romantic idealization

Romantic Idealization And Devaluation
In Women With Traits of BPD

If you are like most men who have found themselves in a committed relationship with a woman with traits of borderline personality disorder or BPD, you probably started off feeling like you were the luckiest guy in the world. Here was a woman who not only understood you but who you could truly be yourself with. Being in the initial stages of a relationship with a woman with traits of BPD can feel like being truly accepted for the first time in your life.

But as euphoric as the highs of the initial relationship may have been, your hopes for a healthy relationship were probably dashed when your initially kind and loving partner inexplicably began to show irritation, and if you stuck around long enough, may have entered into what looked to be a full-blown campaign to tear down your self-esteem along with your worth as a man.

Here are some of the insinuations or outright accusations that men may experience when women with traits of BPD make the transition from idealizing to devaluing their romantic partners:

You are incompetent
You are not smart
You are not committed to her
You have poor judgment
You don’t know how to treat a woman
You are not faithful
You don’t care about her
You are weak
You are cowardly
You are unattractive
You are selfish
You are a poor lover
You don’t really love her

Most of us assume that a person who is being subjected to this kind of behavior on a regular basis would soon realize that they are in a relationship with an unhealthy partner. But there is one very unusual aspect of the behavior pattern of romantic devaluation associated with BPD that can keep a man locked into the kind of relationship that he ordinarily wouldn’t dream of staying in.

What makes the relationship with a woman with traits of BPD so different is that the red flags that most people look for in order to determine whether their partner truly has their interests in mind are absent. Instead of red flag warnings, the woman with traits of BPD will give him every reason in the world to trust him. In a relationship with a woman with traits of BPD, devaluation usually does not emerge until the woman in question has won over the trust of her partner completely.

It may sound cruel and malicious to draw a man in, win his trust over completely, and then systematically tear him down. But the truth is that in most of these relationships the woman herself may have no idea during the idealization phase that she is headed straight towards the destruction of her relationship.

In fact, in many cases, even in the middle of the most vicious campaign to tear her loved one down, she is often unaware of why she is devaluing him. Most women with traits of BPD are initially as confused by the devaluation phase of their relationship as their partner.

There are two questions that unanswered lead to a great amount of confusion on the part of men who have been through this cycle.

1. If a romantic partner has devalued you this way does it mean she actually has the condition of borderline personality disorder?

2. What exactly is it that can make a woman pull out all the stops to win your trust only to then turn on you when you are at your most vulnerable.

We’ll start with the first question. Does a wife or girlfriend who first idealized you and then began a campaign to devalue you have the condition known as borderline personality disorder?

The simple answer is that although she may have traits of BPD and she may engage in behaviors associated with BPD, she probably does not qualify for the diagnosis. Not all women who have the tendency to at first idealize their partner and then when they have won his trust devalue him have a personality disorder.

Women who possess less pronounced traits of sensitivity associated with BPD or who don’t have the environmental factors in their background that can lead to BPD may engage in idealization and devaluation in their romantic relationships. But as long as they remain functional in their everyday lives they will probably not qualify for the diagnosis.

As with most traits associated with BPD, there is a spectrum that can be applied to the pattern of romantic idealization and devaluation. Most women who engage in this pattern would not be eligible for the diagnosis. But even women who do not qualify for diagnosis can cause a great deal of damage to their partners when their idealization fades.

Let’s now take a look at why female romantic idealization so often leads to devaluation in relationships.

Romance: When Interest Turns to Obsession

The personality trait that drives the two phases of romantic idealization and devaluation is actually a very common trait in women. The trait can be described as an extreme interest in anything related to romance, but it is actually a strong interest in all kinds of bonding with others. This strong interest can cause a woman to form an idealized picture of a future mate and her life with him.

In order to more clearly understand the personality trait that leads to romantic idealization and devaluation, we are going to take a look at an imaginary scale or spectrum of interest in romance.

