Loving the Borderline in Her Fantasy

Uploaded 4/2/2021, approx. 20 minute read

Okay, Shavavim and Shoshanim. For those of you who have been wondering what these words are, they are in Hebrew. They mean naughty ones, my roses. Middle Easterners are very florid in their language.

Today I am going to discuss my second most favorite topic, and that is the love life, the sexual fantasies, and the bizarre relationships of borderline women.

Of course, my number one favorite topic is me. We are also going to discuss the twisted relationships between the narcissist and his women. When I say his women, I mean his intimate partners who slide smoothly into the role of a mother, a maternal role.

Why is this? What is happening there? And how does all this have to do with borderline and sex?

So stay with me for this bumpy rollercoaster ride.

My name is Sam Vaknin. I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love and of Narcissism Revisited, and I'm a professor of psychology in various universities around the world.

And so let us start with this delectable dish, the borderline woman. She's irresistible. She's sexy. She's promiscuous. She's unboundaried, and she's going to break your heart. She's going to dump you in a heartbeat as she moves on to the next target, so to speak.

Borderline personality disorder is, today, beginning to be widely considered as a form of complex trauma, as a form of complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

The originator of the term, of the diagnosis of complex trauma, Judith Herman and many others are pushing to actually abolish borderline personality disorder as a separate diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Instead, they want to instate a whole category of complex trauma, one of the manifestations of which is borderline.

They point to the fact that victims of complex post-traumatic stress disorder, including victims of narcissistic abuse, are indistinguishable in their clinical presentation from people who are unfortunate enough to have borderline personality disorder.

Borderline personality disorder, in many cases, gives rise to compulsive sexual ideation and to hypersexuality, also commonly misnamed sex addiction, because it's not exactly an addiction.

Now, what is compulsive sexual ideation? It's the inability to concentrate on anything but sex. It's the constant intrusion of sexual thoughts into daily activities, interests, pursuits. It's the sexualizing of every exchange via text, verbal, visual or otherwise. It's constant compulsive or aggravated sexting and so on.

So this is sexual ideation, compulsive sexual ideation.

Hypersexuality is simply another word for indiscriminate promiscuity. It's the rapid turnover of sexual partners, usually one-night stands or in casual sex relationships, where there's no real deep intimacy. There are emotions, of course, and there is intimacy, but it's limited. And this limitation to intimacy and limitation to emotions make the borderline feel safe, because she's not likely to be abandoned, she's not likely to be hurt and rejected.

So while there are no conclusive studies, I want to emphasize this, there are no conclusive studies that link borderline personality disorder to promiscuity way and above the level of promiscuity in the general population.

Still, the borderline's tendency to engage in reckless behaviors and to be unboundaried portend such behavior, make it plausible, make it very probable.

And of course, anecdotal experience, including your experience, definitely tends to support the view that most people with borderline personality disorder are promiscuous and promiscuous and engage very often in one-night stands and casual sex, and so on and so forth. This is not the case, by the way, with grandiose narcissists. Covert narcissists are very much like borderlines. That's why they are grouped together in the new construct of dark tetra.

Dark tetra is psychopathy, narcissism, Machiavellianism, manipulativeness, and borderline covert, borderline and covert narcissism. So this is the dark tetra.

And the reason borderline is grouped together with covert narcissism is because they share many behaviors. It's not the same psychodynamic, definitely not, but they share many behaviors and they often are misdiagnosed as one and the other.

So borderlines are misdiagnosed as covert narcissists and vice versa.

The covert narcissist, exactly like the borderline, does engage in promiscuous sex and is compulsive.

The grandiose narcissist abhors one-night stands and casual sex because in one-night stands the grandiose narcissist is objectified. He becomes one of many men. He is not rendered or considered unique or special. The grandiose narcissist believes that once you experience sex with him, you will have become addicted to him. You will stalk him. You will never let him go. This is a part of his grandiosity, the belief that he can leverage his sexuality to get women to become his slaves and to dominate them. And this is not possible in a one-night stand. In a one-night stand, the partners use each other.

So the grandiose narcissist partner uses him for sex, uses his body for sex and then tells him goodbye, discards him in effect. He experiences a discard.

So grandiose narcissist abhors and detests and avoids and shuns one-night stands and casual sex.

