The way I knew to do relationships was to find the least available, most aloof, detached, disinterested person in the room and fling myself at them, a full-court press. I dazzled them with my attention, affection, caring and consideration. The more they ignored me, the more I wanted them. I would make myself into someone they wanted, prove to them my worthiness. I would do this by showing great interest in their experience, asking about them and listening intently, remembering details. I would do this by showering them with thoughtful little notes and gifts. I would do this by making myself completely available to them, their whims and fancies. I would do this by giving them anything I perceived them as wanting, and asking for nothing in return. The lengths that I would go to…just to prove I was worth loving. It was extremely dysfunctional, it didn’t work, and I got hurt a lot. I scared people off with my relentless pursuing, or attracted the wrong people. I went along this way for nearly the first three decades of my life before I realized I was going to need to make some major interpersonal changes if I was going to have the kind of life I wanted. This was the way I attracted Borderlines to me.
I can remember feeling as though I was bursting at the seams with love to give, and I was desperate to have that one special best girl friend, and to be in love. From the time I entered middle school my obsession was to fall in love and find a best friend. I spent most of my time fantasizing about whichever guy was my current crush, and what our relationship and sex would be like. I simply could not wait to make the object of my affection mine. The rest of my time I spent trying to get next to the popular girls at school, hoping the queen bee would choose me to be her best friend. I always had an object (person) I was seeking, and it never once occurred to me there might be someone outside my crosshairs who would suit my purposes, willingly. No, it had to be the exact person I wanted, which was invariably the person least interested in me. I had so much love to give, and if they could just turn toward me and accept it, I knew they’d be enchanted and be mine.
It wasn’t sustainable. I burned out sometime in my mid-20s, wrung out with nothing left for anyone, including myself. I’d been told I was “too much”, yet I knew no other way to be. What could possibly be wrong about loving too much? The level of confusion I experienced as I watched girls pair off into best-friendships, joining with other dyads to form tight cliques was tremendous. The intensity of my loneliness as I watched what seemed like everyone get into a relationship, no matter how short-lived, was crushing. What had I done that was so wrong? Why did the love I sought so cruelly elude me?
Sometimes people responded to my methods, and they were often other well-intentioned people who eventually became overwhelmed and slipped away. Some stuck around and were forgotten as I began a full-court press for the next coveted object. And some were attracted to my style of needless, wantless, give-all-ask-for-nothing. These were the self-involved, narcissistic types, the centers of the world who appreciated that I understood their terms: they got everything, I got nothing. Of these, some were Borderlines, who saw in my object-centered approach a safe place to hide.
I seemed to have as a little a sense of self as they, which meant their stunning emptiness might not be detected. I did not question the whims, feelings, or actions of my objects, which meant I offered an anything-goes environment, in which dysfunction would not be challenged. Because I was a stable, flat-affected person (hard to imagine, given the way I was doing my life, but true), there was room for reactivity of mood, inappropriate anger and relational instability. I would accept all, question little, keep the harmony and stability for both of us. My loneliness and need superseded personal pride and self-care, which meant almost no level of bad behavior was too much. I would not abandon the relationship–the deepest fear of Borderlines. And perhaps a deepest fear of mine.
To be continued Thursday…