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After the sociopath, a man with borderline personality disorder

Photo by Alon

Editor’s Note: Lovefraud received the following email from reader Victimcindy. Donna Andersen  responds after the letter.

My first relationship, after my 18-year marriage to a sociopath, was to a borderline personality disordered (BPD) man. Do you find this common as the disordered traits are opposite in some areas?  We think we are getting something new and healthy.

Spath vs BPD: sex

My spath-ex withheld sex as power. The borderline was highly sexual. My spath-ex was charming, but lacked empathy and was emotionally unavailable. He also abused substances, was opportunistic with casual sex outside marriage and secretive.

Spath vs BPD: love

The borderline was vulnerable, overly empathetic, very emotional and had undying loyalty in a clinging way. No alcohol or drug issues. The borderline needed to be in love to feel alive.

The sociopath is incapable of bonding, or love, because their goals are exploiting outside the marriage for personal pleasure. With the borderline, the lover is the center of their world. The sociopath has incredible confidence.  The borderline is insecure.

Do ex-spaths lead to borderlines?

I’m very interested to know if other readers of Lovefraud have gravitated magnetically to borderlines with a false belief that the new set of disordered traits were opposite, therefore healthier than the sociopath. Of course, there are similarities, too, but they are harder to detect because we can’t connect with a sociopath, while the borderline is overly connected to the idea of love with us trying desperately not to be abandoned.

The sociopath with a secret life abandons us past the love bombing stage. The sociopath is busy exploiting and manipulating.

Spath vs BPD: when it’s over

Ending the relationship with the borderline, for me, resulted in his stalking me, begging me, and love bombing. Actually I’m still not able to rid myself of the BPD he can’t take “no” or “I need space” or “it’s over” for an answer.

Ending the relationship with the sociopath resulted in his discarding our family and abandoning me.

The borderline refuses to go away. I’m sort of addicted to the poems, expressions of love that convince me no one will ever love me like that again. I know better.

He also plays the sociopath card reminding me that my ex never loved me. Black and white thinking, men with money and power are sociopaths (douche bags in his terms), and he is the good guy who never wins! Convinces me in his insecurity that anyone I go after will be a scumbag with a big wallet, unlike him.

Spath vs BPD: money

He justifies his lack of generosity. I pay for the borderline while my ex spath showered me with gifts. Of course, his unhealthy traits are my fault — i.e., I’m a gold digger. I’m shamed should I desire anything I had from the sociopath.

I know there are things in less excessive quantities for the right reasons in healthy men. Not all men with good jobs who buy dinner and travel periodically for their partners are sociopaths. Although I’ve not found one yet! I’m brainwashed by the borderline who tells me no one will ever love me like he does.

Choices

I just can’t seem to be attracted to anyone without a serious personality disorder. I’m terrified to open myself to anyone and I assume anyone I like has secrets. I am very educated and well read regarding the traits. The borderline took me by surprise while I was trying to avoid the sociopathic/narcissistic traits.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Information?

Thank you for your thoughts and experiences with thousands of Lovefraud readers. I wonder how many others filled the holes made by the Spath-ex with a borderline PD. You are welcome to paraphrase and post as a letter if you desire. I’d like to see if there’s a trend.

Donna Andersen responds

First, some background. Antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder are related. These two, along with narcissistic personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder, are referred to as “Cluster B personality disorders” in the DSM-4 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, volume 4.)

Lovefraud uses the term “sociopath” to describe people who live their lives by exploiting others. This includes people who would be clinically diagnosed as psychopaths, antisocial, narcissistic or borderline. In reality, these disorders overlap, so it’s difficult to tell one from the other.

But there are differences. A key point about borderline personality disorder is that its central feature is anxiety, which is virtually absent if someone has antisocial personality disorder.

Of all the people who are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, about 75% are women. Many of these women suffered sexual abuse while young.

However, Dr. Liane Leedom believes that many women diagnosed with borderline personality disorder actually have antisocial personality disorder, but clinicians are often reluctant to say a female is antisocial.

