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Author Topic: 7.03 | The Difference Between A "Honeymoon Phase" and "Idealization"?  (Read 14222 times)
cherryblossom
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« on: October 28, 2015, 05:47:50 PM »

What is difference between a normal or typical "honeymoon phase" and "idealization"?

I've been pondering this recently. My exBPD was psychologically minded, had a psychology degree and was interested in personal growth and healing but things went down the drain. He did say he had OCD at beginning. I was the 1st person he shared that with had been suffering with it for 4 years- he had CBT for the OCD - and the BPD diagnosis (new).

Finding it hard to be able to contemplate trusting another potential partner because he seemed so open to working through issues. What if the same happens again? No one is perfect -everyone has issues -how do I spot abnormality? Is intense chemistry probably not a good thing even if feels absolutely amazing?
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« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2015, 12:33:13 PM »

I found it helped to have a really clear idea about my values, and have some practice with boundaries (and commitment to asserting them, even if it felt uncomfortable) when I started dating. Knowing your values means that when someone is out of sync with those values, or disrespects them, you are not likely going to last the distance with them.

For me, I also constantly checked myself to see if I was idealizing my partner and the relationship. It helps to have a therapist on board, too, to keep you on the right track.

In my current relationship, it did not feel like taking drugs when we first met, whereas that's how most of my relationships have felt. I've pictured it like two graphs.

Unhealthy idealization: the relationship starts at the top and drops off with little spikes up and big spikes down, for the most part heading steadily downhill.

Healthy idealization: the relationship starts off in the middle and steadily rises, with small plateaus where trust is built before moving to the next level of intimacy, until finally humming along consistently near the top.
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« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2015, 06:04:55 PM »

Idealization is normal part of human psyche and a very normal part of falling in love.  I thought it might help to share a few concepts to help guide this discussion.

Idealization is the over-estimation of the desirable qualities and under-estimation of the limitations of a desired thing. In general, we all tend to idealize things that we have chosen or acquired. When falling in love, we can do this to the extreme, seeing the person we are falling for as possessing all the things we most desire in a lover - the "perfect" person for us.

The opposite of Idealization is Demonization, where something that is not desired, taken away, or disliked has its weak points exaggerated and its strong points played down.

Phases of Love Gottman desribes three phases of falling in love.

  • Limerence  “Limerence” characterized by physical symptoms (flushing, trembling, palpitations), excitement, intrusive thinking, obsession, fantasy, sexual excitement, and the fear of rejection. In Dr. Theresa Crenshaw’s book The Alchemy of Love and Lust, it is clear that not just anyone can set off the cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters that accompanies the exciting first phase of love. The person we select has to smell right, feel right, look right, and be just right in our arms. Then, and only then, will the cascade get started. The cascade of “in-love” hormones and neurotransmitters of the Limerence phase is highly selective and multifaceted in the experience of love. It is also generally accompanied by poor judgment, so that people will ignore the red flags that they will inevitably confront in Phase 2 of love.

  • Building Trust The big questions of Phase 2 of love are, “Will you be there for me? Can I trust you? Can I count on you to have my back?” The answer to this question is the basis of secure or insecure attachment in the relationship. Building Trust is punctuated by frustration, exasperation, disappointment, sadness, and fury. The most fighting in a relationship happens here. The success or failure of Phase 2 is based on how couples argue. If the ratio of positivity to negativity exceeds 50% during conflict discussions, a couple is likely to stay together.

    The building of trust is about having your partner’s best interests in mind and heart. It’s about listening to your partner’s pain and communicating that when they hurt, the world stops, and you listen. Dr. Gottman calls this being attuned to one another: (1) A for Awareness of one’s partners pain, (2) T for Tolerance that there were always two valid viewpoints in any negative emotions, (3) T for Turning Toward one partner’s need, (4) N for Non-defensive listening, and (5) E for Empathy.

  • Building Commitment and Loyalty  Phase 3 of love is about building true commitment and loyalty. It is about a couple either cherishing one another and nurturing gratitude for what they have with their partner, or the couple nurturing resentment for what they think is missing. This third phase is about making a deeper love last a lifetime, or slowly nurturing a betrayal.

Cognitive dissonance  Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. This produces a feeling of discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance etc. This is often the second stage of falling in love and one that tests and breaks many relationships - the realization that our ideal partner is not so ideal.

Attribution Theory When another person has erred, we will often use internal attribution, saying it is due to internal personality factors. When we have erred, we will more likely use external attribution, attributing causes to situational factors rather than blaming ourselves. And vice versa. We will attribute our successes internally and the successes of our rivals to external ‘luck’. When a football team wins, supporters say ‘we won’. But when the team loses, the supporters say ‘they lost’.
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« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2016, 06:41:00 AM »

One concept that I have got real stuck on was the idea that she "idealized" me.  In replaying the years of our marriage, I had never seen her behaviors this way.

Recently, I have come to a broader understanding of the "idealize" phase.  I believe now that she had idealized the idea of marriage; the home, the children a diamond ring etc.  It was almost like a fantasy that she told herself about what it would look like and I was just the person that plugged into the fantasy.  In that context the past looks a little more clear.  She was going for an idealized vision of what it would look like to have a home and a husband.  She placed that vision on me and now I can see where I was as much objectified as I was loved.  Perhaps her idea of love/husband is also idealized as well

Seeing things this way also provides me with what could possibly be a better understanding of how I got devalued.  When the fantasy of marriage met the reality of marriage, the fantasy began to disintegrate.  Since I was the object of that marriage, I was just a part of the devaluation of marriage, versus, the devaluation of me as an individual person.

When she was packing the house last year, we were deciding what she would take or leave.  She looked at all of our marital mementos with an eye of indifference and gave me a; 'do you want to throw these things away or do they mean something to you' look about her.  I was so devastated by her seeming lack of care or disregard for the items that represented our time together. However, this seems to make more sense in the context of devaluing a fantasy versus leaving someone that you spent 15 years with.

