Home > Abusive relationships, Borderline Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, relationships > Is It My Fault that My Borderline Girlfriend and I Broke Up?

Is It My Fault that My Borderline Girlfriend and I Broke Up?


angry womanI received the following email from a young man who recently broke up with his Borderline Personality Disorder girlfriend. He’s struggling with blaming himself with what went wrong in the relationship and maintaining a “friendship” with his ex.

I met my ex online several months after my previous long term relationship ended due to infidelity on my partner’s behalf. When I met my ex online, she was the sweetest, smartest, most passionate and loving person I’d ever met. We immediately hit it off, and fell in love with each other in less than 2 weeks.

She was planning to move to the city where I lived, but plans fell through with her roommates, so we decided she could live with me a for a few months until she found a place of her own. As soon as she got off the plane (the first time we met in person), I knew something was off.

She was so anxiety ridden that she could not even look at me. It took a few days before we had our first fight. It was shocking too me how emotional and aggressive she became. This pattern of behavior grew more common and I grew distant, not wanting to get hurt anymore. My distance was also fueled by the grief from my last relationship, which she eventually discovered by breaking into my email. I went to therapy to get past all of this, but she still used that distance during the last 2 years we were together as a valid reason to resent me.

Once a week we would have an earth shattering argument that she would start, usually about something so minor (like me not liking her favorite band) that it seems ridiculous. Fights start with her getting offended, her anxiety grows, and then the shouting and tears begin. This was usually followed with name calling, insults, and sometimes physical abuse. The night often ended with her making a rough attempt at suicide, hitting herself, and me forcibly holding her down until she fell asleep or had a seizure.

At one point, she knew she was going to lose me unless she got help, so she visited a therapist, started medication and therapy, and things got better. Friends noticed how happy and upbeat she was. She was cleaner, more independent, and I was falling for her again. She kept on this routine until my father died (the time I needed her most) when she stopped taking her medication.

Her emotional stability became my responsibility again, and at this time, I was having a hard enough time keeping myself together. I was grumpy, sad, and easily annoyed, and at the same time, she was unstable and messy again. A perfect storm!

After a few months, I got myself together and realized I was acting controlling because I felt out of control after my dad died. I admitted this to her and apologized, but she still resented me for it. She was mad every night, yelling and screaming, until I ended things. She moved out after a few months, but in the mean time she flaunted that she was dating other people and had sex with someone else in front of me. When she saw how much that hurt me, she berated me for breaking up with her and that this was my fault.

I have only had one serious relationship before this. I was with her 4 years. She had some issues, but I nothing this serious. For the most part, it was a normal stable relationship until she cheated on me a few weeks before I was going to propose (with my roommate who knew this) and things fell apart after that. She cheated on me again a few months later with a coworker, which in therapy I realized she was running from her problems instead of fixing them.

- Scott

Hi Scott,

From what I can see, the biggest mistake you made was letting a woman you knew for only 2 weeks via phone and email move in with you from another city without having spent any time together in person. You fell for a classic BPD trick, “My roommates are mean, unreliable, flaky,” etc., etc., “Can I just stay with you temporarily until I find a place of my own/other roommates?

The answer to this question if you’ve only known a woman for a short time and/or if you’re already having relationship problems should always be a resounding, “NO.” I’d be skeptical that she had “roommates” lined up at all. Her plan all along may have been to move in with you. Even if she had a potential apartment/roommate, she probably sabotaged the situation before arriving to your town. When women like your ex-girlfriend have roommates, they typically have trouble getting along with them because of the same erratic, needy and abusive behaviors she directed toward you.

These women are like cockroaches. Once you let them in your home, they’re damn near impossible to get out. Don’t feel embarrassed about this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard or read similar stories except that in those situations, these women also had their pet cat or catsssss in tow.

When you meet a woman online, especially when she’s dating outside her own geographic area, BE SKEPTICAL. Why is she choosing to date so far out of her zip code? Does she have intimacy problems? Is she having a long distance relationship as a way to avoid building intimacy? Or, is she so freaking crazy that she burned through the dating pool in her town?

