Threat of Intimacy

Acting on Impulse. Reckless Sex. Being Promiscuous.

It’s all the same right? Not quite.
Impulsive behavior, or acting without thinking about the consequences of a behavior, is one of the symptoms of BPD listed in the DSM-IV. Impulsive behavior can include many different types of acts (Spending Sprees, Shoplifting, Drinking&Drugging, Dangerous Situations, Stripping, and  yes, Sex), but reckless sexual behavior seems to be a more common one among people with BPD (and Histrionic PD).
“People with BPD are most at risk of engaging in impulsive acts when they are experiencing intense emotional responses, or when they are disinhibited by alcohol or substances. Intense sadness, fear, jealousy, or positive emotions may lead to impulsive sexuality.
Why might people with BPD be more promiscuous? One possibility is that people with BPD use sex to combat feelings of emptiness that are associated with the disorder. When feeling empty, numb, lonely, or bored, sex may generate positive emotional responses.”
I’d like some intense emotional response on top of my intense emotional response please. With a cherry on top. What? No cherry? Yeah, that’s gone. It’s almost like a drug. When you’re already so emotionally driven, adding a situation that is even more intense can push me into an almost emotional high. If it’s someone I have a strong attachment to, the world slips away in a rush of touch, sweat and sensation. As someone that longs to escape the mundane and boredom that often suffuses my life and drives me to depression, sex, is the ultimate escapism.
“These patients struggle with feelings of depression, loneliness and isolation; they’re caught in a spiral of self-destructive behavior that eventually sabotages their lives. Lacking a stable sense of self, they attempt to compensate by seeking satisfaction in material possessions, superficial friendships and impersonal sexual encounters. They substitute empty lifestyles for real lives and shy away from channeling their energies into personal growth and fulfillment.”
I wouldn’t say I channel my energy away from personal growth and fulfillment. I wouldn’t say it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t strictly true; at least in areas concerning healthy relationships. I have a lot of incredibly fulfilling hobbies and pursuits so I know this isn’t pervasive in my life but I can see the patterns of it in some aspects of me. The relationship aspects of me. Cognitively I know when I have a good thing going for me. Hell, cognitively I know when I have a bad thing going for me. But I get so swept up in not wanting to be alone, being bored, needing to fill the time, the space, the emptiness that I act without regard for the consequences that will inevitably follow. It’s not that my life is empty, it just feels so hollow some days and I’ll do anything to fill the void. Heh. I just don’t know what I want. Don’t know how to internalize what I should want. It’s easier to figure out what other people want.
I wonder if there’s an aspect of:  if I can give someone what they want, maybe I’ll have that feeling of satisfaction as well. I’ll understand what it means to have something I want, vicariously. I’m good at knowing what other people want. It’s very natural for me to quickly deduce what will make someone happy, make their life easier, turn them off or turn them on. It’s almost a game figuring out how to give that to them. It’s fun for me, for a while. Except it’s not really for me. I do things for other people, elsewhere, lock myself into some convoluted commitment and suddenly I’m trapped inside my own skin, clawing to get out of the situation I set myself up to fall from.  It’s like wearing a mask made from someone else’s desires. I forget what my own face looks like underneath.
A lot of people have occasional doubts about their identity and self-worth. There are times I’m not sure I even know what these things even are. Some days I am absolutely confident in my sense of worth. I do know I have value. Unfortunately it’s often after receiving validation from someone that I’ve done something for. Sex is the ultimate validation of desire isn’t it? It’s a very visceral display of approval for the things I can do. I wonder if I don’t seek this kind of attention to validate my own sense of worth. If I can get someone to want me enough to be with me, than I must be doing something worthy of their appreciation. Something, alright. In this manner it skews my tenuous sense of identity. I am who I am, and that’s whoever I need me to be. Or whomever I perceive that you want me to be. Ok, not to such an extreme. I’m not quite that kind of chameleon, but I can be. I just don’t want to be.
One psychologist postulates that adopting this sort of false Self is a way to cope.
“People dominated by false Self adopt an illusion of coping, which substitutes for genuine self-assertion. They depend on others to constantly provide them with a sense of internal security, a way of relieving feelings of worthlessness. The borderline personality is constantly on the defensive, guarding against intimacy out of a twin fear of being engulfed and abandoned. While it’s natural to feel anxious about a new relationship, most of us realize that we need love in our lives. The borderline, however, is incapable of handling closeness and substitutes inappropriate relationships with unavailable partners.
The threat of intimacy may lead a borderline patient to become promiscuous. Since her fears make her unable to make a lasting commitment to one person, she goes from one lover to another, acting out the fantasy of somebody taking care of her. Sex tends to be mechanical, in order to avoid the powerful drive to emotional intimacy that accompanies sex. What she seeks is not orgasm but being held, as if to compensate for her not having been held as a child.”
The threat of intimacy. This rings so true to me I can’t emphasize this point enough. I just like the phrase: the threat of intimacy.
“In addition to engaging in reckless or impulsive sex, there is evidence that people with BPD are more prone to being sexually promiscuous. This differs from impulsive sex in that promiscuity is the act of intentionally having multiple sexual partners (rather than having casual sex on a whim).”

