I was recently in a relationship that on the whole lasted about 6 years with someone who I didn't know had BPD (it was a "possible" diagnosis, her old therapist hadn't been definite), and she also has PTSD. We were never assuming we'd be a "forever" couple, and we broke things off a couple of times in the middle on good terms. However, the second of those times, I started noticing some very weird and alarming behavior when she met someone new briefly, but we ended up getting back together as she had started working on figuring out a lot of her issues and was a much cooler person for it. Towards the very beginning of our relationship, she had a lot of the typical jealousy issues and upsets if she didn't hear from me enough (though she usually did), but over time those pretty much died down to a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence, and she generally seemed to think I was pretty awesome. It seems that with my help and my own boundary/limit setting, the bulk of her impulsive emotional symptoms died down substantially, and I even helped her stop smoking and she got off of prescription amphetamines (for ADHD) which she was apparently abusing.
But there were still recurring issues throughout those 6 years of just abysmal self-esteem, occasional flare-ups of abandonment fears, general patterns of idealization and devaluation towards other people she would meet--and in the case of men she might be interested in, she altered more between sort-of liking them and devaluing them--didn't maintain or build friendships much, deep feelings of inadequacy and incompetence when bad judgment was exercised, fast-cycling mood swings in relation to other aspects of her life, feeling unsure of her identity, feelings of flatness and depression, frequent physical illness, sexual hesitations, and a very few minor dissociative episodes (beyond the dissociation involved in these other symptoms). Towards me though, she seemed more or less stable in her behavior after the first year, except she seemed not very forthcoming about sexual issues and any slight disturbance or rejection on that front was obviously felt as if it was a total rejection of self and of love even though she would almost never initiate anything.
In the end, it was her lack of willingness to work on her previously identified issues (which intensified our mental disconnect, as I would point out) that resulted in our break-up. Apparently she felt like she had to deal with these problems herself. We'd both talked about her going to a therapist, but she only told me after all this that she had avoided calling one because she had no idea what to tell them when they would no doubt ask what she wanted to see a therapist for. She had not consulted any literature, had not delved into any of it herself, she thought she just had to "journal through it" or something. While that did actually help, she didn't feel able to maintain sustained inquiry into herself, and would end up stopping or feeling like she'd lose herself or feeling all kinds of anxiety reactions.
Towards the end though, I noticed that she seemed to be "scouting," in a sense. This means she seemed like she not only got rid of the walls between herself and other people, but appeared to try to view others as better than they actually were, and to view me as slightly less important than she had. After we broke up, she seemed to maintain some closeness, though she did seem to be avoiding me a little. However, our connection didn't seem to have changed much for worse or better.
Then she started seeing someone about a month after we broke up, and there were INSTANT changes in her behavior. She became highly defensive towards me, like suddenly I'd set off all her buttons by being the same way I always was. She avoided me more and spent next to no time with me. Her positive emotions towards me seemed almost entirely shut off, and even if I was being totally friendly and she was not being defensive, I still felt that there was a very artificial wall there in regard to any romantic or intense feelings for me. I brought these things up, and she could immediately see some truth in it, but proceeded to apparently ignore it or find easy explanations or justifications and various ways to avoid the implications of it. The more I'd react to this, the more she'd accuse me of behaving radically differently than I had before, and how that "freaked her out," though mostly I was hurting and trying to work through an obvious problem with her so we could at least stay friends.
During this time, she also told me way more about her intimate life with the new boyfriend than any normal person would possibly imagine I'd want to know, and she did it in a particularly and clearly vulnerable moment of mine--not maliciously, it just seemed like it didn't occur to her that it would be upsetting to me, as if shutting off her positive emotions for me made her unable to understand mine for her. Other things about their intimate life came to my attention through her sheer carelessness and lack of willingness to keep such things totally private. This was especially hurtful because she had been so hesitant in our own intimate life, particularly when she was not connecting with herself or working on her issues. After about a month of me pointing out how she was blocking her emotions for me, I found the right combination of words that drove this home to her as an inescapable truth. I pointed out that even if she could remember the positive feelings, she was totally unable to re-experience them like she would if she recounted some fond memory of camaraderie with her high school friends. I was hopeful that something would be done about this, and glad to finally get through the barriers with this issue, but the next day all the urgency about it seeemed to be gone. She knew it was a problem and was going to go to therapy (she was already going to go because she'd realized with my help that she had PTSD and had in fact been diagnosed with it long before), but she was in no hurry to look into the problem herself or even look at the implications of how she was handling anything else. And she wasn't trying very hard to find a therapist.
