post by [deleted] · · ? · GW · 0 comments

This is a link post for


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Desrtopa · 2011-11-12T02:48:02.419Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As a general heuristic, I think it's best to avoid relationships in which you intend to treat your partner's psychological disorders. If you're going to date someone with such disorders, make sure someone else is the therapist.

I used to be in the habit of playing therapist for others. One girl fell for me hard, and after dealing with her I can completely understand why therapists are forbidden to date their patients.

I didn't end up in a relationship with her, but when I gave her my final rejection, I ended up having to talk her down from suicide.

comment by eugman · 2011-11-12T03:00:10.356Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is very good advice. Difficult too, as my natural inclinations lead me to play therapist very easily.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-11T22:13:20.516Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by juliawise · 2011-11-13T14:55:02.223Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Though unlikely to be actually helpful. Hardly anyone is analytical enough about their own emotional stuff to be able to use a flowchart on the topic. People here are probably pretty good candidates if there are any, but to use it on others sounds like big-time other-optimizing. I don't mean to minimize that he was doing the best he could in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. But this probably isn't a useful method for others to use.

comment by eugman · 2011-11-13T23:49:24.461Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It was honestly more for me than for her. Although at this point it's hard to recall for whose sake it was.

comment by J_Taylor · 2011-11-12T08:01:07.381Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your link hit rather close to home.


comment by eugman · 2011-11-12T05:58:37.027Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I read the link. It was spot on and I feel like I should be really really angry.

comment by CharlieSheen · 2011-11-11T22:29:37.746Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Flowcharts and charts in general in a post are an automatic upvote for me.

comment by eugman · 2011-11-12T02:55:46.794Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's quite the compliment, but I'll take it. The best part is this is my natural mode of thought: highly non-sequential.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-12T11:39:07.085Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

EDIT: Also, this seems pertinent.

Upvoted for the link.

comment by ChrisHallquist · 2011-11-12T07:42:12.869Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Watch out for when you are sacrificing epistemology for instrumental gains. If there is ever a time where you want to have certain beliefs because it more convenient and you are trying to talk yourself into them, that is a giant red flag."

Bingo. At times, I've thought something like this is the secret to being rational.

comment by scientism · 2011-11-12T00:53:50.613Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Many years ago I had an intense, year-long friendship with a girl with BPD. We didn't date (although she did permanently break off our friendship as if we were dating, something I hadn't known was a social possibility before then). I have to say, her emotional volatility was utterly mesmerising. During the time I knew her my thinking was utterly transformed. It wasn't so much her vulnerability or my desire to help her, more that it was impossible to keep up and it became exhilarating. I didn't know where I stood from one minute to the next. I could go from being her closest friend to her most hated enemy, and back again, in the space of one conversation. It was bizarre and incredibly addictive. During that time I convinced myself there was something wrong with me and with rationality in general. I got interested in continental philosophy, I toyed with spirituality. After she "broke up" with me, my old self returned. But it was an interesting experience. Almost like joining a cult.

comment by eugman · 2011-11-12T03:04:28.386Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I didn't know where I stood from one minute to the next. I could go from being her closest friend to her most hated enemy, and back again, in the space of one conversation. It was bizarre and incredibly addictive.

Take this. Now make this person someone you love so deeply you'd die for them. Your most intimate relation that you trust with secrets you wouldn't tell anyone else. There are not words in the English language to properly describe this sensation.

But it was an interesting experience. Almost like joining a cult.

I hate to exaggerate, but the similarities are disturbing. For example, see love bombing.

comment by Viliam_Bur · 2011-11-13T12:30:03.310Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I hate to exaggerate, but the similarities are disturbing.

There are some differences, but there are many similarities. Once I knew a couple of a psychopath and his girlfriend, and in my mind I called them a cult of two: one leader and one devout follower.

The base difference is that one happens in an exclusive sexual pair setting, while the other happens in social group setting. From this, other differences logically follow, for example a group may be actively recruiting, the pair is not; in a group there is a competition between followers, in pair the follower is unique; etc.


