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Replacing a sociopath with a borderline personality disordered man

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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12 Comments on "Replacing a sociopath with a borderline personality disordered man"

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I can see that these personality disorders are similar, yet different. I think we all need to understand that there are dangerous people out there, and we need to know how to spot them.

VictimCindy,

I was also temporarily lured by someone I believe is more ‘borderline’, after I broke it off with another personality disordered man, who was high in sociopathic traits.

I found there were differences. Many like the one’s you explained. But in the end what became really obvious and glaring and the most significant was that what mattered most to both of these men was their needs, their ‘feelings’, their agendas, their ideas, their everything. Even though one seemed a lot more anxious to keep me, and the other discarded me like garbage, both of them had NO REAL concern for my well being, my needs, my ideas or interests.

The other glaring similarity was a lack of respect for anyone else’s boundaries (in this case mine). The spath would use, break, steal my stuff, and not repay debts. He would lie, coerce, and bully me into doing whatever suited him. He slept with anything that would have him. He would lie about everything, and used CHARM to get what he wanted. All because he wanted to control me, gain power, and get sex.

The borderline would not, EVER, listen to even my most gentle ‘no’. He would try to engage me intellectually and emotionally, rather than become overtly domineering. He would pretend to ‘cater’ to me (and then later call me selfish and uncaring). He would try to keep talking, and wear me down. ALL because he LOVED ME.

Either way, it’s total boundary violation. One appearing ‘sweet’ and the other ‘sour’. Never listening or respecting the individual ‘agency’ of another human being who has what they want. Same animal, slightly different spots.

In both cases I was in a relationship, but I felt like I was dying of loneliness, because, in fact, No One Was Home in either case. They were personalities-on-tape, that just played their personal song over and over and over. It was mind numbing. Literally.

The sociopath did the same thing: dumped me, after setting up a whole lot of supply. I have no doubt he would have kept me simmering on the ‘friend’ back burner if I had agreed. But, otherwise, he was moving on to more exciting and new sex partners, and people to believe in his performance.

The more borderline one lost 20 pounds when I broke it off (after 3 months of long distance relating), moved to my city, stalked me, told ME I was a SOCIOPATH, and didn’t leave me alone for 2 years until I threatened him with legal action (the ONLY contact I had with him after breaking it off). He recently sent me a text (how he got my # I have no idea) to tell me he really loves me and will always be there for me. GAG.

Bad is bad. But, yes, initially I did not recognize the similarities. What really helped me was that I started noticing how I FELT, not what their behavior was (some though). But how the behavior made me feel (empty, lost, confused, devalued, worried, sad, elated, creeped out, scared, nervous, sought after. READ: On a roller coaster ride, of uncertain destination). What it really never made me feel: SEEN, HEARD, CHERISHED, and acknowledged as an individual. Never stable, calm, and centered. Never whole. Never safe. Never secure. Never ME.

I only started to feel these ‘good’ things again when I got the hell away from them, and worked on my recovery, and refocused on my life.

They are all bad news for now. No real lasting treatment for a sociopath, and the percentage of borderlines helped by DBT treatment, while promising, is still not significant.

Slim

Slim, “No one home” is good…Really good. So is the advice about taking a temperature of your own emotional climate to measure the fit for yourself regardless of what they are. Coupling up is supposed to be enjoyable for the most part.

Victimcindy: Ask yourself how soon you were struggling around either one of them… for anything. If it was later rather than sooner, do get a coach to help you be more attune to your feelings. And ask yourself what you thought of your struggles because if what you did was dismiss those (In the 101 ways you can do that), then you need a vow that you believe for one NY minute that it’s worth it or going to be worth it.

I went from a sociopath to someone who may have been a borderline. Given my family history of disorder, he was comfortable for a little while. As I got further into my recovery and therapy, it started to bother me that he was always critical of me – what I was doing or how I was doing it. Then I realized that he wasn’t including me in group gatherings with friends or his family. He became very compartmentalized about our relationship. Eventually, I realized that he had no intention of including me or my son in the greater part of his life. Our relationship had been mostly about sex.

My focus on myself helped me start questioning that relationship. I started setting boundaries which he was uncomfortable with. In the end, I believe I was as much of an experiment for him and he became for me. The day he told me he was more attracted to the wounded/needy me than the self aware me who wanted an equal relationship is when it ended. I went on from him to my honey!