Another myth online, which is nonsensical.

Let's go back to the borderline.

In early childhood, the typical borderline, when I say borderline, it's a person diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, majority of whom are women, but it's not limited to women.

In early childhood, the borderline had learned to associate sex, pain and love inextricably. Whenever she thinks about sex, she thinks about love and pain. Whenever she thinks about pain, she sexualizes it and considered it somehow mysteriously as a form of love.

So for example, if she's abused or her intimate partner is extremely jealous and possessive, she would interpret it as love.

So sex, pain, love. They are inextricably connected in her mind. And this is sometimes owing to a history of childhood sexual abuse.

In the etiology and anamnesis of borderline personality disorder, we find an inordinately large number of cases, which had involved early childhood sexual abuse between the ages of six and nine, 11, 12.

Another component in borderline personality disorder is heredity. It seems that borderline personality disorder is hereditary and involves brain abnormalities. And this predisposes the child to develop emotional dysregulation and mood disorders and mood lability, which are the hallmarks of borderline personality disorder.

So it seems the problem starts with the hardware, with the wetware, with the brain, and then the child is rendered hypersensitive. And then anything adverse that happens in the child's life pushes the child over the edge and into borderline territory.

The borderline sexualizes her emotions. She sexualizes her needs. What are her needs?

Like any schizoid construct, like anyone with an empty schizoid core, and the borderline, the narcissist, the psychopath, the histrionic, they all share an empty schizoid core, as Kernberg called it, the emptiness.

So the borderline wants what every schizoid wants. Yes, even the narcissist. She wants to be loved. She wants to be long. She wants intimacy. She wants to be accepted. She wants to be valued. She wants to feel safe, empowered, irresistible, in control, and at home, her comfort zone. Isn't this a list of what all of us want?

Yes, but there are two major differences between borderline narcissists, people with schizoid core, and healthy people.

First of all, the definitions, the terminology is not the same. What a healthy person would call love is not what a borderline would call love.

Her definition of love is very different because remember, it's intimately connected with sex and pain.

She sexualizes love. She would very often confuse having sex with making love or having sex with being loved. That's why she has promiscuous sex, because she wants to be loved all the time.

The definitions of the words vary. The narcissist, for example, considers love as a supply. When he gets narcissistic supply, he feels loved.

The psychopath considers goal accomplishment, goal orientation, self-efficacy, as a form of love. When the psychopath attains his goal, when he secures his goal, he feels loved by someone, by the universe. There's love involved.

So these people, they don't use the same words, they don't use these words the same way you do. When they say love, they mean something completely different. When they say intimacy, they mean something different.

For example, as far as the borderline is concerned, intimacy is the equivalent of the codependence, merger, and fusion. It's becoming one with the intimate partner, not being separate, never being abandoned. Even if the abandonment is fully justified, for example, a business dream, she would consider this abandonment.

When the terminology is so vastly disparate, it's impossible to communicate, and healthy people can't understand, can't wrap their heads, their minds around the borderline's good.

And so in the borderline's mind, even one-night stands, and most one-night stands are ugly, they're impersonal, the sex sucks, seriously sucks. We have established it in numerous studies. There's no sex worse than one-night stands. Often one-night stands end badly with a discard, or with a fight, or with a disgust. These are really lurid, sordid events. The parties are usually drunk or drugged, stoned. These are not salubrious, nice things to happen to you. So I'm not saying all one-night stands are like this, but majority are, according to all studies, and all reports, and everything we have. And so in the borderline's mind, even a one-night stand, and even a one-night stand that had turned ugly and ended badly, and she goes through many of these, is an enchanted event. She is likely to embed the dissonant experience of the one-night stand in a fantastic narrative, a narrative involving love, redemption, rescue, or friendship. So she's likely to idealize her one-night stand partner. She's likely to imagine that he is her boyfriend, or to consider him a friend, even though she had met him only two hours ago, or six hours ago. She is likely to fantasize about a relationship that may transpire from the one-night stand. And she's likely to consider the one-night stand a sort of ritual of intimacy, closeness, empathy, acceptance, and love.

People with Borderline Personality Disorder are often sexually assaulted, gang raped, raped. It's a very common experience, and it's a multiple experience with the majority of borderlines.

