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.