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Ending a relationship with someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) means having to figure out what to do about trying to maintain contact or going no contact. Many feel guilty about going to no contact and yet in the case of relationship endings generally there is often little middle-ground let alone when the person one is ending a relationship has BPD.

I believe from my experience, both when I had BPD, and since I’ve recovered and had to get out of a relationship with my borderline-narcissist ex that no contact is the best way to go.

When I was borderline I remember how calculating and manipulative I could be in saying just what someone wanted to hear no matter how rightfully angry they were with me and this would just prolong the cycles of the suffering of those nons I sadly abused in my past, and actually prolonged my own suffering as someone who had BPD then and also held me back (was my responsibility for not letting go not the nons in my life) from doing the work I needed to do in therapy to recover.

Ending relationships are not easy even when they are more "normal". Of course ending one with someone with BPD can be very challenging depending upon how their abandonment issues play out and how they react to loss and what they do when they feel out of control, and angry – whether or not they are physically violent and so forth needs to be taken into account.

In the case of my life now – as a fellow non borderline who had to end a relationship with a borderline I tried to wean it – to gradually pull away from it. This began with limits and boundaries I set and tried to hold when I was still in the relationship – of course that was chaotic drama to say the least.

Then I finally asked her to move out. I just told her I wasn’t going to do it anymore and that frankly I couldn’t take it anymore. We talked for a long time. At that point it would have likely been more difficult to get cooperation – as in her leaving – if I had cut off all contact. I cared about her regardless of the mess that the relationship had been.

So, we continued to have some contact. I thought I’d be very clear, blunt to almost brutal a few times to be sure she heard me that I WAS done. But a few months down the road she began to act in ways that were attempts to get me to re-enter the relationship.

There was her asking outright, begging really, bargaining, and of course her attempts to guilt me and otherwise manipulate me all of which I was effective at disengaging through mindfulness and radical acceptance practice. There was still the pain that I’d feel or that I would re-visit from time to time after her chaotic dramatic attempts to "get me back".

It really wasn’t until I felt compelled, forced by her behaviour really and my own pain to finally go no contact, some 8 month after I ended the relationship that I really could begin to heal and recover.

I think it is fairly human to try to deny or delay that move to no contact. I know for me that it was two things – I did care about her, I was worried about her, I did play rescuer, and also in having contact with her I kept myself stuck, as I look back at it now, in a holding pattern of denial really. I found this out when I let her know that all contact needed to stop. It was then and only then that I was hit with the full force of my own pain – pain that was screaming at me to get away from the situation/person/relationship that was causing me so much more pain in general.

Ending a relationship – or at whichever point you can get to no contact, it is at the point of no contact that with the time and space away from the borderline’s chaos, drama, neediness, learned helplessness, manipulation, guilting and so on and so on – that we as non borderlines get the time and space, and emotionally safe enough place from which to truly begin to feel all that has happened to us – all that we have been through.

What I learned in going no contact was to focus on myself, my own well-being, and my own life. It put me in touch with just how much time and energy I had focused on and invested in her. It is a place that increase pain a bit more I think than even the ending of a relationship.

But as that pain rises, and we meet it with a willingness to feel it, grieve it and let it go, that is the place that we can really begin to heal from. If a non borderline maintains contact out of feelings of guilt he or she may be doing so at the expense of his or her own healing and recovery and ability to move on.

Borderlines have a way of continuing to play the same old head-games when you end a relationship and have any contact. They often want to punish the non borderline because they end up feeling abandoned again, rejected, and in their own "reality" betrayed even.

Sometimes it is the person with BPD that ends, and often suddenly and without explanation ends, the relationship. It is not uncommon for borderlines who do this to, at some point, re-contact the non borderline. The point of re-contact will often be just when the non borderline may be beginning to feel stronger and making progress in their own grief process. To entertain the idea of re-contact even if initiated by the borderline in this scenario is to only re-open your wounds and to pour salt into them.

The so sought-after closure when these relationships end – no matter whether ended by the non or the borderline – is to continue to try to catch and contain wind in a jar. Closure in these relationship ruptures, breakups/endings is elusive and can become an addictive albeit futile quest if the non borderline isn’t careful.

Borderlines often see the non borderline’s leaving and ending a relationship as a betrayal of them, sort of like if they could verbalize it they’d say something like: "How dare you need to take care of yourself, WHAT ABOUT ME" type of thing.

They don’t get it. They don’t get the limits or the boundaries that healthier people need. They don’t understand why we would want to take care of ourselves and why we cannot allow them to lead us to total loss of self – the very loss of self that borderlines themselves spend their lives reeling from.

My ex stalked me some. I was lucky. I didn’t really fear her physically. I had grown to be emotionally terrified of her in many ways though. I ended up moving about 2 months after going no contact. I wanted to move anyway. I wanted to move back the city where I lived before she was in my life (even though it’s the city where we met) and so I did and I changed all of my phone numbers. I made it pretty clear to her during our last contact – her stalking me that I was about to play legal hardball and that it would be in her own best interest to get help and leave me alone.

Something must have penetrated her psyche in that conversation because even with moving, changing cities, and my phone numbers, of course she could reach me via very public email addresses if she really wanted to. I have been and remain prepared for that – knowing that if I see anything in email from her I will delete it without opening it.

Once you’ve ended the relationship (and taken whatever steps necessary depending upon the amount of risk or threat the borderline poses) and gone no contact it really becomes all about dealing with yourself and your own feelings and making sure that as you process it all and work to recover and hopefully for your own sake some day – forgive the borderline – that you are clear about what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is remembering and letting go and it isn’t for the borderline, it’s for our own health and well-being.

It has now been over a year since I last has any contact from my ex. I am now recovered from this relationship. One thing I want to share in case anyone else facing this or going through this wonders what to do with the pain, what I find is that it is helpful to not ever forget the pain. I don’t over-focus on it but each and every time I for second start to wonder about her, how she is, if she’s okay etc etc I stop myself cold, with a simple statement like – wherever she is or however she is, she is, it is not my responsibility and I can’t afford to let it matter to me anymore. I then either busy myself, distract myself, or just re-focus to anything and everything but giving any energy or emotional investment to whatever happened to the ex because I have detached. Sometimes, detachment means that we have to detach regularly, often in a day even, it doesn’t matter. Just be resolute.

Living in the here and now is what is most important even if your "here and now" hurts. "Perfect speed is just being there" (Richard Bach – Jonathan Livingston Seagull)

Ending a relationship with a borderline, for a non borderline, as I found out, means turning to face yourself. It was a very paradoxical experience for me. It was a tremendous life-lesson and a very significant growth opportunity in my life which I really learned from.

I am left with now though is the paradox of how truly painfully awful and actually wrong the whole relationship was, how much it affected me negatively, how much time I lost to all her chaos (my choice and responsibility) and the wonderful lessons I learned from this entire train wreck.

We have to radically accept it all. It all is what it all is. Once we know better we do better. When we "get it" we "get it".

When we make a commitment to ourselves to that we will only entertain healthier people and we set this clear intention the universe has a way of helping us through it all.

No contact is the best way to win your freedom from a relationship with a borderline. It may not seem the easiest way in the short run but in the long term (as I am finding out personally) wow, even in what were some painful times in that first year, those times, as much as they hurt, hurt less than it did to have some involvement with the ex.

A.J. Mahari June 25, 2008 – All rights reserved.

A.J. Mahari is a life coach who has designed a program for non borderlines leaving or who have left a relationship with someone with BPD and who still need to really let it go and break free from thinking about it or being affected by it.

Ending a Relationship With Someone With BPD – Contact or No Contact? – Nons