Can an Abusive Borderline Personality Disorder Woman Really Change?
First off, I want to thank you and inform you that your website has been great for opening my eyes and helping me in my healing process. These may be questions to use in a blog post:
Starting in 2008, I began dating a single-mother whom I believe may have been a BPD/NPD. Although she never verified to me that she was diagnosed as one, I do know she had her own personal therapist she called every so often and took “anti-anxiety” pills at times. The relationship started out fantastic. The sex was great, she gave me Hallmark cards telling me how wonderful I was, and we had so much fun together.
There were little things here and there, “red flags” so to speak, she did every once in a while, but I blew them off. One of which was constantly accusing me of looking at other women, which I can tell you I NEVER did. My focus was ALWAYS on her. Once at a concert, at the beginning of our relationship, she even pulled me out of a line by my arm while I was getting us drinks, telling me that I was standing too close to the female in front of me. I ignored that issue….even thinking to myself that she must really love me to get that protective.
After a couple months of dating, she asked me to move in with her. I politely declined saying that it was too early, and since she was a single mother I did not think it was the best thing at the moment. I was not ready to be the father of her child after a couple months, and I just did not think it was the right thing to do. She seemed to accept me not moving in, but that is when everything started getting out of hand.
During the next several months I was subject to much verbal, emotional, even physical abuse. She constantly checked my cell phone; wanted to know my email password, etc. (would kick me out of the house if I did not give passwords to her); set-up a fake online cell phone account in my name (with my number) so she could monitor my phone activities (which she lied about when I confronted her about it); attached my email to her Blackberry so she could receive every email I received; chased me down in her car when I left her house after an argument telling me she was going to crash into the back of my car; got mad when I did things with my “guy” friends and told me I should only do those things with her and her child; physically hit and assaulted me on two separate occasions during an argument in which she accused me of somethings I never did (I never laid a finger on her or verbally attacked her); chased me with an object while I was leaving in my car after she assaulted me, causing me to be terrified, open the door while forgetting to put the car in park, and being dragged by my car down the driveway and across the street; told me she didn’t want me around, just wanted me for my money; cursed at me and insulted me with name-calling; called me a “baby” and too “sensitive” when I expressed my feelings; told me that “I” needed therapy because “I” was a “baby” and too “sensitive.”
During these times, somehow I was in denial about the abuse and did EVERYTHING I possibly could to help her and make her happy. She had a troubled family life in which her father left her mother when she was 1, her mother was an alcoholic, and she rarely sees her father. I tried all I could to show her true “love” and make her world a better place. Yet, she did all these things to me and nothing I did was good enough. When our relationship ended, she even had the nerve to tell me I had no “backbone.” In a way, that was the most honest thing she ever said to me. I should have left LONG ago.
However, for some reason, I am still looking for closure from her. I wait for some kind of apology. She has kept in contact with me over the last 4 months from time to time (we broke up 4 months ago) emailing me telling me she has come “a long way” in the past year…whatever that is supposed to mean. And texting me telling me that she is trying to “reach-out” to me. Yet, I still wait for this “apology” from her for her behavior. Can a person like this ever apologize? Can they really change? What happened within me that wants this apology so badly? Did she have traits of BPD?Thanks for your time,Scott
Don’t feel bad. Many people are seduced by this kind of behavior. Abusers play to your ego needs and then turn the tables on you, which is why it’s so difficult to break away once the abuse begins in earnest. Bottom line: The faster and higher someone puts you on a pedestal early in your courtship, the longer and harder you fall when they kick the pedestal out from beneath you. Intense valuation is always followed by intense devaluation with most borderlines or individuals with borderline traits.
2. Emotional Bullshit and the Toxic Trio. In Emotional Bullshit (2008), Carl Alasko, PhD refers to the foundation of all relationship emotional bullshit as the Toxic Trio, which includes denial, delusion and blame. I would argue that most relationships with abusive personalities run on the methane emitted by Grade A Emotional Bullshit. (*To purchase this book via Amazon please use my affiliate link above or click on the image).
“I call denial, delusion and blame the Toxic Trio because they always work together, and whenever they’re in action, a relationship is filled with toxic, negative energy. The result is an increase in the harmful emotions: anxiety, anger, fear and pain. Once the cycle begins, the relationship is either doomed to failure, or its full level of satisfaction is compromised” (Alasko, 2008, p.7).
To understand how the Toxic Trio works—the language and motivation—Alasko offers this typical script:
“DENIAL SAYS: There is no problem. Everything is okay. You’re exaggerating. The issue doesn’t matter; it’s irrelevant. (So I don’t have to change anything.)
DELUSION SAYS: Let me tell you what’s really true. Don’t believe what you see. Believe me. (The imaginary world I’ve created works for me.)
BLAME SAYS: You’re the problem. I was forced to do it; I had no choice. Or, it just happened. Destiny willed it. (No one understands my true motives. Your accusations only make things worse)“(Alasko, 2008, p.8).
You write: There were little things here and there, “red flags” so to speak, she did every once in a while, but I blew them off. You made the classic mistake of ignoring the early warning signs that something isn’t right. This is a form of denial from which delusion, myriad rationalizations and minimization of her bad behavior and your unfounded self-blame spring. She was just having a bad day. It’s not that bad. I can take it. I must have done something to really upset her. She must really love to get so angry and jealous.
