Obsessive Love and BPD - When It's Difficult To Let Go And Move On



What causes someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD traits to fall into (or back into) what some describe as "obsessive love," especially when it comes to having difficulty letting go of a past lover?

I asked myself this very same question.  Although I am in recovery from BPD, meaning I no longer meet the criteria for the diagnosis, I do still meet some of the criteria/symptoms.  I wanted to understand how I could still get so stuck on a relationship from the past, seemingly unable (or unwilling) to let the person and relationship go from my heart and mind, even though the other person (through his silence and lack of response), was making it painfully obvious that he was not interested in reconnecting with me.

I wondered if my inability to let him go was part of human nature, so I sought out opinions that would support this. "Oh, lots of people look for past loves -- especially now with Facebook and all" is one thing I heard that helped me feel like my desires were less pathological and more "human."

I wondered if my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), which is in remission, might be sneaking out it's ugly head in the form of intrusive, repetitive, distressing thoughts. (It turns out, this was part of the problem.  As I was making a transition on a low dosage of one SSRI to another to manage OCD symptoms, I did experience this aspect).

I wondered if any of the remaining "borderline traits" that I still suffer from could be, in part, responsible.  It turns out that one of them in particular makes total sense.  I'll get to that in a moment.

First, I will tell you that one thing I found helpful in reducing the intensity of my preoccupation with getting this person's attention was my own version of an "Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind" experiment that I underwent in the form of clinical hypnosis. I wrote about that experience in this post.  While I didn't try to erase memories of the relationship, I did have the opportunity to have a very realistic encounter with my past love while in hypnosis - an opportunity that allowed me to have the chance to say what I desperately wanted to say to him face to face - even if only in my own mind and heart.

So back to the BPD trait I think is contributing largely to my inability to let go of the memory of the relationship I once had with a man who I thought was my soul mate: it is known as Black or White thinking.

In clinical terms: "A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by extremes between idealization and devaluation (also known as 'splitting')" (from about.com).

Here's something I never realized before. When my mind would wonder to fond memories of my European love that I met in my early twenties (he was nearly forty), I would tend to remember all of the "good" things about him and the relationship.  For example, I believed he was my soul mate. I remember how we gazed into each others eyes and how loved I felt in his embrace.  I remembered how kind he was to me and how good it felt to be so desired in someone's eyes. I remember us working together in the same office....carving pumpkins together at Halloween outside of the company building, the beautiful diamond pendant necklace he gave me for Christmas, and all of our fun dates. I remember all the poetry and songs I wrote him and how he could listen to me sing and play guitar...the look in his eyes.

On the other hand, my mind was blocking out or seriously minimizing all of the "negative" aspects of the relationship, and there were many, as painful as that is and was to acknowledge, admit, and look at.  I was not yet diagnosed with BPD and was highly emotionally unstable at the time.  The both of us were already in relationships. While I told my partner of the time about the situation and left to see my new love exclusively, my new love did not do the same.  He continued living with his partner, not revealing our affair. 

In getting caught up in the nostalgia, I somehow conveniently "forgot" what it felt like to be "the other woman," from feeling like I wasn't good enough, as if I were in a constant competition (feeding into fears of abandonment, big time), and never mind the intense guilt I had with regards to his partner. In fact -- that's another memory -- calling her, revealing the situation, and apologizing.  She actually gave her blessing on us being together, saying she knew he hadn't been in love with her for years and wanting him to be happy.  Knowing this - that he received this reaction from her and still chose to not leave her and to not be with me - made his ultimate rejection of me all the more painful and difficult to bear.

What an awkward and painful situation all around for four people in total.  It's funny how when my mind would go to reaching out to this person, I remembered the affection, the attention, the hopes and dreams of us truly being soul mates and somehow creating a life together, and not all of the other things I mentioned. Or how, when I felt suicidal (as I often did at that time in my life), he refused to come to the hospital to pick me up because it was "too much for him."  He broke up with me because of my emotional instability (and probably other reasons, based on the complicated situation).

I became really disappointed in myself for allowing memories of him to fuel my urge to seek him out.  We didn't have Facebook back then when he and I were together.  I beat myself up over it. What if he's still with his partner?   Won't he think I'm crazy for reaching out after all these years?  When his response to my numerous attempts for connection went unanswered, I felt overwhelming shame, sadness, and great disappointment.

(some comic relief)



I don't know exactly what I expected to happen, but I know what I hoped for.  I hoped that he would be single and available.  I hoped that he would respond to me with warmth, telling me that he, too, had thought of me all of this time and was so happy to be connected again.  I dreamed that he would agree to meet up with me. In my big-term fantasy, we would fall in love again and have another chance at what went so sour years ago.  I have compassion for the part of me who wanted all of this. 