  • leader chooses how you live, and who do you interact with -- the choice usually depends on whether that person approves the leader;

  • you should do your best to be perfect -- a perfect follower that is;

  • if you break a rule, even in your thoughts, you should admit it openly, so it can be prevented -- and also you can be negatively conditioned;

  • you are discouraged to use an "outside view", because your group/pair is special, so normal considerations do not apply;

  • neither is any other epistemology viable.

comment by Jack · 2011-11-12T03:22:51.521Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you think it left you with any immunity to such things in the future?

comment by scientism · 2011-11-12T05:23:20.507Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, definitely. It left me with a keen sense of when I'm being emotionally manipulated.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-13T04:03:05.336Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A general point that I don't have quite framed, but deciding when something is bad enough to be worth changing, especially if that change will be socially disruptive, seems to be really hard. People tend to do a lot of checking with third parties, possibly because there may be a second party who's done a lot to present the current situation as objectively the best available.

I think this applies to whistle-blowing, emigration, and leaving jobs as well as to relationships.

comment by soreff · 2011-11-15T20:37:06.956Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Excellent point! Taps into both "sunk cost" illusions and into all of the machinery we have for maintaining alliances...

comment by lukeprog · 2011-11-12T00:32:44.957Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is terrifyingly similar to my relationship with my first girlfriend, "Alice."

I think a key part of that series is missing...

Since the series only has one part so far, basically all "key parts" are "missing." :)

comment by eugman · 2011-11-12T02:54:32.100Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This post was inspired by that one, although I wanted to do the same thing in a very different style.

This is true, however I didn't see the subject matter listed here: "In future posts we'll develop an action plan for using the science of attraction to create successful romantic relationships. We'll also explain how rationality helps with relationship maintenance and relationship satisfaction."

comment by Aharon · 2012-01-06T10:47:15.880Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If it is, you should rewrite that article. I never got the impression that she was there was something fundamentally wrong about her, I just got the impression that you had different goals than she had. In your article, it sounds as if you knew her for quite some time before she wanted marriage - you mention that you deconverted simultaneously, and this process took you about two years, as you describe in your article on that topic. I think it isn't irrational to want more commitment from your partner after a two-year relationship. "Sarah", on the other hand, pressed eugman for a lot more.

comment by Jack · 2011-11-12T03:30:16.748Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Did you stop seeing your friends while you were with her? Social isolation seems to contribute to these things.

comment by eugman · 2011-11-12T05:50:29.545Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes I did. I spent nearly all my time with her and she didn't trust me alone so that sort of thing happened on it's own.

comment by RobertLumley · 2011-11-12T03:40:28.891Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As I finished reading this, my girlfriend walked in and I forgot to upvote. I'm glad I remembered - this was a tremendously well done post. I'd like to see it in main.

comment by eugman · 2011-11-12T05:49:13.014Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would too. Since there isn't a post-sized crater in the ground that I was expecting, What should I do about that? Is the protocol to repost or just have an admin move it?

And thank you for the compliment. I took quite the emotional risk in making it so I'm glad it was worth it.

comment by RobertLumley · 2011-11-12T16:06:26.509Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think admins can move it. You may be able to edit it and change where it's posted to; I'm not sure. I've never posted in main. XD

comment by MatthewBaker · 2011-11-12T03:08:52.088Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The one part in this post that bothered me was the part about Cigarettes and Cannabis. I dislike the characterization of people who use them as stupid, I just think they need help optimizing their usage. Both vaporization of Cannabis and Tobacco combined with Nicotine stimulants can save you a great deal of money and also improve your health while using those substances. Similar measures can be taken with Pain Pills and Adderall, if you hadn't extricated yourself so thoroughly which I applaud you for I would refer you to A Rationalists guide to Psychoactive Drugs and other articles.

comment by eugman · 2011-11-12T03:25:13.215Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'll read them both when I get a chance. I had gotten her some e-cigs but she quit those after a while. I'm willing to admit that one can use many substances in a safe rational way. However, I take issue when those substances are far more important than your relationship with your fiance. I know I shouldn't dictate someone else's life, but it always felt like drugs came first and I came second and I wish she had been upfront about that from the beginning. (Yes, I am quite bitter about this)

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2011-11-12T13:26:49.399Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I thought the issue wasn't so much the cigarettes and cannabis as that she promised to quit them and then didn't.

comment by eugman · 2011-11-13T03:45:51.471Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's rather complicated I'm afraid.

So, that was the main issue. And that's what I tried to convey in the post, not to characterize a user as stupid. I'd be more than happy to change it or make a footnote, but I'm having trouble picking out what precisely to change.

