• The Sex Lives of the Borderline and Narcissist

    This post is part of a series of guest posts on GPS by the graduate students in my Psychopathology course. As part of their work for the course, each student had to demonstrate mastery of the skill of “Educating the Public about Mental Health.” To that end, each student has to prepare two 1,000ish word posts on a particular class of mental disorders.


    The Sex Lives of the Borderline and Narcissist by Derek Minor

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    It is not uncommon to come across an individual with a personality disorder in your daily life, as nearly one in 10 individuals in the United States qualify for such a diagnosis. One group of personality disorders described as being highly emotional, dramatic in nature, or erratic is the Cluster B personality disorders as found in the DSM-5. Two of the disorders found in this cluster are borderline personality disorder (BPD) and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). In the United States, the prevalence rate for BPD is approximately 5.9%. For NPD, the prevalence rate is approximately 6.2%. Both of these disorders can be extremely damaging to the development of romantic relationships, and they can be especially damaging in how they affect the sexual behaviors of those with BPD and NPD.

    The BPD individual is characterized by emotional lability, interpersonal difficulties, abandonment issues, and problems with impulse control. The individual with NPD is characterized by lacking empathy, feeling the need for admiration from others, having a grandiose sense of self, and trouble developing emotional closeness with others. One thing both of these disorders have in common is unhealthy sexual relationships, but for two very different reasons. As will be explained, those who have BPD engage in maladaptive behaviors resulting in harmful relationship outcomes, and for those with NPD, a lack of emotional closeness results in a lack of long-term relationships.

    One prominent characteristic that can manifest in an individual with borderline is sexual impulsivity. This can be especially damming to the development of romantic relationships. For instance, promiscuity is a common feature of the borderline who engages in sex impulsively. Additionally, those with borderline suffer many consequences related to their sexually impulsive behavior which is heightened with a comorbid substance use disorder. Those with BPD tend to have double the number of sexual partners than average, more causal sexual interactions, and have sexual relationships at a younger age. They also tend to experience more high-risk sexual behaviors. They are more likely to be pressured into having sex, raped by someone they do not know or the victim of date rape. Finally, they have higher rates of contracting sexually transmitted diseases than seen by the general population which can be traced back to high-risk sexual behavior including non-use of protection. As can be seen, impulsivity can be very destructive and must be taken seriously due to its profound impact on the individual with BPD.

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    There are several theories that seek to explain the borderlines sexual behaviors, in addition to difficulties with impulsivity. One symptom common to those with BPD is chronic feelings of emptiness. To counter these feelings, the borderline uses sex as a means to fill that emptiness. Also, sexual abuse is a common factor that many BPD individuals have experienced. Sexual abuse has the tendency to distort one’s ability to understand sexuality and intimacy which may lead the borderline to engage in sexual activities outside the norm. Finally, people with BPD have issues with attachment as they fear being left alone. Having sex is a way to engage with their partner in a way that reinforces a connectedness which reassures the borderline. Therefore, as can be seen, sex is used as a coping method to help the borderline feel more connected with others and feel better about him or herself.

    Those with NPD also tend to have a dysfunctional sex life; however, their situation is a little different because their problem is with a lack of emotional intimacy. For the narcissist, sexual partners can be characterized as trophies used to enhance his or her self-esteem and self-worth. For instance, they will look for individuals that will somehow bolster their identity in one way or another. Some would even characterize them as “players.” They feel very little need to have an emotional attachment or commitment with others before engaging in sex. Narcissistic individuals are looking for pleasure instead of searching for some sort of commitment or an emotional connection with another human being.

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    Ultimately, due to the narcissist’s outlook on romantic relationships, finding a lasting, healthy relationship is difficult if not nearly impossible. They literally place all their stock on individualist rewards they can gain from a relationship such as pleasure and power. The narcissist tends to devalue rewards such as intimacy and emotional closeness needed for a healthy, long term relationship. Due to this, the narcissist makes a very poor romantic partner. For one, it has been found that they are less committed to the relationship. Secondly, they tend to be less faithful when in a romantic relationship. Finally, they tend to be not as close emotionally with their partner when in a romantic relationship. In essence, they place a barrier between themselves and those they have intimate relations with which prevents emotional closeness and the formation of a long term relationship.

