Even though I’m 30 and have only recently been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), I’ve known the way I see love is very different than most for quite a while. Love and feelings are something I’ve struggled with since childhood. I feel everything strongly, give completely, love extremely. When I say I love someone, I have strong feelings. I often admire them, respect them, enjoy spending time with them and see them as so much more than I see myself. I’d risk and even sacrifice myself for the people I love and their happiness. I’d do anything, move Heaven and Earth if needed, to help out the people I love. To me, that’s what love is: unconditional companionship, care, and admiration. It’s that feeling of uncontrollable smiles when you see those people happy, or indescribable pain and sadness when you see them cry. It isn’t physical attraction or sex: that’s lust and completely different to me. It isn’t just blood — love knows no boundaries.
I am learning these are common struggles for people with my history and diagnosis. I think these difficulties are why I struggle with boundaries, question things like my sexuality and often do or say things that don’t make sense to most people in relation to my friendships and relationships. These struggles also lead to negative responses like jealousy, rage, disappointment, rejection and heartache. I wanted to share what love looks like for me.
“I love extremely.”
People may say I got to extreme lengths to show my love. I crave physical touch, so I hug often. I desire validation and dedication, so I frequently say, “I love you” when talking to those I love. I give gifts for anything and nothing. I will message or call my friends almost daily just to let them know I care or to check on them. Some might say I smother, and some get uncomfortable when they mistake my version of love for something else (like romantic interest). I just feel with such intensity that I sometimes cannot control my feelings or keep them inside. I also don’t understand boundaries or ambiguity, so sometimes I mistake the gestures or actions of others for love and end up caring much more for someone than they care about me.
“I love unconditionally.”
Another part of my love deals with being ignorant of flaws. I fear abandonment and failure, so often I am willing to look past what others may consider being unhealthy or undesirable behaviors or habits. I find myself willingly accepting giving more than I get, taking mistreatment or abuse and just letting others walk all over me. The benefit of this is that I often feel empathy and can forgive, but the negative is I have low self-worth and sometimes don’t even see there is an issue with the relationship — be it friendship or romance.
“I love through jealousy.”
Because I love with such intensity, I often find myself getting jealous. I become upset or angry when I see a picture of some of my friends on social media hanging out without even asking me or I question when I see my husband has a text message from a female co-worker. I may express this jealousy outwardly to the people I love with aggression or sadness. Usually, this outward expression of jealousy serves two main purposes: to try to “prove my love” to the person and to try to manipulate the person into giving me attention.
“I love through heartache.”
Unfortunately, a common problem for me (and I’m learning many with BPD struggle with this) is that I find myself in a position where relationships become broken and end quite frequently. I struggle to let go, I try to live in the past and I spend lots of time being heartbroken over the loss of a friendship or romantic interest. I’ll continue to listen to songs that remind me of the person, look at pictures of them and even sometimes try to contact them even after the relationship ended. Even though the pain, I still love the person and can’t stop. Some may say this helps in some way, but often it leaves me hurt as I watch people move on in life without me… and sometimes it leads to damaging things even further because I don’t understand boundaries or confusing signals.
I am learning through my treatment there are flaws in my view and understanding of love. I am not saying this rationalizes or justifies my actions, but it does help me make sense of my feelings. I’m learning how to regulate my emotions, maintain healthier relationships with defined boundaries and live in the present moment through dialectical behavior therapy. I’m hoping with time and the new skills I can continue to be passionate and love, but avoid undesirable traits that cause the instability and heartache. Isn’t that what everyone wants? To love and be loved without pain or suffering? I think through DBT and lots of hard work, I will get there.