HomeMain PageRelationshipsSkillsCommunicationHow much should you tell?


How much should you tell? — 12 Comments

  1. Al,
    Thanks for this great article! I also really enjoyed what you said elsewhere on the site about clinging, and how important it is to have a network of people you can turn to.
    My question is this: If I am feeling hurt and panicked because of something emotional that my partner (the avoider) is currently unable to give me, is sharing that with him necessary? Or are there sometimes situations we should just deal with by turning to other sources of support, ie friends? Where might that line be between me communicating fully about my feelings and me not discussing with him things that may result in him feeling guilty about his limitations and withdrawing further?
    I realize the connection to your statement that it's not fair to choose for people what they can and can't handle, and I agree. Just not clear on how that plays in when discussing things with an avoider. I'm thinking perhaps it has something to do with pacing, but I'm quite fuzzy on this.
    Thank you!

  2. Dear Friend,
    Thanks for the good work both in sharing and what you have learned and in linking to my material. I hope it is valuable to your friends, too. So let’s see what comes to mind.
    Ok, let me share a bit about BPD. Here my beliefs. Everyone is to more less affected by BPD. Some are effected, at this point, so much that they fall into diagnosable levels. Some are incapacitated. Some are more or less mildly effected. Thus BPD is normal for all of us.
    I would say that at least 80% of the causes of BPD are a matter of upbringing. A bit are genetic dispositions. I think of BPD as a normal difficulty with a perfectly normal capacity of our brains. Normal thru fairly severe BPD can be made tolerable by relearning.
    When couples come into my office a majority form a BPD – Narcissistic team. The guy tends to be narcissistic and comes in solving his issues through that lens. The gal comes in BPD and is solving her issues through that other lens. They interact poorly following both patterns at the same time. I used to say that about 70% of women tend toward BPD and about 70% of men tend toward narcissism. That now seems a bit too simplistic as I believe I have moved to focusing on the specific components of those two patterns, as it is in those specific components that I find healing, learning, retraining, and resolution.
    This brings up two problems. First is the “designated patient” phenomenon. The couple comes to agree that one of them is the more FU’d. That one is the “patient.” The other is presented as “healthy.” My experience is that one of the core balances in couples is that you always marry or settle down with someone “equally crazy.” If you wanna know how crazy you are, look at your partners. The error in this phenomenon is that the couple’s attention will be directed toward one “sick” person, while neglecting the other “sick” person. This is pretty dysfunctional, to my way of thinking. Better to take turns.
    The second problem is that in general narcissists are more or less powerfully defended against having their failings pointed out to them, while BPD have a built in sense of “having many failings.” I used to find that if you focus on failings in both, the narcissist will get upset. If you avoid focusing on failings, the BPD gets upset. Damned if you do, damn if you don’t . Makes couples therapy fun.
    I skip around all this now by ignoring the diagnostic labels and instead focus on the challenges to relating and learning. If I say “all people make sense all the time,” I am inviting people to related to their past actions, their past selves, as something/someone to be validated. I invite them to learn and to participate in that learning process for themselves and with their partner. A narcissist usually needs to learn to be at peace with the parts of them that they feel shame about and that they hide. A BPD person usually needs to learn to be at peace with the various competing voices inside to them and to create peace for themselves in managing those voices. Both learnings are made possible and facilitated by Validation and PreValidation liberally applied to self and partner.
    A person (BPD) that experiences you as a threat to their Lizard, makes sense. Seek for what you are doing that contributes to their Lizard’s valid reaction and work to remedy that.
    The other thing you mention is about honesty. Rarely, if ever, do I think that people start by being honest. It seems that we must all keep learning how to be honest. I think of this more as a matter of developing the habit of integrity. I also see it directly challenged by our inability to speak w/o MasterTalk. As we learn to be dialogical more and more I find that people generally appreciate expressions of integrity. So, for me, the question is not whether to be honest, the question is how to show my integrity in a way that doesn’t trigger off this or that person’s Lizard.
    Generally a well protected Lizard always wants the truth. A poorly protected Lizard, one whose host has not learned good boundary skills, often has trouble with many ways of sharing the truth. Still, go ahead and give a person the great choice, “Would you rather I shared my truth, or would you rather I kept my truth hidden and secret.” The vast majority would rather have you share than hide your truth.
    Good luck.

  3. Al,
    I believe that I have mentioned to you in the past, either on postings here or in e-mails or phone calls that I believe that my ex-wife suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). In my continuing efforts to understand her better and improve my relationship with her, I am active on a particular discussion group for non-BPs involved with a BP (you probably have a bunch of hits from that site, I think some of the believe I'm on your payroll I refer to you so much…lol).
    Last week I posted a link to this essay and a second one (the “To be safe you must share” essay) as an example of what I believed was effective in a relationship. I think it takes a lot of guesswork out of things if there is honesty and openness up front. The question was raised as to whether these same guidelines would apply in a relationship with someone with BPD. The site I frequent contends that much of BPD is shame-based and I generally agree that BPs carry around tremendous amount of shame. The concern in the group was that being totally honest and open could be a shame-trigger in a BP, causing strong reactions that could put the BP's lizard in a strong unsafe mode and making progress difficult. My thought is that this is probably an issue more when the BP does not see the non as a source of safety to his/her lizard, and still thought that the question was interesting. I let the group know that I would request your feedback on the issue, so here I am.

  4. Dear Minou,
    Your question deserves a quick and thoughful answer and I have only a few minutes. So I fear this may not be full enough.
    Is there hope? Yup. Safety is the first issue and most critical. Lack of it makes people say things just to make themselves safe. When feeling safe and trusting in that safety, people will tell their truth. The critical factor is “feeling safe and trusting in that safety.” Some people have been so hurt while speaking up, that it takes a long time to build that sense of safety.
    I think it can and has to be done.
    Good luck,

  5. Hello Al,
    Just a simple question, I think. Is there any hopes at all if you find yourself in a relationship with somebody who lies so much, no matter how safe you make it for him? He won't share until the proof of his lying is right in front of his eyes, and even then, he will try to denie, to blame, to excuse, to minimize, and will admit eventually on what he thinks you only know, nothing more. He says he understands the betrayal effect of his lies, but will still find excuses for his lies that he keeps doing. He lies by concealing, by omission, by exageration, etc.
    Thank you,

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