Honestly, if you have been with someone who is disordered, you need to change how you are doing things. Therapy with the right person is so helpful. It sucks to go through it. Not going to lie. I was miserable for longer than I care to remember. What I learned from that time is what was making me a target for people who would hurt me and why I accepted their bad behavior as a twisted version of love. Because of all of that I was able to expand beyond all of that mess and find actual, meaningful friendships, relationships, and love.

VictimCindy, do what you need to do to get beyond disordered people. Get therapy, read self help books, find friends who you can be real with, whatever you need to do to find the you who is a person of great worth and value. Somewhere within you is someone who doesn’t have time to deal with disordered individuals because she is too busy being the Survivor-Cindy. I wish you much success in that endeavor!

The cornerstone of all character disorder is lack of affective empathy. Although an emotional predator can fake it for a while, their underlying dis-concern for the welfare of others in their world will become obvious. If they’re not genuinely caring for the people around them, don’t look the other way! They are telling you what you need to know!

AMEN!!!!

aintgonnatakeitnomore

I did the same; replaced one with another. From spath to an NPD/BPD, Im not sure which. Im intelligent, educated and very street smart. I feel completely stupid most of the time, esp around my family who truly think Im insane for being with the spath.
While I have the spath under control as far as our children, I think my family will take them from me in a few yrs. And I have no way to fight them…money. Sad that I’ve won AFA the nutcase-spath-babydaddy but my own blood will take my children. Another consequence of the knowing the spath. It Just Never Ends. We pay forever for the existence of evil.

I came across a 2011 study that concludes that there is actually no difference in prevalence of borderline pd by gender:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3115767/
“Gender Patterns in Borderline Personality Disorder”

The study proposes that the earlier belief that BPD occurs at a much higher rate in women was due to sampling bias:

“…With regard to personality traits, men with borderline personality disorder are more likely to demonstrate an explosive temperament and higher levels of novelty seeking than women with borderline personality disorder. As for Axis I comorbidity, men with borderline personality disorder are more likely to evidence substance use disorders whereas women with borderline personality disorder are more likely to evidence eating, mood, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorders. With regard to Axis II comorbidity, men with borderline personality disorder are more likely than women to evidence antisocial personality disorder. Finally, in terms of treatment utilization, men with borderline personality disorder are more likely to have treatment histories relating to substance abuse whereas women are more likely to have treatment histories characterized by more pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy….”

To put it another way, women with BPD tend to “act in” more, with self-harming and suicidal behaviors, so they get counted in hospitalized/in-patient statistics, while men with BPD tend to “act out” more with other-harming behaviors, are more likely to be arrested and counted in prison population statistics and substance-abuse recovery program statistics.

My mother (now deceased) in my opinion had a more “male” presentation of borderline pd; she was not self-harming and suicidal, she was happy to target my younger Sister and me, and our dad, and a few other people as the recipients for her violent rages. Nothing was ever her fault, we were the villains, and we all “made” her angry and violent, according to mother.

Also note: my BPD mother (formally diagnosed) was not abused or neglected by her parents, and was not bullied by her older sister. It took me until my teen years to really notice the HUGE disconnect between my mother’s perceptions and descriptions of her parents (mother claimed that her father was an angry, violent man and her mother was a cold, unloving, negligent woman) and how my grandparents actually, consistently behaved over years of time: they were just normal. Sweet, ordinary, regular people.

My mother’s sisters were both just totally bewildered when my Sister and I shared with them how we’d been raised and the stories our bpd mother/their sister had told us about their “horrible childhood.” Our aunts knew that their sister was an emotionally volatile, difficult, unhappy person but they had no idea the things that she had been telling us since babyhood about the “horror show” of her childhood, or the violence she’d inflicted on us.

BPD is a serious mental disorder but it has a very broad range of presentation; the combination of any 5 or more of the 9 diagnostic traits can combine in over 200 ways. Its actually too wide, a kind of unwieldy “catch all” diagnosis. Someone who is quietly self-harming, suicidal, and too low-functioning to live independently can receive the same diagnosis of BPD as someone who is a paranoid, screaming “rage-aholic” in private but high-functioning enough to keep a job.