Males with borderline personality disorder

Interestingly, Dr. Donald G. Dutton, in his book, The Batterer A psychological profile, concludes that many men who assault their wives suffer from borderline personality disorder. Dutton writes:

The essential defining criteria for borderline personality disorder, in order of importance, are:

  • a proclivity for intense, unstable interpersonal relationships characterized by intermittent undermining of the significant other, manipulation, and masked dependence;
  • an unstable sense of self with intolerance of being alone and abandonment anxiety;
  • intense anger, demandingness, and impulsivity, usually tied to substance abuse or promiscuity.

Many of these men were abused and shamed as children, Dutton writes. They grow up feeling they can never entirely trust others or get the security or affection they need.

For more information, see Book Review: ‘The Batterer’ describes three types of male abusers.

It’s unfortunate that these abusive men suffered as children. But if they want to recover, it’s their responsibility to do it.

Women who become involved with borderline personality disordered men, initially lured by what appears to be loving attention, should not ruin their own lives by continuing to tolerate abusive behavior.

How to avoid disordered men

Here is the crux of the situation for VictimCindy. You wrote:

I just can’t seem to be attracted to anyone without a serious personality disorder. I’m terrified to open myself to anyone and I assume anyone I like has secrets. I am very educated and well read regarding the traits. The borderline took me by surprise while I was trying to avoid the sociopathic/narcissistic traits.

The best way to avoid disordered men is not to be on the lookout for sociopathic, narcissistic, or even borderline traits, although that is important.

The best way to avoid them is to work on personal recovery.

You mention your terror at opening yourself to anyone, and your assumption that potential love interests have secrets. It’s important to figure out why you feel this way.

Most likely it is because of some previous life experience or erroneous belief. Your marriage to the sociopath is certainly one of those experiences, but there may have been something before that.

Whatever happened to you to create fear and mistrust is creating the vulnerability that disordered men are so good at spotting. Whatever it is, it is still inside you, and you need to get it out.

Healing the vulnerability will enable you to trust yourself, trust that you’ll be able to sense when someone is bad news.

This, in turn, will enable open yourself to others. With your instincts working properly, you’ll know when a man is honest and authentic, and not antisocial, narcissistic or borderline.

 


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8 Comments on "After the sociopath, a man with borderline personality disorder"

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Donna makes some very good points, and shares great info about abuser psychology, but I also feel I have to respond in fairness to Cindy, that I have been there too.

After a 25 year marriage to a Dark Triad (plotting narcissistic psychopath), 3 years after being out of that transition, I got into a relationship with another man who was genuinely caring. He, like me, had been traumatized interpersonally in the past, and we were both recovering in our own ways. Perhaps not the healthiest choice, but I thought we would share understanding and experience, and there were other strong reasons for me to become involved with him. Wary, I spent the first 8 months together looking hard to be sure he was not another narcissist or psychopath. I knew I had had a blind spot, despite becoming quite educated on the type. I saw every sign that he was not. But by the end of our 3 year relationship, it became obvious that he had undiagnosed bipolar, and when he was more manic, he got very grandiose and narcissistic and became a high risk-taker, which is not great when you are interdependent as we were then living together. His bipolar was unusually long cycling and so I only saw that narcisssistic person for a few months every couple of years, but after that I saw it more subtly underlying our other interactions. I knew he had PTSD, and I suspect he may qualify for BPD, though it is hard to tell as the PTSD alone and bipolar are quite similar and their interactions could produce what I saw as BPD. After he moved from occasional somewhat ambiguously mean-spirited game playing while still being mostly wonderful and caring, to more consistent and obvious abuse, I gave him chances to change, and when he refused to really do it, asked him to go.

So, yes it does happen, even to those informed. And, yes, I think the fact that he at first appeared to be almost totally opposite was a definite attraction for me. In my defense, he has a complex stew of psychology going on, not all of which I mention, and it took a long while for me to see and try to understand what was going on. But they all are extremes and they all involve disorder. To a certain extent, and this is my new rule, it does not matter why someone acts this way, but that he does and the relationship is confusing and often unpleasant. That is enough not to get involved or to go.
Relationships should be supportive and loving, with someone who genuinely cares about knowing who you are and liking you.

