Insecure In Love
Are you in love but insecure and lonely? Are you In a love hate relationship?
Being in a loving relationship is important to being happy, living a healthy and meaningful life. Mark Twain describes one experience of love as, “the irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.” Much research conducted by biologists, neuroscientists and psychologists shows that being loved is vital for both physical and mental health. But why do some relationships work while others are plagued with conflict, despair and anger? Could Borderline Personality Disorder(BPD) be the problem? Causes of BPD is largely environmental and treatable.
When we meet someone and fall in love there are many factors that contribute to the attraction. Much of this process is unconscious or, at the very least, not well thought out. Sure, on the surface, we may think she or he is attractive, fun, kind, engaging, and affectionate with the potential to be a good life partner. But often, one or both parties bring hidden issues that can cause loneliness, conflict, chaos and instability that adversely affects the relationship. In these cases, the relationships tend to end in a painful way for both partners unless help is obtained via individual psychotherapy, relationship counselling, or couples counselling.
In our practice, we see many couples suffering from roller coaster relationships. Frequently, this is due to one or both partners having ingrained or rigid patterns of thinking and behaving that are particularly impactful in intimate relationships. Such patterns, perhaps a bit unkindly referred to as personality disorders, usually begin during adolescence or early adulthood.
It is inaccurate and unkind to label people who suffer from personality disorder as crazy or insane. That is simply untrue. More and more research has shown that these disorders are caused by many factors including genetics, parenting, peer influences, childhood trauma, neglect, abuse, and environment. So, in short, factors that are, beyond our control.
In this article, I will be discussing Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), the most common personality disorder. Note - the purpose of this article is to spread awareness and to gain understanding and insight. BPD is a psychological term used to describe the condition. The degree to which it affects an individual varies. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and it is common for people who are affected by BPD to lack skills in coping with anxiety or stress and regulating emotions. About five percent of the Australian population are affected by BPD at some stage in their lives, and women are 3 times more likely to be affected by BPD than men. BPD is a treatable condition.
The effects of BPD in intimate relationships
People affected by BPD often have highly unstable intimate relationships. Usually of above average intelligence, they tend to fall in love easily, sometimes without getting to know the person. They initially view a new partner with great adoration, but perhaps because they invest so heavily and quickly in the relationship, feelings of insecurity and anxiety begin to creep in. They tend to attract and be attracted to people with narcissistic behaviours. These relationships are usually intense and with conflict. Without expert couples counselling they may not last.
Due to the demonstrated intensity of feelings, they sometimes earn the label of ‘drama queen.’ However, it is more helpful to understand what it feels like for people affected by BPD. When they become close to someone they consider special or significant, they start to worry that somehow they will be rejected or abandoned. They usually don’t feel safe or secure in the relationship. Therefore, they constantly seek reassurance from the partner. At some stage in the relationship, they begin to direct questions and comments such as: ‘Do you really love me? How much do you love me? Do you really think I’m beautiful? Where were you? Why didn’t you answer the phone? You were looking at that woman, weren’t you? You haven’t told me you love me for a long time etc, etc.’
They sometimes view themselves as bad or unlovable, hence no matter how often their partner reassures them, the feeling of safety and security is only temporary. People affected by BPD tend to be promiscuous or use their sexuality as a way to get close to their partner. And they are prone to having affairs or seeking external attention when they feel their needs are not being met by their partner.
They have trouble maintaining long term relationships. And when they do, the relationship is usually fraught with ongoing conflict and chaos. Unfortunately, they may stay in an unhappy, and sometimes in abusive relationships as they fear being alone or abandoned more than being unhappy or in extreme cases, abused. People affected with BPD usually have been exposed to trauma, either in early childhood or via their intimate relationships or both.
For some people affected with BPD, fears of being left out, left behind, rejected, or abandoned are present in almost every relationship. They tend to have the same feelings even when they have changed partners. And even when in secure intimate relationships, they tend to be on the lookout for signs of imminent or perceived rejection, separation or abandonment. In these instances, the adoration for their partner can easily turn into outbursts of anger or lashing out and accusations of not being cared for.