So, what can you do if you discover you've also been caught up in black or white thinking that has you clinging to the past, and something feels a bit off?

Please have compassion for yourself as I eventually learned to do with myself.  You are only human. Everyone wants to feel loved. Most people want an intimate love who they feel very connected with and may even consider a "soul mate."  Look at other emotional vulnerabilities in your life right now.  Are you feeling lonely, rejected, or otherwise sad or anxious or alone?  These can all contribute to us idealizing a past relationship or love while conveniently forgetting, ignoring, and pushing away the other aspects of the relationship - often the ones that led to it coming to an end.

We can't convince others that we've changed, that they should give us a chance, or that they should love us.  I'm being less hard on myself for reaching out.  I know my intentions and heart were in the right place. Now I must use Radical Acceptance to work through the fact that I have no control over the outcome and that life goes on, even if not the way we dreamed it to be.  That being said, new dreams are born every day.  We can love again.


More Soon.

In kindness,
Debbie


The author of this letter has since RECOVERED from Borderline Personality Disorder and no longer meets the criteria for a BPD diagnosis. There is HOPE for you. Recovery happened through a commitment to DBT. Debbie now teaches the DBT skills that helped change her life over at DBT Path (http://www.emotionallysensitive.com) where you can take online Dialectical Behavior Therapy Classes from anywhere in the world. You *can* overcome this disorder! Visit DBT Path to learn more.


27 comments:

  1. we've all been sorry, we've all been hurt.
    But how we survive, is what makes us who we are. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so true, Leki. Thanks for this kind comment.

      Delete
  2. This one in particular is VERY difficult for me to read. I've been reading it in piecemeal because it is so triggering for me. I have a love that I am still talking to because we never were able to work things out. I remember the negative times in the situation previously, but he told me how much he loves me and wants to be with me recently. I've assessed the situation and tried to remain calm and level headed through the whole situation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dearest Kim, my biggest hope is that, in your bravery of reading this at your own pace and discretion, you are realizing that you are not alone... this is one of the most difficult experiences out there, in my opinion. Thank you for your comment.

      Delete
  3. Im in tears reading this, It is so me, I was in a relationship and of course I was the other woman, Did this for nine yrs,also thought he was the love of my life, soul mate, No one ever made me feel so loved and accepted. When we were together I felt like I could be me and he accepted me good or bad, I was more open with him about my problems then I ever had been. I could tell him everything. He would just hold me and I would feel so safe. I could sleep the whole night in his arms and never have bad dreams or night tremors, I thought he was my safe haven. He made me feel whole. Over nine yrs time he broke it off numerous times to try to fix it with his wife but I always tried to understand but my heart would be crushed but he would always start us back up. I broke my femur he came to hospital the night it happened, gave me a kiss told me he loved me he left and I never heard or saw him again. I to go look at his fb page, always fighting the urge to go by his house. Of course no one else understands how I can still wish that he will knock on my door and come back. See I thought he was my soul mate, Im angry because how he lit me up and how happy I was and I think why don't I deserve him. Why cant I feel that kind of love. Been 4yrs and I still ache for his love, the thing is one part of me knows that wasn't love but the other part of me tells me oh yes it was love the best love ever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow. Nine years, Helen. I just want to hug you! I can relate (obviously) to so much of what you said. I know it hurts. I know how difficult it is. You are not alone. May all of us who have experienced such things have our hearts healed and restored, and may we find love again.

      Delete
  4. I went through a number of relationships where even though the bad far outweighed the good, I would only cling to the good and I held on to these people for dear life. Friends and family would even try to tell me that these relationships were no good for me and I would say, "I can see how it looks that way, but it really is good." And I truly believed it at the time, even though I was miserable. It took a lot of time and effort to get over these people. Even when the relationships ended, and I no longer saw these people as all good (I started seeing them as all bad), it took me such a long time to let go of all of the hurt they caused me (which I let them cause me for a prolonged period of time because I wouldn't let them go).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience Elaine!

      Delete
  5. I really needed this post right now. I got out of a secondary relationship last August, and I am having a hard time letting go. Sadly, we run in the same social circles so I am forced on occasion to see him with his new girlfriend. I now understand why I have never been friends with an ex. I can't understand how I went from being his everything, to getting a smile and peck on the cheek when I see him in public. All I can do it hope this feeling fades in time..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I hope it gets easier with time.