If you talk to borderlines, they will often describe two, three rape cases, a gang rape while they were drunk, or drug, etc., etc. And this happens even in early adolescence.

There are numerous documented cases of borderline women who had been gang raped and then prostituted at age 12 and, you know, 13, 14, 15. So her sex life is really dramatically bad, dramatically corrupt and problematic.

To cope with this fact, the borderline transforms her distraught, disturbing, devastating sex life into a fantastic narrative where she's actually adored and admired and is found to be irresistible and quartered and flirted with and wanted. And the men who are betting her, actually abusing her body to masturbate with, these men are actually in love with her, or at the very least, infatuated with her. They are like boyfriends or they are like very good friends.

And somehow, mysteriously, this thing is going to continue, at least in her memory a bit later. So the entire sexual life of the borderline actually is happening in her head.

She is, in this sense, of course, exactly like the narcissist, auto-erotic. She makes love to herself.

But as opposed to the narcissist, she makes love to herself in a total sphere of fantasy. The narcissist has sex with an intimate partner within a shared fantasy. The fantasy is shared. The partner colludes, collaborates with and gets involved in the fantasy. We call it fully a duh, madness in two.

So the shared psychosis, both the narcissist and intimate partner share the fantasy. Not so the borderline. The borderline doesn't need her partner to share the partner for the night, I mean, in casual sex. She doesn't need him to share the fantasy. She has her own fantasy and she molds him, she transforms him in her mind into a figment of that fantasy via the process of snapshotting. Let's call it idealization light or rapid idealization, like rapid dating. It's very different from the borderline when she is in an intimate, committed relationship because then she, like the narcissist, insists on a shared fantasy and the elements of the borderline shared fantasy include non-abandonment. You will never abandon me, you will never reject me and you will never abandon me and never reject me by being totally available to me whenever and wherever I wanted in an unlimited fashion. And if you ever display autonomy and independence, you are abandoning me and rejecting me and I'm going to find someone else.

These are the elements of the borderline shared fantasy as opposed to the narcissist shared fantasy, which is essentially based on the three S's, sex, narcissistic or sadistic supply and services.

And so the litany of failed relationships, because the borderline goes through numerous failed relationships. Most of these relationships are relatively short, a few months, a year, five years is a miracle. So this litany of failed relationships is the inevitable outcome of selecting the wrong mates.

The borderline's mate selection is compromised. It is intended to ensure that the borderline finds herself in a relationship with the wrong partner so that her needs are not met, so that she can legitimize her cheating and her promiscuity.

So it's exactly the reverse. She chooses the wrong partners so as to let her continue with the sexual and romantic behaviors and emotional behaviors which reflect her dysregulation and lability. In other words, she caters to her pathology. She nurtures and cultivates her dysfunction by choosing the wrong mates which then legitimizes her misconduct and misbehaviors.

And these wrong mates can be anything. They can be much older than her. They can be much younger than her. They can be distant and unattainable. They can be married. Usually they're all of these put together.

So wrong mates guarantee need dissatisfaction, guarantee misbehavior, guarantee dissolution of the bond. Of course, dissolution of the relationship, the untangling of the bond, a breakup, also guarantees that the borderline will never be abandoned and rejected because the partner is gone. It is a preemptive measure.

By selecting the wrong partner, the borderline guarantees that abandonment and humiliation and rejection will be preempted by her. She will preemptively abandon and reject the disqualified, wrongly selected partner by cheating on him in most cases.

And this predisposes the borderline to anticipate the worst. She fully expects every one of her intimate relationships to end acrimoniously and in agonizing abandonment and rejection. She foresees the end of every relationship long before they start. She often cheats her way out of such calamitous dyads and couples.

This is a process of catastrophizing, the borderline catastrophizes, all her liaisons.

And then at the first sign of discord, at the first sexual rejection, at the first absence, at the first impatient answer, at the first criticism, she decompensates. She acts out having catastrophized the relationship to start with, Abyゼ, before it started.

The minute there is the slightest sign, the catastrophizing kicks in and she's convinced the end is near. And she acts out. She becomes violent. She becomes promiscuous. She becomes deceitful. She cheats and lies to her partner. She becomes psychopathic, defiant, impulsive, de-sympathic and reckless to cope with overwhelming shame and guilt, because, you know, borderlines are capable of emotions and are capable of empathy.

