Borderline’s Partner: Enters Healthy, Exits Mentally Ill

Uploaded 8/6/2022, approx. 18 minute read

The borderline transforms all her partners, even mentally healthy partners, into narcissists. When I say her, it's just for convenience sake. About 50% of people with borderline personality disorder are men, although I'm suggesting lately that men should be diagnosed with a variant of borderline personality disorder, which I call covert borderline.

It doesn't mean that I'm a misogynist. It doesn't mean that I'm a sexist. It doesn't mean that I don't know English, although all three are pretty much correct. It's simply for convenience sake.

And because of the fact that until very recently, about 75% of people diagnosed with BPD were women.

Anyhow, coming back to the topic.

The borderline, as I said, transforms her intimate partners into narcissists. This is known as late onset narcissism or acquired situational narcissism, a term that was coined in the 80s by Millman.

Why? How does she do this? Why does she do this? What happens to her partners that they suddenly evolve, transmogrify and transform into narcissists, at least behaviorally emotionally? What alchemical process takes place between the borderline and her partner?

This is the topic of today's video.

My name is Sam Vaknin and I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited, and I'm also a professor of psychology. Before I go there, however, before I start with the topic of the video, I would like to respond to a series of emails and messages and carrier pigeons and what have you that I've received from various psychoanalysts around the world. And when I say around the world, I mean around the world. They're everywhere. They're in France. They are in India. They are even in South Africa. They're in Chile. They're in the United States. They're in Germany, et cetera, et cetera.

I received a river of complaints from psychoanalysts claiming that the dual mothership concept was developed by Sigmund Freud. Apparently he also invented sliced bread, according to psychoanalysts. Wrong. It's very wrong, actually, and it's a show of ignorance.

Let me help you a bit, my dear psychoanalysts.

Freud distinguished anaclytic from narcissistic objects. He was wrong because he assumed the existence of a self and that the narcissist possesses a cofected self. In other words, that the narcissist invests emotionally in his own self.

But both assumptions are probably wrong. Definitely the second one.

The narcissist doesn't have a self. That's precisely the problem. That's the core of narcissism.

So there is nothing to cofect, nothing to invest emotional energy in or as Freud called it, besetzung. There's no besetzung process possible with a self that doesn't exist.

So the distinction between anaclytic objects and narcissistic objects was wrong from the very beginning.

Freud also equated the roles and importance of the mother and the father in the formation of anaclytic objects in later life.

Wrong again. Only the mother counts. Only the mother is involved in the formation of anaclytic objects and processes.

Later on in life, as Melanie Klein, Mahler and numerous other Piaget and Winnicott, numerous others have proved much later and even Freud's own daughter, Anna Freud.

So to sum up this part, and maybe I will dedicate a special video to this.

Freud's view of the mother and the mother's role in adult bonding and attachment later on in life. But to summarize this part and go to the topic of the video, I would like to read to you from this. It's the Freud Encyclopedia. It's gigantic and extremely heavy, as befits its topic. And I don't know if it can be captured in the camera. It's the Freud Encyclopedia. And it's published by Rutledge, a masterpiece, an absolute masterpiece composed by dozens, if not hundreds. Of scholars, of Freud's psychoanalysis, the antecedents of Freud, the schools after Freud, and so on. It must be in every every psychologist library, even if you don't adhere to psychoanalysis, and I don't, for example.

So let me read to you from the Encyclopedia.

Freud thus felt that children learn to feel for other people who help them in their helplessness and satisfy their needs. Love, which is of the model of and a continuation of their relationships as sucklings to their nursing mother.

That is Freud.

And this is the article about unacclitic objects.

Hence, according to the theory of unacclitic object choice, a man will love a woman who feeds him, and a woman will love a man who protects her.

The implication is that the man rediscovers a mother, and the woman rediscovers a father.

Wrong, as I've just said. It's absolutely wrong.

Hence, according to Freud's formulation, heterosexuality is unacclic, whereas homosexuality is narcissistic.

A person chooses an object on the basis of some real or imagined similarity with himself when he is a homosexual.

The unacclic object provides psychic nourishment, and its loss can precipitate a depression.

And Freud describes this depression, unacclic depression.

I'm reading from the Freud Encyclopedia.

Unacclic depression has been further distinguished from introjective depression.

An eclectic depression causes one to feel helpless, weak, depleted, to wish to be cared for, loved, fed, protected, and is accompanied by intense fears of abandonment, oral cravings, and an urgency to feel an inner emptiness.

Introjective depression derives from a harsh, punitive conscience, resulting in feelings of inferiority, worthlessness, guilt, and a wish for atonement.