These feelings of rejection or abandonment are real to them. And when they react to these feelings, they are by no means faking it. In extreme situations, they both admire and at the same time despise or hate their partner. They can say, ‘I hate you, don’t leave me’, in the same sentence. Those affected with BPD may also ‘test’ a relationship to suss out how dependable their partner really is or how secure the relationship is. This testing can be via fights, outbursts of anger, frequent questioning, accusations of disloyalty or infidelity, or simply, ‘you just don’t love me.’
People affected with BPD experience intense levels of emotional pain. They are acutely sensitive to feedback or comments from others. When judged or criticised, the pain they feel can be experienced comparable to a third degree burn or a deep cut. Others may see the resulting display of emotion to be an ‘overreaction.’ They become anxious easily and are prone to bouts of depression. However these episodes only last hours, or at most a day. Other behaviours may include impulsive aggression, self harm substance or alcohol abuse. After these acting out episodes, people affected by BPD can feel intensely bad, ashamed and guilty.
People affected with BPD have distorted view of themselves and others. They often face frequent changes in their job or career and in friendships. They may easily adopt new values or belief systems such as new age thinking, diets, and spiritual practices, but somehow these do not fulfil or last. They are prone to impulsive behaviours such as binge drinking, excessive spending or risky sex. They can feel nobody really understands them or that they are being unfairly misunderstood or mistreated by others. They can be easily bored and require constant attention from others. They constantly seek advice, reassurance or approval. Most people affected with BPD feel empty inside and mostly alone. The loneliness that they feel is real and painful for them. This is particularly acute and can spiral into depression when they lack social support.
Common signs of Borderline Personality Disorder
- Pervasive feelings of emptiness
- You can be their best friend one minute and worst enemy the next.
- Frequent mood swings with intense highs and lows, lasting hours
- Fear of being alone
- Relationships involves emotional abuse
- Prone to bouts of anxiety and depression
- Frequent relationship conflict/problems,
- Clingy, needy one minute then switching to rejecting and distancing in intimate relationships
- Lack of impulse control-excessive spending, binge eating, gambling etc
- Intense anger, rage or sadness
- Jump from relationship to relationship
- View people as either good or bad
- Instability in work place, job or career
- Highly sensitive to others views or feedback
- Intimate relationships are chaotic and dramatic
- Constant fears of being rejected or abandoned
- Friends may view as ‘drama queen’
- Difficulty in maintaining a long term relationship
What to do if your loved one is affected by BPD
People affected by BPD are often misunderstood. Their expressions of strong anger, rejecting, blaming behaviour, and constant seeking for assurance are really about the desperate need to be heard, validated and loved. These behaviours result from feelings of fear, loneliness, desperation, or hopelessness associated with BPD. Therefore, a clearer understanding of what is really going on, what matters to the person, will inevitably be more helpful. When an event or situation occurs, it is best to:
1) Ask calmly what has happened.
2) Listen attentively; don’t contradict, argue or present a different view.
3) Validate: Locate one thing within the event or situation that makes sense to you and that you can understand; mention what that is.
4) Offer help, not to solve the problem but to get through the event or moment
5) If he or she says no, provide space. Remember his or her emotions last longer than others.
6) Support him or her to see a specially trained and highly skilled Counsellor or Psychologist.
BPD is a treatable and recoverable condition. With the right counselling, those affected can have long lasting, loving and stable relationships. While we cannot choose our genetics, families or the environment we are born into, we can certainly choose the life ahead that we want for ourselves. The first step is recognising the problem. The second is to seek help with an attuned therapist. In our practice, we have witnessed many clients overcome this condition and enjoy loving relationships with themselves and others.
If you know someone who may be affected with BPD we encourage you to reach out to them by sharing this article. Or if you see parts of yourself in this article, we encourage you to give us a call on 0400 999 918 or contact us online.