    Those with personality disorders can be a destructive force ripping through lives of both those with the disorder and the ones they encounter. One common problem for both BPD and NPD is the development of appropriate sexual relationships. The borderline is looking for a sense of intimacy and reassurance that he or she is not alone. However, they look in all the wrong places as their lives are put in danger as they engage in high risk sexual behaviors. The narcissist is also looking for a way to make him or herself feel better. They are looking for pleasure and a way to bolster their self-image by seeking out those who can build them up in power and self-worth. However, they will never find what they are looking for because they are unable to make true emotional connections as they go through life with a barrier firmly placed between themselves and those they encounter. For those with BPD and NPD, their only hope is a qualified therapist and the willingness to self-examine, work hard, and make some difficult changes.




    Category: FeaturedMental HealthPsychologyTeaching


    Article by: Caleb Lack

    Caleb Lack is the author of "Great Plains Skeptic" on SIN, as well as a clinical psychologist, professor, and researcher. His website contains many more exciting details, visit it at www.caleblack.com

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    • jamesnimmo

      Does this article describe historical figures like Casanova, Bevenuto Cellini, or closer to our own era, politicians Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich and entertainers with several divorces, just to touch the surface of people who we find out about due to scandal or other public revelation? Can’t such behavior be attributable to men and women who just like sex? Doesn’t much of any opprobrium from society depend on if others are hurt physically and /or emotionally? I’m not trying to be argumentative, but who are we to judge others who have this private problem?

      • This is primarily drawn from the published literature, meaning it looks at people who could be clinically diagnosed with these symptom clusters (disorders). I think the main “judgment” comes from that fact that this isn’t typically a “private problem,” as it impacts a large number of other people (their significant others, family members, random sexual partners, and such) in addition to causing problems for their own selves.

      • frank

        am glad you said its a problem…..all these people had tragic endings except bill his was disgraceful

    • Egghead Einstein

      I’m diagnosed borderline and decided in my teenage years not to get addicted to hookers or one night stands, seeing that I was reckless enough as it is with drugs and was equally reckless with sex. I preferred the risks associated with drugs rather than requiring to trust a woman i might not know at all. What happened? I ended up dating hookers, strippers and everyone else unavailable.. never was a client. I just somehow unconsciously found a way to spot them, and I guess as narcissists they clung to my approval and fascination with their aloofness and detachment from emotional liability, while securing a partner who was sexually available but emotionally unavailable.. and who would by default make me jealous, thereby reliving my childhood trauma of abandonment guaranteed. YAY! 45 years into it everything makes sense. My last ex-GF was the most narcissistic psychopath I have ever encountered in the real or the criminal world. Our sex life was amazing to me, she wanted me to slap her and choke her and I have never been invited to do so. Of course, for her I was just a trophy indeed and at the very peak of my addiction to her, she went cold. Three years later she told me she would take me back in a minute. I agreed. Then laughed via email telling her I would not fall for THAT again .Her idea of ‘taking me back’ is simply hiding her other trophies as they are acquired and discarded. Funny thing was she was a massage girl, and I checked every client.. all of them said she was clean.. nothing but hand jobs as usual. They weren’t lying. That was her control. What I NEVER imagined was that even after them, and me.. she would STILL be sneaking around meeting men off the internet… sex was not her goal.. it was narcissistic supply. If she wasn’t proposed, she’d be just as satisfied knowing she was powerful enough to fool me.. or whoever she may have been fooling. Some gusy might have thought they were her boyfriend, and they were the ones being fooled. I can’t, will not, not really want to know the ultimate truth. Well.. i kinda do… but I’m happy enough just imagining the worst case scenario and getting comfortable with it.Truly we are at opposite ends of the spectrum. She was able to run through men like nothing… not me.. if the sex is good I will be more than happy to stay and work hard at it. With my ex and other narcs.. the sex is really not important.. the intimacy.. the kinkiness.. the sharing.. it doesn’t happen for them. So regardless of how wonderful, gorgeous or intelligent one may be to the entire universe.. the narcissist will just move on. I consider them like trophy hunters and we are the moose or deer.. or fish to a fisherman. They may talk about the day they caught the BIG one.. but it was still just another day..they’ve been fishing the rivers just as persistently ever since. And no, they do not throw back the babies.A borderline is like a trophy hunter who approaches the animal unsure, walks up and pets it, feeds it some food and even tells it how sorry it is they were there to hunt it. The problem begins when the animal begins to walk away…

