women with traits of BPD

Women With Traits of BPD: Why She Can’t Say I’m Sorry

When She Won’t Admit She’s Wrong

If you have ever spent time with a woman who has traits associated with BPD, or a woman who engages in behavior usually associated with borderline personality disorder, you probably know firsthand that getting an apology out of her is next to impossible.

This inability to admit that anything she has done might be wrong is often the death knell for her relationships with others.

After all, being able to apologize to those we are closely connected to is a crucial relationship skill. Without it we find ourselves unable to make amends for our bad moods, misinterpretations, our defenses or our frustrations.

Women With Traits of BPD

In this blog post we are going to take a look at what is really behind this painful behavior pattern in women with traits of BPD. Once you understand the true motivation behind her withholding of an apology you will understand why the many attempts you may have made to get this woman to apologize were guaranteed to fail.

But before we talk about why the woman with traits of BPD cannot seem to apologize for wrongdoing, let’s first address some background information that can be helpful in understanding what is driving her behavior. In order for us to truly understand her motives we must first look at why her inability to apologize is so incredibly hurtful to us.

Why It Hurts So Much

Many of us may think we know the reason that those who cause us pain or harm should apologize. But few of us really understand what is behind this commonly-used formality. When we take a very close look at our need for others to apologize to us, we soon realize that most of the time we already know that the person we want an apology from cares about us.

So if we know they didn’t try to harm us in some way on purpose, but it was more a lapse in judgment or an emotional outburst, why do we need this form of emotional band-aid to make us feel better? The answer to the question of why we need the formality of an apology lies in an all too human character trait that most of us share but few of us are aware of.

The truth is, we are all very, very socially insecure even if we have strong self confidence. Human beings seem to have a natural fear of rejection from others that doesn’t match up with our belief in our worthiness. In other words, even people who have sound self esteem will care too much about what their peers may think about them. This fear of being isolated from the pack may have helped us a great deal in days of old, but it becomes problematic in our present-day society, sometimes causing us to behave in very unhealthy ways.

One unusual aspect of what we could label our natural insecurity is that because we all are equally concerned about the potential rejection by others, we don’t recognize this trait in ourselves. Because we all share it, it feels so normal that it becomes in a sense invisible. But if we look very carefully at our behavior, we will find that as a society we have come up with many formalities which when practiced in our everyday lives keep our natural insecurities at bay.

Apologies are one of these formalities we engage in that are perfectly designed to calm our fears about others rejecting or having negative motives towards us. When we take a moment to reflect on our own behavior we find that there are many times in our daily life when we feel obligated to use the formality of an apology. And we use them even when we know we have done nothing wrong.

For example, let’s take the kind of apology we give when we invade someone’s personal space. We don’t need to be taught that when others get too physically close to us we feel threatened. This is what we might call a built-in fear. This feeling of being threatened is another aspect of our natural insecurity. After all, we no longer live in a society where someone’s proximity alone should cause alarm.

Because of our need to occasionally violate this invisible boundary, we have come up with a way to reassure each other that we mean no harm when we get too close for comfort. The way we reassure each other we are not a threat when we have to enter another’s personal space is we use an apology.

We say either, “Excuse me” or, “I’m sorry” as we reach around someone to get something we need or when we have to get past them when something is blocking our way. We also use this formality when we touch someone by mistake such as when our feet touch another’s in the shared personal space under a table we are sitting at.

When we closely examine our need for an apology from those we interact with, we find that our emotional pain is most often caused more by our insecurity as opposed to our actual belief that the person we want an apology from has actually harmed us in some way.

In other words, for most of us an apology could more accurately be categorized as an act of reassurance rather than an actual healing of our emotional injury. But if an apology is really nothing more than a reassurance of something we already know to be true, why do we experience so much pain when we don’t get it?

The reason it hurts so much to be denied an apology is because it triggers our own insecurities that make us fear another will reject, abandon or harm us. The message that someone who hurts us sends when they act like they don’t want to reassure us is that they don’t care about us anymore. Because we are insecure around our social connections to others, the withholding of an apology can feel very threatening to our relationships.