Spectrum of Interest In Romance

romantic idealization

At the far left side of this spectrum you will find individuals who are the most interested in all things romantic. You might even say they are obsessed with romance. On the right side we will place people who may choose to be in a lifelong partnership but who do not idealize their relationships.

Because strong interest in romance is a very common female personality trait, we will find that most of the people who are highly interested in romantic love are women. Conversely, because the ability to separate from or ignore one’s emotions easily is a very common male personality trait, we will find mostly men on the right side of the spectrum of interest in romance.

Interestingly enough, if we move far enough out to the left side of this spectrum, we will encounter women who may qualify for the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. These are women who so obsessed with romance that they become destructive to the men who choose to partner with them.

Because of their ability to portray to men a convincing ideal version of themselves in the beginning of their relationships, men tend to fall deeply in love with them. These men are usually devastated when the illusion fades and the woman they love finds herself too closely entangled for comfort and pushes him away.

But what confuses men even more is the fact that their loved one doesn’t just leave the relationship. She launches what looks like a deliberate campaign to demean him. Most idealizing women are unable to cope with the reality they face when their idealization fades. These women often transfer the blame for their disapointment onto their unsuspecting partners. The way they do this is by devaluing them. This gives an idealizing woman the perfect excuse to back-pedal out of the intimacy she created in her fantasy relationship.

But women with BPD are not the only ones who struggle with this polarity in their romantic lives. In order to understand how this spectrum of interest in romance affects us we need to look at both sides of the spectrum. Both men and women who are too far over to the left and right side of the spectrum of interest in romance tend to create painful and unhealthy emotional environments for relationship partners.

The challenge for men who are often too far over on the right side is to get more in touch with their emotions so that they understand a woman’s more pronounced emotional needs in romantic relationships.

The challenge for women who are often too far over to the left side of this spectrum is to learn the skills of separating from their emotions so they can provide a less emotionally volatile environment that is essential for most men’s comfort level in romantic relationships.

Although the average woman resides somewhat to the left side of center and the average male somewhat to the right side of center on this spectrum, there are also plenty of men who possess a strong interest in romance and plenty of women who although they may be happily partnered find they have very little interest in it.

Now that we have addressed the character trait that can lead to romantic idealization, let’s take a look at why this type of idealization so often leads to devaluation.

Why Women Devalue Their Partners

What drives idealization and devaluation by women in romantic relationships at a very basic level is relationship insecurity. There are many factors that can lead to relationship insecurity, but the one we will be addressing is insecurity caused by idealizing women who enter into committed relationships without establishing sufficient trust with their partner.

Although we may not see idealization as problematic in itself, it plays a big part in devaluation. Women who idealize often consider being in love or achieving a lifelong relationship as more important than who they choose for a partner. In order to fulfill her perfect fantasy, an idealizing woman may fool herself into believing she has found the perfect man based on nothing more than wishful thinking.

The idealization phase predictably ends once the woman gets a man to completely give himself over to her. At this point the rosy glow fades and the woman finds herself stuck in a committed relationship with a person who she realizes no longer fits her ideal. There is a great drop in valuation of her mate that occurs at this stage due to disappointment. But her disappointment at not having the ideal partner is only a small factor in the chain of events that leads to devaluation.

What causes female devaluation in romantic relationships is a protective defense mechanism that all people have that lies in wait, ready to protect us from uncomfortable feelings. It is this very common defense mechanism that kicks in after the idealization phase ends to protect idealizing women from what they experience as a harsh reality.

When Men Are Pushed Off Their Pedestal

When a woman idealizes a love interest, she will see him in his perfect form, without any faults or flaws. This idealization allows her to skip all of the necessary steps we each need to go through in order to feel safe and secure before we enter the commitment stage of a relationship. The steps she does not take are the ones that would assure her that her future mate accepts her with all of her faults and flaws and that she accepts him with his faults and flaws.

