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I recently broke up with my boyfriend after two months of being “together” and six months of knowing each other. It was a long-distance relationship – we’d met online and instantly connected, although there was a whole ocean between us, and we still haven’t met once due to lack of resources – and an age difference of four years. The original reason for breaking up with him was not a lack of love – I loved and love him very much, although I’m trying to fall out of it for the sake of moving on – but him being too busy and my needs not having been met.
I think it’s worth it to mention I have symptoms of BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder and therefore require a bit of extra attention. If I don’t get that attention from the person I want it from, I feel unloved and underappreciated and it all boils down to a) feeling bad about myself, b) resenting my significant other and c) permanently, painfully yearning for more. I don’t want to resent him.
After all, it’s not his fault that he’s so busy, which partially is because he’s older and has more responsibility to carry. But during the short time span in which we tried this long-distance love thing, I always was left wishing he’d just take a few seconds to text me, to ask how I am, to tell me why he can’t talk much, to say goodmorning and good night. I wanted little, consistent things. Instead I got frequent apologies, no actions following those words. I understand he had no strength to juggle his responsibilities and me all at once and I accept it now, but fact is, I want to be a responsibility, too, and one that is taken seriously. I took the relationship very seriously, especially since it was my first one. I know I’m high-maintenance and I also know I’m worthy of love and my needs being met.
My reasons for leaving him were and are valid – although the general truth is we’re both at different stations on life, really, I don’t like pointing fingers since none of us deserves being pointed a finger at, and I regard it as a valuable experience, but I still want to know better in my future relationships. I’ve taken this ending as a new beginning and the opportunity to focus on myself and change some things, like turning vegetarian and reading more. Yet I’m afraid that in my next relationship I’ll become emotionally dependent yet again and forget myself and think it’s okay not being a priority to the person who loves you to the point where the pain is drowning you so hard where you can’t ignore it anymore.
I’m afraid I’ll always be too high-maintenance for someone – after all, someone with several mental issues isn’t exactly the first choice for most. And yet I’ll always be yearning for more, not knowing if this “more” is realistic. I’ve thought about the diplomatic approach – being demanding, but not too demanding. The thing is, I don’t know when I’m coming off too strong, I don’t know what’s the limit for other people. I know the limit for myself is when I feel the limit. But I’ve never been a really socially aware person. Another thing I don’t know is if I can lower my expectations, ever. The one thing I do know is that I’m worthy of love. How do I tie these two things together? Or is it just a matter of being patient and waiting for someone who is understanding enough, someone who doesn’t feel like it’s too much making me one of their priorities in their life?
-Worthy and Torn
Dear Worthy and Torn,
You know you are worthy of love and on the other hand you feel unsure of yourself. This is often times the difficult dance of borderline personality disorder (BPD). It’s as if you are both pushing and pulling at the same time. I can see that you are quite knowledgeable about BPD in the understanding you have about your own struggles and the questions you are pondering about your future. I’m not sure if you have discovered this on your own or have done so through therapy, but I encourage you to keep asking and pondering. There is no answer that someone can give you but one that you must find for yourself.
You should continue to look for the right person that can understand and love you in the way you need to be loved. This person is definitely out there and you likely won’t even have to look across the world to find him. However, the key to this journey is found in you. I’m not saying that you have to wait until everything is perfect before searching for a relationship, but continued work is needed to prepare you for the future relationship that you want. Until that work is complete, I believe you may continue to feel frustrated and let down.
The key to this journey is found in you.
You mentioned in your question that you have tried the diplomatic approach (e.g. being demanding but not too demanding), but you have struggled in finding these limits. This is one of the primary struggles of BPD and a key focus of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).
DBT is the gold standard approach to helping individuals struggling with BPD. While you can make great progress on your own, often individual therapy and group skills training are the means to making long term change. Strengthening your emotional balance will allow you to tolerate the difficult vulnerability of relationships. You are worthy and you are worth the work it will take to be the person you desire to be.
Dear Worthy and Torn,
Yes, you are worthy of love. Regardless of how your last relationship ended or how your next relationship begins, know that you are always worthy of love. As I read your entry, I feel a sense of insecurity and self doubt. Maybe that’s coming from getting out of the first relationship with so many questions and feeling unfulfilled. Either way, it’s important that you feel like you are in a healthy spot before diving into the next relationship.
I’m encouraged reading that you have, “taken this ending as a new beginning and the opportunity to focus on myself and change some things.” While diet change can be a great contribution to healthy living, I would also focus on getting both body and mind in a healthy spot. This will help you prioritize what you are looking for in a relationship. It will also help you come to terms with understanding your emotions if those needs are not met. And let me be perfectly honest, they will be unmet. Disappointment is inevitable in any relationship because we’re human. It’s about being realistic with expectations and allowing room for error, as long as you are being respectful of yourself and your significant other.
It’s about being realistic with expectations and allowing room for error.
What do you value? If you value attention, then dating long distance may not be the best dating scenario for you. The same goes for dating someone who may be so busy that you constantly feel cheated on with their time. It boils down to asking yourself what your priorities are in a relationship. Lastly and maybe most importantly is focusing on how you can become emotional self-reliant rather than relying on someone else. Instead of depending on someone else to make things better, focus on independence and wholeness in yourself.