You may be starting to realize that all this talk about insecurity and triggers which you may have assumed was connected to the woman with traits of BPD’s problems is equally at play in our own responses to these individuals. If you are beginning to make this connection, you are well on your way to understanding the dynamic of BPD behavior.

Now that you have a little more clarity on why it hurts so much not to get an apology, we can turn our focus to the reason women with traits of BPD refuse to apologize for obvious wrongdoing. The answer to this question lies in a combination of character traits that cause her to act out with those she is close to.

These character traits are actually very common female traits which we can easily recognize either in ourselves or in people we know. The reason we do not recognize the behaviors of a woman with BPD as stemming from common female traits is because they are in a more extreme form. We will find that when we see these traits in the average female, they seem normal to us. But when we encounter an extreme version of them, they confuse us and we experience them as strange and unusual.

Trait No. 1: Fear of Negative Judgment

Let’s now take a look at the first and primary character trait that leads women with traits of BPD to refuse to apologize for wrongdoing. You may suspect that the personality characteristic that causes these women to withhold apologies is some kind of lack of sensitivity or perhaps an inability to care about or empathize with others.

Although these are the most common reasons that people refuse to give apologies when they are needed, the woman with BPD does not suffer from hard-heartedness. In fact, quite the opposite. The woman with traits of BPD is actually over-empathetic. She is excruciatingly aware of the pain of others, so much so that she finds herself incapable of facing her guilt when she realizes it is her that has caused it.

The character trait that keeps a woman with traits of BPD from admitting to wrongdoing is actually an extreme sensitivity to the negative judgment of others. She feels so much humiliation at potential rejection that she enters a state of what might be labeled a form of light paranoia.

When she fears others will betray her, her fears become so real that she experiences the humilation of rejection without it actually happening. Although this may seem to be yet another strange phenomenon caused by a disorder, this form of light paranoia is just a normal human behavior that we fail to recognize in the woman with traits of BPD because it is in its extreme form.

In order to understand this trait we must turn to our most vulnerable relationships. The romantic relationship is the arena in which almost every one of us has experienced this very same sense of paranoia.

When we find that we are enamored of another and we fear or suspect they might not be as enamored of us, our imagination often takes off. It paints a picture in our heads that is so vivid that it can cause us to experience the kind of humilation that we would feel if the act of betrayal had actually happened.

The woman with traits of BPD is continually caught up in this type of obsessive loop where she cannot help but play out the worst-case scenarios of betrayal in her imagination. These reenactments happen not only with her love interests but often with everyone she is close to. You will soon learn that this ability to conjure up the worst-case scenario plays a major role in her refusal to admit to wrongdoing.

Coping Mechanisms For an Insensitive World

Unfortunately, in the world we live in we hurt others every day. We are emotional creatures with natural selfish urges. It can take the discipline and practice of a Buddhist monk to monitor our behavior enough to honestly assure those around us that we won’t hurt them. One might even say that life often seems to resemble a series of mistakes, leaving us grateful that those around us can forgive us in the same way we forgive them. Apologies are our go-to method for moving past these minor indiscretions.

A woman with traits of BPD in a sense is not cut out for surviving in our rough and tumble world. Without any specialized instruction for how to get by with her extreme sensitivities, she often makes the decision, either consciously or unconsciously, to block out the pain caused by her oversensitivity.

Without help, she may find that in order to function as the rest of us do, she must shut off the part of her that cares so deeply about the judgment of others including her own judgment of herself. Many of these women learn to use the fear-driven worst-case scenarios of betrayal that play out in their head as a justification to cut off from their feelings of empathy for the pain they have caused us.

She makes the decision that no one is supporting her and instead everyone is trying to manipulate, control or take advantage of her. By making this global assumption she places herself directly into the role of a victim. This allows her to cut off her excessive empathy for others and also creates an out for herself when she is the one causing pain.

If she is successful in convincing herself that those around her are trying to take advantage of her or to make her feel bad, she can feel justified in dismissing their allegations and can avoid acknowledging her guilt. This defensive maneuver allows her to successfully escape from the pain that would accompany admitting she was wrong.

The maneuvers she uses to avoid guilt are common defense mechanisms. But because she uses them in a more extreme way than we are used to, we fail to make the connection. Instead of recognizing them as everyday defensive maneuvers, we experience her lies, distortions and outright denials as strange and confusing behavior.

