of inadequacy and inferiority, which triggers their compulsion to rescue, fix, teach and train others. They automatically presume to know what others are thinking and feeling, and can come across as absolute authorities on various topics. A Narcissist loves to tell you what you're feeling, rather than asking about it, which can be infuriating for anyone. Borderlines have such a fragile sense of Self to begin with, they'll usually act-out their frustration with the Narcissist's 'Mr. Know-it-all' defenses by retreating or raging. He may regard her as explosive or crazy, but he's the one who's unwittingly lit her fuse. His ongoing need to be in the one-up position and exert control, forms the basis of many conflicts and struggles with this couple. The sad reality is, he has observed these traits in his narcissistic parent, and has emulated them.

A Narcissist lover will more readily trigger his borderline partner's defensive acting-out behaviors, as his engulfment fears and self-involvement catalyze her abandonment concerns. This is a two-sided coin however, as while she's yearning for his attention and affection, she experiences painful sensations that were once confused/entwined with loving an unresponsive parent, and those dramatic feelings are reinvigorated--and equated with love!

Both Borderlines and Narcissists associate Love with painful longing. This is the crux of all those come here/go away (push/pull) cycles with this couple, and a whole lotta country western songs! Love equals pain, and vice-versa.

When their intense craving for love is met, painful sensations they've come to interpret as loving feelings, evaporate. At this point, the Borderline feels bored or annoyed, and pushes away. With healthy/whole partners who need continuity of loving feelings, the Borderline feels emotional claustrophobia, which compels her to disrupt episodes of authentic intimacy between them. The Narcissist responds to his need for distance and autonomy, by selecting unavailable BPD lovers who won't trigger his engulfment fears.

When closeness or engulfment fears become heightened, both NPD and BPD partners can experience anxiety, which prompts their need to draw back. The distance between them eases tension, but a narcissistic perfectionist makes it his fault, and experiences shame. This catalyzes his frantic efforts to win-her-over again. It isn't that he's needing her--he's needing reprieve from his toxic sense of unlovability/unworthiness (shameful remnants from boyhood).

I'm often asked if Borderlines are capable of loving, and this appears to be a very central concern during the course of these relationships--and afterward, when the discarded partner needs to cling to the ideation that they were in fact, truly loved. Borderlines felt pain in relation to longing and striving for their parent's affection throughout childhood--and learned to interpret those difficult/dramatic feelings as Love. Chasing partners who are emotionally or physically unavailable--or married/attached, keeps their yearning alive, and inhibits them from embracing somebody who's actually able to provide love on a consistent basis. Narcissists are similarly attracted to someone who's slightly out of reach, for this eases engulfment concerns (more about this, a bit further down). The search for a partner who's able to magically surmount this issue may continue for a lifetime--as the "right one" never materializes.

It's virtually impossible for the Narcissist to accept that his BPD lover has no real capacity for love, as during the 'good times,' he's felt jubilant, calm and at peace. To begin questioning these feelings, triggers significantly painful inner conflict--for this challenges long-held definitions of love, and what it's supposed to feel like! Attachment difficulties in childhood strongly influence this struggle, as he had no suitable frame of reference in infancy or boyhood for consistent, nourishing attention, mirroring and affection. Any crumbs of nurturance he got from his parents, solidified his sense that he was valued by them--but these episodes were miniscule/brief compared to their neglect or abuse. This early pattern has set the stage for his obsessional attraction to a borderline disordered individual, as he can't painfully yearn for someone who's consistently present and available! It has also impaired his self-worth.

It is critical to accept that if a Borderline partner becomes healthier through core-focused assistance, there will be considerably less chaos and conflict in this coupling, which can prompt sensations of deadness or discontent in the narcissistic partner. He thrives on stimulation (either pleasurable or painful) that triggers feelings of aliveness he can't produce for himself. At this point, he may feel the need to look outside their relationship for more excitement, or behave in ways that create disharmony between them. What this means is, the Borderline is damned if she doesn't get well, and damned if she does, for she may no longer be able to hold her lover's attention.