(The good news is that NIMH has decided to scrap the DSM entirely and start over, with a new way of categorizing, diagnosing and treating mental illnesses based more on a medically- and scientifically-valid model, but this new diagnostic tool, the RDoC, will not be ready for use for quite a while.)

I’m laughing remembering a weekend I spent with my non-disordered aunt talking about my mother/her sister – the narcissist and our different perspectives on how she perceived my grandfather/their father – the violent sociopath. Mother narcissist was in awe of the wonderful parent the sociopath was to her while my aunt and I had a totally different view of his horrible temper and sexual abuse. It’s possible that the sociopath and the narcissist had a bond in acknowledging who and what each other was where they had nothing but contempt for the non-disordered.

The thing a sociopath, a borderline, and a narcissist have in common is that none of them are emotionally available. If you are attracting men who are emotionally available – whatever the flavor – this has to do with a lack of emotional availability to yourself. This is the pattern I’m looking at now and attempting to heal. There are men who are not disordered who are also not available. Usually, they give off signs, but if you miss the signs, you still in for a fair amount of pain.

VictimCindy,

I hear you loud and clear and feel for you because I married a man who initially told me that he was bi-polar and took medication to help control the mood shifts. Little did I know what I was really up against then, as I would never have embarked on this relationship/marriage had I known what I would have to deal with. Just 3 months after we married, I put him through intensive psychotherapy to help him recover from the serious abuse he suffered from as a child. I learned then that in addition to being bi polar, he suffered from ADD, PTSD and was a confirmed borderline. Two years ago I was told by the same therapist that he was also a narcissist, which made complete sense to me. Learning this helped me to connect the dots, as some of his behavior didn’t make sense when correlated against his initial diagnoses. In other words, though I ultimately knew I had my hands full, knowing what I was up against truly explained everything to me. In effect, I did not just walk on eggshells. I walked in a minefield of his insanely different moods and actions all of the time.

I am not sure which moniker I could use to describe him, but suffice it to say I am going through such a terrifying and exhausting divorce from this man I really do hope I make it out alive. I have taken every possible step to protect myself, but his rage keeps intensifying and spreading like wildfire all over the internet and in every avenue. He created a blog that was so harassing I had to get an order of protection recently. His goal? Abject ruination of me in every possible way. Why? Because I refused to cow tow to his sense of entitlement and his wanton needs. A protective wall is around me in all areas of my life, but I am drained and tired. If I had a magic wand, I would wave it all away.

I am in therapy now, which has helped me to learn that my original abuser was my father. It was he who shaped my choices in men with this kind of pathology – or merely abusive tendencies – and he who first contributed to my lack of self esteem. I am working through this a great deal and it has helped me considerably. Please consider this as an option. It really does help.

Is it possible to actually have a relationship with a normal person (or normal when compared to these loons)? Yes. I am in a healthy relationship for the first time in my life and though I sometimes don’t know what to do with it or how to react because of the damage I have suffered, it feels good. I proceed cautiously, however.

Fight on….you will get through the madness.

Hello to everyone her on Lovefraud.com!

I was married to an SP whom I’ll call exH. After my (dreadful, high conflict) divorce, I had a relationship with a coercive/controlling guy FWBex. FWBex was loving and attentive at first, but he was also very scared of abandonment. In hindsight, he seems BDP but with antisocial/SP traits. I am not sure if being married to exH set me up for FWBex, maybe its more that growing up in an abusive family then as a ward of the state in a series of foster homes set me up for exH, and after my divorce I was just more vulnerable to pathological guys in general. I do admit the lovely attentiveness and warmth many folks with BDP can show, and the fact FWBex came from a similar background, also drew me to FWBex.

What I think has been most helpful to realize is the following (quote from this thread):

I found there were differences. Many like the one’s you explained. But in the end what became really obvious and glaring and the most significant was that what mattered most to both of these men was their needs, their ’feelings’, their agendas, their ideas, their everything. Even though one seemed a lot more anxious to keep me, and the other discarded me like garbage, both of them had NO REAL concern for my well being, my needs, my ideas or interests.

I don’t know if I can have a healthy relationship at this (later) point in my life, but I do know I can become a healthier person and develop good friendships!! I believe there are second chances and I am praying for recovery and send my good wishes to everyone here on the site!!

🙂 Cat

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