Why My Fear of Abandonment Makes Me Seem 'Manipulative'

One of the major struggles for people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) is fear of abandonment. We go to sometimes extreme efforts to avoid abandonment. This seems to often be one of the most misunderstood aspects of the borderline. To many, we are seen as selfish, manipulative, demanding and unpredictable. The truth is we are just constantly living our lives in fear of ourselves and others. We are afraid to be heartbroken, but we are afraid to be alone. It’s literally the title of a book: “I hate you; don’t leave me.”

My fear of abandonment runs deep and impacts much of what I say and how I spend my time. I will sometimes ask lots of confusing, vague or repetitive questions because I just need my friends to talk to me, comfort me or reassure me they aren’t going to abandon me. I’ll constantly ask what they see in me, why they are friends with me or what they think about me. I will often suggest my friends would be better without me, that I don’t actually do anything for them or that I am needy. I constantly thank my friends for even the smallest of things, send them random cards or gifts just to remind them I care and send them text messages that say things like, “Happy Monday!” or “Haven’t talked to you in a few days and just wanted to say I love you!”

My friends have referred to the questions and some of the other extreme measures as “fishing,” “testing” or “manipulating” them. To my friends, my constant pushes to get them to either remind me of my good points or somehow support me in my own self-destruction is very stressful and extremely unfair. I’ve lost friends due to this inability to rein in my fears of abandonment and the impulsivity it causes. I’ve also had friends simply tell me they are not qualified to deal with me when I do these things. They say it puts them in a difficult place and there is no way for them to navigate through. But to me it is just that desire to have someone care about me and the fear that nobody does that pushes me to do what I do.

The actions I take because of my fear of abandonment are exactly what fuels the fire — my constant reaching and questioning are the cause of most of the falling outs that happen in my life. When I don’t get the responses I feel I need, I sometimes either become more aggressive in my quest to get them or I turn to violence on myself. This means self-harm, other unhealthy coping mechanisms or even suicidal ideation. Instead of finding relief, though, these actions only perpetuate the cycle and fuel my quest for attention even more.

Here’s the thing: I don’t want to be this way. I don’t want to be manipulative, selfish or harmful to those that I love. I don’t want to live my life this way forever, but I also don’t see the exit strategy currently. I’m pushing myself to see both sides of the coin, to find the truth in all perspectives. My dialectical behavior therapy is trying to teach me that there is truth in everything, that all perspectives are valid and can co-exist. My therapist reminds me multiple times each week that “everything in this moment is just as it should be.” Currently this means accepting that my fear of abandonment does make me seem manipulative. It also means recognizing and accepting this means I am making progress towards a healthier version of myself: a version of myself that someday may not be constantly afraid of being alone.

Getty Images photo via Dreya Novak

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