These two syndromes can coexist in an individual.

So this is as far as the commentary by my would-be colleagues, perhaps, psychoanalysts all around the world.

It's wrong.

Freud did not suggest a mothership, a dual mothership concept.

He suggested a mother-father collusion in the formative years, which preconditioned the child when he becomes an adult, to seek for substitutes, mother-substitute and father-substitute, in the form of unacclic objects.

Additionally, Freud was wrong, and that is wrong. That is simply wrong. It's been utterly disproven over the decades.

Second wrong assumption is that the narcissist has a self, which he affects, which he invests emotional energy in.

The narcissist has only internal objects. Some of these objects are self-states, but they are not integrated. They are not coalesced. There's no unitary self.

By the way, not only in narcissists, there's no unitary self-period.

The narcissist has self-states, which are internal objects, and he affects, he invests emotional energy in all of them, in all his internal objects, whether they are self-states or whether they are not.

Some of the internal objects are unacclic. They are maternal objects. For example, when he comes across a potential intimate partner, he takes a snapshot of her, so to speak.

He internalizes and introjects her. He creates an internal object, which represents the intimate partner, and this object becomes an unacclic object, of course.

The self-states are introjects.

In personality disorders, there are two types of constancy, that is, building on Jean Piaget's object permanence work.

So there are two types in personality disorder. There is introject constancy, and there is object constancy. Object constancy is an attachment to an external object.

Even if the attachment is pathological, it's there, and there is a perception, a clear perception of boundaries and separation from an external object, that is, object constancy.

In people with personality disorders, for example, borderline personality disorder, there is object inconstancy. There is the inability to maintain an internal representation of an external object on a permanent basis.

Narcissists and others have introject inconstancy. They try desperately to maintain introject constancy, whereas object constancy is an attachment to a discernibly separated external object.

Introject inconstancy is an attachment to an introject.

Now, of course, when you are attached to your own internal space, when you are one with your internal objects, this creates rigidity.

This explains why personality disorders are rigid patterns in the language of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual because of introject constancy or because of introject disturbance, as in borderline personality disorder, which in this causes panic and behavioral rigidity.

We have two types of rigidity.

One type of rigidity is an attempt to freeze the internal mental space because of abandonment, anxiety, separation, insecurity. There is a need to freeze the internal objects, to fossilize them, to ossify them, to fixate them. It's like, you know, fixating butterflies.

And so there's a need to kind of freeze the tableau, to create a tableau of internal objects, which will be there forever hanging on the wall of the Narcissist's internal museum. And this creates rigidity, of course.

On the flip side of this coin, the borderline cannot maintain object constancy. She fails to create introjects that correspond to external objects and are stable.

So her behaviors are essentially rigid in the sense that she is expected to act out, to aggress, to decompensate, and so on and so forth.

So there are two types of rigidity.

The borderline's object constancy is the reason that her partners, even healthy partners, become Narcissists. At least Narcissists for a while.

I'll try to explain.

The borderline has an overwhelming need for object constancy because she has abandonment, anxiety, separation, insecurity, because she has dysregulation, because her personality has very low level of organization, scouting, disorganized, etc.

For multiple reasons. She needs to have constant objects in her life. I call these objects the rocks.

She needs a rock around which she can construct her life in a manner which will allow her somehow to regulate her overwhelming emotions. She's terrified of her own internal processes and dynamics. She needs help, but she needs help from someone who is always there, always accepting, always forgiving, always overlooking things, turning a blind eye, always supportive, provides a secure and helping hand. She needs a savior.

In other words, she needs a fixer. That's her constant object.

Regrettably for her, she can't create the equivalent. She can't create an internal object which is as stable, as solid, as always present as the external object.

So this creates in her something we call object in constancy. Even if the external object, her intimate partner, is always there for her, her inability to maintain introject constancy renders the external object in constant.

You see, constancy requires an external object who is reliable, predictable, not capricious, not arbitrary, loving, caring, empathic and supportive. That's the external object.

But it also requires the ability to create a representation of this person in your mind that is stable and solid and consistent and always there.

When you have these two, external object and internal object, which correspond and which are always there and which are solid and which are stable and which are predictable and reliable and helpful, then you have object constancy.

The narcissist fails in his attempts to interact with external objects. The narcissist has introject constancy and object inconstancy, external inconstancy and internal constancy.

The borderline is the opposite. She has introject inconstancy which creates essentially a feeling of object inconstancy. Both of them, because even the narcissist's introject constancy is not enough. He doesn't have the object.

The narcissist lacks the external object. The borderline lacks the internal object.