A woman who is idealizing a love interest does not show him her flaws. She will be very busy only showing him her best side. Although she may not realize it, her goal in the beginning stages of her relationship will be to achieve a feeling state of euphoria.

A relationship in which the woman is only showing her best side and only acknowledging her love interest’s best side does not allow either partner to test for true compatibility and mutual trust. But this two-way idealization does encourage her love interest to join into her state of euphoria. Unfortunately, her narcissistic focus on her own desires will come back to haunt her when her idealization finally fades.

What she will feel when the honeymoon phase of her relationship is over will be similar to the way we all feel after we make an impulsive buying decision and find ourselves stuck with something, or in this case someone we don’t necessarily want.

But her sense of buyer’s remorse will not be the only reason she feels compelled to pull back. Because she has not taken the steps to build up the necessary trust, she will also be left with a very strong fear of being over her head or in too deep that she will not necessarily understand or even be consciously aware of.

It is at this point that a woman’s psychological defense mechanisms will take over in order to protect her from two things. It will step in to protect her from the fear of intimacy with a man she has not established trust with. It will also step in to protect her from the embarrassment and guilt of having lured an innocent person into love under false pretenses.

The defense mechanism that most women who idealize use to emotionally distance from relationships formed without a foundation of trust is the defense mechanism of devaluation.

Devaluation as a Defense Mechanism

Devaluation is a form of psychological protection usually used when people want to very quickly distance from another individual. A woman who finds herself permanently attached to a man she no longer has strong feelings for will be in an uncomfortable situation.

When her fantasy fades she will become acutely aware that while her feelings have flatlined out, her partner is still wildly passionate about her and expecting her to feel the same way. Having declared her passion for him so many times she will know that she has no excuse for taking the space she may suddenly want.

It is at this point that her defenses will kick in. Let’s take a quick look at how common defense mechanisms work so you can better understand the defense mechanism of devaluation.

The way most human defenses work to save us from uncomfortable emotional states such as embarrassment, guilt and fear is they supply us with justifications for any inappropriate actions we may want to take to escape from an unwanted emotional state.

As a quick example of how everyday defense mechanisms work, if we find ourselves over-eating a day after we announced to the world that we were on a diet, our subconscious mind will attempt to supply us with justifications that to others may seem flimsy. Because we are eager to escape embarrassment at lack of self control we will grab on to this justification and use it to ward off our uncomfortable feelings.

In the same way, when a woman finds herself committed to a partner she has not established trust with or who she now deems unworthy, her defense mechanisms will step in. They will provide her with justification so she can distance herself without having to feel guilty. They will also justify her unwillingness to admit to herself or her partner that she made a huge mistake that will bring very real consequences for him.

Since she will be feeling desperate to put space between herself and her partner, it will not take much of a justification for her to latch onto. Even so, her defense mechanisms will have to switch into high gear since the man she is with is now in love with her and probably has given her no good reason to withdraw.

The easiest defense mechanism available will be the defense of devaluation. This is a tactic used by many people when they need to quickly distance from someone who is making them feel uneasy. The most common use of devaluation as a defense is by children and young adults.

Children and teenagers tend to use devaluation to make a statement that shows they are not linked to individuals that may threaten their social standing. Devaluation usually consists of put-downs or actions that convey contempt. These insults make it clear that they have no connection to an individual that they fear may bring them down the social ladder.

Defensive devaluation can also be used by an individual who is feeling threatened due to a perceived power imbalance between themselves and another person. Devaluing allows them to make the other person feel inferior so they no longer feel as threatened. Devaluing can be used to create emotional safety and distance without the need to create physical distance.

This is the defense most women who idealize use to get the distance they need to stay in their comfort zone without leaving their relationship. They may also use devaluation to justify leaving the relationship. Devaluing conveniently allows them to leave without accountability for the pain their action will cause.

