When someone in your life seems to need more and more from you, it can push some buttons, especially if they are needy in a way that is hostile at the same time! People who display these behaviors are often missing a sense of security in relationships. Sometimes people with these behaviors are labeled “BPD” (borderline personality disorder), sometimes not, because one aspect of BPD is insecurity in relationships. The concepts I talk about aren’t BPD-specific at all.
For reasons you’ll easily perceive, they’ve also experienced lots of abandonment, and they’re now experiencing a self-fulfilling prophecy that goes like this:
- I’m terrified that I’m too much for people, and will be abandoned.
- I feel so frightened of being left that I need someone to be here for me ALL THE TIME, and I need to keep testing if they’re here for me. (Possibly by being obnoxious to see if they’ll stay.)
- I have, once again, been abandoned, so now I feel that all my deepest fears are confirmed.
This cycle can change, though, particularly if this person is interested in seeking help/self-reflecting. You can change how it impacts your relationship with them by changing the script. If you don’t do everything they’re demanding you do, but you also don’t leave them, it might give them a new sense of equilibrium in the relationship with you.
You can reclaim the space you need, and help that relationship in your life move forward, by using this structure outlined in “Stop Walking on Eggshells.” It’s a three step process:
- Offer support. Particularly, let the person know that you’re there for him/her. You care.
- Offer empathy. Say, “I can see how hard it’s been for you lately,” or “I see how much you’re struggling, and I can’t even imagine how hard it’s been.”
- Tell the truth. Here’s where you state your boundary. “I’m available to talk with you after I’m done with work at 5 pm,” or “I can stay in this conversation with you only if you stop threatening me.
Boundaries are going to help the person know where your limits are, and if you’ve given heartfelt support, the boundary is more likely to be well-received.
And boundaries will help you to keep your sanity, so you’re available for your life and for all the relationships that matter to you.