Sometimes people who contact you from other cities that express an interest in you are perfectly sweet, good people; but sometimes they’re not. When beginning a relationship, most people don’t want to start off with the extra hurdle of a 100 + mile distance. I’d be willing to wager your ex didn’t plan to move to your town until she met you online. That was probably a ruse so that you’d “date” her even though she was living in another city. She most likely saw you as a “geographic cure” for her problems.

For future reference, when a woman like your ex comes to you “in crisis”— a crisis she probably created, by the way—and “needs” to stay with you “temporarily,” she’s violating the ultimate personal boundary. Your response should be a very gentle, but firm, “Gosh, I’m sorry you’re having trouble finding a place to live or with your roommates, but I just don’t feel that we’ve known each other long enough to let you move in, even temporarily. However, if you want, I’ll help you find another apartment.

The bottom line is, when you really need to find another place to live, you find it—whether it’s with a friend, family, or a temporary sublet. There are always options, so don’t fall for her “damsel in distress shtick.”

Setting the boundary and telling her, “no,” won’t be the end of it. She’ll amp up the tears, anger and guilt and probably say things like, “You don’t really love me/care about me. I spend the night here a couple times a week, so what’s the big deal? I can’t believe you won’t help me? Do you want me living on the streets? Is that what you want?!! You’re a selfish jerk! Maybe we should break up!

Your response to this level of manipulation and emotional blackmail is, “I hear how upset you are and I know it can be tough to find an apartment (especially if you’re a crazy, self-destructive lunatic), but I don’t think moving in is a good idea. If you like, I’ll help you find another place to live. If you want to break up over this, it’s probably a strong sign we shouldn’t be together because you’re asking me to do something that makes me feel uncomfortable.

She’ll probably continue to rev herself up and rage and accuse you of having “commitment” and “intimacy issues” all the while threatening to end the relationship. Most men panic at the thought of her ending the relationship or begin to feel guilty and believe her manipulations. BIG MISTAKE.

As for the rest of her behaviors you described, she appears to be an off the charts BPD—especially the suicide threats/gestures. What a nightmare. Count yourself fortunate that you got out.

It seems like you became involved with this woman on the rebound from a very painful relationship with your previous ex. While the last girlfriend doesn’t sound as crazy and erratic as this one, she dealt you a double betrayal—sleeping with your friend/roommate (he also betrayed you and I hope you don’t consider him a “friend” anymore) and then her co-worker. Clearly, this woman has her own set of issues. Then you rushed right into a relationship sight unseen with Ms. BPD who also betrayed you in numerous ways.

During your 2 week online courtship, she put on a false front of sweetness and normalcy. As soon as she showed up, the mask was removed and the horror show began. Then she had sex with other men IN YOUR APARTMENT knowing full well about your previous relationship. Lose the guilt, man. You should’ve kicked her out of your apartment and sent her back to where ever it was she came from the first time she threw one of her fits. I understand you wanted to help her. Hopefully, you’ve learned a valuable lesson. You can’t help these women. All you can do is protect yourself from them and end all contact.

My advice to you is to NOT start dating again right away. Please give yourself a dating “timeout” until you sort through these last two relationships, examine your codependency issues and get wise to these kinds of women. You seem like a very kind, supportive and generous guy. Exactly the kind of guy who is a prime target for abusive women.

When you are ready to date again, TAKE IT SLOW. Really get to know the next woman before you commit to a relationship much less cohabitation. NPD/BPD women put on a good front at first, but they can’t maintain the Dr Jekyll persona for very long before Ms. Run and Hyde appears. And when Ms. Hyde appears, don’t feel guilty. Don’t feel obligated to help her. The only obligation you have is to yourself and to get out of harm’s way

Kind Regards,

Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

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  1. September 1, 2011 at 6:32 am

    When we relate to someone who suffers with Borderline Personality Disorder the easiest way to undestand what you are dealing with is to see the condition as chaos in human form. These people will almost certainly never take responsibility for their own actions. Often when they do they will do it only to win your confidence only to get you hooked and then the whole cycle starts over again. As sad as these people often are there is little the untrained can do to help them find security, peace and normality. Certainly it is beyond the nature of a loving relationship to have to try. In short you can’t make her happy. She has to get the help she needs from an experienced therapist. You can be compasionate without putting yourself in harms way.

  2. Mr. E.
    May 14, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    What a charming creature! I love the “I did this, so you owe me that,” bits.