I am simply amazed at how far off my understanding has been.  Not to say that she did not love me, I believe she did and still does.  But what the marriage meant to me versus what it meant to her are likely worlds apart in understanding and bridging that gap has taken (and is still taking) a long time.

If idealization is object or concept based, then devaluation likely follows the same path.  The anger, sudden turns and resentment of my marriage were not about me but were more her recognition that the fantasy was not coming true as imagined.  In other words, I, the object in the fantasy, didn't do what was needed to make the fantasy come true, so therefore was to blame.   Because I was not doing as I was scripted, the dream was not coming true.

Her anger/devaluation towards me was often not about me at all.  It was about her understanding of what I needed to do to play a role.

Taking that idea one level deeper, I think this may bring some understanding into the "split" way of thinking I experienced.  How could she go from being so angry one moment and 5 minutes later act as if nothing happened and be completely loving?  I suspect because the fantasy of marriage is a fragmented thought and not entirely associated with her love for me.

I have been so bothered by the seeming disparity between how I thought she loved me and how some of her behaviors towards me were so callous.  In the context of this understanding, I would say she was not really angry with me, and in fact loved me deeply.  Rather, she was angry that her idealization was not playing out as she thought it would.  Perhaps there was an idealized concept of husband, love, home etc. that were intertwined with one another creating a shifting and unstable image of what was "supposed to be" happening.

In summary, I suspect that at some level, she objectified me and could not cohesively join the disjointed thoughts. At times the fantasy thoughts were more operative and at others the love thoughts were more so.  I think which group of thoughts were winning at any moment was a function of her fear, or said differently, the level of emotional dysregulation.

I Have to say that even having something of an understanding feels a little more comforting than the confusion that has ensued in trying to figure out how she saw me in her world.

JRB
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« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2016, 08:49:42 AM »

A really astute analysis and many parallels to my marriage. In hindsight there was one very significant moment--an epiphany which supports your idea of the "objectifying" the marriage and the spouse. We had had a fight--nothing serious. She abruptly sat up in bed and staring into the distance, said with contempt in her face and voice, "You have been a great disappointment to me!"

Again, she said it not while looking at me but staring straight ahead--as though she was addressing "the big picture" in the distance. And she said it coldly, with her eyes dead and soulless. It was genuinely frightening, as it was the face of a stranger, not the woman I knew and loved.

I remember feeling stunned, since our fight, as I said, was trivial. But it was as though she was responding to "it" failing to live up to her idealization of marriage and her husband. "We" (the marriage and I) were supposed to undo all her childhood trauma (consistent with the formation of BPD) and I was cast in the role of father/husband who would be some sort of flawless savior. Well, this is too much of a burden to bear, as I am merely mortal. Well, my flawed mortality was the beginning of my devaluation and discard. She found a replacement savior and I divorced her.

Now that I am dating (four years past separation and two years after divorce) this is the most important red flag I am on the alert for: immediate idealization of me. If someone immediately perceives me as the greatest person in the world, without flaw, I run.  Before marriage I would be flattered. Now it scares the hell out of me.
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« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2016, 08:50:25 AM »

I believe now that she had idealized the idea of marriage; the home, the children a diamond ring etc.  It was almost like a fantasy that she told herself about what it would look like and I was just the person that plugged into the fantasy.  In that context the past looks a little more clear.  She was going for an idealized vision of what it would look like to have a home and a husband.  She placed that vision on me and now I can see where I was as much objectified as I was loved.  Perhaps her idea of love/husband is also idealized as well

I can certainly relate with this and would say it is quite likely what happened in my relationship.  I played a role in her fantasy puzzle and at one time I was the piece that made the puzzle complete for her.  As time went on her behavior damaged that piece (me) and it began to not fit as well in her fantasy puzzle.  Then she broke the piece and the fantasy puzzle was incomplete once again so she went looking for a new puzzle piece instead of fixing the one she broke.  Once she secured a potential new piece that is when the devaluation began in earnest, but it had been slowly going on for months before that after she had broken the puzzle piece that had once fit so perfectly.

What I believe she "loved" about me was how perfectly I had fit into her fantasy puzzle.  I was everything she had ever wanted and needed (according to her), I couldn't have been a more perfect fit.  In this way I was very much objectified and her behavior over the course of our relationship supports this conclusion.  This isn't really love and that couldn't have been made more clear to me in the end.  Unfortunately this particular object has feelings.  
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« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2016, 10:09:13 AM »

I am simply amazed at how far off my understanding has been.  Not to say that she did not love me, I believe she did and still does.  But what the marriage meant to me versus what it meant to her are likely worlds apart in understanding and bridging that gap has taken (and is still taking) a long time.

Anyone else have thoughts about being idealized?

Hi JRB:)

I felt that there was a perpetual negativity and discontent from her. This was around the things that I did to satisfy what her indicated wants were. Her ideas on what will satisfy her would shift before, during, and after the fact on several substantial occasions. Substantial being with regard to the type of object, the occasion, and the experience.

It was difficult for me as when I wanted to satisfy my ex at very many points, I felt there was no pattern to discern whether I would get a carrot or get electrocuted for doing something. And if I thought there was a pattern, it shifted over time. While I know this is a "definitive" mark of BPD now--this was very, very disconcerting when I look back.

I see this as a reinforcement of FOG. It was really difficult to not take it personally as I thought I was to have some idea of how I can satisfy my partner. It's recommended for us to question assumptions instead of feeling guilty but this was very difficult to do because of the sheer quantity of dysregulation episodes. This was made far worse because for the majority of the relationship I didn't know how to avoid basic JADE. Even with all this now, I still wouldn't go back.
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« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2016, 11:15:14 AM »

I can absolutely relate to this. For context, two years before myself and my pwBPD met, I had moved back home to help raise my two year old nephew because watching my Mom balance a career and raising a toddler  alone, broke my heart. So, when her and I first met, she idealized me as the greatest guy she ever met.

