“It’s like porno sex.”
“She was like an animal. She wanted it all the time.”
“She did the most outrageous things. We had sex in the restaurant bathroom stall on the first date.”
“We used to have sex all the time. She or he couldn’t get enough. Now it’s infrequent and when we do have sex it’s like it’s a chore.”
“The relationship is horrible. I think about leaving a lot, but we still have sex several times a week. Most of my married friends complain that they never get any.”
“You know the saying — crazy in the head, crazy in bed.”
“Normal women or men just don’t compare to sex with a borderline or narcissist.”
Each time a client mythologizes sex with a borderline or narcissistic partner/ex, my eyes roll so hard you’d think there were pinball spring mechanisms in my eye sockets. Sure, some personality disordered individuals are hyper-sexual during the love bombing stage of the relationship. Then, after you’ve legally bound yourself in some way (e.g., marriage or children), the party’s over. No sex for you!
It’s like a drug dealer giving a customer all the crack they can smoke for free until they’re good and addicted. Then the addict pays and pays dearly. Some narcissists and borderlines remain sexually demanding throughout the relationship’s duration. In these cases, it’s more a matter of quantity vs. quality, possession and control, but I’ll get to that in Part 2.
Ideally, sex is an important part of a healthy and loving relationship. Sex drive can vary from person to person. As long as a couple is willing to communicate, respect and consider each other’s needs, it doesn’t have to become an unsolvable issue. That is, provided neither partner has hang-ups or dysfunctional attitudes about sex going back to childhood and/or religious beliefs. But, that’s not what this article is about.
Confusing intensity for intimacy and pathology for passion.
Intensity is a hallmark of relationships with narcissists, borderlines and other characterologically disturbed people. They’re extreme personalities with extreme (dysregulated) emotions. And, oftentimes, extreme, chaotic, drama-filled relationship histories.
When telling you their history on the first 12-hour phone call or 180-page text message, they often present themselves as a victim of . . . someone or many someones. Exes, parents, colleagues, professors, a neighbor’s pet hedgehog — you get the idea. Sharing that much information, particularly a trauma history, on a first conversation or meeting is an example of their intensity and a lack of boundaries. It’s also a huge honking red flag.
Instant emotional and sexual intensity can accelerate the formation of a bond or attachment. Albeit, usually a very unhealthy one. The intensity is a manifestation of their pathology, not their capacity to love or passion. The instantaneous intensity upon first meeting the narcissist, borderline or psychopath can feel seductive, hypnotic and, in some instances, even euphoric.
This is what some people confuse for “chemistry.” Or, as a male BPD I once briefly dated in my early 30s called it, “crazy chemistry.” Emphasis on the crazy. Anyone who’s been in a relationship with a borderline woman or man knows this isn’t hyperbole. I dated him for approximately 4 months and wrote a 300-page book about it (that I never published) titled, Insanity, Inc. That’s 75 pages of crazy per month, but I digress.
Emotional intensity — without depth — can be indicative of characterological pathology. It’s easy for some to confuse intensity of emotion with depth of emotion, but they’re quite different. Emotional depth isn’t a flash of lightning that disappears as quickly as it appears. Once developed, it’s actually a consistent character attribute.
Vulnerability, trust and emotional attunement — or the lack thereof.
Genuine emotional intimacy and sexual intimacy if nurtured and protected can be deep, lasting and mutual. They grow gradually over time as two people come to know, understand, trust and enjoy each other. They’re not the fast, projection-riddled, fantasy land sexual experiences that are typical of the intense and oftentimes personality disordered. Again, real intimacy grows over time. It requires reciprocity, trust, emotional attunement and the willingness to be vulnerable with another human being.
Emotional depth involves the capacity to experience a range of emotions (e.g., not just mad, glad, sad, bored) and distinguish among them. It also requires a sophistication in comprehending one’s emotions, their origin (e.g., something from the past or present) and the ability to understand and relate to other’s emotions through attunement and empathy.
This is why many narcissists, borderlines, histrionics and other emotionally immature people call you their soulmate on Monday, and post selfies with their newest soulmate on Thursday. It’s why they tear your clothes off the moment you walk in the door during the love bombing or seduction stage, and couldn’t be more turned off by you after you become emotionally dependent upon them. Specifically, dependent on them in order to feel good about yourself.
Their emotions may appear intense, but are, in fact, remarkably shallow. Like a 3-year old proclaiming you’re the best mommy/daddy one minute and then screaming, “I HATE YOU!!!!! MEAN MOMMY!!! MEAN DADDY!!!!” the next minute because you won’t buy them a toy.
What makes emotionally mature, reciprocal relationships and mutually satisfying (or profoundly satisfying) possible?
There are many variables, but I’ve pared it down to the what I consider to be the most essential.
Being vulnerable is a risk. When you reveal your authentic self (i.e., taking down the walls) and share your needs and desires, you risk being rejected or ridiculed. Some people are able to do this with relative ease. If you come from a dysfunctional family in which you were neglected, rejected, felt inadequate or not “enough,” were ridiculed when expressing yourself and/or abused, the prospect of being vulnerable can be terrifying.
Unfortunately, many clients with these family of origin experiences choose the wrong adult partners with whom to be vulnerable. Namely, individuals who are similar to the dysfunctional or disordered parent who inflicted the original wounds.
