About Randi

Randi Kreger has brought the concerns of people who have a family member with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) to an international forefront through her best-selling books, informative website, and popular online family support community Welcome to Oz.


Can borderlines and narcissists have healthy relationships?

I wrote something sparked by a comment someone made about not knowing what a normal relationship is, and thought I would share it here. A "high conflict person" means someone with BPD/NPD who is not the conventional help-seeking kind, but the high functioning, abusive kind. A high conflict relationship relationship" means you and the person who has traits of BPD/NPD.

What is a "Normal" Relationship?

Graham: I don't know what normal is. You mean my wife is not supposed to rage at me in front of the kids, criticize and degrade me, spend all of our money and then some, love me, hate me, need drama, live crisis to crisis, threaten suicide, control everything, blame me for everything wrong in her/our life, and put me and our kids in no-win situations? That was all I knew for over a decade.  I just wondered which partner in other relationships who was the blamer and rager and which one was like me.

You may not know what normal is. You may have grown up in households with unhealthy models—sometimes even abuse. So before talk about the high conflict relationship, let's take a look at what defines a healthy relationship and compare and contrast it with your current relationship. Of course, no relationship is perfect. But it's helpful to know where you stand and what you're shooting for.

Traits of Healthy Relationships

A list of what makes for a good relationship could be quite lengthy and might differ from couple to couple. But here are some characteristics mentioned over and over by marital therapists. Ask yourself what's important to you and whether or not your current relationship meets your needs on a scale of 0 (not there at all) to 5 (high).  This isn't a quiz; just something for you to think about as you look at the whole relationship.

___Respect for Each Other: In a healthy relationship, couples need to make compromises. But neither partner should ask the other one to change things about themselves central to who they are or what they want out of life. Respect is also about treating each other in the way you'd like to be treated, even when you're angry and frustrated. Other signs of respect include caring about the things that are important to your mate and recognizing that differences are OK.

___Support and Empathy: In a healthy relationship, partners are there for each other with warmth and affection through both good times and bad. Even when their opinions differ, supportive spouses try to see things from their partner's point of view. Without keeping track on paper and pencil, people in workable marriages attempt to be there equally for each other. Otherwise, partners can get burned out.

___Communication and Sharing: Honest, direct communication is a key part of any relationship. The ability to share your thoughts, feelings and desires in an open and honest way are essential to the level of intimacy and connectedness the two of you share. People are not born knowing how to best communicate and send the right non-verbal signals. It's a skill that can be learned like any other—if the two people are willing to learn

. ___Mutual Trust, Honesty, and Fidelity: Honesty leads to trust, which leads to feelings of safety, probably the most important ingredients in a happy marriage. Trust paves the way for the confidence to share your feelings, emotions, and self with someone else. When someone lies to us, it erodes trust and drives a wedge between the two people in the relationship. Because trust provides the foundation for nearly all relationships, the bond is threatened.

___Enjoying Time Together and Time Apart: Couples also need space for other friends, their own interests, and private time alone. This shouldn't be threatening to well-adjusted partners—after all, they'll want some time to themselves, too. When people don't have enough of their own space, they begin to feel trapped and suffocated. HCPS tend to be enmeshed

. ___Fairness/Equality: Relationships marred by power and control struggles lose their intimacy because you can't afford to be vulnerable with someone who might use it against you. When one or both of you are enmeshed in a power struggle, the simplest decisions (e.g. where should we go to dinner?) become fraught with angst and conflict. It often takes a therapist to unveil the real issues beneath the predictable fights

___Connection/Intimacy: Emotional intimacy and connectedness happens when we feel loved, accepted, and safe to reveal who we really are, warts and all. The safer we feel, the more we're willing to share. The rewards are great; it helps us get to know ourselves and it may be the closest we can get to another person in our trip on planet Earth. It is the essence of being loved.

___A Mutually Rewarding Sex Life: The sexual relationship works well and is satisfying for the both of you. This may mean striking compromises about frequency of sex, who initiates, and so forth. Neither partner should try to force the other to do what is beyond their comfort level—although it's also a good practice to try new things you and your partner might enjoy.

What is a High Conflict Relationship?

These are some BPD/NPD survival strategies. Consider how they might affect whether you and your partner can have a healthy relationship. High conflict behaviors vary in its effect on you by:

• The frequency of these behaviors: the more frequent, the more hurtful

• The intensity of the behaviors: the more intense, the more upsetting they are

• The length of time you've been exposed to these behaviors: the longer you've been exposed to them, the more they will wound you

• Your vulnerabilities and general make up: when you've grown up in an abusive environment, HCP behaviors seem "normal" and you're more likely to put up with them

HCPs need others to fill their emptiness by:

  • Making them feel special
  • Carrying their shame
  • Waking you up in the middle of the night
  • Eliciting narcissistic supply
  • Making you part of their identity
  • Pulling you toward them and then pushing them away
  • Demanding exaggerated attention and admiration
  • Demanding unreasonable things
  • Pushing your limits in a test to see how much you love them

They need to feel good about themselves by:

  • Blaming and criticizing you
  • Considering you inferior to them
  • Idealizing you, then pushing you off a pedestal
  • Going along with their fantasies
  • Projecting their unwanted parts onto you
  • Trying to make you absorb their negative emotions
  • Raging at you
  • Character assassination
  • Embarrassing you in public
  • Being demeaning
  • Turning children against you
  • Telling lies about you to friends and family
  • Always being right

Grant: Alicia would say I was her soulmate and the man she had searched for all her life and praise me for my great intelligence, wit, charm, and accomplishments. Then she would find fault with everything I did, criticize the way I looked at her, denigrate my profession as a lawyer , scream at me, tell me I had no breeding or culture, was a poor provider, had an ugly home, had no friends, was thoughtless, unaffectionate, selfish, etc.

They need to control their environment by controlling you, such as:

  • Using emotional blackmail, especially fear, obligation and guilt
  • Keeping track of your movements
  • Putting you in no-win situations
  • Isolating you from your friends and family
  • Making threats to leave if they don't get their way
  • Calling the police with false accusations
  • Breaking up with you and getting back together
  • Creating constant chaos
  • Insisting you believe their lies
  • Taking advantage of you
  • Monitoring your computer and cell phone usage
  • Withholding sex and affection
  • Forcing or intimidating you to have sexual activities
  • Giving you the silent treatment
  • Pressuring you to behaving as they want you to
  • Threatening to hurt pets or taking your children away
  • Expecting you to ask permission
  • Acting extremely jealous
  • Riding over your boundaries
  • Not respecting your privacy
  • Pushing you, poking you, slapping you or other physical abuse

Jo: My friend asked me if I wanted to go on a cruise with her this summer. I was so excited! When I said I'd go, I assumed that Lew would be happy for me since I was so thrilled about it. He didn't say a whole lot and just got really quiet and kind of sulky. I pressed for what was the matter.

Finally he said he was upset because I would actually even consider going on such a trip without him.  How could I say that I cared about him and then go away on vacation with a friend?  Since he didn't have the money to do it, then I shouldn't be spending my money that way either. If I have extra money then we should be saving it for our future, not going on a trip by myself.

He just about freaked out in his room, and started pulling his clothes out of the closet, saying how he doesn't even have decent clothes that fit him. He put on this one shirt and showed me how the sleeves were too short, so he always has to wear them rolled up. He pretty much tore that shirt off, and then ripped it up and threw it in the trash can. Finally I said I would stay.

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