Her new relationship seemed to be substituting for her own sense of self-worth, self-acceptance, self-comfort, adequacy and competence (which are terribly low when she's alone, as I was able to observe). They even broke up for a night two weeks into the relationship, and she started feeling suicidal and hopeless. She seemed to find it difficult to treat me with complete devaluation, but definitely treated me instantly as completely undesirable (and "rewrote" important things in our relationship as if through that lens, even though she'd clearly written otherwise on her blog at those times), reacted more in a "what's he doing wrong" manner than "what's he doing right" manner towards me, and took any opportunity to view me as threatening or abusive (which was pretty much based on me pointing out these problems and how they affected me and could potentially affect everything else).
In the end, even though I'd helped her realize specific problems she had and that she needs therapy, she continued treating me in this poor manner and seemed to be in no hurry to deal with the problems, in spite of the fact that we've had a very close and generally very good history together. I told her that the very least I needed from her to stay in contact at all was for her to make therapy (self therapy and clinical) a priority under the circumstances--she has a history of not following up on such things--and to start treating me with the respect and trust I've earned, even if she can't yet feel the loving feelings that are a part of that. I cannot stand by and be emotionally abused when someone doesn't show any sign of trying to stop it, and I can't watch all the good things in our 6 years together be devalued and rendered unimportant while she builds up this new relationship with someone who meets all the criteria for a "rescuer" and has terrible self-esteem himself.
What I find so disheartening about this is how invisible so many of the symptoms were, so it's only now at the end of 6 years that I seem to be getting the full blast of so much of it. If the alternating idealization and devaluation had been there throughout things, I would have left a long time ago, but now it's as if I've lost my relationship AND my best friend to something that was rather hard to detect, and that I can't do anything about. And though she's more aware that there is a problem than most are, she still doesn't really SEE it or FEEL it, and therefore thinks it's my behavior (grief, confusion, anxiety) that is outlandish and inconsistent.
Only in the last week have I done a lot of research on BPD (which is about a week after I realized she had a "possible" diagnosis for it, and a week after I did extensive research on PTSD). In retrospect, I can see that the other symptoms cropped up from time to time and why, and I can see where the fears of abandonment came into it throughout things, and I was very interested to see that nearly every single BPD defense mechanism has been used in regard to me the whole time (but again, mostly in the last few months). I also found that there are low-functioning BPs (i.e. the ones typically talked about here and other places), high-functioning BPs, and those that overlap the two categories (I call them middle-functioning). So I wondered if anyone else has experience of high or middle-functioning BPs? Also, I read just yesterday that the symptoms relating to impulsivity often disappear first before the others do. So the jealousies, the flare-ups of temper, accusations, etc, those apparently go away first. I think in her case, that's what happened even if they flare up occasionally and less intensely (which can be normal human behavior), but does anyone else here have experience of that? And has anyone ever seen this mostly manifested at the END of a relationship (or in this case, the start of a new one) rather than being equally present throughout? I'd love to hear different experiences of these things, but I recognize that's not so likely, because that makes the issue much less clearly BPD, and so people who have seen that may not even have sought out this community. I'd love to hear from you guys.
I also had the notion that "relationships" should also be considered part of the "compulsive behaviors" due to how they are treated. This particular person seems to use them to self-medicate, and all her insecurities are soothed by being in a relationship that is at least mildly stable or healthy. Red flags about such relationships are treated much the way that red flags about substance abuse are (avoidance, accusations, "you're the one with the problem" statements, justifications, splitting, etc), and in cases where sex-related traumas are involved in their history, perhaps sex and love are not adequately differentiated. Anyone else have thoughts on this too?
[I also recommend that anyone who has been affected by BPs check out the song I have listed below.]