You constantly feel like you’re walking on eggshells.
Attraction among people is such a mystery. It involves an array of factors like biochemistry, culture, senses, intellect, and timing. If I were to put it all in one word, I would choose “familiarity”.
We gravitate towards what feels familiar. As they say, we attract what we are. We are not very fond of this concept, particularly when we are involved with people that exhibit traits that we so dislike. We struggle to change them, meanwhile, we may be carriers of similar traits. However, we repress them or manifest them in different ways.
When we find ourselves in a relationship with a difficult person, we often ask ourselves, “Why me? How did it get here? Is it my fault?” The big question is, “What do I do now?”
If this resonates with you, please don’t torture yourself. Don’t feel ashamed, regretful, or guilty. Just learn from it and take the proper actions. Nothing in life happens randomly. Every experience we fall into is part of our journey and one that is presented as a lesson for growth.
The problem is that once we get emotionally attached, we may pass the deadline of learning and resist to see it is time to move on. This is when we switch from learning to a path of destruction.
Sustaining a relationship with someone with a personality disorder can be very challenging and leave you with a marked emotional trauma. It can seriously damage your self-esteem and even your health, not to mention other possible consequences like violence and addictions.
Let’s first get some understandingabout personality disorders. There are about 10 types, but the objective here is not to get technical or give you a lecture on the topic. The intention is to offer you simple tips to help you evaluate your individual situation and move on to effective solutions.
People with personality disorders are very rigid in their thinking. They are extremely self-absorbed and exhibit disproportionate selfish behaviors. Their capacity for introspection and empathy is quite poor. They tend to cope with life in very strategic manners, meaning they have a set of ideas, beliefs, and rules they go by in terms of how they see themselves and others.
For this reason, the constant struggle for power is present in the relationship. They are driven by the motive to outwit, manipulate, and get their way at all costs. They feel very strongly about their beliefs and they fiercely defend such beliefs as they are part of a self-protection system.
A marked distrust in others is prevalent in this group. This item places a big barrier for communication and intimacy, which are key elements in a successful relationship. The most common types are narcissistic,borderline personality, dependent, and antisocial personality disorders.
Before getting more into this, let me clarify that age is a factor. An individual’s personality is not fully formed until about age 25. The patterns begin to show in adolescence. The stronger the traits and the older in age, the fewer chances there are for transformation and growth.
Here are some of the signs you have a personality disorder or the person you love does:
1. You often feel like you’re walking on eggshells.
Since the beginning of the relationship, you begin noticing odd and intensive reactions for unfounded reasons. They may suddenly get very angry, explosive, or jealous. At times, they may impose long periods of silence to punish you, making you feel guilty, and taking power of the relationship.
You may try different strategies to calm them down, only to see the situation escalating even higher. At times, you may find yourself apologizing for no reason just to resolve the conflict and bring harmony back. The “making up” moment may be very intense and gratifying and you hope that It won’t happen again.
In this process, you lose yourself. You mold your identity at the expense of accumulating a lot of resentment towards yourself and your partner.
2. You have feelings of self-doubt.
People with personality disorders are very convincing. They feel so right about their perception that soon you may find yourself sympathizing with them and second guessing your own views. This feature inclines you to be more accepting of guilt and it increases your apologetic approach after every disagreement.
You may find yourself spending long hours in mental chatting, scrutinizing your actions and behaviors, and then finally agreeing with your partner that you provoked the situation. You have simply become co-dependent.
You want to save this relationship. After all, you are emotionally attached and you have already invested quite some time in it, regardless of the advice from family and friends. Moreover, they may have caused a few unpleasant moments and even conflicts and distance with some valuable people in your life.
You want to prove everyone wrong and you start living in the fantasy that you can fix it. You keep going back to those special moments, the passion, and the connection and all the things in common you have with your partner.
As a result, you start avoiding people and social gatherings. You even createa fantasy of the perfect relationshipand you start portraying it and lying to yourself, your co-workers and your family. At the end of the day, in your heart, you know the truth which makes you feel sad and depressed.
The thought of asking anyone for help gets further from reality because of the shame you already feel. In addition, because of the control factor in these relationships, you may have given up hobbies, personal interests, or career goals you once had, adding more to the isolation and resentment.
4. You feel hopeless.
You feel stuck in a rut and you don’t have the strength to leave or know the way to fix it. You have a hard time seeing a future in this relationship. One minute you are in, but the next one, you are out. It is unpredictable and uncertain. You feel apprehensive most of the time.
When things are good, you know they can get spoiled at any moment. You walk around with this uncomfortable knot in your stomach. You have trouble even making vacation plans or social commitments because you don’t know if you are going to be together when the time comes. The plans can get spoiled even at the very last minute.
5. Emotional and physical symptoms start to manifest.
Eventually, the constant state of apprehension and fear of abandonment becomes chronic. The day-to-day practice of repression and emotional alertness develops into symptoms of anxiety. You may experience tension headaches, digestive issues, high blood pressure, sleeping difficulties, and racing thoughts just to mention a few.
Consequently, you may get into the habit of eating the wrong foods, drinking too much, or using drugs, including tranquilizers to keep your anxiety down. Due to chronic stress, your immune system may weaken and you may start getting sick often.
So, now you have come to terms with the reality that yes, your partner has a personality disorder. What’s next?
Seek professional help or attend a support group.Acknowledgment is the first step and a big relief. Once you put it out there, it is no longer a secret and it is the first push in moving forward. In addition, introspection work will help you explore what level of vulnerability, trauma, and personality features drove you to ignore the initial red flags and continue pursuing the relationship regardless. This will help heal and prepare for future relationships.
Talk to a close friend or family member you trust. Don’t feel ashamed. Most likely your friends are going to feel relieved and suggest ways to help you emotionally and in other areas you may need.
Take small steps to self-care while still in the relationship. Go back to the gym or to your favorite sport, start a healthy diet, go back to school or learn a new skill, get on a spiritual search, or take yoga or meditation classes. The idea is to bring new positive items into your life to gather strength and to recover your identity and power.
The traditional belief in the mental health community is that people with personality disorders will not change. I do not hold such an extreme belief.
People with personality disorders do have low self-awareness and a strong attachment to the pay-offs and the power they receive from their behaviors. However, personal growth is possible and available for anyone who really wants it.
A big loss or a painful experience in life can turn around a rigid, stubborn personality. If your partner is willing to seek professional help, there may be some hope for the relationship.
Unfortunately, a period of separation is inevitable for the potential success. Most importantly, whether you move on or continue in the relationship, you must do some soul searching. If you had been in a good place emotionally, you wouldn’t have tolerated the relationship for long.
To remain in a relationship with someone with a personality disorder, you must be in a very vulnerable spot in your life, or there are long term unresolved traumas, insecurities, and self-esteem issues that need attention.