Breaking up with a borderline girlfriend can be incredibly difficult. The same is generally true for all abusive women whether she’s a borderline or some other kind of toxic personality. Of course, it can be just as difficult breaking away from an abusive man. However, straight women experience far less stigma for being abuse victims. Straight women also receive far more social and mental health support than both straight and gay men and lesbians. So, here we are.
In my experience, individuals whose relationships are characterized by abuse are either personality disordered or codependent. It’s the usual suspects — narcissists, borderlines, histrionics, psychopaths and Cluster B varietals (i.e., the trail mix of Crazy). I’m not saying all personality disordered individuals are abusers. But, if you’re an abusive person, you’re probably personality disordered.
Why do abusers abuse?
Abuse has nothing to do with love and everything to do with dominance and exploitation. Some abusers use rage, intimidation, threats and violence; i.e., fear. While others use shame, victim-playing, tears, feigned helplessness and other sympathy tactics; i.e., obligation and guilt. Some use all of the above — fear, obligation and guilt (FOG). Regardless of the abusive woman’s preferred tactics, the goal is control, or coercive control (to be trendy) of you and your emotions, perceptions and resources.
Why do abusers want to control others?
- Ego fuel (i.e., narcissistic supply).
- Resources (e..g., money, shelter, stability, social status).
- Inability to relate to others is healthier ways.
- Inability to regulate their emotions.
- Lack of interest in doing their own emotional work and, in many cases, work work (i.e. personal financial responsibility). Instead, they expect their partners and children to mirror and contain their emotions. Many also expect financial support because pathological entitlement.
- To avoid exposure of who they really are — an angry, fearful, spiteful, inadequate overgrown toddler.
As such, unless the abuser is ready to discard you (usually after they’ve sucked you dry emotionally, physically and financially) she’ll do everything she can to stop you from leaving. Breaking up with a borderline, narcissist or histrionic can result in:
- Threats to withhold any children you may share.
- Threats to ruin you financially.
- Threats to destroy your reputation. Although, odds are she’s already been smearing you for a long time.
- An “accidental” pregnancy (whoopsie!)
- A fake pregnancy (and fake miscarriage or abortion).
- Threats to commit suicide or not serious attempts to induce guile (i.e., emotional blackmail).
- Threats to call the police with false abuse allegations.
- Physical violence.
Therefore, breaking up with a borderline girlfriend or wife means taking back your life. This can be fraught with anxiety for very real reasons. She won’t make it easy. If you want your life back you will have to take it.
My abusive ex-wife filed for divorce, not me. Why is she still trying to control me?
This phenomenon is pretty common amongst my clients. Particularly clients who share kids with a NPD, BPD or HPD mom. Even when the divorce is their idea, abusive women want to control:
- How the separation occurs.
- The break-up narrative. For example, she’s all good, you’re all bad (i.e., splitting).
- Your right to move on from the relationship. This occurs even if the abusive woman has begun dating and/or remarried.
Post-divorce, many clients are treated as standby supply. [*I just coined this term, so proper sourcing, please (yeah, right!)] Standby supply is the abusive ex’s unreasonable expectation that you don’t move on with your life — including new intimate relationships — so they can continue to use you as back-up or primary supply. Typically, you’re back-up supply when they’re in a relationship(s) and primary when they’re in between relationships.
Conversely, on the one-way street of double standards, the narcissist, borderline or histrionic can date, marry, divorce, date, marry, date, divorce, get engaged, date, marry, date, divorce, ad infinitum. Meanwhile, she expects to continue the old one-sided relationship with you. Meaning, she wants to keep using you for attention, money, labor, triangulation, etc., in perpetuity. Don’t expect anything from these women that isn’t in the custody orders. For that matter, count yourself fortunate if they actually adhere to the custody orders.
It’s easy to see why your new partner (or potential future partner) wouldn’t be okay with this arrangement. And, in case you don’t see a problem with this arrangement, Mr. Codependent, you should have a problem with it, too!
Breaking up with a borderline girlfriend if you share kids.
Of course, an abusive ex’s attempts to continue to control and exploit you is easier to ignore if you don’t share children. In fact, if you don’t share kids why aren’t you No Contact yet?! If you do share children, you’re probably already familiar with how the abusive ex uses the kids to emotionally manipulate you into being standby supply.
- The kids are “uncomfortable” around your girlfriend. They say you don’t pay any attention to them when she’s around. They don’t want to be there when she’s there!