      Delete
  6. I find myself caught in situations like this a lot... not necessarily romantic relationships... but I will have friends from the past that I suddenly try to reconnect with out of the blue.. and I either get really really close and cling to them or I get rejected and feel very hurt.. its a pattern i have just recently noticed with the help of my therapist

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad you're working on this with your therapist. I'm sure you're not alone in this experience.

      Delete
  7. This is a great article, but I couldn't take it as serious as I would have if the man wasn't already in a relationship.

    I understand what you're saying about letting go. I had to go through the same thing with my ex-husband.

    I'm not trying to be mean or anything, but I feel like I should say that if a man is in a relationship already, consider him not even an option. Men who are taken, but show another woman this kind of attention, are not good men to be with. They'll do the same thing to you eventually. So, I'd say it's best to mark him as a complete loser and find someone who's worth your love.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I find your blog and this story truly inspiring. I'm going through the same thing (apart from seeking contact: my pride and my extreme fear of rejection have managed to prevent me from doing that, so far). I agree with you when you say it's so easy to fall into this kind of idealization of the past if you feel lonely, unloved, sad. I've realized that whenever I feel unhappy with my present relationship (very often) I start thinking about my ex boyfriend and how "perfect" he was compared to my current boyfriend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow. Thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing. It sounds like you have some really good insights about your own experience...which is invaluable. ♥

      Delete
  9. I've struggled with this kind of problems for so long, and now I finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. It's still far, but at least I can see it. I've recently decided to start psychotherapy and it's definitely helping me to develop insight and awareness about myself and my emotion. I was wondering if you could suggest me some articles about the topic of emotion-induced memory dysfunction in borderline personality disorder, as I haven't managed to find anything too interesting so far. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi BlackOrchid84. Thanks for your comment. The light is there! I'm not familiar with the topic you mentioned. You might reach out to someone over at the Roanne Program via Twitter. They may know of some relevant articles. Best wishes!

      Delete
  10. I really appreciate you writing this. It was hard for me to read and did bring me to tears. I am not sure why it caused me to cry. I am struggling with multiple past relationships that I am still hanging on to, the longest one is with an ex that I broke up with 10 years ago and am still hanging on to him. One way I try to deal with this is by doing or saying something so mean in hopes that they wont talk to me ever again. But so far that has not worked. Each ex that I am still hanging on to and have done this to still talks to me. I may not hear from them for a period of time, but at some point they talk to me again. I am really tired of being this way and want to get better. I am on a wait list for DBT, it will be about 4 months til the next session. I am going to try and find another one because I dont want to wait 4 months. Thank you again for writing this! It really does help to hear about others going through the same thing as you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Cyndi. Really good insight and introspection as you examine your feelings and thoughts after reading this piece. DBT has been immensely helpful for me in these areas as well. I actually now co-facilitate online DBT classes (no waiting list!) over at DBT Path. You are welcome to come and check it out to see if it might be a good fit for you. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

      Delete
  11. Hi Debbie !

    Thank you so much for this article, it really helped me to understand my ex's behavior. First of all I'm sorry if my english is bad, I just hope you could answer to me, because you would surely understand.

    So, I met my ex three years ago, it was a long distance relationship. I immediately felt that something was wrong with him, but I felt trapped in this relation ship. One day, he told me he has been diagnosed BPD. At this time, i didn't know what it meant, and he made me feel so miserable, it didn't matter for me. He was the kind of borderline who does't wanted to admit their illness and preferred make the others suffer.
    I still don't know why, one day, I had the strength to leave him, and I never came back. At the beginning it was perfect : he didn't try to reach me. As he always cheated on me, he was in a relationship with another woman and left me alone. But it didn't last. Few months later, he started texting me. In the beginning it didn't bothered me, I was so happy with my new life ! But he started realize that I was not "his thing" anymore, I had my own life with my own friend. And he decided to destroy all of it.
    He texted my more and more often. As I didn't replied anymore, he started threaten me. He told me he was about to contact my family and friends and tell horrible things about me. He was always telling me the more I go away from him, the more he wanted me to be his. At this time, I just hoped he would get tired of doing that and finally leave me alone.
    But it got worst. On the month of April 2013, just one year ago, he literally harassed me. During the whole month, he called me several times a day, sent me tons of messages. One day, it waste threaten me to make my life a hell. One day, it was to cry and tell me he couldn't live without me. It drove me crazy ; it was the worst thing I ever lived. I changed my phone number and thank God, I never heard of him anymore.

    I' m so thankful for that ! But the thing is, I think about it everyday. It really scared me, and even a year later, I don't feel safe. I don't know other BPD, and I don't know what he is able to. I' m so afraid he'd tried to contact me again, I'm so afraid he'd come to live in my city. Sometimes, I'm even scared he would kill me.
    I know I' m lucky because it ended well, but I' m afraid I will never be able to get rid of him forever.

