I think one of the most profound symptoms of BPD is an extreme sensitivity to rejection. This can come in many forms: rejection from a job interview, a close friend treating you indifferently, or rejection from a possible romantic relationship. Of these three, usually the one that hurts most is being rejected from the possibility of a loving, romantic relationship. This creates awful feelings for the BPD, including a sense of abandonment, loss of self esteem, and feelings that they are simply not good enough to love; that they are somehow fundamentally flawed and incapable of having a relationship.
For most people, the thought of rejection is usually not a big deal. If a girl cancels her date or indicates she is not interested in going out with a guy, the guy usually thinks, “Well, her loss… on to the next fish in the sea.” Likewise for a girl: if a guy doesn’t show interest, she’ll simply move on and take it in stride. In both cases, there are always hurt feelings, but the difference between a normal reaction to rejection and BPD reaction to rejection is enormous.
My sensitivity to rejection is very strong. I feel rejected when a girl blows me off or ignores my romantic overtures. I feel rejected when I see a girl across the street who is very beautiful, but doesn’t have the time of day for me. I feel rejected when I’ve been out on a successful first date, but later find out the girl has returned to her ex-boyfriend. All of these situations really hurt…while the normal guy casts them off and gets on with his life.
For me, the feeling of rejection goes right to my gut and to my heart. I hate the feeling of being unworthy or unlovable, no matter who my object of interest is. Plain and simple, not every guy can get a date with the hot girl at school, or the office bombshell. The mere fact that I’m not on her list, however, makes me feel second class, dull and boring, or unworthy of the things I desire.
Over the years I’ve learned to analyze my thoughts more closely, and to think a little more objectively about romantic rejection. I think part of the problem starts before I actually ask the girl out: the minute I see a girl I might like, my mind starts churning out thoughts of a perfect first date, then fourth date, and then an engagement. If I’m lucky enough to get a date, my mind continues to jump ahead to thoughts like “Could I marry this Girl?”; or “Would my family like to meet her?”. Obviously most people don’t think this far ahead on a first date, but for me, it is very common.
As a result, if/when the girl cuts me off, I feel horrible because I envisioned so many possibilities for the relationship, when in reality it was just one or two dates. For most people, one or two dates is just an introduction, a chance to enjoy a meal out with someone new. First and second dates lead to more dates and then a deepening feeling of love that comes with time. For me the Borderline, however, the instant I sense any degree of attraction, it’s like I fall head over heels right there on the spot. Those who don’t have BPD can still fall head over heals, but their emotional “ante” into the budding relationship is not as high as someone with BPD.
Therefore, I think it’s important “not to get ahead of yourself”; and even more important to not get ahead of the relationship.
In years past, when I fell in love, most of the time I had never even been out with the girl: I simply built up a fantasy world in my mind that seemed to work, even though I had never interacted in a romantic situation. In some ways, this acted as a safe harbor for my overblown emotions because I did not face the possibility of rejection. It all sort of makes sense, in BPD way: why ruin a happy and loving fantasy world by actually testing the reality of dating someone, which opens one up to hurt, disappointment, or rejection?
I turned 30 and realized that it has taken me since my teen years to figure out how to ignore my romantic daydreaming that does not bear itself out in reality. One can plan out retirement, how to save for a new car, future travel plans, even how one wants to spend the holidays; but relationships, on the other hand, can’t always be planned. There are a lot of facets to relationships outside of our control, most notably the other person’s level of attraction, availability to start a new romance, and their own goals and dreams.
Accordingly, I think the best way to manage my BPD tendencies is to cast off any “advancing romantic thought” by keeping myself grounded in the present and in the context of the situation I’m in.
For example, if I’m out on a first date and having a good time, my BPD tendency is to start thinking miles ahead about things that have not even happened yet. Instead, what I now try to do is manage my thoughts by putting them through a “reality” filter and a “what’s happening in the present” filter.
So, when I’m saying good night and lean in for a kiss, instead of hearing wedding bells and “I Do”, I simply remind myself:
“I had a good first date. I got to know someone new, and there is a degree of attraction. Remember, however, that this was only a 3 hour date and lacking of any real commitment. Two people simply got together to test the waters. It’s possible she might want to see me again, but it’s also possible her feelings might change; something might happen in her life, or an ex-lover might enter the picture again. Either way, I have to realize that the status of the relationship ends the moment we part ways: right now, we’ve introduced ourselves, shared stories, and shared a kiss…but that’s NOT a life commitment, invitation for marriage, or even the beginnings of a head over heals romance. It’s just a date, and that’s all.”
Though I still find it hard to ignore my BPD tendencies when starting a new relationship, I’ve found that this thought process helps head-off any false sense of rejection before it even starts. Reminding oneself that a passing glance, a first date, or even a first kiss are just that and nothing more is hard to do, but ultimately, it helps lessen the rejection and sense of loss that comes when things don’t move forward.
Rejection hurts, but it doesn’t have to hurt as much: keep your thoughts in check and live in the present when it comes to relationships.