So when a healthy person, let alone a narcissist, teams up with the borderline, they become a romantic dyad, a couple, a partnership of some kind.

The borderline has a problem with object constancy because she cannot generate internal objects, introjects, which are stable. So her behavior pushes her partners to avoid her. The borderline is too painful as an external object. It hurts to be with a borderline. It's excruciating. It's a torture. So even healthy people, they begin to avoid the borderline as an external object, as a real entity, as a person, as someone out there. They begin to avoid her, but they love her. They want to be with her. They don't want to lose her. So what they do instead, they develop an internal object in their mind and they begin to interact with this internal object.

The internal object is not hurtful, is reliable, is caring and loving, is empathic, doesn't act out, doesn't decompensate, is not dangerous, etc.

Let me try to recap what I said until now.

Again, this is very complex material. My heart goes out to you.

Let me recap what I've said until now.

Everyone needs object constancy. You need to feel safe in people around you.

But to do this, you need to have a stable object out there, someone you can trust, someone you can rely on out there, someone who is predictable.

But you need also to have an internal representation of this person in your mind and introject that is also stable, is also reliable, is also loving and caring and empathic and helpful and supportive and predictable.

So you need both. You need the outside, the external object and you need the internal object.

The narcissist fails with the external object and succeeds with the internal. The borderline fails with the internal and succeeds with the external. Both of them cannot get it right so they don't have object constancy.

Consequently, the borderline misbehaves. She disintegrates. She decompensates. She approaches and she avoids. She does crazy things acting out. I mean, she is a tumor. She is a perfect storm.

Even when the borderline's partner is perfectly healthy, is not a narcissist. He's going to begin to gradually shun her and avoid her because she's too much, because she's too painful, because she's destroying him mentally. So he's beginning to avoid her as a prophylactic measure, as a precaution, preemptively, is withdrawing. Even healthy partners of borderlines go through a process of avoidance and withdrawal when the full wrath and energy, negative energy of the borderline is unleashed upon them.

They just want to get away. They just want to not be there. They want to disappear somehow. But they don't want to abandon the borderline for a variety of reasons.

The borderline pushes specific buttons in people, even when they're healthy.

So they want to abandon the borderline.

So what they do instead, even healthy people, what they do instead, they develop an internal object which represents the borderline and they continue to interact with this internal object.

Does it remind you of anything?

Yes, the narcissist snapshot. Exactly. It's a narcissistic dynamic. It's exactly what happens to healthy partners of a borderline, let alone to narcissists. They develop a snapshot of the borderline and they continue to interact with this snapshot because interacting with the external object, interacting with the real life intimate partner who has borderline personality disorder, interacting with the borderline requires what we call in psychology, high effort coping. High effort coping, which is health threatens your physical health and your mental health.

So just as an attempt at self-reservation, the partners of borderlines become temporarily, transiently, situationally narcissist in the sense that they start to interact with an internal object which represents the borderline.

And partner rather than with a partner herself, which is what narcissists do.

The borderline, of course, perceives because she is like a seismograph, you know, the borderline is hyper vigilant. She constantly monitors for possible abandonment or rejection. She catastrophizes. She over-interprets. She mislabels behaviors which are perfectly normal as abandonment and rejection. She is all over the place in this sense.

So she senses the withdrawal. She grasps the silent creeping avoidance. She realizes that her partner is beginning to shun her. She knows that what she's doing is wrong. She knows she's misbehaving. She knows she's hurting him. She knows she's introducing unmanageable chaos into their lives. She knows she's crazy making, but she just can't help it because she's dysregulated. She's sick.

Borderline personality disorder is an illness. She can't help it, but she knows it is having deleterious effects on the relationship. She knows she's driving her partner away into his mind, away from her and into his mind. She realizes that he is interacting with some image of her, with some avatar of her, with some icon of her, with some representation of her, which is not her.

So she feels abandoned. She feels rejected.

And when borderlines feel abandoned and rejected, they decompensate. Their defenses crumble. They become secondary psychopaths and they act out viciously, aggressively, or they do immoral things or they act recklessly.

This is the dynamic, the unhealthy dynamic between the borderline and each and every one of her partners.

Aware of this inevitable dynamic and craving to keep her partner in her life.

In other words, in a desperate attempt for Lauren and doomed attempt to ensure object constancy, the borderline needs to freeze the partner.

To avoid any change and any dynamic in the partner. She needs the partner to become an ancient Egyptian mummy, exactly like the narcissist, but for different reasons.

The narcissist freezes his partner because he needs to emotionally, because he's emotionally invested in the introject and he doesn't want the partner to diverge from the introject because he challenges the introject.