      • Ed

        –“A borderline is like a trophy hunter who approaches the animal unsure,
        walks up and pets it, feeds it some food and even tells it how sorry it
        is they were there to hunt it. The problem begins when the animal begins
        to walk away…”

        This is great example of borderlines telling themselves lies. What planet are you living on where borderlines only start cheating and lying and abusing their partners when their partner wants to leave them? You could always argue that you personally don’t behave that way. Except you didn’t say you were speaking for yourself, you were speaking for all borderlines. I spoke to another borderline once who was talking about her relationship break down and had no idea why I would ask if she cheated, as if borderlines aren’t well known for being serial cheaters and pathological liars.

        Borderlines are great at seeing bad behaviour in other people even if it’s behaviour they themselves engage in, especially people that hurt them, but never in themselves. And this is yet again another example of how they can’t have accountability for their own behaviours. You do realise that all those terrible things you described your Ex girlfriend doing can be found in abundance in borderline women right?

        Maybe you never let yourself get into a relationship with someone that wasn’t a narcissistic and so never inflicted abuse on anyone in this way, and that could be why you feel like the victimised one all the time. But even if that were actually true it would still be absolutely delusional or incredibly ignorant if you think that those with borderline personality are the way you described.

        If I were to make your analogy more accurate. It would be like befriending an an animal and initially treating it very well. Then after a while you get bored of it but still keep it around, but you start to hate and resent it. You start to hurt it and get angry with it, but you flip back and forth to keep it confused and unsure what to think. Over time you increase the abuse which it learns to accept as normal and so desperate for that love it saw at the beginning that they look forward to the smallest displays of affection. Then when you finally decide you’ve found it’s replacement/s you kick it in the stomach and then as it lies there in agony or erupts in rage and despair you think “I knew you were bad, you’re attacking me, you’re the bad one here and I’m totally justified”

      • frank

        dude i feel like you are my twin and know me well. How are yu coping with this now that you know would love to talk to you

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    • Ed

      I’ve seen so many people talk about the different forms of narcissists to differentiate different behaviours of those with npd. eg. Cerebral narcissist, covert narcissist, malignant narcissist, invert narcissist. etc. With bpd you have the same distinctions being drawn between how this can be expressed, the two most dramatic differences are the loud aggressive borderlines and the quiet “waifs”.

      After hearing endless people LOT a talk about this I just can’t see a dividing line anymore between bpd and npd. If you listen to endless numbers of people describing narcissist and borderlines and not be able to tell the behaviours apart, then the reason for the distinction becomes arbitrary. BPD should be, and is, just another form of narcissism. Where BPD should be seen as a sub category where not all narcissists are borderlines, but where all borderlines are narcissists.

      For those reading this and may be huffing and puffing in disagreement, when you realise that stories from people that experienced relationships with those with bpd and stories from people that experienced relationships with those with npd could be switched out for each other where no one will be able to tell which is which anymore, maybe you might understand where I’m coming from. Of course there are differences between some forms of narcissism and BPD, but that’s the reason why people keep coming up with an ever expanding continuum of different narcissist personality types for narcissists that behave different enough from each other to justify further sub-categorisation. But for some reason we’re really resistant to seeing the borderline as just another narcissist personality type and as if it’s on a different continuum entirely.

      When the only explanation is inevitably that BPD and NPD can be comorbid with each other you have to ask yourself if you’re just making excuses for what appears to be an entirely arbitrary distinction.