Early wounds to one's narcissism, breeds narcissistic adults. If a child had to shut down his needs and difficult feelings in order to survive the rigors of his painful childhood experiences, he may have acquired a sense of invincibility, and assumed he could handle anything that came up. This was his defense against feeling vulnerable or fragile. These 'weaker' sensations can often lay dormant for many years, until he joins with a Borderline who reawakens the excruciating anguish he learned to put aside or adjust to as a little kid.

The core shame that's invoked in him during these times, is monumental. He remembers how powerful, in-control and popular he was before he started up with the Borderline and his world began to collapse. He cannot reconcile his current (dispicable) frailty with the entrenched Superman persona he erected in boyhood--and it causes him a deep sense of despair, embarrassment and frustration. Self-worth repair within core trauma work can help him, but it's like 'boot camp' for the soul. Few will make the effort to heal and grow.


A chameleon's coloring will change according to its surrounding environment; this reptile's protective camouflage helps it capture its prey, and hide from natural predators. Borderline personalities are chameleon-like--they'll quickly discern what's important to you, and become that, in the early phase of your relationship. Most of us have been seeking this sort of romantic congruency our entire life. To even get close to finding it, can seem like a miracle! The trouble is, as soon as this guy or gal senses that they've captured you, their normal colors return--and you're dealing with a different sort of creature.

The molting process of reptiles involves shedding their skin to accommodate growth--it's like outgrowing a Tee-shirt you wore as a child. Sadly, personal growth is threatening to Borderlines, and underneath their perfectly adoring veneer is the dark side they've hidden from you, just long enough to get you hooked. Once you're really theirs, this part emerges--and you spend the rest of your time in this dance trying to figure it all out, and reconnect with that person you fell for initially.

I'd watched this happen with a BPD colleague, who married her lover only six months after meeting him. On the eve of their wedding, I'm sure he believed he'd finally found the pot of gold at the end of his rainbow, in this perfectly adoring female. Then it changed, and got pretty ugly. I think she'll kill him.


The Borderline's captivating allure is nearly impossible to ignore--particularly for a man in mid-life. Long term marriages are often destroyed in the midst of affairs with considerably younger women who've enlivened the Narcissist's sense of grandiosity, along with his penis. Erectile dysfunction is generally blamed on the wife of many years--when it's actually just a symptom of pre-existing intimacy issues, that have reached critical mass. I think of ED more as Emotional Dysfunction, than any problems with male physiology. In most instances, this is a psychic/emotional issue--not a physical one.

The narcissistic male places himself in a double-bind, when he attributes his organ's enthusiastic response to the female who's awakened it from a deep slumber. Initially, some magical thinking presumes that she's responsible for his newfound sexual prowess--and as such, they're meant to sail off into the sunset together. Before long though, all this power he assigns to her is a bit intimidating. A Narcissist may need to be needed, but he can't allow himself to need anyone. Sexual dependency on someone brings up deep fears about loss of love and control, and here's where his distancing maneuvers can kick in. This is not consciously held by the Narcissist--it's just an archaic defense mechanism, that helps him maintain his emotional equilibrium.

A healthy, whole woman might be disappointed to miss out on a phone call from her lover the morning after an especially close/loving evening--but the borderline-disordered female interprets the most subtle signs of neglect, as loss of love and affection. Her abandonment fears are instantly triggered. In self-defense, she shuts down, rages or takes herself away. The Borderline's been poised for this to happen anyhow (due to losses in childhood), so she'll imagine abandoning behavior, even when/where it doesn't exist.

Now, the self-protective defenses begin, as neither partner wants to venture too far out on this limb, for fear of falling from their love nest of infatuation. This mutually held anxiety can inhibit genuine expressions of caring from the Narcissist, while triggering frantic, premature declarations of "love" from the Borderline. Like a small child, her emotional responses are unboundaried and irrepressible. The toxic shame that's catalyzed when her impulsivity (in love) isn't reciprocated, is intolerable--so she shames her partner via projections.

Sex may be the glue holding these two together, while their respective need for autonomy is motivated by fear about getting too close. This ambivalence automatically sets off a series of controlling behaviors within each, for being physically and emotionally naked with someone, means feeling too exposed and vulnerable; "what if he/she sees the real me, and leaves?"