- Your kids need stuff that I’m supposed to buy with my child support money [LOL!]. Fine! I’ll tell them I can’t take them skiing because you’re spending all your money on your whore!
- What do you mean you can’t pick the kids up from school for me!?!?! It doesn’t matter that it’s my day!! What kind of father are you?! I have an unexpected “emergency“ [Bumble hook-up] and you can’t be a co-parent?!? Fine. The kids will hear how you can’t be bothered to spend time with them. NO!!! It is NOT okay if your fiancee picks them up!!!!! MAN UP!!!!!
- Why can’t you come over and put in the storm windows?!? What’s more important than your kids not freezing to death this winter?! No, I can NOT do it myself! You abandoned me and the kids!! Don’t you think this is the LEAST you could do for us?!?!? F-ck you!!! I am not hiring a handyman! That is NOT what child support is for!!! Hey, kids!! Daddy doesn’t care if we freeze to death this winter!!!
Breaking up with a borderline and taking back your life requires a specific mindset. It means putting yourself first and overriding the initial feelings of fear, obligation and guilt (FOG) that these personality types use to manipulate their targets. It also means doing some pretty difficult emotional and practical things while you’re wading through the stages of grief. Like a client’s mother once told him, if you want your life back you”ll need to “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
Breaking up with a borderline girlfriend — the how tos:
Breaking up with a borderline girlfriend (or a narcissist or histrionic) requires an understanding of the dangers that may lie ahead. This includes your issues, too. It also involves strategy that includes a safety plan. The basics are:
- Accept reality.
- Make an exit strategy.
- Commitment to self-preservation.
- Clear communication.
- Set the record straight.
- No Contact.
- Power wash your life.
- Reflect and respond if necessary. Never react.
- Embrace the grieving process.
Let go of any fantasies or wishful thinking regarding the possibility of change for the better you may be harboring. You can’t change or fix these individuals. Even if they claim to want help, all they really want is to be enabled. That is, to continue to do as they’ve always done without any consequences or complaints from you.
Don’t indulge in any delusions about maintaining a friendship, or a functional co-parenting relationship. It’s just not going to happen. You’ve seen behind the mask and for that an abusive ex will want you to suffer.
She likely also feels a a lot of contempt for you because you allowed yourself to become a doormat. They’re used to bullying and bulldozing you and will expect to be able to continue to do so. Once you break it off and say, “No more,” the an abusive ex will see you as their mortal enemy. That is, more than they did in the relationship. So, behave accordingly and protect yourself.
Make an exit strategy.
You can’t heal while in a relationship with a narcissist, borderline, sociopath, etc. You need the clarity of time and distance for that to happen. Don’t tell the abusive soon-to-be ex you’re leaving (or that they’ll be leaving) until you’re ready to execute your exit. Of course, if there are children and marital property involved, you’ll most likely need an attorney. Preferably one who has a good deal of experience with high-conflict cases.
Taking back your life from an abusive woman can be an extremely difficult and painful thing to do. You’re letting go of all the hopes and dreams you had at the beginning of the relationship. Keeping your plans secret until you’re ready to leave will hopefully spare you any number potentially confusing and bad outcomes. For example:
- Suicide threats and other forms of emotional blackmail.
- False abuse allegations to the police or children’s protective services.
- Property damage.
- Preemptive smear campaigns (although, they’ve probably been trash talking you ever since the love bombing stage ended).
- Any other nasty tricks they can scam up.
Commitment to self-preservation.
Depending upon how much time you’ve spent with your BPD, HPD or NPD, she or he has probably gotten into your head to some degree. Their insults, invalidating commentary, projections and gaslighting have undoubtedly caused you to question your self-worth and ability to survive without them. This is bullshit, of course. Not only will you survive without your them, you will thrive. Think about it, who needs who? Does the human being with blood and a pulse need the vampire or does the vampire need the fresh blood supply? Does the host need the parasite, or does the parasite need the host?
These individual can’t survive without a mirror. That’s why they so frequently begin an affair before they end their present relationship. They don’t have the capacity to grieve, and by having your replacement in the wings before you’re out the door they bypass the grieving process or having to look at themselves and their behavior in any meaningful way.
To be continued.
I’ll provide the link once I publish the second part, so please check back.
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals with relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. For over a decade, she has specialized in helping men and women break free of abusive relationships, cope with the stress of ongoing abuse and heal from the trauma. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. If you’d like to work with Dr. Palmatier, please visit the Schedule a Session page or you can email her directly at email@example.com.
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