Dear Dr. Darcy,
I'm a 40-year old woman who fell in love with a woman for the first time. It is like nothing I have ever experienced. But I have a problem with her talking and hanging out with her ex, for whom she admits she still has feelings. She even told me they hung out one night and watched a movie. It was late, so her ex slept on the couch (I found out later that she slept in her bed, fully clothed, but nothing happened…hard to believe, right?) My girlfriend is 48; her ex is 28. There’s a BIG difference in age, but the 28-year-old knows how to play mind games. My girlfriend suffers from mental illnesses such as BPD [borderline personality disorder], anxiety and PTSD. My question is, when is enough ENOUGH?! I'm confused beyond words as to what to believe anymore. My girlfriend says her ex is just a friend; they’ve known each other for two years but dated only for three months. I feel as though I can't break up with her, but I can't stand feeling like this anymore. –Enough
Dear Enough: You had me with borderline personality disorder. Do you know anything about this disorder? Do you know how chronic and resistant to treatment it is? Do you know that it’s not a mental disorder that one is born with but a learned behavioral response? It is a manipulative behavioral response that is 100 percent changeable, but because the individuals who have it tend to be averse to change, they almost never get the help they need—in part because one of its main characteristics is an unwillingness to look at oneself critically or objectively. Another not-so-attractive hallmark of this disorder is pervasive drama within relationships—all relationships. They just can’t seem to get along peacefully, sans drama, the way the rest of us do.
I’m going to upset a lot of people (and I hope it repels personality disordered individuals from seeking me out as a therapist; I’m not your girl), but I would date virtually anyone (were I single) with any diagnosis they had, so long as it wasn’t what your girlfriend has. PTSD? No problem. Anxiety? Fine. Is your girlfriend in treatment? Because she needs to be. She should be in EMDR therapy for the PTSD and anxiety, and she should be in a DBT program for the BPD. Her life should be so consumed with therapy and management of her emotions that she doesn’t have time for the drama you’re describing.
When is enough enough? Yesterday. You’re there. Losing a girlfriend is nothing like losing a boyfriend. It’s going to leave a gap in your gut twice the size because you’ll lose emotional intimacy that’s harder to find in a heterosexual relationship. But you’ll survive. Get yourself into therapy to determine what it is that attracted and was attracted to someone like this—and you’ll increase the likelihood that you’ll pick better next time. For now, rip it off like a Band-Aid.
Dr. Darcy Sterling is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Her practice, Alternatives Counseling, specializes in LGBT issues and is located in New York City. Dr. Darcy’s clinical style is very direct, goal-oriented and pragmatic. For years, the media has been drawn to her unique personality. She has provided expert commentary for networks including E! Entertainment and has worked with television producers throughout the nation. Her blog, AskDrDarcy.com, provides free advice to members of the LGBT community. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212-604-0144.
*This column is not a consultation with a mental health professional and should in no way be construed as such or as a substitute for such consultation. Anyone with issues or concerns should seek the advice of her own therapist or counselor.