Borderline-Narcissistic Couples – why so much drama and attraction?

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:

  1. Both are willing to work on themselves
  2. Both stand up for the relationship
  3. Professional help is prepared to work with couples and individual disorders

Why we procrastinate and what to do about it.

Procrastination leads to negative results and can negatively impact yourself and your environment and your relationships. So why do we procrastinate? According to Tim Urban, blogger and speaker on psychological shortcomings says we tend to gear ourselves to instant gratification. We tend to get on a habitual cycle of putting it off, avoiding a deadline or just ignoring the importance of the issue and feeling no pressure at all by choosing some sort of a more immediate gratification. Where situations require no deadlines, procrastination can lead to avoiding a situation for a long period of time and very likely leading to suboptimal outcomes. Two forces are at work. “The monkey” as Tim describes, prefers to play, have fun and engages in a tug-of-war with the “rational decision maker”.

This ‘rational decision maker’ will remind you there is a much better solution if we put in some ground work, a good long term result can happen. You can be completely guided to a better and different ending. The positive reaction would be to bravely confront the situation, see that to completion and take your life in a entirely different direction and open yourself to unmentionable great opportunities. What would we be missing out on if we didn’t procrastinate? Fear of anything like failure, of success and trying to be perfect can paralyse your life decisions and then affect those around you.
How do we make situations more pleasant to motivate us away from procrastinating or delaying the outcome?

  • Self-awareness is the initial change to any habit. You may tend to procrastinate and are on the verge of taking the shortcut when you know conscientiously there is another better way around that issue.
  • Your perception of the matter could be skewed – and hence lead to resistance. It may be you who is the obstruction to achieving the goal. Was your boss being insensitive when she piled more work than you expected right before the weekend and caused negative feelings? Was your husband barking an order rather than politely asking you when you had a long day and you just didn’t want to do anything anymore? There could be situations where you just were not in the right frame of mind and you felt unhappy and in turn not motivated to do anything about it or even make an excuse.
  • Any bad perpetual habit can be dropped and replaced with a more helpful and healthy habit with practice. People with low self-belief – a subcategory of self-esteem – don’t t believe that they deserve the good things in life and tend to stay in their comfort zone. If you want a good outcome, good choices need to be made, even if that means ‘sacrificing’ the old self for a new self, a new comfort zone.
  • Before you start working on a task, befriend it first. Analyse what needs to be done and break the work down into smaller steps. Best if you can then tell others about your project or ambition. Set reasonable milestones as mini deadlines. Get someone to hold you accountable. Cater for the “monkey” by planning little treats on the way. Always and only treat yourself after you have completed a task or milestone.

Watch the video to learn more about Tim’s procrastination identifiers. We can avoid ‘The Dark Playground, leave the ‘Panic Monster’ behind and try to make the ‘Hard Things’ become just as ‘Easy and Fun’ because your choices today will impact your tomorrow for possible greatness. 

Inside the mind of a master procrastinator

Couples Skill Building with Alain De Botton

Here is a nice read . For 200 Hong Kong Dollar I bought Alain De Botton’s latest Novel and found it entertaining, therapeutic and insightful. Well worth a read for anyone in a committed relationship with many references to marital counselling, relationship skill building and couples therapy.

De Botton describes a marriage over the course of 16 years with typical ups and downs and how the individuals who form the couple are dealing with the challenges of married life. Developmentally speaking we are following the couple through symbiosis, differentiation of self and other, practicing and (maybe) rapprochement. At the end of the book Rabih has solidified his being ready for marriage and thereby able to move closer to Kirsten without losing his ability to move apart, to give even when it is inconvenient and to deepen their bond with emotional sustenance.

We don’t have to be constantly reasonable in order to have good relationships; all we need to have mastered is the occasional capacity to acknowledge with good grace that we may, in one or two areas, be somewhat insane. De Botton

The author explores possibilities of mindsets and behaviours when the couple faces a crisis of infidelity. “…, she might have revealed the vulnerability that has lain all the while behind her annoyed demeanour: ‘I wish I could be everything to you. I wish you did not have those needs outside of me. I don’t really think your fantasies about Antonella are repulsive; I just wish there didn’t have to be – always – that imagined someone else. I know it’s madness, but what I want most is to be able to satisfy you all by myself’.”

Every couple in a long-term relationship will pursue one of three possible pathways. Two lovers can intensify and prolong their symbiosis, they can move forward into differentiation and beyond or facing a separation of some shape or form.