That's the difference between borderlines and narcissists. That's the difference between borderlines and primary psychopaths, factor one psychopaths. That's why borderlines are actually factor two psychopaths. They are secondary psychopaths because they have emotions and empathy. So these emotions and empathy give rise to shame and guilt.

Having cheated, having deceived, having acted dishonestly, most borderlines experience egodystony. Most of them feel uncomfortable. Most of them have overwhelming shame and guilt.

The psychopath feels ashamed when he is caught in the act red-handed. The psychopath feels ashamed when he shows a sign of submissiveness and weakness, a vulnerability or an emotion.

The narcissist feels ashamed when he grandiosity is challenged and when it is challenged in public, he is mortified. The borderlines feels ashamed and guilty because she had mis-acted. She had misbehaved. She had cheated. She had deceived. She had betrayed her partner. She has egregiously misbehaved. So she feels overwhelming, the shame and guilt are overwhelming. They are also dis-regulated. So she dissociates. She simply dissociates. She slices off the entire episode. She tries to minimize it. She becomes amnesiac. She depersonalizes, takes herself out of the picture. She de-realizes, pretends that it was not reality. She may say, I was so drunk, I don't remember anything. Or I don't even know his name, etc., etc.

And I would like to read to you a poem, a song by Amy Winehouse, a song about the typical borderline reaction.

So here is a song by Amy Winehouse. It's called, I Heard Love Is Blind.

And it is the typical reaction of a borderline to an episode of cheating. I couldn't resist him. His eyes were like yours. His hair was exactly the shade of brown. He's just not as tall. But I couldn't tell it was dark and I was lying down. You're everything he means. You're everything. He means nothing to me. I can't even remember his name.

Why are you so upset? Baby, you were not there. And I was thinking of you when I came. What do you expect? You left me here alone. I drank so much. I needed to touch. Don't overreact. I pretended it was you. I pretended he was you. You wouldn't want me to be lonely, would you?

How can I put it so you understand? I didn't. Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.

This is an encapsulation to perfection of the borderline mindset. When she acts out, cheats, deceives, just in order to extricate herself from a relationship that is not working for her. And it's not working for her because she made sure that it will not work for her by choosing the wrong part.

Now, some borderlines, definitely some narcissists and psychopaths are what we call high function. Some people with personality disorders are high functioning, but these people are even more disconcerting. They're more creepy. They're more eerie. I find them creepy and eerie. People with personality disorders who are high functioning compartmentalize their promiscuous, antisocial, addictive, sadistic and defiant behaviors. They take all these behaviors and they put them in a drawer and they shut the drawer until the evening when they open the drawer. During the day, they are competent professionals, diligent students, pillars of the community, responsible citizens and fathers or mothers, loving husbands or wives and thriving entrepreneurs or politicians. Come evening, the mask drops, the drink is out, the drugs are spread and drink and drugs are replete with dissolute reckless sex with virtual strangers. Gambling or any number of self trashing, addictive and dysfunctional, even self destructive behaviors.

What baffles scholars is that all these self states, because these are self states. When you see that person in the morning and you see him in the evening, these are like two different people. You can't believe it's the same person. Just can't believe it.

Even the values of this person are different. We call this situation identity disturbance. There's an identity disturbance. The identity did not coalesce. This person has no constellated, integrated coherent self and it baffles us. It confuses us mightily.

When I say us, I mean psychologists, mightily because these self states, they are a part of the personality in high functioning people. In high functioning people, there is no faking involved. There is no switching involved. Like for example, in a classic low organized, low functioning borderline. The so called switching is abrupt, but it is seamless. It's more like flowing rather than cheating, rather than switching.

So the transition between the self states in high functioning personality disorder people, the transition is seamless and flowing and smooth and indiscernible in many ways.

While the transition in classic situation, classic borderline, classic narcissist, the transition, the switching is very evident, very obvious and very unsettling and even frightening sometimes. Dissociation is often involved even in high functioning people, but never to the point of rupturing, continuous autobiographical memory and core identity like in the classic low functioning states.

Kleckle, Harvey Kleckle called it the mask of sanity and he challenges everything we thought we knew about psychology.