Hypersexuality in the Borderline is an intricate issue. On one hand, she uses it to escape her numbness and emptiness. On the other, she believes that she can control lovers in this way. This facet is magnified when there's been incest or sexual molestation during her childhood, because she was made to feel 'special' by accommodating/catering to an adult's prurient appetites. Her self-worth is inextricably linked to performance and will continue--especially with rebound (or auxiliary) lovers who are struck by its exciting novelty. This issue was at one time, referred to as Nymphomania. Sex addiction is fairly common among male and female Borderlines.

Your coupling could be sexually intoxicating--but that's generally because it isn't 'safe' (or possible) to connect in other domains of this relationship. In short, all that energy gets funneled--and flows wherever and however it can. Even fighting can become a couple's only means of connecting.


Narcissistic individuals are frequently People Pleasers, which means they're passive-aggressive. They're more comfortable giving rather than receiving in relationships, which is part of a control issue they adopted during childhood, in response to parental neglect. In couplings, the one who needs the least, is always the one in power--and the Borderline's needs usually far outweigh those of her partner. The Borderline is like a little child when it comes to impulse control and asserting wants/needs, so she's the active partner in this dynamic. The Narcissist has never really felt worthy of having needs, so he suppresses them; he's the passive partner. Somebody must be willing to carry the emotions for this relationship, so that typically falls to the active partner--or the Borderline. She'll keep pushing the envelope until she gets a rise out of her partner. She literally thrives on drama and chaos, but rebels like a three year old, when he takes a stand--even though she requires the containment and comfort that boundaries and limits provide.


A Borderline needs the qualities in you, that are lacking in herself; honesty, dependability, strength of character, etc. She possesses an uncanny ability for finding men who've built stable, flourishing lifestyles (whether married or not), but who have insecurities and self-doubts left over from boyhood. The Borderline methodically goes about finding out where your vulnerabilities are buried; when she discovers what's behind your props, she cleverly uses your weaknesses against you, for her own advancement/gain. Decades ago, these women were referred to as gold-diggers or home-wreckers. The male version was a Gigolo or Casanova who took sexual/emotional advantage of females, and/or robbed them blind.

When a Borderline encounters a successful, charismatic Narcissist, she sees power in him, and security/comfort for herself. Since she has never really felt protected in her world, this male is perceived as her ticket to safety. He may never have felt especially attractive or worthy of attention from a girl who's a real 'traffic stopper'--so he's flattered out of his pants by the Borderline's seductive pursuit. His grandiose false-self has craved this type of attention his whole life--even though he's never felt deserving of it. Thus begins their dance, which replicates an intoxicating pattern that neither can resist.

Based on a Borderline's level of emotional desperation, she may not choose men who've attained significant acclaim, stability or success. Abandonment fears always influence partner selection, and are key to these attractions. Essentially, the greater your need is for this female (sexually, emotionally, psychologically or financially), the more easily she can keep the upper-hand and control you--and it's always about control for the Borderline.

Having been raised by narcissistic people who couldn't respond to her needs for consistent mirroring and affection, the Borderline feels at home when she locates a partner who initially showers her with adoration--but then retreats, or finds fault with her. Girlhood longing for love was associated with pain, so she's programmed to keep striving for that which cannot be satisfied. Each disruption of loving attention reactivates her core despair, so she settles for scraps of love, that echo her early conditioning. A lover who's more available or responsive, doesn't fit this paradigm--or inspire her passionate response.

It's impossible to avoid personalizing the Borderline's abusive behavior--but her rage isn't about you. It's misdirected feelings of disappointment, anger and hurt she's stored for a lifetime--and couldn't express to Mom or Dad.


The narcissistically injured male continually seeks females who can perfectly mirror his attributes and qualities--and whom in some manner, need him. He then gets to assuage his abandonment concerns--but the flip-side of being needed, is being engulfed. The Borderline can initially smother/suffocate her prey with attention that causes him to retreat or distance, because while it's flattering, and mitigates his abandonment fears--it triggers vaguely familiar sensations of engulfment he had to endure in boyhood, with Mother.

His constant challenge then, is staying close without being swallowed-up by the Borderline's needy, clingy, demanding nature. This challenge is lessened of course, by the Borderline's continuous pattern of seduction and retreat. In this way, the Narcissist's fear of engulfment/too much closeness, becomes a non-issue. If he were truly emotionally available, he could not tolerate these erratic (come here/go away) patterns--and would seek a female who is more consistently responsive to him and his needs (past the Honeymoon stage).