That being said, I'm sure there's a lot of emotional leakage going on. When it comes to the subject, I'm guessing I'm suffering from the horns effect, so I apologize to everyone for that. There are a number of confounding factors that makes it difficult to extract the main issue.

My only primary issue with nicotine was the health concerns with smoking regular cigarettes. If she had stayed on the e-cigs (which she talked me into mind you), I wouldn't have been so upset about that. I did however have a fear that even using vaporized nicotine, she might relapse to cigarettes.

The cannabis is complicated. First, I had made a devilish bargain with her on the pretense she would quit. Second, it felt like she needed it to socialize with most of her friends who were also smokers. Third, her dealers and their friends were unscrupulous people and I was constantly concerned for her safety. Fourth, since she was a chronic user, it was frustrating because when she was high I felt isolated and alone. But she expected me to always be "on" and available to help her at a moments notice so the asymmetry was infuriating. Fifth, I was frustrated about how much of a giant money sink it was. And finally, it was impossible to get any validation on any of these things. That's what I mean by her putting drugs first. It was a lifestyle and in integral part of her identity, so if I was hurting because of it, it was taken as an attack on her identity.

It was the first and last items that really stung me the most.

comment by MatthewBaker · 2011-11-13T09:05:59.532Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It sounds like she had a great deal of trouble using drugs responsibly and your great patience in dealing which such a sensitive issue should be lauded. The money sink problems behind substances use are the dropping point for many, If you cant budget your expenses correctly you probably can't deal with a substance that costs deceivingly low amounts of money tied to a stealthy and long term addictive neurochemical. Vaporization of Nicotine and Cannabis seems like a good solution to the problem but in my experience chronic users usually stick to what they know and pass on the more efficient and safer method against all medical advice.

May I ask what the devilish bargain was perchance? It may be private but my curiosity begs the question.

comment by eugman · 2011-11-13T12:20:10.065Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You may, but I can't tell you in public for reasons, if stated, would probably have the same effect. Instead I'll cruelly tease you with a riddle.

She said to me "Honey,
I've got something to share."
But something was taken
and can't be repaired.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-12T05:44:32.205Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

At some point during our relationship, I switched from thinking there was something wrong with her, to thinking there was something wrong with me.

Which, as you found out, was also true (codependency, significant changes to your personality).

comment by eugman · 2011-11-12T05:47:16.146Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Unabashedly, yes. However, the healthy view would have been to see the issues in both of us simultaneously. That was the bigger issue.

comment by Raemon · 2011-11-11T23:45:20.925Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Looking back, when do you think you SHOULD have gotten out of the relationship?

comment by eugman · 2011-11-12T02:58:53.365Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My first thought, the scariest thought, is that there is no point. Looking back it's hard to see a clear point. Instead it was a chain built link by link. A gradual descent into hell. But then I thought more and I had tried to break up before, so one of those times. The first of which was a time where she wanted me to basically exclude my father from our wedding if he wouldn't support us. Other good choices would be one of the first times I was bawling on the floor or physically stopping her from committing suicide (although it was likely gesturing).

comment by Raemon · 2011-11-12T04:00:56.353Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good to know.

I had my first relationship this year, it lasted a month, and I spent most of the time trying to gracefully end it (eventually opting instead for a scorched earth approach that I'm not particularly proud of). I had the advantage of realizing pretty quickly that it was a bad idea. (I'll be talking about this at more length in another post at some point).

What was concerning about your story was, as you said, it wasn't immediately clear where to end it. I think people with mental disorders deserve to at least be given a shot, which I have a hard time reconciling with the knowledge that maintaining such a relationship is incredibly hard and you have to consider your own wellbeing and most of the time, honestly it probably will turn out not to be worth it.

Part of the reason I wanted to get out of my "relationship" quickly was the realization that not only did we have no long term prospects, but she had a lot of legitimate problems that she needed help with and if I tried to help her with them she'd come to depend on me and then it'd suck for her even more when I eventually needed out.

comment by smk · 2011-11-12T14:43:39.588Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'd say that eugman should never have gotten into the relationship in the first place. Usually--I mean practically always--when someone is as seriously unsuitable a partner as his ex-fiancee sounds like, the evidence of that can be seen rather quickly, before you become a couple or best pals or whatever.