When I met her Mom, her mom would tell me she heard I was a really great guy, when I met her sisters, they would tell me the same thing. I can remember thinking how odd it was, as we both hardly knew each other and we had only been on a few dates.  But yes, I was very quickly idealized.

Right out of the gate, I had informed her of my living arrangement. Since my mother and I were co-parenting my nephew, and we both have completely separate social lives, I was only available every other weekend, so that both my mom and I could maintain some semblance of a social life. In the beginning, she was quite ok with this until she moved out of her mom's house and her children started to get older and became more self sufficient. Up until then, I was still the greatest guy on the planet.

When she was living alone, with herself and 3 kids, did I realize I was being a bit objectified by her. Around Christmas of 2014, she was having monetary troubles and I recall during one of her many complaining sessions she made a comment under her breath "If you just moved in, all my problems would be solved." This is when the devaluation begun. I was beginning to see that she expected me to come in and start fixing her life, regardless of my responsibility to raising my nephew. I think this is when the cheating started.

By summer of 2015, the impetigo incident happened(see my STD results post). During this time, I became very vigilant about maintaining very low physical contact. No kissing and certainly no sex until this impetigo(actually herpes) thing passed. She made me feel very guilty about this. Poking and prodding with passive aggressive comments about not kissing her or not having sex. Now mind you, while I was under the assumption that it was impetigo, I actively tried to be a very good sport about it, yet remaining responsible and vigilant that we should not have physical contact for a week or so until things cleared up for two reasons 1. So we don't continually "ping pong" it back and forth. 2. So none of the children in our lives get infected as well. She resented my decision to be responsible, and due to her frequent passive aggressive criticism about it for a week, I eventually got mad. This is when I was told I was showing "my true colors" which was absolutely not the case. Devaluation was kicked into high gear. Throughout the fall, she disagreed with me about everything. Constantly contradicted me and punished me with multiple rounds of ST for very minor things. Interests that I thought we both shared, became uninteresting to her.

The break up came in January of 2016, a week before our 4 year anniversary. I was told the complete opposite of everything I was led to believe about our relationship. I went from "the best boyfriend she ever had" to "I waited 4 years for you to be the man I wanted". She told me I was "one of the most responsible people she ever met" and now I was a "man-child that runs from responsibility" which I found ironic, considering I've been co-raising a little boy for the last 6 years. Now, I see how much of an idealized object I really was, how I was slowly devalued over time. Then discarded with absolutely no remorse. After all, she waited four years for me to be some idealized version of a mate that she had in her head. The savior that was meant to fill her with love, fix her life and repair her broken soul. When I couldn't live up to that unfair standard she placed on me, I was doomed to fail.

Before this relationship, I would have looked at idealization as "wow, this girl really likes me". Now I see it for what it is, a red flag the size of a mountain.
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« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2016, 11:26:22 AM »

But what the marriage meant to me versus what it meant to her are likely worlds apart

This is where so many of these relationships don't stand a chance.

Same page? It's like we're not even on the same planet.

Too much internal fluctuation. Where's 'the truth' inside of that?

The feelings not as solid as the facts. Too many strikes against it before it even started.

Mine didn't make it to the wedding day, but we were engaged and lived together a few years.

Whenever 'the dream' came close to coming true, she'd feel compelled to run away from it.

To tear it down. Devalue. Discard. If she couldn't have it, no one could.

Not because she didn't want peace in her life. She just isn't wired to actually accept it.

A pwBPD seems to continually be waiting for the other shoe to drop.

In part because they're the one dropping it. In part because they can't help but do so.

Looking back, we each idealized each other and the relationship possibilities.

We both wanted it to be the One. To break our previous patterns. To share our Good.

We each felt to go even deeper, to have it last 'forever', yet in the end could only get so far.





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« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2016, 07:43:00 AM »

Hi all,

Interesting thread. The shift from idealisation to devaluation - and I think this also happens to a lesser degree in a lot NON relationships to - can leave a deep mark.

Perhaps those of us who are wary of letting others get close are particularly vulnerable. Though to be fair flattery can overwhelm even the strongest of us. It's very easy to be seduced by someone who seems to see the very best in us and makes us feel strong.  

I'm now deeply suspicious of any idealisation. Partly because I realise that it's not real or sustainable, partly because I realise that it's part of rescuing victim dynamic that is a way of using others to meet our needs and partly because I recognise that I am vulnerable to it.

I'm learning to be more humble and compassionate to myself. I'm also trying to learn to avoid idealising others. We do that too don't we

Reforming

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« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2016, 07:59:49 AM »

Now that I am dating (four years past separation and two years after divorce) this is the most important red flag I am on the alert for: immediate idealization of me. If someone immediately perceives me as the greatest person in the world, without flaw, I run.  Before marriage I would be flattered. Now it scares the hell out of me.

My ex thought I was the greatest thing since sliced bread. It felt great... .until the devaluing started and she thought I was quite possibly the worst human being on the planet.

The idealizing was definitely part of the beginning of the r/s, but she also desperately wanted to have a "successful" adult r/s (after a string of really terrible ones), so there was some fantasy about that as well. Until, as joeramabeme pointed out, the reality of the day-to-day of the r/s (of any r/s, for that matter) clashes with the fantasy.

Looking back, we each idealized each other and the relationship possibilities.

We both wanted it to be the One. To break our previous patterns. To share our Good.

We each felt to go even deeper, to have it last 'forever', yet in the end could only get so far.