Denying and deluding yourself to your ex-girlfriend’s problems got you into that hot mess. Don’t make the other classic mistake of believing that a predator can change her spots and re-enlist for Round 2. This type of person doesn’t change without hardcore, long-term treatment and even then, there’s no guarantee of any real change.
3. Boundaries Shmoundaries. When it comes to intimate relationships, many borderlines follow the sales credo, ABC—Always Be Closing. They invade your boundaries and move in fast. If it feels like your relationship is on warp speed; follow your instincts and put on the brakes. These individuals typically disarm you with love bombing while pushing the relationship forward at an unusually fast speed. Wanting to move in after only 2 months of dating is a definite warning sign and good for you for heeding that one.
Your instincts were correct and healthy, which is why your ex-girlfriend escalated her abusive behaviors. She was punishing you for having healthy boundaries. Abusers come down hard on any barriers to their ultimate objective—total control. They will vilify you for any self-care acts. They want you to be in a weakened state. You’re easier to control that way.
4. Abuse is Abuse. No One Gets a Pass—Not Even Poor Little Waif BPDs. Please re-read the long paragraph of emotional and physical abuse perpetrated on you by your ex-girlfriend. It shouldn’t make a rat’s behind of difference if your ex had a troubled childhood. It may explain some of her behaviors, but it does NOT excuse them.
Enough of this, “but she had bad parents and a bad childhood. We should all pity her and learn how to be more patient and forgiving.” She dragged you down the driveway with your car and we should feel sorry for her because of her shitty parents and terrible childhood? BPD is not a Get Out of Jail Free card. Many BPDs are as sane and as well-behaved as they want to be when conducting a charm offensive or when they’re with people who won’t tolerate their bad behavior. She is responsible for her actions.
If you were a woman and your ex-girlfriend was a man; she would be in jail. In fact, she should be in jail for the physical abuse and reckless endangerment. SHE IS A DANGEROUS PERSON. You don’t treat abuse with patience and understanding. This is a load of crap promoted by BPD advocacy groups and other feminist organizations. Tolerate, understand and forgive the abuse if it’s perpetrated by a woman. Punish, prosecute and impoverish if it’s perpetrated by a man. No double standards for emotional and physical violence. Period.
You’re lucky to be out of this relationship physically intact and alive. If someone with BPD truly is incapable of controlling her behavior, particularly if she engages in violent behavior, then she should be in a facility—penal and/or psychiatric. (*Note to BPDs reading this: I did not say incapable of controlling her emotions—you can feel as crazy and out of control as you like; acting out your crazy emotions is another matter entirely)
5. You Can’t Save Everybody. Just Pray You’re Not Living Next Door to Them When They Decide to Go Off (Dennis Miller, Black & White, 1990). You can’t save someone who won’t admit she has a problem and attacks you for the many kindnesses you show her. This is the classic fable of The Frog and the Scorpion. You cannot save people like your ex. She has to do the heavy lifting. You can’t do it for her. All you will get for trying to help her is more heartache—just like the frog in the fable.
Many borderlines and other abusers treat their intimate partners as need gratifying objects instead of individual autonomous beings with their own needs, feelings and rights. “Many people with BPD, for instance, will be empathic towards, and care for, other people only under the expectation that the other person will ‘be there’ for them on demand. Many habitually make impractical claims that others are not ‘there’ enough and make unrealistic demands for amount of time spent together. They often inappropriately respond with intense anger to even brief separations or slight changes in plans” (APA, DSM-IV-R, 2000). You’re not an object; you’re a person. You will more than likely never be more than an object to be used by this woman to fulfill her bottomless pit of unquenchable, unreasonable needs.
Oftentimes, trying to rescue a Borderline is like trying to rescue a Big Bank; they’ll deplete your resources and you’ll be left with nothing to show for it except extreme losses. Furthermore, you’re the one who needed rescuing; you needed to be rescued from your ex-girlfriend. If this is a recurring relationship pattern for you, I encourage you to find someone to work with you on nipping this in the bud. Being a “rescuer” attracts women like your ex like bees to honey.
6. Closure Means Closing the Door. It’s natural to want closure at the end of a relationship. Unfortunately, you will rarely find closure with this kind of woman, so you’re probably not going to get an apology—unless it’s to manipulate you back into the relationship. Women like your ex rarely take responsibility for their actions and, as you’re well aware, blame you for their own transgressions. You want an apology because she wronged you very badly. She owes you an apology, but her pathology won’t allow her to give you one.
These women only value what they don’t have, which is why she’s reaching out to you now. This is called hoovering. Hoovering is a metaphor used to explain how abusive personalities, such as borderlines, histrionics and narcissists, try to suck their victims back into relationships by temporarily displaying improved or contrite behavior and/or claiming to have “changed.” BPDs tend to act like boomerangs and try to maintain contact after you break up, which also makes it difficult to find closure.
If you were to reconcile, she would probably devalue and abuse you again. As previously noted, you may get an apology from her, but it would ultimately be meaningless. It would be a manipulation, i.e., she figures out that if she apologizes she might be able to get you back. As for getting closure, I think the best you can hope for is the realization that this woman has serious issues that have nothing to do with you. You were the unsuspecting target of her pathology. The best closure is moving forward in your life, going totally NO CONTACT and finding a healthy and loving partner next time around.
Shrink4Men Coaching and Consultation Services:Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.
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- Emotional Toddlers: Narcissists, Borderlines and Psychopaths, Part 1
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- Emotional Toddlers: Narcissists, Borderlines and Psychopaths, Part 2
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