Stand up to the Borderline Bully

How to resist energy the stealing of an abusive partner.


When you’re in a relationship with someone with a Cluster B personality disorder, you’re really in a relationship with two entities.

What do I mean by this?

Well, there’s the beautiful, attractive and charming human being that they are. These qualities are the reason you’re with them. And then there’s the ugly Cluster B demon that is not only abusing you but also abusing the person you love.

So what to do? You love this person, that’s why you’re with them. And you may have some great times with them. But they abuse you regularly. You want to be having a relationship where you help to elevate each other and make each others’ lives better. But just as you think that things are going really well, the demon rears its ugly head and abuses you with the mouth and hands of the person you are closest to.

In many cases (especially if they are Borderline or Histrionic) you can also see how much they are suffering whilst abusing you. This pains you, because you love them and you really want them to be happy. You want to help them, but at the same time they are shouting at you, fine-tuning their words as they home in on whatever hurts you the most.

I recently returned from a few days abroad. I had some things to take care of, but mostly I spent my time reading and meditating. As the days went by, I found myself feeling better and better. The simple fact of not being in a stressful environment made me feel ecstatic.

When I returned home to the stressful environment, I had an epiphany. I realised that no matter what a wonderful person my girlfriend is at her core, my presuppositions about the relationship had been wrong.

I had thought I could relax with her and let down my guard. But after having a few days alone, I came back and saw that this idea was what had made me such an easy target for energy stealing. It was kind of like there was a war going on that one of the sides wasn’t aware of.

I realised that in about 90% of our interactions, she coats her words with an aggressive, blaming, threatening or shaming choice of words and tone of voice. I saw how my immediate instinct was to try to placate her in order to avoid escalating the situation. I saw how unconsciously many of my reactions were grounded in fear. After such an exchange I saw how she would have more energy while I would have less, and she would use that energy to smile and make the whole thing look like a joke, with me as the punchline.

The crazy thing is that I used to be relieved when that would be the case, because when I would see her making a joke – even an abusive joke – it would mean that she would be unlikely to go into a 48-hour yelling spree.

I think my being relieved when she would feel good in her abuse of me is a symptom of a kind of Stockholm Syndrome. In any case, a few days ago when I saw what was going on, I made the decision to stop enabling it.

So now whenever she approaches me with negative energy, I give it right back to her. This is a huge challenge for me.

I was brought up to be empathetic towards people; now what I’m teaching myself is to refuse to open myself up to another person’s sadness. It is even more difficult because this is the person I’m in love with.

I’m only a few days in, but I think the results are good. When she approaches me with unjustified anger, I give her anger right back. It doesn’t make me feel good, because I don’t like the feeling of anger. But after two and a half years of living in this environment, it is no longer feasible to respond with positivity. What I do gain from responding with anger against anger is that I am teaching her that she can’t steal energy from me anymore.

Previously she could always fall back on the threat of a temper tantrum if I didn’t tow her line. I was very afraid of this, because I had seen her shout for 48 hours straight (with a six-hour sleep break). However for the last few months I have left the house whenever she throws a temper tantrum. So now she doesn’t go completely ballistic anymore. This means that I’m able to reject her when she tries to wipe her emotional garbage off on me. I respond with the same level of anger, but I’m careful not to escalate.

So there you have it: if you’re in a relationship with a Cluster B or any other abusive person, do not allow their violence to penetrate your boundary. Do not feel guilty about their unhappiness, do not apologise, do not kowtow to the Cluster B demon.

These are usually highly intelligent people. They are experts at blurring boundaries and attacking you in areas where you can’t be sure. If you’re a conscientious human being then you will have the nagging doubt that maybe they are right. Perhaps it is your fault after all…

To this I say: Yes, they may be “right” in some areas. But the essential thing is that threats, blame, manipulation and violence have no place in a relationship. Being “right” about some detail is not an excuse for being violent.