That ^ too.  I definitely wanted to have that successful r/s; I wanted her to be the ONE. The difference is that I was willing to work on the r/s, even the tough stuff. She wasn't. Or simply couldn't.
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« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2016, 09:06:49 AM »

I'm learning to be more humble and compassionate to myself. I'm also trying to learn to avoid idealising others. We do that too don't we

I like a pursuit of humility and self-compassion. Yes, I do think many people idealise to some extent. What is idealising to you?
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« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2016, 09:37:25 AM »

I'm learning to be more humble and compassionate to myself. I'm also trying to learn to avoid idealising others. We do that too don't we

I like a pursuit of humility and self-compassion. Yes, I do think many people idealise to some extent. What is idealising to you?

One definition might be a strong need or compulsion to view with another with unrealistic expectations that excludes their right to human frailties and need to fail. We all need the space to be weak or make mistakes.

It might be also by a desire for someone to be the person you want them to be rather than who they actually are...

Interestingly my ex used to accuse me of putting her on a pedestal. Perhaps I did. I was fully aware of her weaknesses, but I tried to focus on her strengths and positives.

Reforming
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« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2016, 10:27:29 AM »

I'm also trying to learn to avoid idealising others. We do that too don't we?

... .What is idealising to you?

It might be also by a desire for someone to be the person you want them to be rather than who they actually are.

Indeed. That's where I idealized - when I look back, I can see what I ignored because I liked her and wanted the r/s to work (once my heart was in it). When I really think about it, it was clear that we didn't share the same values - and I think that's the biggest indication that a r/s is not going to work in the long run.
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« Reply #14 on: June 20, 2016, 09:34:39 AM »

One definition might be a strong need or compulsion to view with another with unrealistic expectations that excludes their right to human frailties and need to fail. We all need the space to be weak or make mistakes.

THIS! Towards the end, I had this strong need to find a safe place to fall apart. Ex had such high expectations of me. He had to go to bed and get sleep or he would be a jerk. I did all of the night time parenting and he slept. There were nights when I was so tired and exhausted and would get snappy with the kids. He would get upset because I was struggling. I don't know how many times I would ask him to hang out with the kids so I could get sleep. When he worked, he came home to food that was cooked a lot of days. When I got my job, I came home to having to feed myself and the kids. He would do his thing without any consideration for the fact that I am human and I need some down time on occasion.

If I showed any weakness or upset, he would have to get more upset. He would have to act like my upset was somehow crazy or unjustified. I would be painted out to be the nagging you know what of a wife. The funny thing is that rather than nag or ask more than a few times, I would do it myself. I don't know what he thinks a relationship is. It does NOT align with my idea of a relationship at all. We are parents and had a home together. That means that you do things you don't like even when you don't feel well. Not him. He would sit on his bum playing computer games. He would come up with excuses that he didn't feel well. He acted like one of the kids rather than an adult. He could go to work and earn money. It was up to me to pay the bills, keep up with the house, the kids, and everything else.

When he was going through his 12 steps, he was telling me all about the higher power stuff. At one point, he said that I was his higher power. 

I still don't feel like I have been completely devalued. I still feel like he sees me as this superhuman object that can take whatever he dishes out. And if I can't take it and lose my cool, then I am painted out to be crazy. Come on? What woman is going to sit by while a man, that she is separated from, sits around and talks about his current interest and says things like, "Oh she is so great. We have a spiritual connection. She is different/better than all of the other women I have chased." Or showing me pictures of these women. I am not crazy to be hurt by this stuff. I think any normal person would be upset by the things that he has said or done. I am not allowed to experience the full range of human emotions.
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« Reply #15 on: June 20, 2016, 10:45:08 AM »

My x openly told me that she wanted the fairy tale. She told me that she knew it was wrong and wouldn't happen, but that's what she wanted. I apparently wasn't a knight in shiny armor or Prince Charming, because she had exactly what she wanted (and always will) - someone who will love her no matter what. I just do it from a safe distance now.

Looking back, we each idealized each other and the relationship possibilities.

We both wanted it to be the One. To break our previous patterns. To share our Good.

We each felt to go even deeper, to have it last 'forever', yet in the end could only get so far.

That ^ too.  I definitely wanted to have that successful r/s; I wanted her to be the ONE. The difference is that I was willing to work on the r/s, even the tough stuff. She wasn't. Or simply couldn't.

This is definitely true for me as well. I wanted so badly for the r/s to work that I was willing to accept the poor treatment. I was willing to work on all of our problems; hers, mine, and the joint ones. Whatever it took, I was willing to do. Sadly, it takes both parties to do that for it to be healthy.
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« Reply #16 on: June 20, 2016, 10:45:20 AM »

If I showed any weakness or upset, he would have to get more upset. He would have to act like my upset was somehow crazy or unjustified. I would be painted out to be the nagging you know what of a wife. The funny thing is that rather than nag or ask more than a few times, I would do it myself. I don't know what he thinks a relationship is. It does NOT align with my idea of a relationship at all. We are parents and had a home together. That means that you do things you don't like even when you don't feel well. Not him. He would sit on his bum playing computer games. He would come up with excuses that he didn't feel well. He acted like one of the kids rather than an adult. He could go to work and earn money. It was up to me to pay the bills, keep up with the house, the kids, and everything else.

I love the honesty here.

I am not a good cook, but over a holiday period both my ex & I got a really bad flu at the same time. I tried ot take over the cooking duties so took some food from the freezer one night & had the oven pre-heating. As soon as she heard me getting food ready, she came to the kitchen and told me 'You're going to kill us all the pre-heat is all wrong'. I was a little upset that she saw the negative rather than me wanting her to stay in bed and get some rest. It escalated into how useless I was and that I wasn't taking care of the family. I tried to gently point out that I was sick too and I do things different to her but she had none of it. I was also told 'if you are sick go to the Doctor, no self diagnosis'. I had planned to, after we had all had our food.

She would tell me how long it took her to clean the carpeted rooms and clean the floors, house etc. So one night she went out and I timed it all - 1 hour flat. Then she was telling me how long it would take, suggesting 4-5 hours work per day. I was thinking 'no it is 1' in my own mind.