The borderline wants to freeze her partner, wants him to not evolve, not grow up, not travel, not talk to other people, not have friends, never ever to pay attention to anyone but her and to pay attention to her 60 minutes a day, 24/7, 366 or 380 if possible.

She is all over him, she suffocates him, she smothers him because she doesn't want him to go away even to the next room.

It's exactly like a baby with mother. When mother leaves the room, baby starts to cry. That's the borderline.

She tries to freeze the partner.

But this desperate attempt to deny the partner agency, to reduce the partner to an inert object, to objectify the partner, this strategy of rendering the partner some kind of toy or plaything in a way or at best a source of permanent presence and the core attention that she needs.

This provokes the partner. People don't want to be treated this way. They don't want to be deactivated. They don't want to end up being objects. They don't want to lose agency and control over their lives. They don't want to be subjected to emotional blackmail. They don't want to be walked on.

They don't want to conflict and adversity in their lives on a permanent basis. They feel engulfed. They feel this generates in the partner, engulfment and anxiety.

As you see, being in a couple with a borderline, even if you're perfectly healthy, generates in you as the partner of the borderline, generates in you a narcissistic dynamic.

You start to interact with internal objects rather than an external object and generates in you a borderline dynamic because you develop exactly like the borderline. You develop an engulfment anxiety and you start to avoid the borderline. You avoid her because she's painful and unpredictable and dangerous. So you avoid her by developing an internal object which represents her in your mind and interacting with this object.

But then you begin to avoid her altogether, even sometimes internally because she demands of you to cease living, to not live anymore. She demands of you to become inanimate. She wants you to become a fixture in her mind and in her life.

So borderlines react very badly if you spend too much time with someone else or if you cater to some business needs or if you don't pay them attention for too long or if you don't respond instantly to any communication that they initiate.

Never mind when and where. Because you don't have agency, you are not your own person, you are an external object but she owns you, the borderline owns you. You are her property in many ways. You are an external regulator. It's like a transformer in electricity. You are an external regulator. Your job is to regulate her moods and her emotions and make her feel good. That's your job. That's your reason to exist. This is what you need to do in order to justify your being.

And so partners gradually draw away. They're pushed away. And they react with narcissistic defenses like, for example, introjection and introject constancy. And they react with borderline defenses like, for example, decompensation, avoidant behaviors, approach avoidance. And they develop, gradually, anxiety, both about the external object and about the internal object, introject anxiety.

So they don't know what to do. The partners of borderlines, they absolutely don't know what to do. They also have their own needs for object constancy. In other words, they also need to maintain a constant object out there and a constant introject corresponding to this object in here.

By avoiding the external object, even healthy partners of borderlines are undermining their own object constancy. They're driven clinically to become personality disordered.

And this whole dynamic, which is pretty inexorable, provokes the borderlines abandonment anxiety.

So the whole approach avoidance cycle, where the borderline approaches you, you respond favorably. Intimacy is created, the borderline is terrified of abandonment and rejection by you. But at the same time, she feels that she's taken over by you, that she's subsumed and consumed by you. She is in government anxiety.

So she withdraws and then she feels abandoned and anxious about it and she approaches. All this is reciprocated and mirrored in the dynamics of the partner.

As the borderline goes through her own vicissitudes and trigulations, first experiencing intimacy, then terrified of losing this intimacy and external regulation and so she approaches.

Then terrified of the approach and of being engulfed and enmeshed and consumed by the partner, so she avoids. Then she's terrified of abandonment having avoided the partner and she approaches. This is her own internal dynamic. She can't help it. Approach avoidance repetition compulsion is an integral part of borderline. I hate you, don't leave me.

But this provokes a mirror image in dynamical, psychodynamical terms, a mirror image in the partner.

The partner at first is hurt, perplexed, befuddled, totally disoriented, in enormous pain and agony because of the borderline's approach avoidance. He can't understand, can make sense of it and he can't tolerate it. So he starts to avoid the borderline as an external object.

Avoidance behaviors which are typical to the borderline become his. Sort of he caught it by way of contagion. He was infected somehow.

So he becomes avoidant as well.

She is avoidant when she feels engulfed. He becomes avoidant because he feels rejected or humiliated or abandoned. So he becomes avoidant with external object, but he's still very much attached to the internal object representing his borderline partner.

But then the borderline partner's behaviors, especially her insistence to freeze the intimate partner, to prevent any change of dynamic, any growth, any development and any happiness, basically.

This challenges even the internal object, even the introject. So this creates introject inconsistency. This is totally narcissistic dynamic.