But, as eugman pointed out, his experiences and temperament didn't give him the best skills in this area, so it's no more reasonable to expect him never to have dated her than it is to expect him to have gotten out sooner.

comment by eugman · 2011-11-13T12:52:11.991Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Funny note: because I moved this article to main, my karma is at 248 but my karma gained this month is at 395.

comment by paperballet · 2012-01-31T02:37:07.406Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I just wanted to say thank you for this article. I know it might seem weird, but I am a female borderline. I actually am very into my DBT therapy and have made it my TOP priority in life. But I went searching for flowcharts and this was unbelievably good. Your work and effort to "save" someone you cared about went, as you probably know, above and beyond what she could have possibly comprehended as "helpful" because she lacked the basic skills to really thank you.

For the people and naysayers who like to envelop women [and some men] with BPD as monsters, incapable of true transcendence and life skills, you're absolutely wrong. I have had a plethora of very serious life crises that burned many bridges before the wonderful place I am in now I fondly refer to as "entering life through the back door."

think of this; we start as babies. we start as people who cry and need to be fed. we need to have emotional protection and to have needs met. very basic needs. somewhere, borderlines do not get this and we spend a lifetime of horrible, and yes, cliched existences to try and attain even a modicum of truth to who we are and that feeling of rationality and love. it is possible. You were right in leaving and as hard for a borderline to admit this, being left was the only thing that got me to the right long term commitment to therapy I so desperately needed.

And yes, were it not for my own desire to get better and experience authentic love and being, I'd never have gotten here- and I am not very sure that's something every borderline can attain, as it requires a thirst for knowledge and a somewhat high-functionality in the real world. [ie, having a job, owning a car, money are really helpful but extremely hard for borderlines to attain.] Luckily I am very close to my exes and they have been incredibly instrumental in my recovery process. [my ex fiance even bought the book "Everything about Borderline" for me recently. I have several other health issues, not the least of which is an eating disorder. But to respond to your ex's thoughts on "when i lose weight" i have to call bull. I was big and my mind just reversed polarity and split, so now I do not eat enough.

anyway, before I ramble on too much, I just wanted to say hi,and thank you again for this. It's always very insightful for a borderline woman in recovery to hear the real and undiluted thoughts of the partners. I love it because it helps me avoid things I really have no idea i am doing.

one last thing: think about Aspies and Autistic persons. They have unknown reasons for their lack of empathy and tendency toward verbosity to the point of boring everyone - yet we do not label them so harshly. Aspies can learn and a huge amount of money and research and care is taken to help them toward leading a normal life. I think we need to start thinking about BPD this way, or else I am afraid many more suicides will occur. A good combination of the tough love and soft encouragement is a good approach.

Thanks for your time. Kelly

comment by waveman · 2011-11-13T23:16:32.520Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

People with BPD can be very addictive. The highs are so good - you wrack your brain trying to work out what you are doing wrong in the bad times. As Bordelines are often women, the gender politics of "it must be the man's fault" add to the confusion.

The random nature the the Borderline person's behavior is an almost perfect case of intermittent reinforcement.

The only solution is to extricate yourself as safely as possible. You can waste 1, 2, 10 or 30 years before you work this out.

It is very important to learn how to recognize two kinds of people / psychiatric disorders 1. Borderline Personality Disorder. 2. Psychopaths == Sociopaths.

Both can seriously damage your life.

comment by soreff · 2011-11-15T20:33:56.683Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The random nature the the Borderline person's behavior is an almost perfect case of intermittent reinforcement.

Great insight! Almost suggests some sort of co-evolution...

comment by snarles · 2011-11-12T12:18:59.835Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Great post. But I'm a bit confused by the title. What does "dark arts" refer to? Does it refer to your ex's emotional manipulation? If so, I was under the impression that "dark arts" connotes a manipulation with conscious intent.

comment by eugman · 2011-11-12T12:30:52.846Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is correct. I realize this may differ some from the strict definition but I feel the same tools were used, conscious or otherwise. Thus, the information is relevant in case someone ever consciously tries to manipulate you in the same way. Also, intentionallity is a spectrum. You may be a consciously trying to manipulate but feel justified and not view it as manipulation, as was probably often the case with her.

comment by Raemon · 2011-11-12T16:55:23.029Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I liked the article fine, but I do think if "dark arts" is going to be used in the title you should spend a few sentences at some point explaining it (in particular for newcomers to site who won't know what dark arts means in the first place, let alone Lesswrongians who know what it means but are still slightly confused as to your intent)

comment by eugman · 2011-11-13T03:24:18.387Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've decided to just change the title to simplify things. If anyone has any better suggestions for it, let me know. Instead of awkwardly trying to fit in an explanation, I thought it better to just remove the reference. I think this post deviated from my original vision quite a bit.

comment by bpdrefugee · 2011-11-12T08:30:15.355Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I also recently left a relationship with a girl with borderline personality disorder (my diagnosis, not professionally diagnosed). I love her. As scientism put it:

her emotional volatility was utterly was impossible to keep up and it became exhilarating...It was bizarre and incredibly addictive.

