by Seth Eisenberg
Of the more than 40,000 people who have reached out to PAIRS Foundation this year in search of articles, classes and resources to bolster relationships, some will return to ask what to do when their best efforts at relationship building are met with roadblocks or worse.
As I’ve often explained, practical skills for successful relationships offer an opportunity for connection and deeper experiences of love, intimacy and fulfillment, but they don’t work by themselves. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we can find ourselves facing deliberate obstacles that sabotage our best efforts and intentions.
Nearly three years ago, in the midst of trying to make sense of a tragic situation, a longtime counselor and attorney suggested I read Paul Mason and Randi Kreger’s book, “Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder,” to better understand the challenges we were facing. Her suggestion was more valuable than any legal advice she could have offered.
Kreger and Mason offer a checklist of 10 statements to help you consider if the persistent struggles you’re facing in a once cherished relationship are being sabotaged by a loved one suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder. If these statements sound familiar, picking up a copy of Stop Walking on Eggshells will be a valuable investment.
1. Do you find yourself concealing what you think or feel because you’re afraid of the other person’s reaction or because it just doesn’t seem worth the horrible fight or hurt feelings that will follow?
2. Do you feel that anything you say or do will be twisted and used against you? Are you blamed and criticized for everything wrong in the relationship – even when it makes no logical sense?
3. Are you the focus of intense, violent, and irrational rages, alternating with periods when the other person acts perfectly normal and loving? Does no one believe you when you explain that this is going on?
4. Do you feel manipulated, controlled or even lied to sometimes? Do you feel like you’re the victim of emotional blackmail?
5. Do you feel like the person you care about sees you as either all good or all bad, with nothing in between? Is there sometimes no rational reason for the switch?
6. Are you afraid to ask for things in the relationship because you will be told that you’re too demanding or that there is something wrong with you? Are you told that your needs are not important?
7. Is the person always denigrating or denying your point of view? Do you feel that their expectations of you are constantly changing, so you can never do anything right?
8. Are you accused of doing things you never did and saying things you never said? Do you feel misunderstood a great deal of the time, and when you try to explain do you find that the other person doesn’t believe you?
9. Are you constantly being put down? When you try to leave the relationship does the other person try to prevent you from leaving in a variety of ways (anything from declarations of love and promises to change to implicit or explicit threats)?
10. Do you have a hard time planning anything (social engagements, etc.) because the other person’s moodiness, impulsiveness, or unpredictability? Do you make excuses for their behavior or try to convince yourself that everything is okay?
Right now, are you thinking, “I had no idea that anyone else was going through this?” As the authors explain, “if many of these comments sound familiar, there’s good news. You’re not going crazy. Everything is not your fault. And you’re not alone. These things may be happening because someone close to you has traits associated with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).”
Mason and Kreger’s true stories of people who discovered that someone they care about has the disorder and their guidance for staying sane will be helpful to anyone who has experienced the tragedy of trying to sustain, create or restore a loving relationship with someone suffering from BPD.
While the authors don’t include a magic solution to helping loved ones accept support or treatment, it will help you appreciate the underlying causes along with tips for protecting and nurturing yourself through the often tragic struggles.
Seth Eisenberg is President of the nonprofit PAIRS Foundation, an industry leader in relationship and marriage education.