If this male's mother had BPD Waif features, he grew up having to meet her needs for attention, mirroring, flattery, emotional soothing, etc. She could have made him her confidant in adult matters--especially concerning issues with his dad. A little boy is overburdened by these complaints, and doesn't relish this role--but at the same time, all this special attention from Mother imbues him with a sense of value/importance--which forms the core of his self-worth. Her awareness of his needs is painfully limited, so he welcomes this 'surrogate husband' job, which (at least) provides vicarious satisfaction. This sets him up for codependent relationships in his adult world, for being needed was his only way of replenishing any viable self-image, and escaping shameful feelings connected to disappointing someone.

Codependency and engulfment concerns resulting from this type of dynamic, are then transferred onto all later attachments. There's an automatic reflex that comes into play with a mother-enmeshed man. Sensations of closeness are entwined with loss of Self. Thus, his inner narrative becomes; "if I get too close to you, I'll have to relinquish too much of me." Commitment has gotten confused with engulfment, which means having to give up important needs and freedoms. Hence, profound control issues have evolved, and he'll only choose females with whom he thinks he can maintain the upper hand. A needy, BPD female perfectly fits this paradigm--at least at the onset. Any man who persistently chooses borderline disordered women, has attachment fears that run as deep as those of the females he's courting.

To contemplate leaving a Borderline presents significant inner struggles, for not only is the Narcissist enmeshed, he's terrified of potential ramifications his departure might catalyze. He's all too familiar with her acute instability, and frightened that she'll either bring great harm to herself--or to him. Some men have described suicide and/or murder threats and attempts, trumped-up domestic violence charges, stalking, vandalism to their property, etc., when they've tried to flee these tormenting relationships. The tragic reality is, it's often easier to remain, than to leave--but this can spawn risks to his health, his livelihood, his family ties, and all other associations. Leaving triggers his guilt as well, which is an old remnant from childhood individuation struggles.


The mother of a Narcissist could make her son feel that he is the center of her universe. He is the Golden Boy who can do no wrong--but only when he's perfectly responsive to her demands and wishes! A couple of problems arise here; she's imbedded and fueled his grandiosity--even though he's unable to discern why he's so "special," but has simultaneously implanted self-esteem issues, which surface when he experiences himself as flawed or imperfect. A borderline lover always reconstitutes this early confusion and wounding, with her push-pull emotional gymnastics. Intermittant episodes of adoration and abandonment revive familiar patterns from boyhood, that he has normalized. This keeps him striving for continuity of love/affection that's unattainable--but uncomfortable/bored with any female who can provide loving constancy.

The Borderline Waif mother makes certain her son knows that she could not survive without him, and that he is the guardian of (both) her pleasure and pain. These early dynamics set him up for very specific relational patterns in adulthood, which have driven him into the arms of needy/clingy Borderlines. On a subconscious level, his valiant efforts to save her and fortify self-worth (despite all her loving/rejecting behaviors), replicate his boyhood blueprint for attachment.

If a male was raised by a Queen or Witch-type Borderline, he'll be drawn to women with similar traits or characteristics, who will retraumatize him. It's also possible that he might select a female who's relatively devoid of those features, and with whom he can access more empowerment and autonomy, than he could as a child. These needs can propel him toward someone with waif traits--but even the Waif must exert control over her partners.

Men raised by borderline disordered mothers frequently adopt and retain BPD features, due to an inability to trust and forge close, intimate bonds during boyhood. This has them persistently choosing relationships with women who are poorly equipped to meet their needs for connection and closeness--and turning away from those who are able to offer genuine love and care. They might fantasize that a female will come along who can magically break down their attachment avoidance--but this fantasy won't be realized, unless they get solid (core) help. Even then, their defenses could remain entrenched and implacable.

Narcissistic males generally cannot commit to esteem-building work, unless their 'props' have vanished--meaning, they've lost their fortunes and good health, after involvement with a Borderline. At this point, their defenses are lowered, and we have a chance to construct a Man from a broken little boy.