I'm young and inexperienced in love. I'm worried that it was her BPD that made her so enchanting - she was so present, so spontaneous and radiant. I had the best times of my life with her.

Can others who have been with BPD types and then had relationships afterwards tell me: do you find love as intense as that again? Do you have the best times of your life with someone without also having the worst?

Edited in response to downvote to be less plaintive.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-13T04:08:39.441Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Edited in response to downvote to be less plaintive.

I didn't see the original version but I'll upvoted purely for this sentiment. I suppose for this same reason I would probably be more inclined to downvote future posts by an author 'bpdrefugee'. I recommend a less plaintive username! :)

comment by bpdrefugee · 2011-11-13T09:46:45.214Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks wedrifid :)

I'm a throwaway account for a regular user. You're unlikely to see me outside of this post.

comment by lix · 2011-11-15T16:44:20.486Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes to both questions.

But it might require a change of attitude. While BPD traits are appealing and addictive, they conflict with other aspects of love. The most rewarding love involves intimacy, mutual nurturing, growth and trust. Those aren't really possible with a BPD partner. On the other hand, the excitement BPD provides can still be generated with a non-BPD partner by sharing exciting and powerful experiences together (such as sex, travel, drugs, or anything else you're both passionate about). This, however, takes more effort than simply being carried along on the emotional roller-coaster BPD provides.

I suspect that we turn to BPD types partly to cover our own deficiencies. At some point many years ago, I began to appreciate life and beauty much more, to be spontaneous, and to passionately enjoy the smallest and simplest things. I became more proactive about making my life exciting and fun. At this time I began to find BPD types more tiresome and frustrating than enthralling. Life became so interesting and enjoyable, it was not worth spending time with a partner who was self-obsessed and emotionally exhausting. And since then, I have found relationships indescribably more rewarding.

comment by bpdrefugee · 2011-11-24T02:05:35.504Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you. This is encouraging.

I suspect that we turn to BPD types partly to cover our own deficiencies.

This rings true.

comment by dlthomas · 2011-11-15T16:59:30.518Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(my diagnosis, not professionally diagnosed)

I'd be careful with this.

comment by bpdrefugee · 2011-11-24T02:04:44.963Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, I mention it because my lack of expertise and probable bias make the evaluation suspect.

comment by juliawise · 2011-11-13T14:50:10.768Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

According to (anyone have a better reference?)

The studies cited here say 9-10%.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-13T04:05:20.145Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

When romance can go horribly wrong

Excellent change of title!

comment by shminux · 2011-11-12T03:42:07.565Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good for you for finally DTMFA. Now, you have been through some serious emotional trauma for years (at least two, but I suspect more than that, given what you put up with), so you might have a PTSD, whether you realize it or not. Better see a professional about it... assuming you can afford it.

comment by Psychohistorian · 2011-11-20T02:32:59.134Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

However, four months into the relationship, before much of this had happened, I proposed to her. I was always big on commitments. I felt that if you were dating someone, it was to eventually get married, assuming they were right for you.

I think a pretty good heuristic would be to never marry someone you have known less than a year. The only exceptions are if you've been married before or have been dating a rather long time and thus have a clear sense of what you're looking for. Of course, plenty of people don't know this.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-20T03:01:35.762Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The only exceptions are if you've been married before or have been dating a rather long time and thus have a clear sense of what you're looking for. Of course, plenty of people don't know this.

Those aren't the only exceptions. There is the obvious "They are extremely rich and do either do not want a prenup or offer a desirable prenup package.". In that case you either get a great marriage in the long term or you get a truckload of money in the somewhat shorter term.

comment by Psychohistorian · 2011-11-30T20:47:50.981Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"They are extremely rich and do either do not want a prenup or offer a desirable prenup package.". In that case you either get a great marriage in the long term or you get a truckload of money in the somewhat shorter term.