    My wife likes to do things like “you can get [largish purchase] if you do [big project she wants done].” Eventually, after I’ve gotten my “reward,” she’ll decide she wants [large purchase] and deserves it because I got my toy.

    She keeps score about other things too.

    On the other hand, she can buy $300 worth of shoes she won’t wear more than once, but I can’t get a new pair of shoes because I just got the pair I have last year. It doesn’t matter that my shoes are falling apart.

    I dig the “constant doubt” thing too. I know tend to think people are upset with me when they aren’t. And there’s always two sides to every story, right? So I wonder if I’m just being paranoid. Then I write down the things she’s done, and I wonder why I ever put up with it.

    Dr. T, If you’re willing to post it, I’d like to see the link about brainwashing as well.

  3. Scott
    May 14, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Dr T,

    Before things were completely over, I gave my BP ex the option to try again as long as she took her medicine and went back to therapy. She refused, so there was no real option left for us. I still care about her, but I’m not sure in which way. It’s probably more parental than anything, because there was nothing more to the relationship than that by the end anyway.

    She always like to seek the attention of her exes, and for some reason they all seem to want her back at some point. I’m not sure if she acted the same in those relationships (I’m tempted to ask them) or if much of this was caused by the abuse from her ex husband (which could have been caused by needling).

    I appreciate your advice. Unfortunately I had already written her back:
    I’m not even sure what you are asking? You need help “with someone”?
    If this has anything to do with your dating life, I don’t want to be involved. I’m not trying to assume, I just don’t want to hear about it.

    I never said anything about not being friends, I just need space for awhile.

    I knew that she was contacting me for no good. She’s been very vindictive and manipulative since things ended. I knew when I told her I did not want to talk to her for a long time, that it might send her reeling for more attention from me or someone else. It almost seems like she causes a problem so that someone else has to clean it up.

    She just called me….. I ignored the call…. message:
    She was all choked up saying that she just wanted me to help her move some things. She doesn’t appreciate the accusations. She is also upset that I asked her to not sleep with anyone on my bed (she took my air mattress when I was out of town) and she think if I can ask that favor then she should get one in return. She ended by saying that maybe I do need my space if I can’t act fairly and be a friend to her.

    She was all choked up and on the verge of tears. It’s hard for me to hear, but it upsets me when I know she is upset, probably because I fear that rage that will ensue. I do feel bad. I have been having constant doubt that she is actually sane, and I am over-reacting to all of this. Or have I been taught to think I am wrong. I don’t even know anymore….

    I think you should write an entry some time on the dangers of staying in contact with or being friends with an Ex with BPD. It would be helpful.

    I should have waited for your reply. I was talking to a friend that treats patients with BPD and she thought what I wrote was good, but I kinda assumed it would backfire no matter what.

    Thanks Again

    • shrink4men
      May 14, 2009 at 2:18 pm

      You are NOT to blame for her behavior. You did NOT make an unreasonable request re: not wanting to hear about her dating life. You are NOT overreacting. If she goes on a rage and does something destructive because you set an APPROPRIATE LIMIT with her, it is NOT your fault. You asked her for space and she’s not keeping the boundary.

      And, I’m sorry, because she’s NOT screwing other guys on your mattress you owe her a favor in return?!?!?!? Let her keep the mattress and, if you can do it, end all contact with her. This woman is toxic and I think you’ve already suffered enough.

      Someone sent me a link the other day about brainwashing techniques. I’ll post it when I find it.

      Of course your ex treated her ex-husband and other ex-bf’s the same way she treated you. I’d also be highly skeptical about her claims of abuse, although, heaven knows that these women could drive a saint to want to strangle them.

      Many therapists who treat BPDs are well-intentioned, but end up enabling their behaviors. My advice is never respond to the BPD “fishing expedition” whether it’s an email or voicemail. You seem like a kind person whose natural inclination is to help others–even when they don’t deserve it after mistreating you–but if you give women like this an inch, they’ll take a 1,000 miles.

      When do you begin CBT? How did you find the therapist? Have you pre-interviewed him or her regarding BPDs and ongoing emotionally abusive relationships? You may have broken up with this women, but she continues to abuse you, even though you don’t see or talk to her everyday.

      Also, if she still has keys to your apartment, I’d have your locks changed. An ounce of prevention now, can save a lot in court costs later.

