Personality disorders occur along dimensions of behavioual, emotional and cognitive characteristics. A person can be evaluated as ranking higher or lower on a continuum (i.e. spontaneity: from boringly and routinelike sticking to plans to being overly impulsive and unpredictable). There is no clear cut to decide if someone is a certain way or not. We can merely measure if someone shows more or less of typical characteristics and symptoms. Main challenges for most of them are found in their lack or messed up sense of self and their unability to build and maintain secure and enduring relationships and sexuality.
People diagnosed with NPD generally have a stable but false image of themselves and often believe they are of primary importance in everybody’s life or to anyone they meet. They are often arrogant, display snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing attitudes and are needy specifically for the admiration and envy of others. They hold persistent fantasies about attaining success and power and exploit other people for personal gain with a lack of empathy for others.
Whereas people with BPD often demonstrate and present with: Overpowering emotion with rapid changes in mood and trouble regulating the intensity and onset, intense unstable interpersonal relationships, fragmented sense of self, need to be attached with abandonment anxiety (actual or perceived) with tendency to feel shunned and abused and engaging in impulsive behavior. They can be Chameleons who adopt an “identity” that suits the moment to make others accept them. They can exhibit empathy, feel remorse and guilt.
Both have had issues building an identity in early childhood and often suffer from an injured sense of self. Each with a tendency to lie, manipulate, acting out destructively to themselves and others and to easily feel offended. Frequent internalised or externalised anger.
What is the attraction and why is it so strong?
A nacissistic person presents as very confident and charismatic thereby very appealing and attractive to the borderline’s lack of self-esteem. The colorful exaggerated successes attract a person with a fragmented sense of self who idealizes a strong sense of self. The narcissistic manipulative controlling nature will be attracted by the borderline’s fear of being abandoned. The NPD’s embellishments of power are attractive to the BPD’s need of stability. A person with BPD is emotionally energized and positive which matches the NPD level of energetic ambition.
Unfortunately the mutual attraction can be played out as a Trauma Bond – based on shared traumatic experiences and an underlying readiness for abuse and to be abused. Also based on the borderline’s dependency which matches with the narcissistic need to feel important. The attraction is based on reciprocal and complementary patterns and often turns into resentment and even repulsion over time. Each partner can evoke unconscious unfinished developmental business in the other. Both types are similar in that both are self-centered and self-perception based.
Most likely people wish for their partner to have traits which they lack to fill their needs and also to have compatible traits and to be similar to them. In this case, the likelihood of these two personalities attracted could very well be successful or unhealthy based on how self-aware they are on their own condition and how they manage their issues.
Best chances for treatment progress and success:
- Both are willing to work on themselves
- Both stand up for the relationship
- Professional help is prepared to work with couples and individual disorders