I had my ideal version of her as a domestic goddess who was a brilliant cook. When I analysed it more, her cooking skills were excellent as she had time to practice them each day as she was a stay at home Mum. As someone recently pointed out to me - 'every time ye got back together she gave up her job'. I said 'naah never happened' but after checking my records, that person was right - three times my ex gave up her job.

So I definitely was idealizing her and putting her on a pedestal that more than likely was not real.
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« Reply #17 on: June 20, 2016, 10:59:41 AM »

Interestingly my ex used to accuse me of putting her on a pedestal. Perhaps I did. I was fully aware of her weaknesses, but I tried to focus on her strengths and positives.

My ex used to do this too. To me this seemed to be a few things. First, I had some caretaker in me. How this affected me is basically: oh poor you, you're so insecure, let me help you feel better. Purr, then bite. Second, it was made worse because of unpredictable reinforcement. This made me feel good and it helped build the caretaker behaviour. I had a small thing for damaged goods--not so much anymore--it made it more real and amplified this trait in me. It contributed to making me feel more needed.

Did focusing on her strengths and positives do anything for you?
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« Reply #18 on: June 20, 2016, 12:59:23 PM »

Interestingly my ex used to accuse me of putting her on a pedestal. Perhaps I did. I was fully aware of her weaknesses, but I tried to focus on her strengths and positives.

My ex used to do this too. To me this seemed to be a few things. First, I had some caretaker in me. How this affected me is basically: oh poor you, you're so insecure, let me help you feel better. Purr, then bite. Second, it was made worse because of unpredictable reinforcement. This made me feel good and it helped build the caretaker behaviour. I had a small thing for damaged goods--not so much anymore--it made it more real and amplified this trait in me. It contributed to making me feel more needed.

Did focusing on her strengths and positives do anything for you?

Initially I think it was probably positive for her. It helped give her confidence and self belief,

But over time I think she felt burdened by the expectations that it created. It's exhausting trying to live up to someone else's idealised image of what they think you should especially when deep down your own self image is damaged and fragile. Sooner or later it breeds resentment because the person being idealised realises it's controlling. It's not about real acceptance or intimacy.

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« Reply #19 on: June 20, 2016, 01:00:53 PM »

The building of trust is about having your partner’s best interests in mind and heart. It’s about listening to your partner’s pain and communicating that when they hurt, the world stops, and you listen. Dr. Gottman calls this being attuned to one another: (1) A for Awareness of one’s partners pain, (2) T for Tolerance that there were always two valid viewpoints in any negative emotions, (3) T for Turning Toward one partner’s need, (4) N for Non-defensive listening, and (5) E for Empathy.

I know we often talk about idealization as a the fatal flaw in the relationship, but I might question whether this was the issue for our partner.  Maybe we think so as it was the issue for us.  Is the reason we that over-focus on the idealization because we suffer to resolve the cognitive dissonance? How could she (he) that say those incredible things about me and then act like __________? This is an interesting workshop: US: From idealization to devaluation - why we struggle

In many cases the pwBPD would probably say the issue was "trust". Trust would be a function of the pwBPD general inherent distrust and our skills with respect to (1) awareness of one’s partners pain, (2) tolerance that there were always two valid viewpoints in any negative emotions, (3) turning toward one partner’s need, (4) non-defensive listening, and (5) empathy. It's a more complex thought for sure.

Was anyone here a really defensive listener (example)?

Was the failure or breakdown more about the inability, as a couple, to establish trust between with:

  • a person with special needs who inherently distrustful, and who copes by splitting, and


  • a partner who does not have the skills needed skills to be attuned to them.


I'm not suggesting that all of us were universally at fault (or not at fault), but that there was a mismatch at the trust building aspect of the relationship that was partially contributed to by both parties (different contributions and dynamics for each couple). Some of our partners were very high on the scale, and some less so.  Some of us were high on the scale, and some not so.

I think its important to understand how relationships form (first) and then what "BPD traits" are (second) and understand own traits (third) and how the all feed into the relationship conflict .

Does this model fit with your experience in any way?
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« Reply #20 on: June 20, 2016, 01:51:06 PM »

Initially I think it was probably positive for her. It helped give her confidence and self belief,

I want to offer the perspective of how it feels to be idealized like that. For me, it wasn't about giving me confidence or self belief. It was about the fact that I felt special to him. It felt good to hear those things because it gave me the illusion that I wasn't just another chick. I was special to HIM. Because he was special to me, I did overlook a lot of his flaws and did focus on his strengths and his positive attributes. Who wants to live with somebody that only sees the negatives. I know that the best road is to be able to see the good and the bad.

Excerpt
But over time I think she felt burdened by the expectations that it created. It's exhausting trying to live up to someone else's idealised image of what they think you should especially when deep down your own self image is damaged and fragile. Sooner or later it breeds resentment because the person being idealised realises it's controlling. It's not about real acceptance or intimacy.

This raises a question for me. Where does idealization begin and end? I know that I feel very burdened by the expectations that ex has for me. The burden doesn't come from having a damaged or fragile self image. The feeling burdened comes from him acting like I can handle anything and everything. The feeling burdened comes from me not being able to get time for self care while he does pretty much whatever he wants whenever he wants. We have 4 kids together. That takes time and effort. Needing help is based on a realistic assessment of the time and energy that is required when caring for kids.

On the flip side, I know that he has said that my expectations of him were too high. One day, he told me that I needed a guy that was perfect like my dad that could protect me and do anything for me. I thought that was complete hogwash. I wasn't asking him to do anything herculean. Heck, I didn't even really care if he could meet any of my emotional needs. I wasn't looking for romance. I wanted him to be a responsible adult that would spend time with his kids and contribute to the care and upkeep of the house, kids, etc. He could remember when they were having the next raid on his mmorpg but he couldn't remember to pay the bills. In the one counseling session that we went to together, the counselor told him to read the book, "How to be an adult in relationships". I don't know if he ever did.
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« Reply #21 on: June 20, 2016, 02:26:35 PM »

Was anyone here a really defensive listener (example)?