So what to do if you're prone to fall in love with a borderline woman or with a borderline or with a narcissist? What to do?

Everyone advises you that falling in love with broken, damaged people is self destructive. It's a bad idea. These people are bad news. They're bound to hurt you, to traumatize you for life. Ruination awaits in such an affair of the heart.

But you see this blanket advice is often wrong and self-defeating like all blanket advice because we are not blankets. We're human beings. Each one of us is idiosyncratic, unique and we need unique advice tailored 100% to our needs, to who we are.

The corresponding pathologies of the members of a couple can either cancel each other out, bringing a sense of safety, anxiety reduction and even healing. Or these pathologies can amplify each other, exacerbating the underlying conditions of everyone involved.

Let me repeat this.


Because I like the sound of my voice. The pathologies of the members of a couple can have one of two effects. Either the pathologies cancel each other out, like two frequencies of sound waves that cancel each other. Either these pathologies cancel each other out and then they bring a sense of safety, anxiety reduction, healing to the members of the couple. Or the pathologies resonate, amplify each other, magnify each other and then they exacerbate the underlying conditions of everyone involved.

The shattered people are much more open and vulnerable because they're shattered. They're broken. They're broken and so you can see through. Their innards are on full display. They're skinless. These people are defenseless.

But exactly this susceptibility renders the interactions and the emotions in such relationships both deeper and more intense.

Loving the mentally ill is an exasperating, technicolor, wild ride, not the black and white tones of healthy boundaries. The hurt and the traumatized know each other's lingering volcanic agony intimately. They just know each other. They recognize each other immediately. It's like a tribe. They know each other better than any outsider can.

The same way alcoholics sponsor their key and kind in AA Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step programs. The same way the broken sponsor each other. They see each other through the howling miasmas of their soul, tormented souls. Only the broken and the damaged sometimes can solve the wounds of other broken and damaged people. It is a gamble, absolute gamble, to love a mentally ill person. It is a gamble with one's life, with one's sanity.

And yet so many people take this gamble because loving such wounded person, loving the wounded and the broken is the most selfless act there is.

It's a hyperdrive of personal growth even through adversity.

Such tortured relationships go south when we want our partner either to wound us further, to affirm our victim status, or when we expect them to fix us.

But if we don't want the partner to cause us pain, to torture us, and if we don't expect the partner to fix us and to heal us, the relationship can succeed.

I'll give you one example.

Take women who possess strong unfulfilled maternal instincts. Unfulfilled because they don't have children or they're out of child rearing ears. And they have these maternal instincts and they are unmet, unfulfilled.

And some of these women also have abandonment anxiety. So these kind of women are pathological, abandonment anxiety is anxiety, it's a pathology.

And unfulfilled maternal instincts can easily go awry and be corrupted and become a cesspool, become a wound, an abscess.

So these women are not healthy, but they find in the narcissist the perfect solution. The narcissist is a child and it's a child who will never grow up, never ever grow up. And because he will never grow up, he will never abandon the woman. He will never separate from her.

Unless of course she bargains and so on. We discussed all this in the shared fantasy.

But in principle, he is a wonder child and she's a mother. And he would never abandon her the way children actually never abandon mother who never mind how old you are.

So it's a solution. It's a solution because it's a child who will never threaten such a woman with separation and individuation.

These intimate partners, these women with maternal instincts and abandonment anxiety, they subtly encourage the narcissist's infantilization, immaturity, learned helplessness and dependency.

Is this love? No, it's the opposite of love. These women don't love the narcissist. They mummify the narcissist. They transform the narcissist into an object. They keep the narcissist at home, like so much furniture. That's not love. Killing someone is not love and that's killing.

But still the pathologies resonate and compliment each other. And there is, there is solving and healing in this.

There's a process of comfort, comforting, mutual comforting, mutual soothing involved.

These women frown upon, they disincentivize, they even punish any attempts by the narcissist to transform, to change, to break away, to display adult behaviors, including having sex, to become self autonomous, autonomous to become independent, to establish boundaries. They reject all this. They frown on this. They punish the narcissist when he tries to do this.

And sometimes these women even give up on having children of their own to dedicate themselves exclusively to this safe child at home. The child who will never grow up and never fly out the window like Peter Pan did.

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