Solid inner work can invoke feelings of needing the therapist, which instantly produce anxiety. This catalyzes his reflex to sabotage that relationship with 'tests' he suspects may result in abandonment. If this occurs, his entrenched belief that anyone who could have value/importance to him will let him down or leave, becomes prophesy fulfillment. Sadly, this reflex keeps real love at bay--and he'll continue to dabble with Borderlines (and clinicians) who have no actual capacity to meet his vital emotional needs.


A Borderline's needs were severely neglected in infancy and childhood, which left her with painful self-worth issues. She may have only received praise for her looks, or being the "perfect" little girl, and this became the basis of her self-esteem. Sadly, her mother may have been envious of the attention she got, and jealous of the connection she shared with her father--or any male, for that matter. Thus began a steady erosion of her sense of Self, especially when it threatened the mother's sense of worth. Borderline mothers usually detest other females. First, they view them as threats--and second, there's such primal rage left over from infancy (with Mom), this hatred is transferred onto all other women. For the Borderline, even minor disappointments can mean fatal ruptures to solid, nourishing relationships of any type.

I saw a TV advertisement one day, for a 'Little Miss Perfect' beauty pageant. I must tell you, I felt nauseated and heartsick at seeing these little girls in adult costumes and full makeup, and I thought; these are the Borderlines of tomorrow! We're aghast when one of these children is abducted, raped and killed--but in my view, a society that sanctions these contests is demented.

The Borderline's perfectionism can drive endless plastic surgery procedures, which may begin earlier, rather than later in life. Her inner pain, emptiness and self-loathing dramatically distort how she views her physical being--and she believes that if she fixes all her (imagined) external flaws, she can feel happy and lovable. She could also invest in body ornamentation like tattoos, piercings, jeweled implants, etc., that temporarily ease her self-hatred and dysphoria. An endorphin rush is triggered by these painful procedures, which is part of their appeal--very much like self-cutting or burning, distracts from (and temporarily assuages) emotional anguish.

Extreme, unresolved rage issues toward Mother, can catalyze a Borderline's detachment from any/all aspects of femininity within the Self, and spawn bi-or homosexuality, transvestism or transgenderism and sexual reassignment surgeries. She may continue searching for an external solution to her despair and dissatisfaction--but happiness is an inside job. With each attachment to a new female, her hope for healing the mother-wound is revived. Sadly, few partners are equipped to provide this soothing, and a Borderline will usually triangulate relationships with partners who are--for an available/responsive lover doesn't trigger dramatically intense sensations associated with longing for a parent's love, that was unrequited or undersatisfied.

The Borderline continuously searches for affection, acceptance and approval, due to extreme deficits in childhood. Her needs for closeness and emotional safety overwhelm her--but while she might seek these elements in a male, she's really looking to mend her primal wounds from infancy. These profound needs are displaced onto romantic partners--but as she begins to feel that they can actually be responded to, deeply entrenched abandonment terror is invoked. This reaction is automatic and reflexive--and so is her retreat. Does this perpetual no-win cycle ever end? Not without specialized recovery work.


To their partner, the Borderline's behaviors seem counterintuitive, and I get questions about this all the time; "If they're so afraid of abandonment, why do they push people away?" Here's my analogy: If you've chosen never to go through a divorce because you've seen the destruction it's wreaked in others lives--wouldn't you have to avoid getting married? The Borderline is terrified of abandonment. He/she doesn't allow themselves to attach, for fear of the annihilating pain that could follow if they do! You will never change this.

The Borderline will punish/deride you for failing to love her well enough--but she'll push you away, the instant that you do! Quite literally, you're damned when you adore the Borderline, and damned when you don't. This is totally confounding, and leaves you with a sense of hopeless longing for that which cannot be gratified. This lack of grounding (in love) is highly toxic to you.

When you've grown up gaining a sense of worth from being the perfect child or accommodating a parent's needs, and backing that up with rescuing/fixing impulses in adulthood, you're pretty confident you'll turn this deal around--if you just keep working at it! If you can just stabilize your partner, all will be right in your world. After all, you've accomplished other great feats, and this will prove no different, right? Wrong. This is your narcissistic injury talking, and it's needing to be healed. Core issues that are not resolved, are doomed to keep repeating.