I had my good days and my days. There were times that he would say things that seemed so outrageous to me that I felt like I had to defend myself. The example that sticks out in my mind most was a time we were discussing an incident that occurred when the kids were being loud at bed time and I got louder to be heard. The whole incident that night escalated. There is a discrepancy about the events. He says I fell. I say he pushed me. In discussing it later, it was put off on me as, "Why couldn't you just be quiet? They were just being kids. You woke me up getting on to them." I was livid and became very defensive. I felt the need to defend my frustration that night. I was tired and exhausted and I was getting no help from him. It became a back and forth blame game.

Excerpt
there was a mismatch at the trust building aspect of the relationship

This makes a lot of sense. I can look back and see that there was definitely a mismatch of the trust building aspects. He trusted me explicitly. In the beginning, I was very trusting of him. Over time, he would violate my trust. I had specific ideas of things that needed to be done to regain my trust. He would do those things for a day or two and then get upset that I didn't magically trust him again.

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« Reply #22 on: June 20, 2016, 02:28:56 PM »

Skip asks about our own reactions and actions. I know I was a defensive listener at times, and that got worse. I moved away from being empathetic to his pain into resentment and hurt and anger. I was really baffled by my ex.

Here's a sad little example, one of hundreds and hundreds, where I can see my role in things, without blaming myself (too much):

Early in our relationship, during the idealization phase, we took an amazing road trip. During those long car conversations my ex confessed some of his deepest feelings and fears to me. It felt real. One thing my ex confessed to me was a long-term affair he previously had, with a woman he had not treated well. He expressed shame about this. I validated his feelings and accepted his pain. It felt like a good moment.

As the relationship became suddenly harder, with all sorts of devaluing, arguing and confusion, my ex met this past affair for lunch without telling me. I was not happy. We had a fight about it. I felt absolutely baffled that this man who had acted remorseful about this affair now seemed defensive about it and refused to recognize why I might feel threatened by this woman. What I wasn't able to name was my own fears and hurts about our relationship were coming up. If I had felt secure, if our relationship was healthy and solid, I am sure I wouldn't have been as upset. But I didn't own that.

More time passed and our relationship became characterized by recycles, break ups, make ups, his rage, and tensions. The other woman became a focal point. My ex would drop comments about her into conversation, such as telling me how good she smelled. I reacted badly to this. He put her picture up in his house after taking my love notes down. I felt baited, insulted and hurt. In response I acted in ways that he saw as shrewish, irrational and crazy. We had awful circular arguments about this other lady.

My response over time was to try and shame him about her. I didn't realize this was what I was doing, but I did. I wanted him to return to the guy who felt bad about the affair, so I could feel trust for him. I didn't see that his baiting me had nothing to do about me, but his own inner pain, and immature dysfunctional ways of behaving.

I behaved in ways I feel bad about regarding this woman. One scalding memory: we ran into her at a party. After we left I shut down and got quiet in the car. I didn't know why I was triggered. My ex got equally tense, and asked me what was wrong. I said something about her, I can't recall quite what, but it was not nice to her or him. It was something along the lines of Why don't you just go with her, you like her better. That blew into a huge rage and break up on his part. So I went from being the person who saw and held his pain to the person who shamed him for it.

I don't believe he was sleeping with her during any of this. She's happily married now, anyhow. But what happened is I went from recognizing his shame and pain and having empathy for him, knowing he did feel bad about it, to reacting with my own hurt and suspicion, and quite frankly, instead of helping him with his shame I ended up shaming him.

In the past, I would have these insights and end up recycling with my ex, thinking I would do things better, and avoid these awful moments. But I have never been able to sustain that. And I found that even when I could avoid all triggers and not take his bait (and trust me, he raised the ante, and raised it more) the two of us had found ourselves in a place where our very presence seems to trigger each other. Just being in relationship brings up all those hurts. Because of this he was on edge all the time, ready to rage. And I was on edge all the time, waiting for it.

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« Reply #23 on: June 20, 2016, 02:30:27 PM »

Does this model fit with your experience in any way?

This model very much fits my experience. In looking at Gottman's information about being attuned, I can spell out how all of those things interfered in our relationship and how it can be related back to idealization.

Excerpt
(1) A for Awareness of one’s partners pain---I don't feel like ex ever acknowledged any of my pain. I think this is how it relates to the idealization. It seems like he has idealized me as somebody that doesn't feel pain. Since he has left, he has commented several times that I seem to be doing great and that I have moved on. Even when I have tried to share my pain with him, he doesn't see it or hear it and completely ignores it. It is like he has had to split off the fact that anything that he did could have cause me pain.

(2) T for Tolerance that there were always two valid viewpoints in any negative emotions, ---I would try (emphasize try, I failed a lot too) to hear his side of things. When I tried to share my viewpoints, it would put him into defensive mode. I think there may have been a point where I was so hungry to be heard that I started ignoring his viewpoints. I think it devolved into, Why should I hear or consider your viewpoint when I don't feel like I can even have a negative emotion without it being dismissed as me being negative, demanding, impossible to please, or something else. ---This ties to the discussion of idealization and unrealistic expectations because part of how he idealized me was that I didn't feel like I could have negative emotions. Forget having a viewpoint about them or discussing them.

(3) T for Turning Toward one partner’s need, ---It felt like everything was about his needs. When I went to him three years ago and tried to express my needs, his solution was "let's see other people". The relationship became all about his needs and what he wanted. I feel like he turned away from me every chance he got.

(4) N for Non-defensive listening, ---I didn't feel like I could say anything to him without evoking a defensive reaction. I would try to listen non-defensively and would fail. There was so much unacknowledged pain and hurt inside of me that I could no longer listen to him without feeling angry and defensive.