So there’s the difference between just being sexually impulsive and being sexually promiscuous.

For example, as soon as Boring-Ex and I broke up, I was able to begin involvement with a girl I’d liked for years… and her girlfriend… and the misguided drama polygon with Friend… and my best female friend at the time. For the record, let me state that I operate in a group of people that view polyamory as almost the norm and no we’re not mormon. It’s not unusual for my friends to have open marriages and multiple partners so I don’t actually view this as being very deviant. My Therapist would disagree.  

I don’t mind being the secondary relationship of a poly couple. At least in the past I haven’t. It allows me to maintain my illusion of intimacy while not having the focus primarily upon me. When you’re involved in a polyamorous relationship and you’re not the primary significant other, there’s a safety from that threat of intimacy that arises. I was close, but not living with her. When I needed space it was fine because odds are her other girlfriend needed attention… and on it went. This works great, until it doesn’t, and I want more than I’m able to have. The question though: Do I want more because I really want more, or because I know I can’t have it? Hm.
I don’t necessarily want to have multiple partners. What I want is to be close, but not too close. I can’t figure out how to do this without pushing away and pulling closer. Allowing someone in, and then forcing them back out. I don’t set out to be promiscuous, I’m honestly not even sure it’s my fault. Or how it happens. I hermit away and I don’t have to worry about any of it. I’m secluded so I have no people to bother me. Really it’s as soon as I start putting myself out there that people begin to take an elevated interest in me. When I’m actively seeing someone though, it’s like a red cape is waved in front of the eyes of the bystanders that shouts at my potential unavailability and they begin to charge. My problem is, when faced with a fight or flight response, I tend to fight. I don’t run, I don’t stop, I don’t say no. I engage. With only vague thoughts that I could end up emotionally maimed, the act is practically impulsive. I don’t think about other people when they’re not in my immediate vicinity (people I’m not very attached to), because it’s like they’re no longer a part of my life. For as much as I hate to be alone, and want to have someone near, I do not attach easily. This is my problem with having a lack of object constancy. But when they are around…  Once I do finally attach my thoughts border on obsessive and I can’t extricate my mind. Once that happens there’s almost no thought or desire to allow anyone else near me and the problem of promiscuity disappears as quickly as it, came::grin:: What I’m getting at is, I don’t set out to be promiscuous, it just sort of falls in my lap. Or I fall into its lap. I don’t know. I blame the booze.
What I really want is to be close, and able to embrace that closeness without the terror of impending abandonment gripping my heart. That’s all I really want. My problem is I have no idea how to go about getting it. I’m trying. I’m actively focusing on things that are considered healthy in this new relationship with my Lady Friend. It’s so incredibly frustrating to know that what I’m doing, I have to do, because I’m simply incapable of being normal naturally. It shouldn’t be so hard to seek happiness. I know I really shouldn’t be seeking happiness in someone else. Everyone wants to be loved. It’s not really a matter of finding someone else to make me happy though, so much as finding someone that I can be happy with myself, with. If that makes any sense.