Unfortunately, although idealization always fades, devaluation can continue throughout the life of the relationship. A woman who has not established trust with her partner may use it indefinitely to ward off feelings of insecurity due to fear of rejection, abandonment or being taken advantage of.

But as painful as we can imagine it is for a man to be devalued by a woman he is in love with, a devaluing woman will usually be oblivious to the consequences of her actions. Unfortunately, the nature of defense mechanisms is to get us to do whatever it takes to protect ourselves no matter how destructive these actions prove to be to others. When we are under the influence of a defense mechanism, we will not see the pain our behavior is causing to others.

Now that you have a clearer understanding of the mechanics of devaluation, let’s take a look at how it feels from the perspective of the woman devaluing.

Devaluation From a Female Perspective

There are several ways a woman’s idealization turns to devaluation. A woman who has idealized may be aware that she has lost the ideal version of her partner. She may literally wake up one morning and realize she has made a terrible mistake. But there are many women who do not recognize that a change has occurred.

A devaluing woman may simply notice that she has become strangely irritable lately. She may feel like she is unusually cranky or for some reason in a bad mood whenever her partner is around. She may find that all of the little things he does that used to be endearing now irritate her. She may also find herself less able to be tactful and more freely expressing her negative feelings in his presence.

But because this clearly bad behavior towards her loved one will not show her in a very good light, her defenses will need to kick into even higher gear in order to protect her from having to feel embarrassed about her bad treatment of the man she supposedly loves.

At this point a second layer of defense may kick in to protect her from guilt. She may in her mind begin to minimize the effect of her actions on her partner, telling herself she treated him poorly because she was just in a bad mood while ignoring the fact bad moods are temporary; whereas her mistreatment of her partner has become a constant.

She may also begin to look for things about her loved one that when exaggerated or seen in certain lights can justify her devaluation of him. If this pattern of devaluation continues over a long period of time, she will eventually decide that he deserves her insults and criticisms, ignoring the fact that it is never our right to take on the role of a punisher for our mate.

Let’s now take a look at what devaluation feels like from the side of the person being devalued.

A man who has been drawn into the web of an idealizing woman will not be aware that she has only taken in his best qualities and has ignored his faults and flaws. He also will be unaware that she has only shown him her ideal self and that he has never seen her faults and flaws.

Instead of recognizing that some women can hide their true selves for longer than he might imagine possible, he may mistakenly believe that he has lucked out in finding someone who possesses the skill level to consistently show respect, kindness and good will towards him.

He will not realize that women who idealize rarely possess these important partnership skills. Idealizing women tend to rely solely on euphoric love to motivate their respect, kindness and good will to their partner. They may not have had enough practice to develop the skills to override emotions so they can treat their partner well even when they are not in the best of moods. And they may have little practice translating emotions into words that can be used to effectively communicate their needs.

Without this understanding, a man may spend months or even years trying to apply logic to a woman’s devaluation. He may endlessly attempt to convince her that he is a good person who does not deserve her anger. But because her devaluation is a defense mechanism, his attempts to change her mind will not be effective.

Certainly not all women devalue their husbands either in public or in private. If a woman does not possess the traits that drive her to idealize her mate she usually won’t engage in devaluation. There are also women who do have the tendency to idealize but who soon come to accept that married life is not a romantic fantasy. They eventually learn the skills necessary to achieve a peaceful relationship.

Please join me in Part Two of this blog series Women on the Spectrum of BPD: Techniques That Stop Devaluation where you will be learning techniques from the Nicola Method that allow partners of women with traits of BPD to put a stop to the defense mechanism of devaluation.

Related Posts:

Did Your Ex-Girlfriend Have Traits Of Borderline Personality Disorder?

Women With Traits of BPD – Why Did She Lie?

Breakups With Women With Traits of BPD – Five Misconceptions That Keep Men From Letting Go and Moving On

BPD and the Nice Guy Personality Type

Identifying Traits of BPD In Women Before Relationship Commitment

Women With Traits of BPD – Why Men Stay

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