(5) E for Empathy. ---I don't feel like he had any empathy for my experiences. I would listen to him talk about struggling with his sexual orientation. I would listen to him talk about his childhood. It was like I had become his mother, his therapist, his sex toy, and everything in between. I used to be very empathetic towards him and his struggles. I still try to have compassion for him and find it very difficult. I can no longer muster up the energy.


https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-3-phases-of-love/

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« Reply #24 on: June 20, 2016, 03:24:12 PM »

I like to think that I started out well and just progressively got worse from there.

1. I stopped acknowledging her pain. I am not sure that she was ever aware of mine.

2. I became intolerant of many of her viewpoints because there seemed to be a disconnect in the logic. What I didn't realize at the time was that many of her viewpoints were based on emotion rather than logic. Because of this, A + B could equal Q rather than D. I could only see D however and would get very frustrated.

3. I think that both she and I would argue that we each turned toward the needs of the other.

4. I think that both of us were very defensive listeners. I think that neither of us trusted the other completely and each was ready for the other to leave at any moment.

5. I don't feel like she was every actually empathetic to me or what I struggle with.

I choose to believe that in beginning that I was different than I was in the end though. I can pin point when it all changed for me and I didn't feel like I mattered anymore. That's when any hope of my becoming attuned to her went out the window.

But, trust was an issue between us from day one it seems.
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« Reply #25 on: June 20, 2016, 04:06:04 PM »

I became intolerant of many of her viewpoints because there seemed to be a disconnect in the logic. What I didn't realize at the time was that many of her viewpoints were based on emotion rather than logic. Because of this, A + B could equal Q rather than D. I could only see D however and would get very frustrated.

Yes. We had a very minor disagreement when we were out one night for dinner with friends. So minor that I'm sure it was barely a "blip" in our friends eyes. Barely even a disagreement, actually - I was  trying to point out something on the menu that I thought she'd like, and she interpreted it to mean that I was telling her what to order. Nevermind the fact that I've never once told her what to order at a restaurant.  When she brought it up a few months later she described it as my "yelling" at her in the restaurant in front of our friends. I responded (in great confusion), "... .Yelling?... .I didn't yell! Think about it - if I had yelled, our friends would have had a reaction. If I had yelled, the rest of the diners would have turned to stare at us. None of that happened because I didn't yell."

I was completely unaware of "feelings = facts" dynamic of BPD at the time. Would I have handled it differently knowing what I now know? Probably. But, truth be told, I don't have the patience to validate that kind of drift from reality, and I'm glad I'm not in the position to have to try to do so.
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« Reply #26 on: June 20, 2016, 04:35:31 PM »

I became intolerant of many of her viewpoints because there seemed to be a disconnect in the logic. What I didn't realize at the time was that many of her viewpoints were based on emotion rather than logic. Because of this, A + B could equal Q rather than D. I could only see D however and would get very frustrated.

Yes. We had a very minor disagreement when we were out one night for dinner with friends. So minor that I'm sure it was barely a "blip" in our friends eyes. Barely even a disagreement, actually - I was  trying to point out something on the menu that I thought she'd like, and she interpreted it to mean that I was telling her what to order. Nevermind the fact that I've never once told her what to order at a restaurant.  When she brought it up a few months later she described it as my "yelling" at her in the restaurant in front of our friends. I responded (in great confusion), "... .Yelling?... .I didn't yell! Think about it - if I had yelled, our friends would have had a reaction. If I had yelled, the rest of the diners would have turned to stare at us. None of that happened because I didn't yell."

I was completely unaware of "feelings = facts" dynamic of BPD at the time. Would I have handled it differently knowing what I now know? Probably. But, truth be told, I don't have the patience to validate that kind of drift from reality, and I'm glad I'm not in the position to have to try to do so.

Yes, mine was always telling me to "calm down" and always called me an "emotional rollercoaster" even though I was completely calm and wasn't even arguing with her in the slightest.  Their perception is just so off. 
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« Reply #27 on: June 20, 2016, 05:13:55 PM »

Is intense chemistry probably not a good thing even if feels absolutely amazing?

I really hope that isn't true, but the two women who I felt the most intense chemistry with both turned out to be very difficult for me. I think that core childhood issues that we each possess draw us to partners who specifically are going to force us to confront those very issues. They're the people who are going to feel "familiar" to us, because they subconsciously remind us of certain aspects of our formative experiences and upbringing. So I think that we will continually seek out relationships that push our buttons until we deal with our buttons. That, unfortunately, comes through a lot of button-pushing!  Laugh out loud (click to insert in post)

I'm going to agree with Skip about the importance of trust. I've certainly made mistakes in my relationships with uBPD exes in terms of trust, communication, and "being safe" in a few respects. Speaking just of my last relationship:

(1) awareness of one’s partners pain

I was pretty unaware of my partner's pain, but she was also concealing A LOT of it. I was (eventually) dismissive of her "losing her sh*t" at me, because so many of those instances previously had resulted in her apologizing, minimizing, and negating a lot of her criticisms of me and the relationship. This was before I knew anything about BPD, and after many attempts on my part to come to a better awareness of what was actually going on. I don't think she even knew what she was reacting to or where she was coming from - thus, I didn't either. She was getting triggered and either intentionally didn't bring things up with me, or resorted to vague generalizations.

(2) tolerance that there were always two valid viewpoints in any negative emotions

This I was not great at. I think that near the end of our relationship I got stuck in a mode of trying to convince her that she was wrong about the situation. She made it more difficult to accept her viewpoint as valid through making decisions based on gross assumptions, jumping to conclusions, and becoming aggressively insulting and emotionally dysregulated to the point that non-circular, rational conversation of any kind was virtually impossible. We spent a lengthy period of time having two distinct conversations: one where we pretended that everything was fine, and one where we'd argue until she'd quickly emotionally escalate and flip out in my general direction about anything and everything.