      Thanks for the suggestion re: the blog topic. It had occurred to me this morning to write something along those lines. Now, I definitely will.

  4. Scott
    May 14, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Hi Dr T,

    We were actually talking on the phone/online for 2 months before she moved to my area, so I felt I knew her pretty well. Since she has “moved on” (which for her seemed as easy as flipping a light switch) she has been dating people who either seem to have BPD themselves or live a distance away. She also tries to keep her contact with them to just chatting online or seeing each other on the weekend. One thing that has surprised me is that she is emphatic about not getting into another relationship. She just wants the attention and adoration of these boys, so she is basically using them. She emailed me last night saying this:

    Hey, I need some help with someone. I don’ tknow who else to ask. :(

    sigh

    Let me know if you’re available sometime this week.

    Hope all is well. I DO miss you and I hope we can be friends sometime soon.

    X

    It looks like one of her new boyfriends has probably fallen in love, and she wants me to know that and get advice on how to handle it. She lacks common sense and tact, so she needs someones help (not sure why she doesn’t ask a friend). It also seems like a threat at the end; that if I don’t respond we won’t be friends.

    I know that letting her move in was a big risk on my part. I trusted her. She admitted 10 months after she got here that she never had any intention of moving out. It was soon after that she started therapy and medication and began to get better. After learning this I tried helping her find an apartment, but to her, this help was pushing her away which set her off again. Like you know, they have a SEVERE fear of abandonment.

    When she would have her tirades, I am the type who remained calm. Often so calm that I shut down, which just set her off more.

    I’m trying not to date any time soon. I do feel that emptiness and lonely feeling, so I am just trying to surround myself with friends. I also have an appointment with a CBT therapist, so I hope that can help me sort this mess out and begin to change my behaviors. I know I need to learn to be more assertive in general, and need to be firm with my boundaries.

    Also, another warning sign I missed with my BPD ex was that she was divorced, and only 22. Her husband (whom she met online as well) had asked for a divorce only about 2 months before I met her. She said it was because her ex husband could not handle her “epilepsy” (might have had temporal lobe epilepsy, but would never seek treatment. Could have been conversion disorder). She had a very rough childhood, and her sister has BPD. She only had one parent, and her mother refuses to take care of herself. I feel bad for my ex, but still know there is nothing I can do to really help her except let her learn on her own.

    Thanks and I hope this information helps other people.

    Sincerely,
    Scott

    • shrink4men
      May 14, 2009 at 2:13 pm

      You’re welcome. Two months is longer than 2 weeks, however, it was still too soon, no matter how well you felt you knew her via email/phone.

      Her most recent email strikes me as wormy bait wrapped around a very sharp hook. My advice: Don’t bite on it. Her email is a classic BPD move to:
      a) see if she can still jerk your chain,
      b) make you feel bad and jealous about all of the alleged men who are “madly in love” with her,
      c) rub your nose in the illusion that she’s moving on in her life just fine without you,
      d) see if you’re still available (not dating—BPDs like to keep their exes in a cupboard for a “rainy day”) so she can seek attention from you when she’s feeling alone and abandoned by the most recent guy she’s scared off and
      e) to test the waters to see if she can lure you back into a relationship with her.

      If she’d truly moved on in her life and was having a grand old time dating other men, trust me, you wouldn’t be hearing from her. My hunch is she contacts you for sympathy and to make herself feel desirable whenever the latest guy rejects her.

      Additionally, she doesn’t know who else to ask for help probably because, like most BPDs, she has no real friends. However, this is neither your fault nor your responsibility. If she really wants help, she should seek a therapist. The only way to heal from this relationship and move on in your life is to close the book on this woman. Don’t respond to her emails or calls. I know it’s hard because you’re still grieving the loss of the relationship you hoped you would have with this woman, but please don’t take the bait. It’s how they suck you back in an keep you attached.

      She’ll find someone else to get sympathy from. BPDs know how to find “a port in the storm.” They’re very skillful at getting others to take care of them and clean up their messes. Don’t be one of these people who do so. It’s draining, it’s toxic and it never ends.

      Hope this helps.

      Kind Regards,
      Dr T

  1. December 2, 2010 at 10:54 am
  2. November 17, 2010 at 2:51 pm

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