How do narcissists deal with boundaries
Why do narcissists fall in love?
Here is something that most of the people don't know. After listening to my clients talk about their love life for over 40 years, I realized an interesting fact:
Most people choose romantic partners who are roughly equivalent in terms of understanding how to maintain intimacy.
This is similar to elementary school. The teachers have divided us into reading groups. Everyone in the Chickadees, for example, could read at roughly the same level. Not everyone in the group had exactly the same reading problems, but everyone was more or less on the same level in terms of reading skills.
Intimacy Skill Groups: Relationships also require skills like learning how to negotiate differences, communicate, forgive each other after the fight, and so on. I consider this to be our "Intimacy Skill" set. I've found that people tend to subconsciously divide themselves into groups based on their intimacy skills. Very few people choose partners who are more than half a step above or below them to maintain a successful relationship. If someone is too far above us in terms of intimacy skills, they are likely to find us boring and difficult. If they're too far below us, we're probably not interested in them for the same reasons.
Individuals with borderline and narcissistic disorders have some of the same problems with intimacy
- The people in both groups lack what psychotherapists call "whole object relationships" and "object constancy".
Entire object relationships: "Whole object relationships" is the ability to simultaneously recognize a person's good and bad qualities and to accept that both exist. This capacity is usually developed early in childhood by copying your parents and, most importantly, being realistic and accepted and loved by your parents, despite your imperfections. This skill can be acquired later when the person is adequately motivated and appropriate psychotherapy.
Without "whole-object relationships" people alternate between two equally extreme and unrealistic views of themselves and other people: they are either "all good" or "all bad". Instead of incorporating those views when they see something that makes it clear that the other person is not all good, they simply switch to seeing the person as all bad - and vice versa.
In both cases, they also temporarily forget all of the past associated with the side that is now no longer conscious. Therefore, when they consider you "all the best," they only remember things that support that view. When they see you as "all bad," they only remember the things that support that view. Because these two views are too extreme and imprecise, they are inherently unstable and can sometimes move back and forth quickly over the course of a day.
Object constancy:"Object constancy" consists of two basic parts:
- The ability to maintain positive feelings about someone while feeling hurt, disappointed, frustrated, or angry with them.
- The ability to maintain a sense of emotional connection with someone who is no longer there. This includes the ability to remember their face and other important features that you associate with the person. Without this, the person is literally out of sight and out of sight.
The lack of "object constancy" is a consequence of the lack of "entire object relationships".
- Whole object relationships and object constancy can be viewed as intimacy skills
According to the Object Relations School of Thought on Personality Disorder, the lack of "whole object relationships" and the lack of "object constancy" are the defining characteristics of all personality disorders. This means that the lack of both is a defining characteristic of the current intimacy skill group of people with personality disorders. This mutual lack of "whole-object relationships" and "object constancy" actually increases the likelihood and makes it less likely that two people who each have a personality disorder (including a person with a narcissistic adaptation and a person with a borderline adaptation) will fall in love likely either of them will fall in love with someone without a personality disorder - all other things are the same.
NOTE: In this article, I use the terms “borderline” and “narcissist” to refer to people who made certain types of adaptations to their early home environments that lasted into adulthood, as a set of thought patterns, behaviors, and life strategies that are common occurrence referred to as borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. No disrespect is intended. In my opinion, people are not cross-border commuters or narcissists; This is the name given to their current relationship pattern and approach to life.
- Narcissists and boundaries form intense, quick attachments
Narcissists and borderline individuals have one more thing in common that is likely to make them choose each other: Both can quickly form intense romantic bonds based on very little information about the other person. Most people who have neither a borderline nor a narcissistic adjustment tend to take the time to decide if their new lover is "the one". My customers from Borderline and Narcissistic often connect immediately when they hardly know each other.
They tend to do this for a number of reasons:
The border reason: Many people with borderline adjustments live out of love. They use the connection with someone as a cure for feelings of emptiness, restlessness, and loneliness. You are what I consider a "clinger". They are quick to form strong bonds and resist any information that suggests they should break up because that person is an inappropriate partner. The idea of breaking up awakens their underlying fears of abandonment, so they find reasons not to leave.
When things go bad, as they often do when a borderline marries a narcissist, it is the borderline partner who usually has the biggest problems breaking out of the relationship. This is because they get into terrible conflict: one side of them is quite rational and knows that the relationship is not working and that they should leave, while the other side is very afraid to take the step of leaving because it means that they will be back on their own. Many people with BPD feel inadequate to cope with everyday adult life, and being with someone - almost everyone - can feel more secure than being alone.