Learning how to be more curious, open minded and able to identify and deal with one’s own emotional reactions – not independent from the partner, but separate from the other – is the only skilful way forward. When Kirsten is labeled “materialistic” she could have reacted with a sense of ease and the willingness to find out more about what drove Rabih to such statement. She did not – for reasons that lie in between attachment figures.

“(Rabih”s) chosen technique is distinctive: to call Kirsten materialistic, shout at her and then, later, to slam two doors. … Had Rabih picked up some better teaching habits, his lesson might have unfolded very differently. For a start, he would have made sure both of them went straight to bed and were well rested before anything was tackled. The next morning, he might have suggested a walk, perhaps King George V Park after they’d picked up a coffee and a pastry to have on a bench. …

… Then, rather than accuse her, he would have implicated himself in the behaviour he wished to focus on. ‘Teckle, I find myself jealous of some of those types we know”, he would have started. “If I hadn’t gone into architecture, we could have had a summer villa, and I would have loved it in a lot of ways. I am the first one to adore the sun and the Mediterranean. I’m so sorry for letting us both down.” … “What I also want to say, though, and it is probably a lesson for both of us, is that we’re very lucky in a host of other ways that we should at least try not to forget. … and that we know how to have a lot of fun on our rain-sodden summer holidays in the Outer Hebrides in a crofter’s cottage that smells a little of sheep dung’.”

The challenges arise between the partners when they communicate and produce infinity loops of unhelpful and unfortunate mutual triggering of disappointments and trauma:

“… Throughout their relationship the two of them fail comprehensively at both tasks, teaching and learning. At the first sign that either one of them is adopting a pedagogical tone, the other assumes that they are under attack, which in turn causes them to close their ears to instruction and to react with sarcasm and aggression to suggestions, thereby generating further irritation and weariness in the mind of the fragile ‘instructing’ party.”

Quotes from De Botton, Alain. The Course of Love (2016). Penguin Random House. UK.

COUPLEMENTARY episode three

COUPLEMENTARY episode three

Previously on couplementary: HE wanted to bring up his dissatisfaction with her and expected some sort of an acknowledgement. HE yielded HER anger and the situation escalated.

Usually when we achieve the opposite of what we intended, we get annoyed. Very annoyed. From the outside and with a little distance these are often situations that comedies are based on. You attempt one thing and what you get is exactly the opposite. Only worse.

My client can’t see the funny side to this emotional episode of his married life. They both have now reached a point where their brains and bodies fill with anger, hurt and annoyance. Amygdalae gone wild. It is clear to HIM that she is now about to throw a tantrum. HE has been at this point many times. It leads down a path of escalation and damage – verbal destruction at least. What are HIS options right now? Two strategical streams open up: calming things down or engaging in an argument. From which several tactical versions of action arise in his mind (here in order of escalation and potential for disaster):

  1. He can apologise immediately and hope to calm her down (caution! can backfire badly)
  2. He can freeze and – try to – sit it out until she calms down (alright, worth a trial)
  3. He can tell her that he does not want to talk this through at this heated stage (and hope her rational brain can still process – good luck amateur!)
  4. He can leave or at least be quiet until both have calmed down
  5. He can engage in a full blown fight in order to make clear that he is right and she is wrong

He “decides” for option E). He tells her with an angry face that he will not continue with this argument right there right then. This now prompts her to storm off, which helps both to settle for option D) as a joint effort. They now have time to calm down and he feels much calmer already after a few minutes. HIS rumination about what just happened however only just started. He thinks “I feel more stuck than before. Why can we not just say sorry and acknowledge what we do to each other? Why is it so difficult …”. 

They will both reconcile a few hours later. They will hug and kiss and maybe hold each other. Without words. He will not bring the subject up ever again. He tried that before – for many years – and the only outcome it ever had, was going back to square one, restarting the fight, leading to more hurt and more escalation. Very destructive. It was never possible to just talk about one issue separately. Every attempt to do so always lead to a tornado of emotion on his partner’s side that sucked in all kinds of issues and brought up bad things from the past.

Their arguments got never resolved, the underlying triggers never discussed. Until the next big fight.

Other questions you might ask just for your own amusement: 
Why does it seem that he is always ordering and then gets the blame when something goes wrong? If the roles were reversed, would he do the same? Hypothetically: Would it be a big deal if he had made a mistake and ordered coffee instead of tea or white rice instead of red? Or maybe ask the question the other way around, what is going on for her to have some sort of a heightened reaction?