      I have to correct something in this article. The classic narcissist still hates themselves, just as the borderline does. The difference is usually expressed where the narcissist more consciously believes they are amazing and deserving of success, but where it’s based on such shakey foundation they need constant validation or the whole thing crumbles and they feel empty. So long as they’re getting that “supply” of validation they’re fine but often they can’t because they cause so much drama, when this happens they’ll go into periods of self hatred where they’ll blame it all on other people. The borderline has a similar cognitive dissonance. This is instead usually expressed as a more conscious feeling of worthlessness. They require validation to show they are worth something and make that empty feeling go away. Yet at the very same moment they feel they feel they are worthless and that they’re terrible people they also believe they are deserving and better than other people. That’s why borderlines are able to behave so abominably towards their partners, with behaviour that’s indistinguishable from sociopathic lack of concern or guilt over hurting the people they’re most close to.

      The reason for their sociopathic behaviours is the narcissist side of their personality that’s so self absorbed and so self centred that they can’t care about the other person. Just like the classic narcissist, the borderline also only cares about attaining their supply of validation. They both pathologically lie with no remorse, and they’ll both only feel bad about what they do if it had negative repercussion for them. So they can feel quite happy if they’re getting that validation, even if they’re shamelessly cheating behind your back, so long as you don’t know about it. The only negative for them is their ever increasing sense of loathing towards their partner when they’re doing this to them. Now once their partner finds out, or gets jealous, or suspicious, that’s different. Now you can observe them seemingly upset, they can cry and say they’re sorry, but even if they aren’t aware of it they’re only upset because they got caught. Otherwise they’d have felt that before and it would have emotionally crippled them the more they disrespected and betrayed their partner, instead betraying their partner actually causes them to disconnect and care even less about their partners feelings! They see their partner that they betrayed them as attacking them, no matter how it’s approached, which only increases the disconnect they feel from their partner. (Hence the term “split to black”) With BPD or NPD it’s exactly the same attitude, an attitude that’s the equivalent of someone punching you in the face and then when you react negatively to it telling you if you just let them do it it wouldn’t be a problem. Both the BPD and NPD person has to be so self absorbed by their own wants and needs that they can’t care about the harm they cause other people, otherwise they wouldn’t be so destructive.

      And if people are still going to disagree with this, the fact that you find a consistent pattern with all stories of npd and bpd behaviour that prove this to be true disagree with you. You can say all you like that borderlines aren’t really that self centered and narccistsic, but that would have to mean there are only a tiny fraction this applies to. But I bet the truth is more likely one of two things. Enablers who don’t want to believe their borderline in their life is really like this and borderlines who are offended and feel bad being told this. For the latter group don’t be offended if you truly don’t treat people this way, but I’d bet that if we could look back at your history we’d see that’s all it is, your feelings that don’t line up to reality.

    • Truth Be kNown

      It’s kinda funny how these personality types are characterized as complete failures when more often than not they are the highest ranking in societies. I do not believe they are a disorder so much as a naturally reoccurring and intended personality type — we are humans – but still quite animal. I laugh when I read all these ridiculous analogies now after studying these “conditions” quite extensively – it’s like saying now all the grizzly bears must wear suits, eat with a fork and knife and never lose their temper. Yet still the most glaring aspect – most animals, especially humans, need structure….and leaders. I would venture to say over 90% of the world’s prominent leaders fall into these personality types…..

      I have to say the world would be much much less interesting without these people…and quite honestly much less of a world considering the accomplishments of those who do not allow others limits to impede them. As a woman I am fascinated by the rigid arrogant way a surgeon carefully performs massive alterations to other people in a believe they can save their life or improve upon their beauty…..the way an engineer dares to believe he can make a structure to the heavens….Thank God for the good “crazy” ones who manage to get by just fine in life…..

      • NR

        You’re failing to see the difference between personality type and personality disorder. A personality disorder (hence the word disorder) requires impairments in various areas of life.

        The asshole narcissistic surgeon is not NPD unless, for example, he suddenly decides he will do brain surgery for a patient despite not being qualified to do that. Or status showing up to work drunk.

        • Truth Be kNown

          I fail to see where any of us is not impaired by another’s standard. I’m not talking about serial killers.

          • BB Jones

            I absolutly agree…there seems to be a belief that if you dont have the same values and capabilities as someone who has a psychology degree then you have a disorder…that needs to be treated.