Example: Maria, Benny and the bridge
Maria is a rather submissive borderline woman who suffers from severe anxiety disorders. She tends to develop phobias that limit how far away from home she can go without her husband Benny. Benny is a verbally abusive, controlling narcissist who likes the fact that Maria is so dependent on him.
Maria went into therapy with the specific goal of finding the strength within herself to leave Bennie. She complained that Bennie was tough, controlling, and emotionally unavailable. They had very little in common other than the functions they performed for one another. Benny tolerated her fears and weaknesses because he enjoyed being the strong one. It fed his self-respect. Maria tolerated Benny's methods of control because she felt inadequate to shape her own life. As long as Bennie made all the decisions she was free to be as helpless and dependent as she wanted. Maria said in her first session that she no longer wanted this type of relationship. She could imagine better with a man who was kinder and less critical.
All went well for a couple of sessions. Just as Maria was formulating a realistic plan for her departure, she suddenly became scared of having to drive over bridges with her in the car without anyone. The more scared she got, the more she clung to Benny. Her fear of crossing bridges alone was a metaphor for Mary's whole life. Activating yourself and choosing to leave Benny was the equivalent of crossing the bridge alone. As Maria's plan to leave became more real, her underlying feelings of inadequacy and the subliminal memories of early leaving and a deep need for attachment began to emerge and manifest as this phobia. The phobia made her more dependent than ever on Bennie, because he was the "driver" in her life. Maria and I quickly realized that if she ever wanted to be alone and take control of her own life, she would need her therapy to focus on those old, recurring problems now.
The narcissistic reason: Narcissists choose their lovers based on whether the person increases their self-esteem. Since their need for self-esteem improvement persists, they have no incentive to wait to get to know the person better. The things that attract narcissists aren't the other person's enduring personal qualities or even compatibility. As long as the person has high status in their eyes and finds them appealing, they are usually ready to move the relationship forward in full swing. Unfortunately, because their real interest in the person is just as small, they often leave the relationship as suddenly as they started it.
- Narcissists and cross-border workers want different things from a relationship
Narcissistic and borderline individuals can fall in love, but they are likely to expect such different things from the relationship that the relationship is unlikely to be successful for very long.
Narcissists want continuous improvement in self-esteem - borderlines want continuous, unconditional love
Narcissistic individuals want their partner to boost their self-esteem, while borderline individuals want continuous reassurance that they are loved. Both needs can be met in the early honeymoon phase of the relationship, but they are less and less met as they get used to being with each other.
Example - Artie and Jane
Artie, a working-class exhibitionist narcissist, was immediately drawn to Jane, a high-functioning, very sexy borderline woman from a wealthy family. He idealized Jane and believed that it would be heaven to be in a relationship with someone so perfect.
He followed Jane for months, showering her with gifts, romantic dinners, and constantly professing his utter devotion and love for her.
Jane was more insecure than she appeared and loved the fact that Artie spoke so demonstratively and loudly about his love for her. The sex was great because he was dying to please her and he seemed to be able to predict exactly what she was going to enjoy without her having to say a word.
They were both happy about the first few months they were together. Then they got to know each other better over time.
Now that Artie felt like he had Jane, he was starting to worry less about proving his devotion. He also noticed that Jane wasn't the flawless, perfect woman he first assumed was. Being a narcissist, Artie stopped idealizing her because of Jane's mistakes. This led him to become more carefree around her, to love less openly, and to start mentioning things she should do for him - like doing laundry and grocery shopping.
Jane began to feel angry, insecure, and unloved as Artie's apparent demonstrations of his love for her waned and his demands increased. She took turns clinging to Artie, asking for hugs and confirmation of his love, and angrily withdrew. She started flirting with other men around Artie's company, hoping to make him jealous would make him more loving.
Artie was upset when Jane became clingy and insecure, and angry when she flirted with other men. Neither had the relationship skills to talk about it calmly. Instead, mutual disappointment led them to mistreat one another and escalate their struggles. Needless to say, the relationship soon came to an ugly end and everyone blamed each other for everything that went wrong.
Punchline:Borderline and narcissistic individuals often fall in love because they are roughly on par with their intimacy skills. Both are likely to be in the early stages of learning how to successfully maintain intimate relationships. Everything may seem blissful at first, as both share the ability to forge quick, intense romantic bonds without looking closely at the other person's true personality. Both likely believe that their new romantic partner will give them exactly what they've been craving for. Everyone sees the other as a dream come true.
Unfortunately, their fundamental differences in how they approach life and what they want from each other, and the lack of "whole-object relationships" and "object constancy" make their relationship inherently unstable and improbable. An old saying applies here: a bird and a fish can fall in love, but how will they lead a life together?
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