This is the story of two people who turn into foxes and what happens after that …

In this video we can observe developmental stages of a relationship – symbiosis, differentiation and practicing.

Two people who like each other enter into a prolonged state of symbiosis – here artfully outlined and animated as the transformation of both partners into foxes. Their different likes, character traits and pastimes are highlighted shortly only to be blurred by their merging. Symbiosis characterised as melting into one, mutual promises for an indefinite future and inseparableness. Disturbance, anxiety and dispute surface at the point when one partner realises that he does not want to be a fox anymore and that his “true nature” is not a fox nature. His decision to let go from disguising as a fox – probably goes hand in hand with his differentiation of the self. He becomes aware of and expresses his thoughts, feelings and desires. She does not take her partner’s change lightly and becomes furious, anxious and then hyper-active. Turbulence is triggered through their being agitated and confused. While he is practicing, she struggles with development. LOOK OUT FOR HER WAY OF DEALING WITH ANXIETY!

He likes her and she likes him, She likes him and he likes her He likes her and she likes him, They like each other

He likes her she likes him, They met on a canopy He is quiet and she is bold, He likes birds, she likes bees.

He wants to rhyme, she wants to glow, They both make a plan to flee. They build a railway with rails, to trek through the forest together with it. 

He likes hunting, she likes collecting. He likes thinking, she likes acting. He likes walnut, she likes almonds. They start to transmute into foxes. 

They start to live in the forest. Feed on pigeons, bark and beans. They swear each other, never to save themselves and get the best out of each other. 

They invent their own country, bear names the other invented. Everyone learns what the other knows, the one lost what the other found.

They set each other on fire. They hunt each other through the ground. Everyone encourages the other, to mutually realign.

But eventually one of them started to realise that they only disguise as foxes. He wanted to hide it and didn’t want to show his sorrow, but that’s how the friction started:

He said: ‘I don’t want to be a fox anymore!’

She said: ‘Why? A fox is fine after all’

He said: ‘But I don’t want to be a fox anymore’

She said: ‘You’re a traitor’

He said: ‘And you’re not a fox!’

She said: ‘”Yes, I am a fox!’

He said: ‘Nope, you’re not a fox’

She said: ‘Yes, I am a fox and you are too. And what’s the point of this after all with you don’t want to be a fox anymore? You were a fox just now. What happened in the meantime? Being a fox is awesome!’

And he’s like: ‘Yeah, being a fox is awesome, but my true nature just is not a fox nature.’

She: ‘Your real nature isn’t the nature of a fox? What utter nonsense! What’s the point of this? If you aren’t a fox, then what are you?’

He was shaking and looked her in the eyes for a long moment and said:  ‘I am an Albatros!’

She became terribly sad and cried, because suddenly everything seemed to fall apart. ‘An Albatros? It lives at the sea. That means, we aren’t a fox couple anymore! Do you fly away now and build yourself a nest, like an Albatros? That’s so silly! You are crazy, I bite you now, because foxes eat birds, that’s a law’

He: ‘AAUHG!!!  You almost teared of my leg! I didn’t judge you like that’

She said ‘If doubts are plaguing you a long time you idiot, why didn’t you tell me right away?’

He said: ‘I wasn’t aware of it!’

She: ‘Yes, yes, very crafty. You were just using me’

He said ‘Nonsense. You think I’ll backstab you, just because I’m growing wings? How should I know before what I’m going to be. Maybe we’re transforming into a herd of horses soon.’

She said ‘But we didn’t agree to this.’

He: ‘I didn’t come up with the transmutation. But didn’t we swear never to save ourselves and get the best out of each other? And right now I am drawn into the air. I’m longing for wind and fish. I have to learn to fly, Albatros style! I’ll surely come around here again soon. I love you and I always will. It breaks my heart, but I have to fly now.’

And so he flew and flew and flew. He slipped in the wind and it pulled him up. Meanwhile she ran through the forest alone. She was hungry and the wind was cold. She stopped and started to cry. Alone she didn’t want to be a fox anymore. She concentrated, she knew, she had to act, wanted to covert as well: He turns into an Albatros, then I’ll turn into a Pelican. Because I can’t live in this forest alone anymore. That’s going to be fun. I am not kidding, this night I’m made into a pelican.