The partner becomes clinically a narcissist while he is with a borderline. He doesn't recognize himself anymore. He's in a state of shock at the things he does and says. He regrets, he feels shame and guilt, which is also essentially a borderline dynamic.

And this drives him further away because who wants to experience shame and guilt all the time? He feels blackmailed on the one hand and he feels inadequate on the other, a classic compensatory narcissistic dynamic.

So the borderline induces in the partner major elements of narcissistic disturbance and major behaviors of borderline, including avoidance. And the partner responds. The partners were more aware, more sophisticated, more intelligent. They're trying their best. They try to secure the borderline's object constancy.

So at first they avoid because the borderline is painful and hurtful and aggressive and unpleasant and demanding and challenging. So they avoid.

But then the internal object is still there. They miss the borderline. They love the borderline. They want to help her. They want to restore object constancy.

So they approach. What is this? Avoidance approach.

Avoidance approach.

Freud was the first to describe this, by the way. Actually, he wasn't the first. Adler was the first, but he enlarged upon it considerably.

So the partner avoids and approaches. The borderline approaches and avoids.

Again, a mirror image, a total borderline dynamic. When you are with a borderline, her dynamics will prevail. Her behaviors will take over. Her internal world will infect your internal world. You will have become a narcissist and a borderline simultaneously for a while, for a while. Walking away from the borderline usually restores health, mental health.

But this approach, avoidance, repetition, compulsion, rules both parties in the borderline's romantic relationships. Even when the borderline's partner came into the dyad, came into the couple, totally grounded, totally centered, totally healthy. He has no personality disorder, no mental health problems. When he exits the relationships, he has strong narcissistic defenses. He has a narcissist's way of relating to reality via introjects, via internal objects. And he has marked approach, avoidance, behaviors.

The borderline is as contagious as narcissism.

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Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the complex dynamics between individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) in intimate relationships. He explains that people with BPD experience two types of anxiety: abandonment anxiety and engulfment anxiety. These anxieties lead to approach-avoidance behaviors, which can be disorienting and confusing for their partners. Vaknin also highlights the concept of dual mothering in narcissist-borderline relationships, where the narcissist provides unconditional love to the borderline, while the borderline becomes the narcissist's "dead mother," allowing the narcissist to attempt to heal and fix their original mother through the borderline partner. This dynamic creates a strong bond between the two, making it difficult for them to separate.

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Professor Sam Vaknin discusses coping with borderline personality disorder, including abandonment anxiety and object constancy. He suggests establishing rituals and procedures of presence, permanence, stability, and predictability, involving the borderline in activities that can be misinterpreted as forms of abandonment, and introducing object constancy into the relationship through mementos, programmed reminders, and shared sentences. He also discusses decompensation, acting out, and mood lability in individuals with borderline personality disorder. Finally, he offers advice on how to deal with a partner who has borderline personality disorder, including restoring reality testing, preventing suicide, and countering transient paranoid ideation.

How Borderline Sees YOU ( Intimate Partner)

Professor Sam Vaknin proposes a new diagnosis called covert borderline, which better suits men as it combines borderline and narcissism. Borderlines have two anxieties: abandonment anxiety and engulfment anxiety, which lead to approach and avoidance behaviors. In the approach phase, the borderline sees their partner as their savior and regulator of emotions, while in the avoidance phase, they become paranoid and view their partner as an enemy. This creates a roller coaster of emotions and pain for both the borderline and their partner.

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Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the dynamics of intimacy in relationships involving narcissists and borderlines. He explains how both parties fear intimacy for different reasons and engage in behaviors that undermine it. The discussion delves into the ways in which borderlines cope with abandonment and rejection, including avoidance and self-trashing. Additionally, Vaknin explores how both narcissists and borderlines push each other to abuse them, providing an excuse to break up and start over.

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Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the love life, sexual fantasies, and relationships of borderline women, as well as the connection between borderline personality disorder and promiscuity. He delves into the origins and manifestations of the disorder, including its link to childhood trauma and heredity. Vaknin also explores the impact of these dynamics on relationships and the potential for resonance or exacerbation of pathologies in such pairings.

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Professor Sam Vaknin discusses the fear of rejection and abandonment in individuals with borderline and covert narcissistic personality disorders. He explains how rejection is perceived as total and abandonment as irreversible, leading to extreme reactions and defense mechanisms. He also delves into the role of drama, entitlement, and the aggressive and passive-aggressive techniques used by these individuals to cope with rejection and abandonment. These techniques are often destructive and rarely lead to the desired outcome, ultimately causing further rejection and isolation.

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