"Being in a relationship with a borderline/narcissist can be intoxicating, full of spontaneity, exciting, and thrilling. You may feel deeply needed and super important to him or her. At the same time, this life is all about them and none about you. You may have even lost sight of who you are and what you want, and your own interests, feelings, and needs."
In other words, a relationship with a borderline/narcissist (BP/NP) is far, very far from being a healthy one. "A healthy relationship gives you energy, helps you feel relaxed, and makes you feel wanted and comfortable just the way you already are." A relationship with a borderline/narcissist is pretty much the opposite.
Borderlines and narcissists, according to Margalis Fjelstad, appear "like a pair of opposites on the outside. The borderline acts emotionally more negative, less social, less predictable, and more dependent. The narcissist acts more friendly, outgoing, outrageously optimistic, fantastically competent, and in control."
What they share is "low self-esteem, fear, anxiety, paranoia, and deep emotional pain from a sense of 'not feeling good enough.'" Moreover, "both use many of the same defense mechanisms: blaming, projection, devaluing, idealization, splitting, denial, distortion, rationalization, and passive-aggressiveness."
Why do borderlines and narcissists need caretakers? Since they do not have a healthy sense of self, the world to them is scary. And so they need somebody who listens and cares and creates "a world that is no longer scary", argues Margalis Fjelstad, who characterises the caretaker role as "equivalent to being a full-time, unpaid therapist".
Not all caretakers are alike (neither are borderlines and narcissists) and their involvement levels might differ considerably. There are however characteristics that many do share. Among them might be fear of anger. "Fear of anger puts you at the mercy of the BP/NP who has no fear of expressing his or her feelings and even blaming them on you." Or, the deep-seated yet delusional belief that reason is the solution. "The truth is that the BP/NP is unable to consistently respond logically."
Caretakers are as much in denial about his or her situation as the BP/NP. "How much energy and time are you spending covering up the reality that you are in a relationship with a mentally ill person, all the while pretending that your partner is 'normal' and that your drama-laced interactions are 'normal'? The fantasy that the BP/NP is just like everybody else, only 'more intense,' is a mystification."
Part of the problem with personality disorders is that "people who have them cannot perceive the changes needed, they feel threatened by change, and they often don't follow through with the changes needed."
Fact is, you can't force anyone else to change, you only have the power to change yourself. "You have been looking for a way to have more power in this relationship ... You have been focusing in the wrong place."
Acceptance is key. "You cannot change the BP/NP. You must accept the fact of your limitations, and you must accept the BP/NP just the way he or she is."
Again and again, Margalis Fjelstad stresses that the BP/NP suffers from a serious mental illness. "As long as you stay in the Caretaker role, you are reinforcing the insane, dysfunctional behavior of the BP/NP."
So what is there to do?
First of all caretakers need to give to themselves what they are giving to the BP/NP. "Self-care sets up a reverse scenario. That is, you fill yourself up until you don't need the other person to fill you up. Then, whatever you give will come from a place of abundance rather than neediness ... It honors and respects your own needs and individuality, as it honors the BP/NP for who he or she is."
Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist is refreshingly no-nonsense, provides lots of useful hints on how to put this self-care model into practise while at the same time informing thoroughly and in no uncertain terms about the BP/NP's view of the world. It is a most helpful book!
Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist
How to End the Drama and Get On with Life.
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Lanham ° Boulder ° New York ° London