Dealing with the Borderline in Your Life
- 2010 17 May
Editor's Note: Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David will address questions from Crosswalk readers in his weekly column. Submit your question to him at: TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.
You know them by their roller coaster emotions and lives. One day you're their best friend, and the next you're their worst enemy. All the while, you're scratching your head, wondering what went wrong.
This CrazyMaker, the third of five that we're talking about, has undoubtedly had a difficult life themselves. Often abused in childhood, with a history of troubled relationships as an adult, they are vaguely aware that life isn't working for them. While they are still inclined to blame their problems on others, deep inside they have an inkling that they may be contributing to their problems.
It is extremely difficult to be friends or married to a Borderline Personality. She (I use the feminine pronoun because the majority of Borderlines are female) employs a defense mechanism known as projection to rid herself of unacceptable traits by projecting them onto you.
They commonly say such things as:
• "I don't do such and such, you do."
• "I'm not at fault, you are."
• "Why did you do such and such?"
• "If only you would have……."
And so it goes. By projecting their unwanted qualities onto you, masterfully shifting the blame, they never have to be held responsible for their actions.
Those in relationship with a Borderline quickly learn that they must walk on eggshells. If not careful, an eruption may occur at any time, for any reason. And if the eruption happens, it will never be the Borderline's fault.
Having discovered the fragility of the relationship, those closely connected to Borderlines are often plagued with self-doubt:
• Could I have handled that situation differently?
• Did I do something wrong?
• Do I deserve this attack on me?
• Am I at fault for what is happening?
Don't be surprised if you doubt your view of reality and question whether you are crazy. First the Borderline has you questioning your sanity, and next she makes you feel wrong about yourself. Her methods is clear—attack you and your thinking.
One of the questions I'm frequently asked about any of the CrazyMakers is this: "Do they know what they're doing?"
Rest assured that none of the CrazyMakers sit back and create a diabolical plan to drive you nuts. Each of our CrazyMakers have personality issues that lead to their behavior. They generally have little insight into what they're doing, and don't have a plan to act the way they do.
What can you do if in a relationship with a Borderline? Here are several things to consider:
First, develop the art of detachment. Yes, this is difficult if you're married to a Borderline. Still, to survive and thrive you must develop the ability to love from a distance. You must develop the ability to observe the drama without participating in it. Much like watching a sitcom on television, you need to watch events unfold without taking them personally.
Two, give up trying to understand. This goes completely against our grain. Many of us wrongly believe that if we can understand something, we can control it. But, you can't possibly fully understand the thinking of the Borderline. If you get hooked trying to understand it, you will end up suffering.
Three, give up your need for consistent love and approval. If you must have their constant love and approval, you'll forever have a hook in your lip. You must let go of the need for constant approval. While this doesn't mean you can't get love and approval some of the time, it will not always be available.
Furthermore, if you're close to the Borderline you'll be the recipient of their rejection, negative feelings and blame. If you need their approval, you'll be flailing on the hook indefinitely.
Four, set limits. You may feel strange and awkward as you practice detaching, giving up the need to fully understand the Borderline. But you can do it. You can determine how you will interact with them, not allowing them to control you. Choose which dramas you will be part of and which ones you'll steer clear of. Listen to them, but take care not to offer unwanted counsel. Ask them to respect your boundaries and clarify how you want to be treated.
Noted author, Randi Kreger says, in her book Stop Walking on Eggshells, "The secret is deciding before hand what your limits are, what to do when they are not observed, and to be consistent in the process."
Finally, practice love and honor in your relationship. You will be tempted to take the role of the victim and remain angry. But as Christians, that is not our highest calling. While we are not called to be abused, we are called to love the unlovely and care for those who hurt us. We are called to offer grace, kindness and respect to everyone.
So, take the high road. Plan ahead how you will act when the next crisis occurs—and it will. Set healthy boundaries, getting involved only to the extent that it is helpful. Nourish the times that are good, building upon the growth that occurs.
As always, I'd love to hear from you. What has been your experience with those who have roller coaster emotions and lives? What have you done to protect yourself while maintaining the relationship?
May 17, 2010
Dr. David Hawkins is the director of the Marriage Recover Center where he counsels couples in distress. He is the author of over 30 books, including Dealing With the CrazyMakers in Your Life, 90 Days to a Fantastic Marriage, and Saying It So He'll Listen. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.