I can’t quite put my finger on it. Is he a narcissist?  He’s not really verbally abusive. He never yells at me, or anyone for that matter.

Perhaps I’m imagining things. He would give me the shirt off my back if I ever needed it. He is always so warm and friendly. He looks at me. He shows me care.  Why do I always feel so confused and responsible in this relationship?

Maybe he’s passive-aggressive. Maybe he’s a covert narcissist.  Maybe I’m crazy…

Or, perhaps your story goes like this:  I found out my husband cheated on me, but I know he didn’t mean to hurt me and I realize he loves me and not her. This must have been a “physical” thing, with no “real” emotions behind it.  I still love him and really do forgive him. I just don’t think I can trust him again and probably never will.

This is life with a “borderline” male partner. Perhaps it’s the same with a female borderline; however, it seems to me that borderline females tend to be more covert about their manipulations, seductions, and mood swings.

If you love a man who fits this description, you probably feel as if your husband or boyfriend is really more like one of your children. You feel loyal to him as if he’s your oldest, “errant” son. You may try to set limits on his behaviors, such as spending habits, etc. You may lecture him on how to be a grown-up. You may excuse all kinds of ridiculous and unacceptable behaviors.

Here are some common characteristics of the borderline male:

  • Hates Boundaries. “What, you’re telling me ‘No?’ Let me cry, pout, threaten to kill myself, or figure out some other concealed (or not so concealed) means of stomping all over your boundaries!”
  • Lies. You can never know the truth because borderlines are very convincing. They create entire stories, with details, that sound realistic and feasible. Unable to explain where he’s been for the past eight hours? Rest assured, he has a sound explanation, which you almost believe.
  • Manipulates. Borderlines live in manipulation mode. In fact, you will rarely see the “real” person because he’s so defended against vulnerability that most of your interactions with him are not genuine.
  • Seduces. Borderlines know how to make you feel so loved and seen. Your borderline lover knows how to love you like no other. He will hold you like no man ever has. When you’re with him, you just know you “fit.”  Next to manipulation, seduction is the borderline’s primary method of survival.  Without this tool, he would have to be vulnerable. Being real is vulnerable. Besides, he probably doesn’t even know who the real “him” is.
  • Plays the Victim. I realize this is manipulative, but it is a very specific form of manipulation. Borderlines are masters at causing the other person to feel like rescuing him, helping him, being there for him. It is alluring to the target. Everyone wants to feel needed, and a borderline taps in to this need like no other.
  • Has Adult Temper Tantrums. This is the least becoming trait of the borderline partner. When he throws a full-on, rage-filled, temper tantrum it’s hard to remember that most of the time you really love him and feel sorry for him.  Jekyll-Mr. Hyde comes to mind.

If you love a borderline man, it is wise to know what you’re dealing with.  It can be very intoxicating and alluring to be in a relationship with one, but the price you tend to pay is your sanity. You usually end up feeling confused and overly-responsible for the other person and the relationship.

Self-care is in order. Here are five self-care strategies you can implement immediately to protect yourself from the damage caused by the cognitive dissonance you experience in a borderline relationship:

  1. Set Boundaries for Yourself. You will never be able to set boundaries for your loved one. The only way to survive this type of relationship is to set firm boundaries and bottom-line behaviors for yourself. Some important boundaries include your finances, you sexual relationship with your loved one, and your personal space. Be prepared that the borderline will challenge every boundary you set and every “No” you state.
  2. Build Healthy Relationships with Others. You cannot navigate manipulative relationships without other people in your life who are “normal.” You need friends who can help you “detox” from every crazy-making encounter you experience with your loved one.  You need healthy friends to be there for you and validate your reality.
  3. Stop Playing Detective. If you suspect that your loved one is cheating on you, then you’re probably right. Trying to catch him in the act can be a lifelong pursuit.  It will drain you of the energy you need to live a productive and meaningful life.  Let go of your need to find out.
  4. Examine your “Hooks.” What are the ways your partner “hooks” you?  If you find yourself feeling constantly guilty, what is it in you that needs to give yourself permission to stop taking responsibility for other people’s feelings and actions?  If he is the only man for you, examine why that is?  What part of you is yearning to be fulfilled by the promise he is offering?
  5. Work on Yourself. There are most likely childhood insecurities being triggered by your negative encounters with your partner. Rather than trying to change him from triggering you, look within yourself and see what feelings you are having. Identify the first time in your life when you had those same feelings. Was it in your childhood? If you can identify the early childhood wounds being triggered by your relationship, work on healing that aspect of yourself rather than focusing on him and his issues. Finding a good therapist can help you with this.

Do not give up, there is hope for recovery from a borderline relationship.

If you would like to receive a copy of my free monthly newsletter on the psychology of abuse, please email me at: sharie@therecoveryexpert.com.