In reality her defenses are the same ones that we all use from time to time to avoid our own feelings of shame and guilt. To demonstrate exactly how the woman with traits of BPD avoids having to experience overwhelming guilt and shame over her negative treatment of others, let’s go through a few of the defensive maneuvers often engaged in by the woman with traits of BPD.

In order to avoid having to acknowledge any wrongdoing the woman with traits of BPD may tell herself:

You are trying to make her feel guilty, and since you are trying to manipulate her, she doesn’t owe you an apology.

She didn’t do anything wrong and you are making a mountain out of a molehill and therefore you don’t deserve an apology.

It takes two to tango, and you are trying to get out of your part in it by making her the bad guy, and unless you give her an apology for your part she isn’t going to give you one for hers.

She was a victim in the situation and you just don’t understand her. Since it’s not her fault, she doesn’t owe you an apology.

Although her declarations of innocence may cause you great pain, they are made solely for her protection, not to hurt you. She does not at that moment care about making things right with you. She has her hands full trying to escape the painful feelings of guilt that she would have to face if she admitted to being wrong.

But along with an extreme sensitivity to negative self-judgment which leads to her use of destructive defense mechanisms, there is one other factor that makes a woman with BPD’s refusal to admit to wrongdoing even more problematic in her relationships with others. Let’s now turn to a second characteristic that is also part of the cluster of behaviors often associated with BPD.

Trait No. 2: High Emotionality

This second common female characteristic which plays a role in the refusal of a woman with traits of BPD to admit to wrongdoing is the trait of high emotionality. This trait in combination with oversensitivity to negative judgment often locks the woman with traits of BPD into a cycle that causes her to hurt those around her over and over.

As if the insecurity caused by oversensitivity to negative judgment wasn’t enough of a liability in relationships for women with traits of BPD, this second characteristic when it presents in its extreme form causes even more problems in her relationships.

When these traits are in combination in their extreme form, they can create the cycle of abuse that often occurs in relationships with women with traits of BPD. But before we address the combination of these two traits, let’s take a quick look at each of these traits separately, starting with our first characteristic, the trait of sensitivity to negative judgment.

Separating Out The Traits

Although we have been talking about the downsides of the trait of sensitivity to negative judgment, we will actually find that those who possess only this trait of the BPD cluster often do just fine out in the world. After a few bad experiences they usually learn they must choose people to surround themselves with who are very non-judgmental and who take great care not to hurt others.

The gentle souls that they find to be the most compatible with them often possess this same trait of oversensitivity to negative judgment. With a few other sensitive people in their inner circle, people with oversensitivity to negative judgment usually find the strength to survive the wear and tear of the outside world without too much difficulty.

But women with traits of BPD have an additional characteristic that interacts in a very unfortunate way with the first trait to give us some of the more negative aspects of this combination of traits including lack of ability to apologize for wrongdoing. The second characteristic that often presents in combination with oversensitivity to negative judgment is an unusually high setting of emotionality.

Although the second personality characteristic of high emotionality is not the actual cause of the inability to admit wrongdoing, it is a fan to the flames of fear of negative judgment. But before we take the time to look at how these traits work together, let’s take a look at the second trait of high emotionality separately.

Although many people are baffled by the out of control emotions in women with traits of BPD, what they may not realize is that everything they need to know about her lack of emotional control resides in each of us. Just like the other traits of BPD, high emotionality and the often strange behaviors that stem from it are actually a very normal part of human behavior that we have all experienced at some point.

High Emotionality In Humans

There is one thing that we can all probably agree on when it comes to emotionality. Most of us are aware that when our emotions rise to a certain level we become what could be labeled as irrational. We go into what might be called a state of emotional inhibition.

We could also label this loss of inhibition emotional inebriation because just like a person who is drunk, when our emotions rise to a certain level we lose our sense of judgment and begin to freely express ourselves without the usual monitoring and filtering that keeps us out of trouble in our social interactions with others.

As you now already know, it is necessary for each of us put an extreme amount of care into not expressing ourselves so freely that we offend or upset others. We must continually monitor and keep in check our impulses, editing what we say and do in order to create the smooth social engagement necessary to avoid conflict.