After this experience, I realized more that I did not know what is more “normal” in relationships, and so I have set about learning much more about normal relationships and normal problems in relationships and how to handle them. Dating too, as it is a new and very different world out there. I feel I learned a lot more about how men and women view relationships very differently, which has been helpful. I am also working on me to be the kind of woman who would attract and keep a much healthier loving man before dating seriously again. So I echo Donna’s recommendation to get strong yourself and learn how normal people interact, especially in relationships, before trying again.

This article confirms a couple of things to me; one, we have a type we are attracted to and due to certain things like upbringing and genetics we can become attracted to a disordered person as a moth is drawn to a flame.
Two; sadly, as we get older, there are fewer suitable partners as happy marriages to decent people don’t break down so readily.
My ex husband was recently diagnosed as suffering from anti social personality disorder, having no “adult” at all in his profile. I only saw him as a feckless alcoholic but once I’d had this pointed out to me everything clicked. He was a failure and a liability, I raised my children alone even though I was married!
I dodged a couple of disordered potential partners afterwards but was totally taken in by my first serious boyfriend when he came back on the scene. He’s been diagnosed as a likely narcissist but I’m not 100% sure that he’s not suffering from ASPD too. He was totally different to my ex husband and treated me very badly in the end, the discard. He’s currently halfheartedly trying to get me back.
I’ve been dating again and have been spooked by more potentially disordered men and moved on pretty swiftly. I’m educated, well read, happy and strong but I’m still aware that I’m not always able to spot a potential problem. Is there more we can do to protect ourselves?

I had two primary relationships over about 25 years. The first was a BPD I married when I was still a teenager. It was me and him against the world, until he had gotten every last thing he wanted from me. Then it was him against me. Devalue and discard. And he immediately moved on to build up another woman as his “true” love with him and her against the world… then devalued and discarded her, rinse and repeat to this day.

The second partner approached me while I was still recovering from the BPD. For about a year he observed me in the role of a friend of a friend. This allowed him to spend time in my presence and study me unguarded without “outing” himself as having an interest in me. When I finally recovered enough to begin event thinking about dating, he pounced on me. It took ten years for me to discover that he was a covert psychopath. He was the type that lived a completely false life. Everything was hidden, until the day the mask ripped off.

The pathological is a parasite looking for a host. They want a “healthy” “strong” host to live off of. However, they need a way to enter the bloodstream of the host. They need to find a host that has a wound that is still healing. Their ideal target is a healthy host with an open wound.

Besides my 29 year marriage to a psychopath..I’ve come to realize that a woman friend is (to me anyway) a BPD..she’s gone through many friendships..nice and sweet, suddenly paranoid rages, mood swings over trivial issues..I keep her at a safe distance, after several episodes, and I’ve watched her abuse others with BPD swings.

Yup, me too, I am with my Borderline bf for 4 years simply because I cant get rid of him. It’s actually more labor intensive to try to break off than it is just to stay. My last bf was pure sociopath, and he went away without argument. My ex husband before all this was a covert narcissist. Indeed, every man I have been with has one of these 4 disorders. I attribute it to the fact I was raised by a narcissistic mother, have a sociopathic sister. I was in my 40’s before I knew these personality types are not normal. Well, I did know, actually. I just didn’t know there people out there that are NOT one of these 4 types.

I have actually had the opposite experience to Cindy. I can now spot a disordered individual within seconds. It is like a have a radar. I started dating, and could pick different tendencies up in guys and discarded them immediately at the first sign of dysfunction. My new man is the complete opposite of dysfunction – and I knew it instantly when I first saw him. Our souls connected and whammo, my life will never be the same again. Coincidentally, his situation meant that his ex was exactly the same as the women who were throwing themselves at my disordered husband, for money, and power and drugs. You couldn’t get two people more NOT like that than myself and my new man.
The world works in mysterious ways – I hope that this gives Cindy hope that there is a life after all this shit.
PS my new man is an upgrade in EVERY SINGLE WAY – except financially (and I only see that as a bonus, because most people with heaps of money don’t seem to be able to handle it)

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