Earlier in the year – on April 23, 2102 – I wrote a post about whether or not men with borderline personality disorder are unlovable. It was in response to an article I read online from a woman who had apparently suffered horribly at the hands of BPD men.
Although she made some fair points, the language and manner in which she essentially lambasted any man with BPD was poorly chosen and insulting. The following are links to the article about BPD men being unlovable and my April 23, 2012 response:
- “Borderline Males I’ve Known, and Almost Loved; Surviving the Crash after your Crush”
- BorderlineBlog.com response to negative points made about men with BPD
I decided to write today’s post after someone commented on the response I wrote in April. One reader said the woman’s article “saved her life”. After careful consideration, I’m revising my position on this article to a more utilitarian view.
If reading such an article truly saves a woman from getting hurt, abused, or otherwise mistreated in a relationship, then I would say it has merit as a “wake up and smell the coffee” type of sermon many people need to make a substantive change in their lives. Sometimes you have to be dramatic to make a point. Women in bad relationships with BPD men often begin to question reality, their perception of it, and probably fall into various forms of denial. This is when dramatic intervention from family and friends is valuable for ending the negativity and moving on with one’s life. To the extent that Shari Schreiber’s writing acts as a catalyst for positive change, I fully support it.
Other than serving as a way to counsel women in truly difficult circumstances, I still feel Ms. Schreiber’s article has little value in a scientific or clinical setting. A guy recently diagnosed with BPD reading her words might suddenly have a very depressed outlook on his own personal future and ability to enjoy a happy life.
Shouting from the rooftop that BPD men should be avoided at all costs is a disservice to those men who have made legitimate change in their lives with constant therapy, medication, and family support. Segregating ALL BPD men out of the general dating population does nothing more than give a man with BPD a rather dim impression of his future: no wife, no children, no girlfriend, and all the other insinuations Ms. Schreiber made. Once bad = always bad, may not always apply.
I’ll use myself as an example and list the ways I’ve behaved poorly, and what (if anything) has changed with respect to my relationships with women
1. Idolizing/Demonizing your partner – Absolutely. With rare exceptions, I am 100% guilty of this emotional dichotomy. Up until about age 28 I failed to understand why women I was dating – or wanted to date – reacted so poorly when my opinion of them suddenly changed from “she’s the greatest” to “she’s the worst”.
Lesson learned: You can change your mind about people, but realize that if you have BPD, the change you think is justified is probably the result of a very nuanced difference of opinion in the mind of your partner or potential partner. They’re not rejecting your right to exist on planet Earth or be happy, they’re simply not interested in being with you. That’s all there is to it, there’s usually nothing more. In the case of current girlfriends, what most people would consider a “small argument” isn’t necessarily grounds for an immediate and irrevocable horrific emotional reaction. Operate within the spectrum of human emotions, not at the extremes.
2. Stalking: online, offline, or both – Yes, I’ve done that. Many people without BPD do it, too. This behavioral pattern was strongest between the ages of 18-25, particularly during college. If a woman rejected me, I thought that gave me a license to spy on them. If I was attracted to another woman but not formally in a relationship with her, I felt it was OK to follow them around electronically, seeing how I could insert myself into their life. If she was already in a relationship, I wanted to know anything and everything about the guy she was seeing, so I could make myself more appealing to her based on my perception of why she was attracted to a current boyfriend.
Lesson learned: It’s one thing to carry a torch for someone, it’s another to shadow their every move as if you feel entitled to be in their life, regardless of how hurt or rejected you feel. Although my electronic stalking habit has decreased in recent years, sometimes it comes back when I feel lonely. That’s part of the disconnect BPD creates in males: your emotional need to be validated by a relationship partner is satiated through predatory behavior, not positive behavior. Further, if you think molding yourself after the man currently dating the woman you like is productive, think again. You’re filling yourself with a false identity and denying your own true emotional and personal needs. Never mind trying to impress Jane by learning to be a master pianist like her boyfriend John. Put that energy into creating an identity you feel from the inside out, and your ability to tolerate romantic rejection will strengthen.
3. Sexual Harassment – Unwanted touching or sexual advances is sexual harassment. That said, it’s hard to litigate these cases in court because many male aggressors will claim they were simply in romantic “pursuit” of a woman, or that she led them on with suggestive actions, clothing, or words. I can count at least 3 events in my adult years that clearly constituted sexual harassment. I was lucky that the victims of my actions didn’t press charges or ask their boyfriends to beat the sh*t out of me. Males with BPD can be impulsive, particularly with boundary issues. This is often amplified by substance abuse, which does not excuse any sort of bad behavior, but certainly suggests the perpetrator also has a problem with addiction. Drunk or not, grabbing a woman’s rear end is wrong. Touching your secretary in the elevator is wrong. Using your power as an authority figure in the workplace to get sexual favors is wrong. There isn’t much room for debate unless the charges are unfounded.
Lesson learned: Wrong is wrong, no matter what your mental problems are. Men with BPD definitely have a disability, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be held accountable for their actions. Does being an alcoholic excuse you from running someone over in a drunk driving accident? BPD males often don’t understand the boundaries of what is acceptable or unacceptable sexual behavior. If you find yourself getting into trouble, it’s time to get into therapy and figure out ways to control your urges. Sometimes getting caught is the perfect wake up call, other times profound self examination leads to a better understanding of what is and is not appropriate. It might be very uncomfortable for BPD males – or any male – to openly discuss sexual behavior with a therapist, but it is mission critical to improving your life. Don’t fall into the “boys will be boys” mentality. Some men do, but they are in full control of their impulses and sexual actions. Most BPD guys are not. Get help, it will sting in the moment but save you from a ton of trouble later on.
It would be easy for me to apologize to those I’ve wronged in an anonymous blog post, but I won’t because that would be disingenuous. The male celebrities who go on TV and apologize to the public in the wake of a recently discovered affair are doing it for perfunctory reasons, not because apologizing to millions of people you DON’T know will somehow absolve you of your poor choices.
I’ve apologized to those I’ve wronged before and experienced mixed results. Male BPD behavior can be outrageous and unforgivable to some people, particularly women who felt threatened or victimized. Other times, the apology is accepted, but the wall between you and the other person goes up even higher.
Apologies for bad behavior will never forgive or excuse bad behavior. When you f*ck up, it has permanent consequences. An apology can help mend fences and relieve the guilt you feel, but history can’t be rewritten. The best way to keep out of trouble is to avoid it. If you can’t avoid it at the moment, see a good therapist and discuss ways to improve your behavior.