(3) turning toward one partner’s need

I think that we had opposing needs in some respects, and that needs were not clearly communicated on either side until it was too late.

(4) non-defensive listening

I'd give myself 50/50 odds on defensiveness. I was better at times than others. She often seemed hell-bent on getting a rise out of me - and I occasionally obliged. She was SO DEFENSIVE. Any critique to her was a huge trigger and it often took her an extended period of time to internalize my feedback. She even once admitted: "sometimes you say something really smart and amazing and insightful and true and I just ignore it because I want to be mad at you."

(5) empathy.

I was more empathetic than she was, but she was not entirely without empathy. I sometimes wonder if there wasn't too much empathy. Things seemed to spiral out of control once we got to the "real" stuff, and I think that there were some unhealthy emotional boundaries.
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« Reply #28 on: June 20, 2016, 06:03:50 PM »

Their perception is just so off.  

both perceptions are typically off in these relationships. i taught myself pretty quickly to discount virtually any complaint my ex had, and in many cases i actively invalidated them. in more cases than i can count, she was expressing either a kernel of truth, or a full blown truth (in any case it was her truth whether i disagree or not. validation is not the same as agreement); i wasnt listening... .when i was, i was listening for what to invalidate (something she often accused me of that i dismissed). thats just not an environment thats conducive to communication.

(1) awareness of one’s partners pain - it was hard not to be  Smiling (click to insert in post). i am and was interested in my partners feelings and how i effect them. her pain overwhelmed me particularly when i couldnt soothe it. there was also pain and an internal struggle that i wasnt always privy to, though i can connect a lot of dots in retrospect. i sure let her know my pains often, and probably its not that she wasnt aware, it probably weighed on her more than ill ever know, but it appeared that way to me at the time.

(2) tolerance that there were always two valid viewpoints in any negative emotions - no, as i already described, F- on this. she wasnt the first person or girlfriend to point this out to me. it probably was mostly not true when it came to friendships or acquaintances. it has been very true in romantic relationships. and no, my ex was not very tolerant of my point of view, and at times very insistent that mine MUST be hers. i even remember, in a state of relative calm, explaining to her that we clearly both had two different perspectives, that she wasnt going to change mine. good advice once removed  Smiling (click to insert in post).  

(3) turning toward one partner’s need - well, neither of us were overly concerned with the others needs. we both tried to tend them. its really hard to define what real needs are when the entire relationship is a power struggle. our needs mostly centered around that.

(4) non-defensive listening - this is a skill i lacked for most of my life. ive been prone to circular arguments and debate. i largely thought thats how it was done: you listen for something to counter and get through that way.

(5) empathy - i always considered myself an empath. i suppose with that attitude, it was difficult for me to see the limitations of my empathy. just the understanding that both perspectives are valid, as opposed to trying to change it or enforce my own, was something i lacked. my ex had limits of her own, usually when i leaned on her for support.

Was anyone here a really defensive listener (example)? - too many to name. if it involved me, my listening skills and responses ranged from outright dismissal ("thats ridiculous", "thats crazy", "that didnt happen/thats not how it is" to verbally abusive ("thats psychotic", "thats insane", and worse).

a partner who does not have the needed skills to be attuned to them - the honest truth is that while i certainly did not have the needed skills to be attuned to my partners special needs, i did not have the needed skills to be in a healthy relationship and thrive, period. its always alarming to go back and look how dysfunctional the dynamics were on both sides. in trying to sort out who instigated what, its really sort of a joke. ive at this point edited a few times to reflect that and its getting long winded.

no, i couldnt resolve the cognitive dissonance of why i could be the greatest and worst man alive, or how someone that claimed to love me could verbally or emotionally abuse me. i was also blind to seeing how similar my own behavior was. during the relationship i couldnt give you a reason that i loved her (or why i stayed) beyond, essentially, "because she loves me". she must have struggled with that too.
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« Reply #29 on: June 20, 2016, 07:02:36 PM »

(1) A for Awareness of one’s partners pain, (2) T for Tolerance that there were always two valid viewpoints in any negative emotions, (3) T for Turning Toward one partner’s need, (4) N for Non-defensive listening, and (5) E for Empathy.[/glow]

 

1) Awareness of our partner's pain. I failed miserably at this. My ex's pain came out in anger: Hyper-critical, persnickety, arrogant, scornful, righteous and judgemental, on up to raging. I failed to see that this was his pain manifesting. As the saying goes, "Hurting people hurt others." I just saw the anger, felt the anger, and responded to the anger.

2) Tolerance of two valid viewpoints: I was pretty good at this, for the most part. Though ironically we ended up having a lot of arguments where I was trying to convince him of this   But when he raged, my ability to be tolerant flew out the window. For my ex his feelings were facts. I could not be tolerant of that feelings=facts reaction. In the end I felt I was being asked to tolerate viewpoints that were themselves intolerant, scornful or abusive.

3) Turning to their need. As long as his need was not an indictment of me, I was the boss at this. The minute his need involved putting me down, criticizing or blaming me, the power struggle started. It is really hard to meet the need of someone who doesn't know what their real need is, can't articulate it to themselves, or reacts passive-aggressively. My ex seemed to have a strong need not to be needed. His primary need, as far as I could tell, was to be unconditionally accepted and adored no matter how he behaved, and yet not have anyone have expectations of him. I found that very challenging. Actually, I am not sure he even knows what his needs are.

4) Non-defensive listening. As I wrote earlier, I went from being good at this to terrible. I became reactive and defensive. I think we both felt attacked.

5) Empathy. I've always had empathy for him and still do. Maybe too much empathy. My heart breaks for him. I am realizing the best place for my empathy is at a distance. My empathy has not been good for him or for me. It walks hand in hand with my co-dependence. It hasn't helped him. He has to help himself.

This was a neat exercise. Thanks, skip!

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