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4 comments on “Threat of Intimacy

  1. I am so so so glad that you're talking about this. This promiscuity is with bipolar as well and I think it's easy to write the people who do this off as "sluts" but to me this isn't "slutty". It's not even about the actual sex. People don't understand the thought process that goes through our minds when we do things like this and you articulate it so well. I applaud you for being able to do that. It's so great for me to see someone actually talking about these things. It helps me to figure out my own thoughts and actions which basically are identical to yours in this area. I too can easily be the second in a relationship which most people just can't even begin to comprehend. I actually feel more "in control" of the relationship being the second and not the significant. Like you said it's about being close but not too close, having an easy escape route without really hurting the partner because you're second not the first. Sometimes I just wanted to feel not invisible and for some bizarre reason it's like I have a stamp on my forehead that says "is awesome in sex". That was when I was the most promiscuous. I felt a sense of "being wanted" but it was like a high that wore off and afterwards I would feel so ashamed and disgusted with myself. I would vow I would not do that again until a few days later when someone was paying attention to me and for a few moments I thought it was sincere until I realized it wasn't and then I thought fine you want a slut you got one. Being talented at sex didn't help my situation at all. So yea I could go on for days on this subject but I will shut up now.

  2. I have SOOOO much to say on this topic it's pretty ridiculous haha. I think about sex way too much. You're right though, it's not about the actual sex, it's about the 'why' behind needing it the way that we do. Everything you said about being second in a relationships is perfect. Especially about having an easy escape route without hurting the partner. Sigh. I actually have an entire article that I wrote up about it just for something else. Now I'm considering posting it. It might be a good idea. Hm. I just go through fits of promiscuity. And when I do, holy crap, do I do. I've seriously been feeling the pull for it lately and I'm almost grateful that Lady Friend and I aren't committed yet and I'll be on vacation soon. It'll make it easier to get it out of my system. Not that it lasts long, really. Holy crap what you said about vowing to not do it again is spot on. I do that with so many things though, not just sex. I swear I won't do something again and within a few days, if not a few hours, I'll have broken my resolve. I hate it. It's like I have no control over my impulses and therefore no control over my body.

  3. This is a random thought, and not really on the sex topic, but it was struck by the comment "It’s not really a matter of finding someone else to make me happy though, so much as finding someone that I can be happy with myself, with. If that makes any sense." It makes fabulous sense, I'm just not convinced it can happen at the same time. I'm not Borderline, but have issues, attachment issues, trust issues, from childhood blah blah blah. My shrink suggests ironically that I am "in love" with a borderline and my motive for hanging on to that is the safety in knowing I'll never be loved back, because I would explode if I ever received real, unconditional love. It would probably make me ill. So, she suggest that for me to ever feel love, ever seek a relationship half-full, not empty…that's right, you guessed it, "I have to love myself". So my repeat question to her over and over again is, "how the hell do you do that?" I mean seriously. How exactly do you "love" yourself? With the exception of Stewart Smalley on SNL, who says that shit? Am I cool? Yeah. Am I smart? Yeah. Am I cute? Yeah. Do I love myself? I have no clue. Well, do I like to be alone with myself (because when you love someone, you want to be with them, right)? Hell no I hate being alone, because I think too much. Do I take care of myself with good behavior? Sometimes, when I think about it. A lot of times, no. I don't know. I do know the opposite of fear is faith. Faith doesn't have to be Faith in Jesus Christ, Faith in God—faith is just faith that you are ok, that the future will be ok, that life is winding the way it's supposed to, that it's just ok. So we fear ourselves, love, lonliness. So to be healthy, we have to develop faith in ourselves? With faith in yourself, it'd seem being along should be fine right. How to sort that all out is overwhelming sometimes. I need a flow chart. I keep paying $30 a session, and yet to get an answer. That was random, sorry. I think we have to have faith in ourselves, have no fear of what's inside, of what we truly are. Then comes love, love of ourselves. Once we have that, we feel okay with taking and accepting love. When we fear ourselves, when we are loveless for ourselves, that's what we give other people or that's what we seek in other people. So I think that in this journey and process, relationship attempts should be taken very cautiously, very openly, as they have the potential to turn into a charade.This loving myself, having faith in myself and faith in what I truly am… is incredibly challenging, and I don't struggle with the identity disturbances as much as someone with borderline. Another great post Haven! Thank you! Emily

  4. Put another way. You fear closeness because you fear abandonment.—-> You fear abandonment because you fear being alone.—–> You fear being alone why????? Without these fears, attachment would come easier, perhaps without so much pressure, unnatural manipulation.My counselor ask me, "what is truly so horrifying about being alone?" At the end of the day, what it is about being alone that creates so much anxiety? Answer: Fear of yourself. I'm sure you've blogged this topic before, your last paragraph just made me think of this . em

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