For those who have never heard the term, it is difficult to describe Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in a few sentences—but we will make an attempt in this article. COBs (Children of Borderlines), SOBs (Spouses/Siblings of Borderlines) and POBs (Parents of Borderlines) have a very hard time living with BPDs, and we will try to give some pointers for those who are in this very difficult situation.
Suffice it to say that Borderlines are aggressive, envious, self-confident, narcissistic, demanding, temperamental and seductive. In order to be constantly at the center of everyone's attention, they take on a variety of roles, such as helpless victim, raging tyrant or saintly psychic. They are also pathological liars. Borderline children, even at the age of six or seven, will threaten to call the police with made-up stories of abuse in order to terrify their parents. Borderlines never see faults in themselves; their victims, who feel alone and despised, are always to blame.
Borderlines turn their homes into hot-beds of intrigue by turning family members against each other, excommunicating and exiling those who don't submit to their demands and training their "loyalists" to spy on or harm the target of their intense hatred. Suspicious and untrusting, they explode with accusations of betrayal and abandonment over the most innocent act, like hanging a towel in the wrong place or splashing a few drops of water on the floor after washing the hands. The degree of drama which they stir up keeps others in a state of constant anxiety, since it is impossible to know what will trigger the next violent blow-up.
In between these explosions, Borderlines can seem perfectly normal, gracious and loving. Victims feel confused, wondering how Borderlines can be so warm and devoted to those who worship them as paragons of perfection, while treating them with vicious scorn. Those who even hint at some wrongdoing on their part, including therapists or rabbis, are met with lies, denial or threats to destroy them professionally.
One Borderline bought a new set of expensive furniture, while her seventeen year old daughter went to school with holes in her shoes; for her there was no money. A neighbor, a single mother of four, lives in abject poverty and suffers from severe fibromyalgia, while her millionaire mother goes on expensive cruises and gives large donations to charities that honor her with fancy dinners. One subjugated and brow-beaten husband is ordered to do the laundry, the dishes and to take her parents shopping and to the doctor, while his parents who live only a block away are barred from entering their home and cannot even see their own grandchildren.
Borderlines hold a kind oft hypnotic sway over others. Family members are often unusually devoted, thinking about them 24/7. The consequences of not pleasing them can be enormous as they may prevent you from seeing your own children or grandchildren, may make sure that no employer will ever hire you, may bar you from attending family events or demonize you to such an extent that you begin to believe that you truly are evil or insane. Because Borderlines can be so generous and loving, family members are happy for the good times and pride themselves on bearing the bad ones by numbing themselves emotionally. But this numbness comes at a price; they become addicted to the adrenaline rush that accompanies a violent episode. It is similar to the scary "thrill" of being in a speeding race car or a roller coaster. Having lived with unpredictability and instability, victims do not know what it means to be tranquil, loved or stable. Being with nice, normal people seems boring. Tranquility feels somehow abnormal or phony.
Recovery from a toxic relationship requires learning three main skill:
1) Do not take responsibility for their moods: You might need to go to Al-Anon meetings in order to learn how to stop feeling guilty for their moods, addictions or explosions. To regain control over you, they will accuse you of abandonment and betrayal, tell you how lonely and depressed they are or threaten to harm you if you do not take care of them. Be compassionate but do not allow yourself to become enslaved.
2) Limit contact: Try to live far away. Limit phone calls and visits. Put down the phone when they are nasty. Give up trying to please, as this is not possible. Do not try to get through to them; they will insist that they have never been wrong. Keep things at a "Nosh" level—nice and shallow. Try to keep distant. Be vague with your answers and tell them how amazingly wonderful they are. Do not expect trust or predictability. This is a house of cards which will fall over at the slightest wind.
3) Make your own decisions: Avoid sharing all personal information, as they will find fault with every decision you make. Be proud of every act of independence and health. Think well of yourself! And learn to be happy with yourself and your life to whatever extent possible.