    I deleted my Facebook and twitter because of him. All my friends tell me "It's over now, he forgot about you, you can share about your life and be safe.", but I feel stalked no matter what I do.

    I know it's a long story, but please can you tell me what you think about it ? Do you think Obsessive BPD lovers can be dangerous ? Do you think he could come back one year later ? Do you think he could be dangerous ?

    I really hope you could help me. Nobody around me really know about BPD, and they all tell me I overreacting. It would be a great help coming from you.

    Thank you and congratulations for your healing <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Victoria, please take very good care of yourself and keep yourself safe. It is very important that you reach out to people local to you -- someone you trust -- a therapist, a person in the church, etc. So sorry you are going through all of this. Not everyone with BPD behaves in the way you described... again, please stay safe and reach out for help locally in order to do so if you need.

      Delete
    2. Thank you so much for your answer. I know you would understand what I went through and it helps me a lot. It's been a year now, and I still don't know what to think about it. Sometimes I'd just like to live as I used to, having a boyfriend and not being afraid of my borderline ex. Or just being on the internet without hiding myself.

      I' m still lost. Do you think borderlines always go back to their ex's ?

      Delete
    3. Victoria I don't imagine all borderlines go back to their exes anymore than other people do and Debbie is right not all people with BPD behave in the way you've described this guy's behaviour.

      He does need help and support from the right people in his just as much as you need support from the people in your life.

      Delete
  12. Hello everyone,

    I have been seeing an OCD guy for three months. This has been the most emotionally traumatic experience. In my previous relationship, I lived with a sex and love addict for 10 years not knowing about it. After the break up it took me 6 months to get on my feet properly and get confident. And I was confident. I was flirtatious, happy with myself and my life.
    I then met a guy on eHarmony, who I didn't fancy at the beginning. He was obsessed with me. We were initially friends but met pretty much every other day for a few weeks. We then started dating, I guess I liked the attention I was getting. Gradually I fell in love with him. The more I loved, the more distant he became.
    Sex life was virtually non-existant, he was OCD. I became very frustrated; he liked wounding me up and then nothing. And then the guilt trip from his side. We shoudln't have done this, it isn't right.

    He started telling me we shouldn't be in a relationship, although I know he loved me. This is sick. We was very possessive, was telling me I should stop doing salsa because it isn't good for me. I should find new friends in my church community.
    We was well off but wouldn't take me out because was obsessed I was only using him for money. He would only come to my place for a few cuddles but then when on the street he wouldn't hold my hand.
    It turned very bad.
    My worry is am I turning into OCD clingy woman? Please help. In the last month, I have been the one contacting him. He always responded and ocassionally even called. I cannot stop thinking about him.
    Please help!!! I want this to stop!!!

    Can someone pick OCD from their ex. I was fine before!

    Thank you,

    A

    ReplyDelete
  13. Wow!! I don't have a diagnosis of BPD (though I really do wonder about it sometimes, honestly) and this really really hits home for me, more than what words could describe.

    I have been down this road a number of times with different friendships, relationships and even family connections and reading this has helped,.

    What bothers me the most is when I think I've finally let someone go and I don't think about them for years it all starts up again (this only happens with certain people) and I don't understand it..

    ReplyDelete
  14. I struggle with this severely, I don't know how to let go of my ex. I truly believe he is my soulmate. During our relationship I struggled with sexual promiscuity and it ruined our relationship and pushed him away from me. We were talking then it stopped because I had an anxiety attack over the fear of him abandoning me and he said he was done with me. How do I move on? I feel so much hurt and sadness. The pain feels similar to a loved one passing away. I need your advice Debbie. I also struggle with OCD and depression theirs days that I just don't get out of bed the motivations not there. I see a counselor but I don't feel like its helping. Please help me!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Wow this is eerily similar to my situation. I was in a toxic relationship with a great woman. We both had our problems are we caused a lot of pain for each other, but I assume I was more to blame. I recently discovered that BPD has been the source of a lot of my problems. As soon as I learned enough about my illness, everything seemed to click into place and make sense. Before the toxic relationship began though, we had an amazing and deep friendship that I really miss. As soon as my life clicked into place with my BPD diagnosis, I crafted an email and have already sent it. I do not expect a response, let alone expect to become friends again, but at the very least I hope it provides her some relief in the events that happened. I can't help but hope to restore our original friendship as I become more recovered though, and I know she treasured it as well. I've at least by now accepted that we won't be together, I just really regret that my mental illness caused the loss of a great friendship. Hopefully she will see it that way as well.

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...