When Jealousy Brings Out My 'Borderline Cling'


One of the more complicated parts of having borderline personality disorder (BPD) is when you develop that intense, unbreakable connection to one specific person: your “favorite person,” or FP for short. An FP can be a beautiful, magical part of someone with BPD’s life: it is often the sole person who shows us unconditional love, accepts us completely, makes us feel safe and often even finds the beauty in the person BPD makes us. The negative side, though, is this: we find ourselves needing our FP just as much as we need oxygen to breathe.

The fear of abandonment becomes incredibly intense in regards to my FP. I’m so insecure in our relationship — even with daily reminders that my FP loves me and isn’t leaving, that I’ll never become replaced or be “second best.” I often describe the actions that result from the fear of abandonment of my FP as my “borderline cling.” All of the actions are frantic attempts to avoid the abandonment I fear is around the corner, with or without any reasonable proof.

What is this “borderline cling?” What does it look like?

Well, it’s the silent pleas for love and attention through childish actions. They’re those random messages that you send just to remember that your person is there, that they still care. It’s the vague responses you use in hopes they will demand you say more. They are the moments you beg for the seemingly smallest of things: a warm embrace or the sound of their voice. There are so many ways you may do it, that you can seek attention to soothe that aching heart and empty soul.

Why does this happen? What sets us up for these feelings to push us into action?

Personally, I know it’s a triggered response to my symptoms of fearing abandonment and that horribly unstable self-image that push me to those moments of desperately trying to “cling.” I’m not proud of any of those actions; I despise my constant “need” for love and validation. There is, however, something much more potent, so highly toxic that it quickly turns me into something I hate: jealous.

All it takes sometimes is the smallest of things surrounding an FP to put that “green monster” on the attack: a post on social media, a message from a mutual friend, a sentence that triggers a glimpse into the past, a pause in conversation while they deal with someone else. Suddenly, your mind launches into panic mode, the alarms start blaring at full volume. Maybe you lash out, or perhaps you choose to push away. Other times, you can become so desperate that it puts you into crisis; a spiral into that dark and twisty place. No matter what path you end up on, they all lead to the same place later: regret.

My FP and I have been discussing these feelings quite a bit lately in the hopes of working towards healthier behaviors. She never ceases to remind me that I am just as important to her as she is to me. Messages with reminders that I am loved, that I am an incredible person, that she’s not going anywhere. But, as she’s said, “It’s OK to feel a bit insecure. It’s not OK to let that consume you.”

When emotions get intense and that impulsivity itch is begging to be scratched, it’s hard to take a step back and consult wise mind. Yet, in these moments of jealousy and fear, that’s exactly what must be done. Dialectical behavior therapy (the “gold standard” for treating BPD) reminds us that in order to mindfully act in our wise mind, we need to first take a non-judgmental stance. For me, that means recognizing those feelings of jealousy as soon as they begin to bubble, taking a step back and deciding if that jealous rage is really fitting the facts. After that, it’s time to use some DBT skills, possibly the emotion regulation skill of opposite action or some interpersonal effectiveness to talk things out.

I don’t know that I’ll ever fully remove these feelings of insecurity or completely stop engaging in the “cling.” Even as adults, it’s incredibly hard to share, especially sharing the person you care the most about with other people. I do, however, want to stop the cycle of insecurity starting the destruction of relationships, I want to turn down the dial on the intensity in which the feelings come so that they will stop consuming me. As they say, all things in moderation, or, as Marsha Linehan would say: It’s all about finding the middle path, accessing your wise mind and creating a life worth living.

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