By Shari Schreiber, M.A.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

100 Ways to Nurture Yourself: AKA Self Sooth

1.Use post-it notes for daily positive affirmations (there are great 'positive thoughts for the day' books out there).
2.Buy fresh flowers every now and then. – Brighten up the place.
3.Used colored pens for no particular reason. – Blue and black are fine, but how about orange?
4.Take a walk without a destination. – It’s a great way to get some exercise and clear your mind. Be mindful of what you see, hear and feel.
5.Take a hot bath. – With bubbles.
6.Write in a journal. – Write anything that calls you. Ideas, experiences, dreams, frustrations – get them out of your head and down on paper.
7.List the things that you’re grateful for. – You can’t help but feel better when you literally count your blessings.
8.List the things that you like about yourself. – We can all list the things that we don’t like about ourselves. Turn that around and think about your many positive qualities.
9.Create something. – Many of us have gotten away from actually making things. Create some artwork. Write something. Build something. Make something that didn’t exist before. It can be functional or frivolous – as long as you enjoy the process.
10.Treat yourself. – We struggle to be disciplined, especially with money and food. You deserve a reward, right?
11.Smile. – It’s very difficult to feel bad when your face is happy.
12.Squash negative thoughts. – Listen to what’s going on in your head and actively quiet the voices of pessimists and critics. Assume the best, not the worst.
13.Try something new. – Go out on a limb. Learn something new. Do that thing you’ve always wanted to try. The more experiences you have, the richer your life will be.
14.Get enough sleep. – Everything is hard when you’re tired.
15.Meditate. – It takes a little practice at first, but if you find a meditation that works for you, you will be calmer and more peaceful.
16.Drink plenty of water. – It’s basic, but it’s so good for you.
17.Stretch. – Before you start your day, take a few minutes for a good muscle stretch. It just plain feels good. And, it’s fast, easy and free.
18.Put some “me time” on your calendar. – When life gets busy, doing things for yourself is the first thing to be sacrificed. So, actually block out time on your calendar. Call it a ‘staff meeting’ or something so that no one intrudes on your time.
19.Call a friend. – Think of someone who you enjoy and ring them up!
20.Ask for help. – This can be hard. But it’s so important to recognize when you need a sounding board, or some advice, or an extra pair of hands.
21.Say no. – Your time is valuable. Set boundaries to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
22.Ask for a hug. – We all need one. So just go get one. The person you ask probably needs one too.
23.Delegate. – Hire someone to mow the lawn or scrub the floors. Teach the kids to do laundry. Give that project to a co-worker. You do not have to do it all.
24.Take a deep breath. – And another. Now another. It’s like a mini-break to reset yourself during the day.
25.Light a candle or use a reed diffuser. – Your sense of smell creates the strongest memories. Find scents you love and enjoy them.
26.Claim some space for yourself. – A place where you can go to have a quiet moment to read a book, or meditate, or cry – somewhere that you can get some peace and privacy.
27.Get out into nature. – Reconnecting with the earth is just good for your soul. Feel the breeze. Breathe the fresh air. So good!
28.Buy the good ice cream. – Even on the tightest of budgets, this is important.
29.Use lotions & soaps with scents that you love. – It’s a nice way to pamper yourself, plus you’ll smell good all day.
30.Give a compliment. – Telling someone that they had a fantastic idea or that they look beautiful in that color creates a pleasant environment and makes two people feel good for the price of one.
31.Listen to music. – Listen to whatever makes you happy. Can you be grumpy while listening to Gloria Gaynor? I think not.
32.Play. – Something we forget as adults. A board game, a sport, finger painting – find something frivolous and have fun!
33.Eat foods that you love. – Low fat, low calorie, low carb – blah, blah, blah. Food is to be enjoyed! Put food into your body that nourishes you in every way.
34.Be silly every now and again. – We take ourselves entirely too seriously. Let go. Be spontaneous and outrageous!
35.Laugh. – Sometimes you just need a good laugh to lift your spirits.
36.Limit screen time. – Too much time in front of computers, TV’s, video games, and blackberries (or all of the above) disconnects you from the world immediately around you and makes your brain mushy. Make sure that you’re getting plenty of input from the non-virtual world.
