By Jacqueline Kraft Bruno
In a healthy, heart-centered, relationship, we experience connection. The love between two people is given and received openly. There is a natural flow that exists. Of course it isn’t perfect and as human beings we fall into fear, experience disconnection and we work to re-connect. These are the natural struggles of relationship, the rough patches. These struggles are not meant to be the norm.
In a relationship with a personality-disordered person, we give love that is never authentically received. Our love is deflected by the ego, twisted and manipulated. The person we have shared love with is lacking a path to the heart, by which to receive it. In a loving relationship, our love would be acknowledged, accepted and returned or responded to. This is not the case when our partner is disordered. Our trial begins when we respond to our disordered partner by giving more, giving differently and expecting less in return. We do this hoping for a better outcome.
We have now embarked on an exhausting and futile journey. Our energy will be drained; our perceptions of self and others will be challenged and distorted. Ultimately, our hearts will be broken.
Words as bait
Our disordered travel companion leads us down a dark road using bait. The bait we take comes in the form of words like:
- “I can’t live without you,”
- “No one understands me like you,” and
- “I wouldn’t know myself, if I had never met you.”
Then these same words turn on us and our bait consists of harsh words we try to negate like:
- “We have never been good together,”
- “It’s not like we’re some storybook romance,” and
- “I can’t deal with your nagging and trust issues.”
Words that are meant to contradict confuse and hurt.
The appearance of listening
They focus on us with a hard stare, which indicates hanging on our every word in the beginning. A stare that is evidence we are being studied and facts about us are being stored to use later as weapons. We mistake the interest for being seen, heard, like we never have before.
As we continue down the road with them, the stare turns to cold disinterest. Every time we speak their eyes gloss over. But we lie to ourselves and look away from what is right in front of us, pretending all is as it has always been.
The illusion of affection
They give affection with a manipulative motive behind it. The goal is to trick us, to trade their illusion for what we wish we could give to their heart. Our kisses, our touches are lapped up by a greedy Monster, not received gratefully by a warm heart. We know this when they use withholding affection to punish and manipulate. Often, they manipulate us into excusing what we never thought we would excuse or to cross a boundary we never thought we would cross.
As we continue down this road of conflicting, intense emotion, we comfort ourselves with self-delusion. Our delusions fuel our ability to continue. We tell ourselves lies like:
- If I ignore this it will stop
- If I can learn to understand him/her better, he won’t act out like this
- If I was a better partner, he/she would value me and treat me better
- If I could love them enough to make them love themselves, then they will love me.
And on and on…
What is the result of this brainwashing and humiliation we have participated in? We become just like them. We lose the path to our own heart. We exist in the same darkness, experience the same rage, distrust of others and loathing of self. We become as focused, even obsessed, with exhausting ourselves spiritually, emotionally and physically as they are with feeding off the light that was once our dominant feature. The gift we sacrificed to them so easily.
When we have become shadows of our former selves, our disordered partner can no longer find satisfaction in our humiliation. A human being with a path to their heart would feel empathy at stumbling across a person in our condition. Our partner feels only disgust and likely has already begun planning how to suck one last charge for his/her ego by discarding us in the most humiliating way they can imagine. When they do, they will likely kick us from our place in the gutter where they believe they have left us to rot.
Strength of the human spirit
But the man or woman with no path to their heart is limited, at best, in their understanding of the strength of the human spirit. They never connected with us from the heart, and as such, they know nothing of our strength, or the strength of a heart that chooses to heal. It is the saddest facet of their being, this inability to understand the power and resilience of the human heart. Like Snow White said to her own disordered mother, “You cannot have my heart.”
It is from this place, in the ashes of our former selves, that we are raised again, reborn.
We rise stronger not because the myth of the Phoenix promises we will, but because of the truth that a heart and spirit broken has shed it’s weakest parts. We realize the only path to healing wounds as deep as these is through self-love. We may have lost our way to the path leading to our hearts, but it hasn’t disappeared. It’s simply under reconstruction. It’s been torn apart, but we embark on rebuilding by recognizing connection to others begins with connection to self. Without it, we have nothing to offer another as we are not whole.
The big picture
We start to forgive ourselves and we learn to forgive them. As we live in this place of practicing forgiveness, the big picture is revealed. This experience is not only about the wounds and behaviors of the disordered or even our wounds and behaviors. This is about the gift of perception we received by seeing the world through our abuser’s eyes. The disordered person is an extreme example of what we are all experiencing in varying degrees. We are losing connection to ourselves, each other and spirit. The path to our collective heart is damaged and dimming.
A disordered person deserves to be seen as they truly are. We are not angry at the blind person who cannot see. Our heart does not break when a person who cannot walk refuses to dance with us. Similarly, we don’t have to carry resentment for the man or woman without empathy because they are cruel.
If we are come across others who are missing a path to their heart, we can make the only choice that serves them and us with dignity. We can choose not to conspire with the disorder against the person and against ourselves. We have learned to see and to choose the path of integrity. It is by letting go that we are able to heal and to allow space for others to heal. It is in this allowing and accepting that love is transformed from a feeling, a state of being, to an action producing a result. We do this by seeing the person as they are, accepting the person as they, and most importantly, by releasing the person as they are, with love.