There’s a lot of talk on the internet about personality disorders, especially when it comes to relationships. Many people on forums and blogs say that they dated narcissists, borderlines, or a number of other disordered types of people, telling their tales and connecting with others with similar experiences.
There are thousands of horror stories of people who were love bombed, manipulated, lied to, and ghosted by their exes. Many of these people have found solace on these online forums and groups, finding shared experiences and support from other people who have had relationships with personality disordered people.
Lately I’ve fallen into this camp too, and from what I can see, a lot of people have had experiences similar to my own, and must be feeling the same kind of numbing, existential pain.
Now, there are two camps on the web: There are people who know they were with someone with a personality disorder, and now that the relationship is over, they understand more about the reasons things went sour.
For the rest of us, though, we live in a mystery, playing detective about our exes and trying to figure out their behavior. We analyze every conversation, compare their actions to other relationships, and try to understand how they were feeling in certain moments.
I know that I found myself obsessed with the question: Was the relationship doomed because she had a personality disorder?
I needed to find the answer to this, even if it wasn’t productive. I need to know for my own sanity.
Knowing Does Help
During the first few months of healing, I find that it does somewhat help to try and understand what happened. For me, I fight persistent feelings of guilt and remorse, wishing I could go back and change things that I did wrong, and understanding the relationship on a deeper level helps me get past this.
I’m not trying to shift the blame, but instead figure out “what’s mine and what’s theirs” in an attempt to move forward in a healthier and more productive way.
During this time I went through various stages, reading about narcissism, borderline traits, and other Cluster B personality disorders. I understood more about how I was love bombed, mirrored, and led to believe that she really cared about me.
The idea that it was a fantasy relationship seemed pretty solid for me, though I still wasn’t sure if I could diagnose my ex with anything. But the I had to ask another question: why did I care so much?
Every Situation is Different
The thing with personality disorders is this: we want to put every single person into a box, as if they’re going to be the same exact kind of person as everyone else with the same disorder.
The thing is, every situation is different. Life is not black and white. It’s not one thing or another. These disorders exist on a spectrum, and the responsibility of diagnosing someone with a mental issue is not your problem.
A disorder is a way of conceptualizing human behavior. And no matter what the answer is to your ex’s psychological profile, you know what they did to you, and how they acted, didn’t work for you or the relationship.
Look at the relationship for what it was. Did the love bombing make you feel uncomfortable? Did you sense something was wrong with them?
In my case, I knew the person I was seeing was emotionally needy. I sensed something early on — a controlling, manipulative energy that was exhibited through her actions. I don’t think this was malicious, just a reflection of her approach to relationships.
Though conceptualizing her behavior in the realm of personality disorders has helped me realize it wasn’t my fault (though there are always things we could have done differently), it still doesn’t solve the problem.
For that, we have to get past the idea of whether they were “bad” or you were “bad”. You have to get back into your body and process the feelings of rejection and inadequacy you’re facing.
This is the toughest part, but something we all have to go through.
Getting Back Into Your Body
“The question “What if they’re not really cluster B?” loses all its significance when we come to love ourselves regardless of the answer.”
Jackson MacKenzie, from Whole Again
In the end we have to get out of our heads and back into our bodies. No amount of thinking and/or analyzing the situation is going to make it suddenly go away.
It’s funny how ruminating never seems to come to conclusion. It’s just an endless circle of thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Inevitably, you’re going to get tired of this and realize that there is no answer. This is life after all. There are no final answers, just letting go.
The solution, according to Jackson MacKenzie, is to get back into touch with your body and your feelings. You have to sit with and explore the uncomfortable emotions of fear, loss, regret, and rejection that come with losing a relationship with someone.
Regardless of whether they have a personality disorder or not, you still have to get over the fact that they’re gone. You still have to face rejection and find a way to move on.
And knowing the truth about your ex, though it helps, doesn’t mean that it won’t hurt. It won’t mean you won’t miss them or think fondly back on memories with them.
Breathing with the feeling, facing your own fears, and finding a way to move on is what is important. Once you let go of finding an answer, then you can finally free the mental space to live a new life, one that you define on your own terms.