37.Be present. – Be deliberate about experiencing what’s happening right now. It’s all about the journey – don’t miss yours!
38.Stop worrying. – It’s going to be fine. Because it is.
39.Trust yourself. – You are smart, capable and talented. Your choices are just as valid as anyone else’s. Don’t second guess yourself.
40.Do something that’s only for you. – Remember that hobby that you used to have time for? Or that food that no one else in your house likes? Reclaim it.
41.Make sure your health is in order. – What’s more important than your health? See your doctor regularly. Make sure you are getting the vitamins or supplements that you need. Advocate for yourself as you would for your child.
42.Give to someone in need. – Donating your time or your stuff or your money to someone less fortunate makes you feel good and puts your problems into perspective.
43.Sparkle! – Feeling schlumpy? Get all dolled up. Wear something schmancy. It’s a good way to find your strut.
44.Dance. – It’s inherently joyful. You can’t be sad if you’re dancing!
45.Write your own rock star introduction. – Image you’re on tour with thousands of screaming fans. How will you be introduced? “Please welcome the brilliant, the amazing, the gorgeous….you!”
46.Stand up for yourself. – Your needs are important. Don’t let anyone disregard them. Pushing back can be scary but it’s empowering too!
47.Celebrate! (for any reason at all) – Your kid learned to tie his shoes! Your taxes are done and filed! The week is more than half over! Let’s party!
48.Find a mantra or an affirmation that lifts your spirits. – “Today is a new day.” “I know that life always supports me.” “I get everything that I want.” Find one that works for you.
49.Stand tall. – Your spirit can’t soar when you slouch. You feel much more powerful when you stand up straight and look the world in the eye.
50.Have sex. – What can I say? It feels good.
51.Get a massage. – What can I say? It feels good.
52.Choose optimism. – Thinking positive thoughts has a tangible impact on your day and on your life.
53.Dream big. – You can do anything you set your mind to!
54.Tune out the naysayers. – People criticize for many reasons, most of which have nothing to do with you. Follow your heart – not everyone has to get it.
55.Add color to your surroundings. – Beiges and taupes are pervasive these days. Depressing. Make sure that you introduce energetic colors where you work and where you live.
56.Surround yourself with the things you love. – Photos of loved ones or mementos that bring happy memories. You should have the stuff that you love all around you.
57.Declutter. – You should have ONLY the stuff that you love. Purge everything in your life, both physical and emotional that you don’t honestly need, use or love. Everything else distracts you from your true intentions and bogs you down.
58.Stop procrastinating. – Procrastination is a form of perfectionism. Accept that it’s not going to be perfect and just get it over with. Image how great it will feel to not have it hanging over your head any more!
59.Listen to your inner voice. – Your instincts are good. It’s important to listen to your own head and heart.
60.Cut yourself some slack. – Arguably the most important tip on this list. We hold ourselves to impossible standards and then beat ourselves up when we don’t meet them. Would you be this hard on anyone else?
61.Slow down. – When you’re living your life at top speed, you’re missing most of it. Stop and take a breath. Look for ways to adopt a more humane pace.
62.Identify your passion. – What do you love? Do you have a non-profit organization that you feel passionate about? Are you passionate about water polo? How about 14th century Portuguese literature? Find something in your life that really floats your boat.
63.Toot your own horn. – You’re awesome. Please make sure that everyone knows it.
64.Move your body. – Run and jump and climb a tree. Take a tap dancing class. Power walk. Anything that feels good that gets your blood moving. The only limitation: it has to be fun. Don’t get on a treadmill if you hate the treadmill.
65.Invest in really good bras. – This one is gender-specific, obviously. You feel much better about yourself when you’re hoisted up properly. So stand tall and salute the sun ladies!
66.Purge things that aren’t good for you. – Unhealthy foods, cigarettes, a miserable work environment, toxic people – do what you have to do to set boundaries and demand the highest quality of life. You deserve it. Things that don’t nourish and support you – think about how you might be rid of them.
67.Limit your news consumption. – It’s important to be well-informed, but the non-stop feed of earthquakes and plane crashes and economic crisis and war is not good for us. Be deliberate in finding a balance that’s best for you. Once you’ve seen today’s news cycle, turn it off.