When our emotions reach a certain heightened intensity we lose the ability to inhibit or monitor our emotional expression. And when we lose the ability to control what we think and feel around others, we often find ourselves in the same kind of trouble as those in a barroom environment.

But losing emotional inhibitions is not the only side effect from high emotionality. Along with loss of emotional inhibitions, we also become somewhat deluded into believing that everything we are feeling is in line with reality. We lose touch with the fact that we are under the influence of emotions. Instead of recognizing that we are the ones dramatizing events around us, we become convinced that it is the events themselves that are dramatic and we are merely responding as any rational person would.

The average person may get upset and say things that hurt us because they feel we deserve it when under the influence of high emotions. But the woman with traits of BPD takes it many steps further. The accusations are likely to be inflammatory enough to shatter the trust of any person in her line of fire.

The average person, when they come down from their emotional high, realizes that they were being irrational or somewhat deluded. You will probably be able to get an apology from them after they make the connection that they were wrong. But with the woman with traits of BPD no such apology will be forthcoming. Let’s take a look at why.

When Traits Collide

When both of these traits, oversensitivity to negative judgment and high emotionality, are working in tandem, the real problems for the woman with traits of BPD begin. Initially her fear of negative judgment will cause her to become very afraid and suspicious. This fear will be fanned by the flames of high emotionality, causing her to believe that her suspicions are true. She is then very likely to do and say things she does not mean.

When she comes out of her state of high emotionality, she will find herself face to face with the reality of what she has said or done and the damage that it caused. Her guilt levels over wrongdoing are so extreme that they often send her into defensive denial or blame-shifting to escape the negative feelings.

In other words, women with traits of BPD, in order to survive this unfortunate combination of traits, can easily fall into the habit of using psychological coping mechanisms to protect themselves from excessive guilt and humilation. It is her behavior while in the throws of those defense mechanisms that ends up hurting those around her.

The reason the woman with traits of BPD cannot apologize to you is because in order to do it she would have to admit she did something wrong. Admitting she did something wrong causes her such terrible humilation and guilt that she must change the story of what happened in order to be able to live with herself.

The chance that a woman will end up with this particular combination of characteristics is simply the luck of the draw. Those who are born with this cluster of common traits have a basic blueprint which gives us the ability to predict the behaviors they may engage in when they begin to enter into close relationships. However, although our genetic blueprints may shape our behavior patterns, they do not determine our fate.

There are many women with this combination of traits who have taken a different road. They have been fortunate enough to recognize their weaknesses and have found a way to gain strength in these areas allowing them to have productive relationships.

But those who discover they can take the easy route to escape from their painful sensitivities by using defensive maneuvers may find it very difficult to let go of them for long enough to do the hard work it takes to overcome these challenges.

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Related Posts:

BPD and the Nice Guy Personality Type

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

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

Identifying Traits of BPD In Women Before Relationship Commitment

Romantic Idealization And Devaluation In Women With Traits of BPD

Women With Traits of BPD – Why Men Stay

Did Your Ex-Girlfriend Have Traits of BPD: How to Let Go of the Good Times

Women on the Spectrum of BPD: Did She Really Love Me?

Female Anger In Relationships – Why Is She Always Mad At Me?

Women With Traits of BPD: Why Can’t She Trust Me?

Note to Readers: Please keep in mind that I am not a psychologist or a therapist. Although the descriptions that I provide of women with traits of BPD have been obtained from those I have personally worked with, with the increased education about BPD these descriptions can now be found by anyone simply by reading through any of the forums for those in treatment for the negative behavior patterns associated with this disorder.

What makes my blog unique in the discussion about traits of BPD is the inclusion of a largely ignored set of universal human behavioral traits that play an important role in all kinds of interpersonal conflict. Although this cluster of traits has not been formally studied, I believe each one of us has more than enough experience just being human to be able to recognize the important role these character traits play in all of our lives.

If you would like to learn the Nicola Method so you can put an end to the high conflict situations you may be experiencing, click on this link to the welcome page of this website where you will find the resources you need.

If you want to try out some of the basic techniques of this method for free to see if this method is right for your situation, you can learn them from an intro guide flip-book here or a PDF version of the intro guide here.

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