This is not actually how it works if you get married without a prenup. You only get income made after the marriage; if they have lots of investments and don't work, you probably get nothing. If they have a high salary, you may get a lot. If, that is, you're in a community property state. If you're not, you may not get a dime.

My phrasing was admittedly imprecise because my interest was "Will we have a stable marriage?" not "Will this marriage materially benefit me?" Obviously, "Someone credibly threatens to murder tens of thousands of people if you do not get married," might also be a great reason, but I think from the context it's obvious I wasn't discounting such creative issues. Still, your "obvious" is, as a legal matter, not correct, and therefore hopefully not obvious.

comment by JimL · 2011-11-13T16:41:06.546Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Please allow me to offer a different perspective.

I remain extremely skeptical of psychological diagnosis. Studies continue to show that a year of psychoanalysis with a trained analyst remains less effective than reading a book on cognitive psychology focused on measured self-improvement. Similarly, psychologists are statistically unable to distinguish between 'normal' and neurotic patients. Tests on 'subjects' are prone to confirmation bias and inter-causality issues.

Humans are deeply social animals, and arguably our intelligence has evolved at least partly to meet the challenge of those associations. Our minds are also heavily prejudiced in favor of habits, especially those we adopt as children. IOW, we are acutely susceptible to gaining our life stories from our parents, and Walter Mischel's Marshmallow experiments arguably reflect those predilections, especially since we clothe our memories, responses and behaviors in a tight weave of rationality and emotion. Those stories are not only difficult to break, but inevitably produce consequences.

I am therefore skeptical of a 'personality disorder' named BPD. I was married to a woman who fits all the descriptions. My unwillingness to quit, my devotion to the institution of marriage, and my belief in my continued investment over time to produce healthful change eventually led me to thwart my career and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in an effort to help her feel more secure and 'happy.' In the end, she actually left me, and I now support her and her boyfriend and my son and their daughter.

Do I think she is sick? I think she has control issues. I think she uses emotional commitment as leverage and her flight response is very high after she becomes convinced that her significant other will no longer act as savior or slave.

Does this make her sick? It certainly makes her socially inept, which reinforces her life story. By now I view her relationship requirements as very particular; just the right combination of attributes must be present to be successful. And many of her impulses lead to pain and unneeded hardship which takes an emotional and psychological toll.

But I do not view her as suffering from a 'malady.' I view her as a person whose life story tends to be often self-destructive. And without the benefit of constant daily guidance and an honest willingness to change, it is likely to remain so. Ultimately, despite awareness of her issues, it was me who could not get through. I am just sad I played the hostage game at all. I thought I was more mature than that.

comment by TheOtherDave · 2011-11-13T17:01:21.931Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Two things.

First, I'm sorry that you went through this and are going through it.

Second, I'm interested in what you believe follows from the distinction between considering the cluster of traits you identify here an illness, malady, or personality disorder (which you do not do), and considering it a cluster of traits with certain causes and consequences (which you do).

comment by JimL · 2011-11-13T22:05:37.514Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

One is internally focused and tends to concern itself with resolving past causes while the other is primarily concerned with behavior and developing helpful habits and thought patterns in response to external stimulation, realizing that emotion and action are inter-causal and self-reinforcing.

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2011-11-13T17:42:36.639Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Studies continue to show that a year of psychoanalysis with a trained analyst remains less effective than reading a book on cognitive psychology focused on measured self-improvement.

[citation needed]

Also, see Diseased thinking: dissolving questions about disease.

comment by JimL · 2011-11-13T22:09:10.846Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have citations on my other computer. which is not here. When I get a chance I'll put them on here. However the general dissatisfaction with psychotherapy is pervasive.

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2011-12-31T18:02:09.861Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Would be good to get these citations if you get a chance - thanks!

comment by eugman · 2011-11-14T00:48:37.817Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I should point out that this was a self-diagnosis, not a professional one. On the other hand, to be considered borderline for the DSM IV-TR, you have to meet 5 out of 9 criteria. She met all of them. Now, I don't know if I believe that she had a "malady" as you describe it. However, here is what I do believe.