68.Say yes to life. – Opportunities are everywhere. Take a class, join a team, go bungee jumping. When new things present themselves to you – jump at the chance.
69.Stop hating your body. – If the women of the world took all of the time, energy and money that we spend on hating our bodies and turned it towards something productive, there would be no war, poverty or disease left on the planet. Your body is your body. Nobody’s looking at your physical flaws because they’re all too busy trying to hide their own. Let’s give ourselves a break and let it go.
70.Sing loudly. – In the shower and the car and anywhere else you like. With reckless abandon.
71.Be kind. – Be nice to someone else. You will have made the world a better place. What feels better than that?
72.Tell someone you love them. – We often forget to say it out loud. It matters.
73.Take all of your vacation days. – You earned them. Don’t give them back to your company for nothing.
74.Play hooky. – Call in sick once in awhile when you’re not sick. Use the day to pamper yourself (not to catch up on errands or housework).
75.Take pride in the hard times that you have overcome. – What didn’t kill you made you stronger. It wasn’t easy, but you did it!
76.Let someone else be in charge for a while. – Other people can be responsible while you do something for yourself.
77.Don’t answer the phone unless it’s someone you want to talk to right now. – Some people find it difficult not to answer a ringing phone, but it’s liberating once you learn to ignore it or even better, just turn it off.
78.Have faith. – It’s going to work out. The future is bright!
79.Take a personal inventory. – Does your behavior match your true intentions? If there’s a disconnect, you’re carrying a heavy weight.
80.Go on a retreat. – For a couple of minutes or a couple of days, get away for a bit to re-energize.
81.Put your finances in order. – Money problems are enormously stressful. Paying off debt where possible, putting bills on automatic payment, and working with a financial planner if necessary can all help to ease the strain.
82.Eliminate all expectations of perfection. – In fact, eliminate the word ‘perfect’ from your vocabulary. If you expect yourself to be perfect, you will never stop beating yourself up.
83.Find a good way to blow off steam. – Bottling it up indefinitely will probably end badly.
84.Be who you are. – your authentic, true self.
85.Spend some time alone for quiet reflection. – We spend all of our time go, go, going. Try stopping to think about your life, your goals, and your dreams.
86.Keep your words positive. – Happiness and complaints cannot coexist.
87.Let light and fresh air into your house. – Sunlight is a must. Open up those windows!
88.Turn off your e-mail, cell phone, blackberry, fax, etc. for a while. – It’s not healthy to be accessible 24/7.
89.Pare down your to-do list. – Feeling overwhelmed? What’s on your list that can be delegated, avoided, or jettisoned?
90.Avoid boredom. – Keep your brain active to keep the blues at bay.
91.Make your home a haven. – Your home should be a place where you can take a breath and really relax. If it isn’t, you may have some work to do.
92.Be stingy with your time and energy. – Both are precious and should be spent on things that really matter to you.
93.Let go. – 80% of everything is irrelevant. Focus on the other 20.
94.Minimize multi-tasking. – Yeah, women are supposed to be good at it, but that doesn’t make it good for us.
95.Break your routine once in awhile. – Get out of a rut and into a groove.
96.Take action! – If something isn’t right in your life, fix it!
97.Plan ahead. – With a few minutes of organizing your time and to-do’s, you will be better prepared to take on the day.
98.Intentionally enjoy your journey. – As you go through your days, look around. Be present with what you see, hear and feel. You might be amazed at what you’ve been missing.
99.Spend time with people who make you happy. – Who nourishes and supports you? Surround yourself with those people.
100.Enjoy your kids. – It’s easy to rush through the day without really connecting with them. Make a conscious effort to talk with them about their day.
101.Avoid self-deprivation. – When it comes to food, it’s OK to cut back on things that aren’t good for you (sweet, sweet carbohydrates), but if you feel deprived, it’s probably not maintainable, creating a vicious circle of cheating and guilt.
102.Forget the word “should”. – Instead of doing what you think you’re supposed to, follow your own path.
103.Pay attention to your energy. – Are you most productive first thing in the morning? Are you sluggish after lunch? Honor your natural cycles and plan accordingly.