One final note: it seems extremely harsh to be talking about my lover in this way. I feel it acutely as I write these lines. That is the reason why it took me so long to arrive at this conclusion. But the truth is that the only way to deal with this level of energy stealing from someone you live with is to be ready for war whenever the disorder shows its face, no matter how much it seems to come at you out of the blue.

Conversely, you must be ready to be kind and loving whenever the disorder gives up trying to get through your boundary, and the human returns to you, looking for a hug.



Borderline Bluff

People who suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder will often keep attacking right up to the point where their bluff is called. That’s what my girlfriend did this weekend. 

A few mornings ago I had showered, had breakfast and packed my bag for the day. I was leaving for work when my girlfriend woke up and snapped:

“Did you wash up, or are you leaving that disgusting mess with me?” She was referring to about three plates and a few knives and forks and mugs in the kitchen.

Now, at this point I would previously be far more peace-seeking. I would either go straight out and wash up or apologise for not having washed up, and ask if it would be OK if I washed up when I got home a few hours later, because I would be home before her. I would be terrified that she would go completely ballistic, so I would do all I could to calm the waters.

However, my approach has changed since I had a certain epiphany. That epiphany is that I am dealing with two personalities here: I’m dealing with my girlfriend and I’m dealing with her BPD. The BPD entity will do whatever it can get away with; it only understands the language of force. The times I have sought to placate it, it has taken full advantage of my concessions.

The times when I tried to soften her words and bring her into harmony with me, she took it as a sign of weakness and a permission to drain my energy. So this time I let her words be what they were, and raised my shield.

“Yes, I’m leaving that disgusting mess,” I snapped back. “I have to go and work. I’ll wash it up when I come home at 12 o’clock.”

“You bastard!” she shouted. I left. I was determined to get to the office with enough energy and focus to do the work I had planned. She followed me out in the hallway and continued to shout at me. I made sure not to listen to her words. I just mimicked her nagging tone and got into the lift.

As I sat in my office, my phone kept lighting up next to my laptop. I looked out of the corner of my eye at the text messages that were rolling in.

“Now I understand why the real estate deal is so delayed. It is so that I would understand what a monster you are. I regret that I made the mistake of becoming pregnant with someone like you. You are not a human being. I have monitored you and hoped, but you are not a human being. I will manage somehow. I will buy the apartment on my own. Somehow I will manage to pay the huge mortgage. This is too much for me to bear, but I will manage.”

This was the first out of elleven messages that came in quick succession.

When she got home that evening, she refused to talk with me, but her body language was very loud. She put on one of her favourite TV programs. It’s about a bunch of billionaires’ wives getting into cat fights and having plastic surgery. The atmosphere was toxic. I went to sleep wondering if I would wake up with a knife in my body. I realise those were my own fears. She has never done anything like that. I guess it was the stress that made me think along those lines.

The next day I got out of there before she woke up. I grabbed my laptop and went to a cafe to work. A new string of toxic text messages followed. When I got home, she was lying on the couch, holding her belly and moaning. She pointedly refused to talk to me but called a friend and told her she would have to go to the hospital because her belly was hurting. When she hung up I asked how I could help and said that we’d better go to the hospital now. She said, “You had a chance to help me, but it’s too late now.”

I replied that I’m done feeling guilty, but that I want to help.

I stuck around in the uncomfortable silence interrupted by the frenetic sound of a celebrity plastic surgery programme on TV. I repeated that I wanted to help.

She started shouting at me to fuck off, to get out of her house, to stop ruining her life.

I said that I wanted to help.

She continued to shout. I said that I would leave if that would make her feel better. She kept shouting to me to fuck off.

I started packing a bag. She kept shouting. Finally I lifted it hesitantly and walked towards the door. She stopped shouting and started sobbing loudly. I walked over and held her in my arms. She sobbed on my shoulder. I asked her if she wanted me to stay. She said, “I don’t care!” I knew that meant that she wanted me to stay.

I stayed and consoled her. Her behaviour improved, and now everything is back to “normal”.

So there you have it: call the Borderline’s bluff. Borderlines will go as far as they can, but I’m beginning to think that they will usually not go any further.