Narcissists and borderlines typically don’t do vulnerability. Just because they do a data dump when you begin dating doesn’t mean they’re being vulnerable, or truthful for that matter. The initial oversharing is a power tactic that serves a couple purposes. First, they’re data mining you. Why? All the better to manipulate and hurt you later, my dear.
Second, it serves to get you to feel safe enough to be vulnerable, let your guard down and create a fast bond. Look how much she trusts you to open up to you so quickly. She must really think you’re special. It must be safe for you to open up, too, right? Wrong. Furthermore, if she or he tells you they’ve never had sex with someone as fast as they did with you, I’ve got a bridge for sale in Brooklyn that’s just perfect for you. I’ll show it you you right after my eyes stop rolling.
You trust your partner to accept you. To have your back and your best interests at heart. You trust them to not deliberately hurt you, to be accountable and express remorse when they do hurt or disappoint you and vice versa. Without trust, it isn’t safe to be vulnerable.
Once trust’s been broken, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to rebuild. Particularly if your partner rarely or never apologizes, rarely or never takes accountability nor makes amends for their hurtful and destructive behavior. Even so, a narcissist or borderline expects that you continue to blindly trust and remain vulnerable to them. It’s easier for them to inflict pain and manipulate you that way.
If and when you wise up and stop trusting them and cease sharing your thoughts and feelings, they accuse you of all manner of maladies and misdeeds. You’re an emotionless robot. A liar. You’re hiding something. Are you cheating? You’re cheating! Good luck explaining their behavior is the reason you no longer trust them enough to be vulnerable. By the way, never JADE (justify, argue, defend, explain) with these individuals.
Narcissists and borderlines don’t really trust people. Why? They’re human projection machines. They project their selfish, cruel, scheming and dishonest qualities onto others. They know they’re untrustworthy and judge everyone else by their own twisted yardstick. Ironically, while they’re loyal to no one, they have a narcissistic rage when anyone “betrays” them.
By “betray” I mean anyone who exposes their true nature, tires of the abuse and ends the relationship and/or is no longer willing to enable them or be complicit in their cruelty to and/or exploitation of others. Even if the narcissist or borderline doesn’t cheat on you, they’re inherently disloyal. Betrayal applies to so much more than infidelity.
Lying is betrayal. Throwing you under the bus to protect themselves is betrayal. Smearing you and claiming to be your victim is betrayal. Abuse is betrayal. And, it creates a betrayal or trauma bond. Trauma bonds, codependency and FOG (fear, obligation, guilt) are what make it so difficult to end toxic relationships.
3. Emotional attunement.
Emotional attunement is what makes healthy relationships possible. It isn’t the mirroring engaged in by narcissists and borderlines during love bombing, which creates a superficial sense of rapport and intimacy. Emotional attunement is the experience of feeling empathy for and connection to oneself and others. The former is a prerequisite of the latter.
“Emotional attunement is the ability to hear, see, sense, interpret and respond to someone, both verbally and non-verbally. This is how we communicate to the people we are close to so that we see them, feel with them and understand their experiences. In practice, attunement is when we engage with someone else’s feelings and in that moment, they feel us and we are no longer alone but connected (All Relationships Matter).”
True emotional and sexual intimacy can’t exist without emotional attunement. Yes, you can orgasm and enjoy sex without emotional attunement. But we’re discussing loving, satisfying long-term intimate relationships, not consensual fleeting flings
Narcissists and borderlines aren’t capable of emotional attunement. They’re not, I repeat, not “empaths.” That’s like calling serial killers great humanitarians. These individuals are typically so self-absorbed, they can’t see past their own self-inflicted suffering to acknowledge the pain they cause others. Because no one suffers as much as borderlines or narcissists, and certainly not their victims. Just ask the diagnosed and “self-aware” ones.
In this respect, they’re still infants. Good enough parents are emotionally attuned to the child. Children are primarily focused on themselves and their emotional states, not their parents. When they consider their parents’ emotions, etc., it’s still egocentric. For example, “Mom seems upset. Probably not a good time to ask her for $20.” Adult infants and toddlers expect the same one-way care, concern and interest from their partners.
How does this pertain to having crazy sex with Crazy?
Narcissists and borderlines are often incapable of seeing any viewpoint other than her own. On the rare occasion they acknowledge your views, wants and needs, if they’re an obstacle to getting what they want, too bad for you! Even when getting your needs met doesn’t cost them anything — time, effort or simply doing nothing — they actively undermine it.
Your misery, codependency and broken-ness makes it more difficult to end the unhealthy relationship because trauma bonds are difficult to break. They may also derive pleasure in denying your wants and needs out of spite and malice.
To be clear, these individuals are self-obsessed and selfish in the extreme. How can someone who’s so wrapped up in her- or himself possibly be amazing in bed? Beyond cheap theatrics and practiced techniques? I want you to really think about this.
Look, if you’re not seeking a deep and lasting emotional, intellectual, psychological and physical connection, then by all means keeping surfing the Sea of BPD/NPD. The shores are teeming with them and they’re generally readily and easily available (despite what they claim). Unless they’re playing hard to get, so you’ll give them an ego yummy by chasing after them. If you want something healthier, meaningful, mutually satisfying and enduring, you’ll need to level up.
In Part 2, I’ll discuss the different sexual styles exhibited by narcissists and borderlines, the trap of the hyper-sexual, what drives the behaviors and why shame and sex don’t mix.
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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