            I had a conversation with a psychiatrist about ADHD and pointed out “So you have 1 mode of operation that involves minimal risk taking, strong desires to follow process and fit in with societial norms and take your time to consider things…you also saying that people with ADHD are typically very high on the intelligence scale, but partake in high risk, impulsive activities and are easily distracted…isn’t that how someone who was bored living in a world that is unstimulating would behave…like if all of the speed limits where 20MPH…AND if someone in that spectrum takes an appropriate pill they can then also fit in with the norm…so in essence they have 2 modes of opperation” …so who has the disorder!?

            I also have a partner with Borderline Personality Disorder amd Anorexia who had become hooked on Meth for many years…my view of her was pretty much as per the book with periods of mania and the drugs and Anorexia was her mechanism to remove the lows and anxiety.

            She is very smart and plays the therapists she has seen like puppets to get what she wants…the drs have always tried various medications that have failed because they see the mania as a problem…the dont seem to see the obvious issue with treating it, in that its like she has been watching 4k TV with surround sound and dining out at the finest restaurants and they are trying to get her to listen to an AM radio with a peanut butter sandwich. Of course she is going to crave getting back to her hyper state…and be depressed when she is not in it through low self image (from being diagnosed with a “disorder” etc) or worse medication that brings her down…its like owning a farrari and having the speedo hobbled!!!

            We have found a great solution and therapy that has helped her quit meth, she still enjoys the odd drink, but doesn’t get out of control and is feeling better about herself than she has for 10+ years.

            She has developed a trust with me because I dont see these things as a disorder but a beautiful tallent. When she starts to see the world in an anxious state of mind…we have a cuddle, I tell her how amazing she is, stroke her and calm het down…we then have sex…mind blowing lying there with your head spinning, oh wow, what just happened sort of sex and then cuddle and feel like we are both lucky…anxiety: gone, mania chilled out a little, mental health: great, relationship: stonger, Fitness…getting better every month.

            The more submissive she is…the happier she is, im no sadist dominant guy etc. But happily step up to a more dominant male role (we both know she has all the power ha ha…its just her way of delegating and stroking the delicate male ego)

            So yea…perhaps some people need more stimulation / input and need more love and affection or they spin out a little…it seems like Psychologies view than sex isnt good unless its vanilla and that because they have studied it at university that they understand a different mind better than the people who live in them…is well…arrogant.

            Just thinking out loud…perhaps we need some innovation in Psycology and more recognition that the patient might know their psycology better than the therapist…amd things like “gi and have a nice f* with someone who cares about you” might be better than a life on Anti Psychotic medication 🙂

            P.S. I am at the top of my profession, a company director, highly innovative etc. And am considered to have a very high IQ and EQ….I have children who ars well balanced and high performing in school…confident with great empathy …so yea its a terrible disorder I am suffering from!


            • BB Jones

              I am clearly not the greatest typist on my phone…and spelling …OK ill give you that one two.

              I also meant to say that DBT looks like it has some positives…but its just a good start!

      • frank

        It appears you are validating this type of behavior. I do not believe NPD and BPD are bad people they like everyone else have good and bad and thats life if you choose to see it that way. But i believe the article is talking about how people with such disorders treat themselves and others they come into contact with. I do not believe such people are the ones that make life interesting and to believe such is what interests life is a measure of how indifferent and less caring the world has fallen. This condition is real and it appears (from your response) that you are validating something that one either cant, are unwilling to take responsibility for and are unwilling to change not because one cant but because its just easier to convince everyone else that red is blue and the rest of the world is blue so just be blue when really its still red…

