Do you love someone with a personality disorder? What to expect from a relationship with someone with borderline personality disorder, NPD, or SPD.
the main points
- People with personality disorders fall in love.
- They have problems left over from childhood that make it difficult for them to form stable intimate relationships.
- People with borderline, narcissistic or schizophrenic personalities find it difficult to maintain mutually satisfying intimate relationships.
- People with personality disorders define love differently than others.
If you are in a serious romantic relationship with someone with borderline personality disorder, narcissism, or schizophrenia, you will likely end up feeling confused, lonely, and rejected.
People with personality disorders find it very difficult to maintain a stable intimate relationship because they lack the necessary relationship skills and ultimately have unrealistic expectations. What they crave in a relationship has more to do with what they missed in childhood than an average adult expects from another adult.
Note: In this post, I will use the terms borderline, narcissistic, and schizotypal (or BPD, NPD, SPD) as acronyms in describing people who meet the full criteria for one of these personality disorder diagnoses.
What is the love border pattern?
Most of my clients with BPD focus heavily on finding romantic love and avoiding abandonment. Love is the Holy Grail. They are looking as an adult for what they did not have during their childhood. As a result, they tend to regard finding their true love as the ultimate solution to all of their life problems.
While my narcissistic clients strive to be perfect or perfect, my borderline clients seek the perfect blend of a romantic lover and the personality of a caring, devoted, and protective parent. Although there are a few different love border styles, this is the most common.
These borderline agents want to be pampered, comfortable, and reassured whenever necessary that their mate loves them madly and will do anything to make them happy. Some of my clients are so insecure that they create complex tests of their partner’s love for them. Many of these tests are so unreasonable that they actually turn away even the most devoted lover.
Example – Susie and the proofs of love
My client Susie was 26 years old, and he was very attractive and very unrealistic about dating and relationships. She has dated many men in her search for true love. None of these relationships worked. Suzy blamed the men for their demise. She claimed that after the initial courtship, they made her feel unloved and abandoned.
Suzy started dating Ben, an amazing guy who was deeply in love with her. They seemed to be an excellent match and on their way to getting married. So, I was surprised when Suzy suddenly broke up with him and walked into my office crying hysterically.
This is an abbreviated version of our conversation.
Susie: Ben doesn’t like me, so I had to break up with him.
Therapist: I thought he asked you to marry him, and you were shopping for engagement rings. what happened?
Susie: Well, I wanted to get married right away. If we love each other, why wait? Ben said this was a big step and he wanted to get to know me better before we got married. He said we need to discuss some practical matters first, such as each of us envisioning marriage, how we will deal with finances and pre-existing debts, and whether we both want children.
All I heard was, “He doesn’t love me enough to marry me.” When I confronted him with this, he tried to reassure me, but I no longer believed him. If he really loved me and I was the only one, he wouldn’t ask for more time. He didn’t need to talk about all those things. I felt dreaded, abandoned, ugly and unloved. I left and said, “I don’t want to see you again.”
From this example, borderline love is highly impulsive and rarely practical. Practicality is seen as unromantic. Most of my frontier agents use splitting as a defense. In their minds, either someone loves them unconditionally and proves it by doing whatever they want (the good side of the split), or they feel rejected and abandoned (the bad side of the split).
What is a narcissistic love pattern?
Narcissistic love style is almost entirely self-serving. It’s all about what makes the narcissist feel good in the moment. No matter how devoted and loving narcissists are, their feelings are actually quite shallow. The entire relationship will likely fall apart once the narcissist becomes angry or disappointed with his new mate.
Here are the five basic stages of a typical narcissistic love pattern:
They become infatuated with someone they consider ideal and see him as ideal.
They engage in quick and intense courtship aimed at sealing the deal quickly.
- “Construction Project”
They begin to notice small flaws in the new partner and try to motivate the person to make changes. At first, they are cute, but if they encounter resistance, they begin to get angry.
If a person resists change, he turns from pleasant to evil.
- Not caring
They lose all interest in pleasing their partner and express it by abusing, ignoring, cheating, or getting rid of them.
Here is a typical example:
Narcissistic showman Mark fell hard on Rita. She seemed like everything he wanted in a woman. She came from a rich, classy family, she was slim and beautiful, and had a great body. Everything was fine until they got dressed up to go to a party with his friends for the first time.
Mark: Don’t wear the pants. You have such wonderful legs. Please wear your hot red dress with high heels. I want every man in the room to know that I have the hottest girl in the room on my arms.
Rita: I’m not really in the mood to show off my body tonight to a group of guys I’ve never met before. This is a strange feeling. You know I’d rather not everyone look at my breasts and legs, than treat me like a real person.
Mark: Then do it for me. I will be pleased with this. Don’t you love me and want to make me happy?
Rita: Of course. But not by dressing like a sex doll.
They fought their first serious battle. Mark said a lot of bad things to Rita. She ended up crying and not attending the party at all because Mark gave her an ultimatum: “Put that dress on or we’re not going.”
Things went downhill from there and Mark began regularly underestimating Rita in an attempt to get her to give in even more, and also because he was angry that she dared challenge him. He finally started cheating on Rita and leaving her to another woman who was happy to dress as he wanted and who allowed herself to bully her in ways Rita had too much self-esteem to allow.
What is a schizophrenic love pattern?
All of my schizophrenic clients fear intimacy. As young children, they were abused, neglected or intrusive by their caregivers. They were treated like things, not humans. By the age of seven, most of them had already decided that others were untrustworthy and potentially dangerous.
To survive without being controlled and enslaved by others, they had to find a way to leave home as soon as possible, become financially independent, and stay a safe distance away from others – emotionally and physically.
My more functional schizophrenic clients find a compromise that allows them to savor intimacy and human connection without feeling trapped in the relationship. The common solution is to establish partial relationships with people.
Here are some examples:
They may date people who live so far away that they only meet a few times a year.
They may fall in love with a married person and are unwilling to leave their soul mate.
They may have vivid and detailed fantasies of someone they just said “hello” to on the street.
They may stay one night with people they don’t expect to see again.
They may be in and out of the same relationship frequently. Initiating a relationship when they feel attracted and safe, and detaching emotionally or physically leaving when they begin to feel insecure or entrapped.
Here is a short version of what the entry and exit pattern looks like:
Betty and my schizophrenic client Bill meet and fall madly in love. They see each other day and night for two weeks. They are planning a vacation together. Suddenly, Bill gets scared and breaks up, getting colder toward Betty. He finds some excuse to blame her and leaves the relationship. My house was destroyed. Bill is relieved.
Bill works on the situation in therapy and realizes he cares about Betty. He decides to see if she is ready to try again. He convinces her to give him another chance by telling her that he is undergoing treatment and realizes that their problems may have been all his fault. But, after a month of bliss, the same thing happened again. Bill leaves again.
Once Bill is out of the relationship, he starts to miss Betty again. He sends flowers, gifts, and apologies. Betty’s mother and her friends are tired of this man and have warned her not to fall in love with him for the third time. She does. It ends the same way.
By the fourth year, Betty is in psychotherapy and taking antidepressants. Her friends and family hate Bill and refuse to hear her mention his name. They’ve outgrown it, but it’s not. Bell didn’t mean to ruin her life and shatter her dreams. He was just trying to protect himself.