I believe that there are a constellation of correlated, stable, and self-sustaining personality attributes reasonably referred to as BPD. I believe that they are multi-causal and cannot be reduced to a few simple things, like control issues. I believe that this constellation occurs regularly and consistently enough that information from once occurrence is going to be quite applicable to another occurrence. I think that those traits are extremely difficult to change, or at the very least make it very difficult/unlikely for the person to sustain the willingness to change that is necessary. I think your implication of highly specific partner preference gives the impression that I am wrong on this last point. It implies such behavior is whimsical and easy to change, if only the person were to wish it.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-11-14T07:13:01.805Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The story you describe seems fairly straight forward. It's basically a cookie cutter example of of a BPD-codependent relationship that occurs with sickening frequency. It could plausibly be all in your imagination but in that case you clearly have enough knowledge about the subject to write a plausible fictional autobiographical account!

comment by MixedNuts · 2011-11-14T00:55:12.800Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, but the criteria are super vague. I too meet all of them, and I'm not even surprised; that's usual for most personality disorders. I think the diagnosis criteria are just trying to point in the vague direction of a cluster so that people with experience with it (psychiatrists or patients, for example) may recognize it.

Edit to add: I'm not criticizing self-diagnosis. I'm criticizing diagnosis on the basis of DSM criteria alone, as opposed to comparison with other people with the disorder.

comment by eugman · 2011-11-14T01:06:11.683Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Upvoted for making an extremely valid point. I begrudgingly have to admit the possibility that I personally engaged in gross acts of confirmation bias and that all the evidence I have to support my argument is invalid. I'm not quite sure where that leaves me.....

comment by [deleted] · 2011-11-14T06:15:17.578Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


comment by JimL · 2011-11-15T01:06:12.444Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think your implication of highly specific partner preference gives the impression that I am wrong on this last point. It implies such behavior is whimsical and easy to change, if only the person were to wish it.

I was in no way trying to minimize your post. Actually, my attempt was to suggest the opposite; it is absolutely difficult to change behavior. Habit tied with emotionality is fantastically sturdy and able to withstand all manner of influence.

My beleaguered point was that I find neurosis interpreted as life stories buttressed by habits and emotionally charged mind thoughts more helpful and actionable than clawing through my childhood or viewing it through a malady / psychoanalysis matrix.

I can then work on actions and behaviors, and changing how I choose to react to a stimulus. I don't necessarily have to spend so much time trying to understand how I got there. IOW, I am attracted to any model that emphasizes choice and inner control. It emphasizes my freedom, the space between stimulus and response where my choice can exist. I am enervated by concentrating on that space and enlarging it.

It is one of the reasons cognitive behavioral psychology has had such a significant effect on the discipline.

comment by eugman · 2011-11-15T11:15:49.290Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ah, so let me apologize. I think there was some confusion. Also you hit a bit of a landmine for me. There's been one person I've met who was so invalidating regarding mental illness. Sarah's sister actually. She basically told us that unless Sarah had something written from a doctor, she didn't have bpd ("I think you have anger problems"). She also discredited my depression ("Look, I've gotten really sad before too"). So whenever it sounds like someone is suggesting mental illness isn't real I get quite defensive.

Secondly, I agree that sitting on a couch and talking about how daddy never hugged you is useless. On the other hand, it's important to at least acknowledge that our childhoods shape a lot of our personality and action-emotion dynamic. I thought you were doing the opposite, trying to suggest the only major influence was personal choice.

comment by dbaupp · 2011-11-15T06:36:39.795Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think your implication of highly specific partner preference gives the impression that I am wrong on this last point. It implies such behavior is whimsical and easy to change, if only the person were to wish it.

You can quote someone by putting a '>' at the start of the line. (LW uses markdown syntax for comments, not HTML; also, there is a little "help" link that expands a box with more details about the syntax at the bottom right of the comment box)

comment by Estarlio · 2012-01-07T00:17:48.099Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Variable-ratio reinforcement schedule? Perhaps pre-committing to end any relationship in which the accuracy of your predictions concerning pleasure and pain doesn't show improvement the longer you know each other would be a useful rule for avoiding such situations.

comment by DanielLC · 2011-11-12T01:56:32.671Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why is "fear of abandonment" the only way to get to "quality time"?

comment by eugman · 2011-11-12T02:50:51.055Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's the only node my mind has a strong casual link for. I can see arguments for others, but you have to understand she didn't just enjoy quality time with me, she devoured it. And that's the only reason at the time I could think of why it was so extreme.