    • Daniel Davis

      I was in a 6 year relationship or agonizingly brutal emotionally devistating soul removal with a histrionic, narcissistic, cluster b covert woman…
      I’ve lost everything being with soulless vampire. My business, my children, all friendships, and almost my sanity and life.
      With the hundreds of articles I’ve read, hundreds of videos I’ve watched, hundreds of hours on a counselors couches and forensic psychologist personality profile tests, etc…
      I found the answer, the secret, the key to it all.
      Or was…
      I was raised tough by strick military parents on a base in Germany for 15 years.
      Beaten into my being from birth were the American Christian values of God, Country, morals, values, honor and respect…
      The essence of right versus wrong are ingrained in my process and procedurally focused mind. Events in life are right or wrong, there is no grey!
      My issue was believing I could help, fix or love another person enough to guide them toward happiness. When I couldn’t I was unable to function mentally or emotionally and became angry, conflicted, i.e… unstable… I lost myself.
      What I learned from this experience, will never be forgotten. And cannot ever be repeated!
      Do I love her? I do..
      Trust? No!
      Return? Never!
      I will not forgive her nor allow her in my life.
      I allowed the abuse, cheating, manipulation, triangulation for too long.
      Believing the lies because I am codependent, and empathic… or rather tough on the outside and soft on the inside..
      My lack of self respect, self esteem and boundaries allowed her the freedom to terrorize my life. So believe me when I can now with absolute certainly..
      How I was able to heal and move on.
      Research, research, research…
      Finding myself, forgiving myself, rebuilding my life.
      Not allowing myself to doubt, be critical of or self punish anymore.
      I am alive and free… free to be happy and love each day without fear again.
      I am not an expert or carry any credentials to mention.
      If I could say one thing that helped me.
      Love yourself!

      • dragonflyRN

        I’m struggling through hell right now by learning my spouse of 20 years has been completely
        Unfaithful with several women as his work and during these years I believed he was a good
        Husband and against cheating . I’ve learned over the last 1.5 years that he’s done horrrific things while he was st work … but accused me for 20 years of the things he was doing ! I’ve been verbally and emotionally beat down and need help from
        Someone who’s been through this and can lead a hand in how they’ve dealt …. im
        Empty and oh so scared ! Can I trust him again ? He was recently diagnosed and seeing a therapist ! Problem is will
        He repeat these behaviors …. he swears something clicked and he wants counseling and has
        Changed ! Can I trust that ?
        It’s my Life and my kids lives that are affected ! I’m
        Scared …. and need guidance !

        • Daniel Davis

          I’m so sorry, I truly am.
          Honestly, in my case, the best thing fo me was leaving, getting help, blocking her from my life and finding myself again.
          Many wonderful folks from discussion groups, therapy and good friends and even strangers have said it is time. Time gives you everything you’ve lost, Time gives you perspective, Time does heal..
          Once you’re out of your situation.

          I hated hearing it myself because I wanted a majic fix, an insiders answer.. sadly there isn’t one. It’s just time…

          Focus on loving yourself and your children. They need that more than anything. So do you..

          I have sole custody of 3 sons from a prior marriage. I was only ever thinking about myself. So consumed with her I neglected to consider my boys were sharing in the misery and living the same hell. We are all in therapy, individually and as a family. This has been a remarkable year for us. We’ve worked through so much. And I think we are going to be ok. I learned how to listen better, and be a better communicator and I pray a better dad too. And I should have done that from day one!

          16 months later, the boys and I are doing pretty darn good. Closer than we’ve ever been and stronger as well. And I really think they won’t be walking down this path in any of their relationships.

          I heard a few weeks ago, the ex, was just left by her second fiancée for cheating, emotional abuse and filed a restraining order.

          Abusers I think can change if they really wanted too. I personally know I can only change me and my behavior.
          Seems she ( the ex) hasn’t and that’s really sad for her.

          I pray you find the strength to do what’s best for you and your children.
          You have a choice, unfortunately they don’t.

          • dragonflyRN

            Thank you for answering my thread , it clearly makes so much sense in the midst of all my confusion & self doubting ~ I need support and better grasp and understanding of someone who’s went through this and loved with or was once married to someone with Borderline ~ I feel I’m the one whose losing it and going crazy ~ my weakened state allows him to feel more in control
            I believe . I would welcome the opportunity to email shannontweedy@rocketmail.com
            Thanks again for your kind words and suooort

    • frank

      Caleb thank you so much for this article i seriously was considering getting help but now i know i do. Mr Egghead Einstein thank you also for your reply it was a heart opener