And she took a breath and started the pelican mutation chant. Pelican-Peli-Peli-Pelican – Pelican-Peli-Peli-Pelican – Pelican-Peli-Peli-Pelican – Pelican-Peli-Peli-Pelican – Pelican-Peli-Peli-Pelican – Peli-di-peli-di-peli-peli-peli-peli …

But eventually she broke down, didn’t turn into a pelican even with singing. She screamed and didn’t want to live anymore, stopped to breath, stopped to move. And plop! It happened! Suddenly there was no fox anymore! 

She felt herself and perceived that she was a brilliant spade from now on.

‘Hurray! I transformed. Too bad, it’s a garden tool. It would be better if I…’ Plop! And she turned into a willow stick. 

From stick to tree. From tree to grass. From grass to deer, to hose to glass. 

and to shirt to fence and from fence to salamander.  She turned completely and she freaked out.

She turned big, little, thick, thin, heavy and light. ‘I need a base, please, it’s enough!’ She reared up. 

She was cold and hot. She lost her shape and turned into a circle.

Meanwhile he was longing. Had enough of fish and of salt-breeze. He flew to the forest, wanted to know where she was, when he discovered a circle in a clearing.

‘Holy shit! What a circle. What is it doing here and what is its name? Did it travel or did it derail? If I circle him quietly, then I will be in the know.

But suddenly *plop!* she raised from the circle. Was shaking, here face was white.

‘Oh my God! What happened to me? I don’t understand, I was an animal just now!

Then I was nothing shortly and then everything at once! I’m scared, the world is a delivery room. 

All full of births and all full of deaths. Mutating into animals is prohibited by law.

But we just relieved from the laws, moved the boundaries, we’ve all been lied to! 

that you truly raised into the air and all my atoms were bent into circles.

It’s too much, I’m freaking out, I give up, I don’t understand.

Try to grasp it, but fail miserably. So she fainted and he caught her. 

He clasped her in his arms and looked up. The night was brigs. He saw a thousand stars.

Didn’t understand it himself, didn’t matter how much he wanted to know how it works, the last proof:

Seen from above the Earth draws an elliptical circle



Previously on couplementary: In episode one we started to follow HIM into a scene in which HE feels repeatedly falsely accused by HER within a short time span.

What now unfolds is the signature version of their infinity loop of unhelpful emotional interaction. It is really unfortunate for the two that HIS coffee arrived first – minutes before HER tea is brought – because here is where their unhelpful emotional dance begins …

Noticing the waiter bringing coffee instead of tea, she reacts in an uneasy way. In this moment she seemingly does not believe him to have ordered HER favourite tea and apparently accuses HIM of having ordered coffee instead. HER tone of voice, facial expression and posture signal that SHE is upset and angry with him. HE has it that she accuses HIM to have either screwed up or bluntly manipulated the order to HER disadvantage and to HIS advantage. It confuses him at first. Then it starts to annoy him, because HE must take this personal.

He strongly wants to talk to her about what just happened and how he feels about it. So he says to her “I feel hurt and annoyed by the way you just addressed me. You did a similar thing just yesterday asking me repeatedly if I really had ordered brown rice and I wonder why you keep doing this.”. She says: “You do the same thing to me all the time. You never listen!”

HE says “I want to talk to you about what just happened. Just stay with this situation right here.” He is aiming for an apology from her, since he finds himself to be in the right. Deep down he feels that she does not trust him to have ordered correctly and on her behalf. That hurts strongly, because it would mean that he can’t be the man for her, which he very much wants to be. The meaning thing goes deeper even: If she does not trust, that he carries out simple tasks with her best interest in mind and heart, then she might not rely on him in more important topics and tasks. Ultimately this would mean that she can’t surrender to him, with him and in him.

SHE says “That’s typical you only want to talk about this one thing. You never want to talk about all the other things that you do to me.” He is now puzzled and wants to know what other things. He says “What other things?” She says “Of course you don’t remember.” At other times she would say “You always want details, this is not about details.” Or she would say “What you do wrong does not count, you only want to bring up my faults. Everything is always my fault.”

At any of these points he realises – time and again – that he will not be able to discuss the one thing he wanted to bring up. He also realises that she will not acknowledge having hurt him with her way of questioning him repeatedly, her pitched voice and her angry face. Instead, it seems like he has now opened a can of worms and that her emotion now spirals out of control. This was not his intend. He did not want her to feel bad. What he actually wanted was any version of “You are right. Of course you acted in my best interest. I am your wife, we love each other and I can fully rely on you. You are my man. That is the reason why I am with you, because you know what makes me happy.”

He gets none of that. At all. By bringing up his dissatisfaction with her – it gets worse.