This post is actually about cluster B friendships as much as it is about romantic relationships. It was inspired by some comments I saw on Facebook today. (I swear Facebook is toxic to society, and yet it’s so addictive!)
Cluster B personality disordered people are polarizing. Some people love them. Some people hate them. Some people go back and forth loving and hating them. They can be the most charming, witty, funny and amazing people you know, but also the most abusive, divisive, cruel, and hateful people you know. It is their positive qualities that draw people in and keep them hanging on and coming back, but it is their negative qualities that create all the disturbances in their relationships, lead to on again off again relationships, and often times, drive people completely away.
I know some people won’t agree with me, but I do have empathy for some cluster Bs. For example, I do not believe people with Borderline Personality Disorder are all bad. They are certainly difficult, but I do believe they can be sincere and that much of their turmoil is internal. (Plus, their prognoses are really good with treatment and time.) On the other hand, I cannot say anything good about narcissists or sociopaths. I think their “good” qualities are all for manipulation. That said, their good qualities do lead many people to adore them. Because of course, a predator who cannot get people to like him or her, is going to be very lost without targets to manipulate. They NEED us or they’d fall apart.
My narcopath ex has “friends” that will admit he’s hurt them many times. They will admit that he’s a predator. But, they keep giving him more chances. They will go to social events and laugh at his jokes, and defend his bullying. His ability to be witty and jovial keeps them hanging on. Some of them will remain casual “friends” but keep their distance once they realize how much turmoil he brings into his lives. Most of them end up cutting ties in time. (Some faster than others!) There are people who cut him off, bring him back, cut him off, bring him back, cut him off…over and over again. They are constantly confused and their status is up in the air. But they really want those funny and fun qualities to be real while fooling themselves about the reality that the abusive qualities are even more real.
While most of us think about Cluster Bs in a romantic or family context, (probably because those are the relationships that are most intimate in our lives,) people can also be tortured by Cluster B friendships.
I got to thinking about this today while in a discussion about a musician whose music I like. This person is known for being clever and witty and making unusual songs. But, over the years, EVERY single other person in the band has cut ties with him and refuses to work with him again. Since I have experience with Cluster Bs, I see interviews with this person and am turned off by his behavior. He bashes every manager, every producer, every musician…everyone he works with. But he does it with witty jokes. I see what is going on, but so many of his fans just adore his humor and don’t see the toxin behind it. When a band member cuts contact with him, he belittles them and denigrates them. Oh so-and-so is just moody, or jealous, or silly. You know the drill. With a Cluster B, none of the other person’s legitimate concerns matter. I find the patterns telling. If everyone in your life is on and off and eventually runs away and refuses to have anything to do with you…well, the problem is you. Ahem.
Most fans don’t see this and get mad if anyone criticizes the artist. I’ve BTDT so I choose not to remain naive or worship someone for their talents. If a person is a jerk, they are a jerk and I look at the big picture. I don’t care if someone can be entertaining. If they are intermittently bullying everyone, then the good parts don’t matter anymore. (Fortunately, I will never have to meet this musician!) But it works this way in our daily relationships. As much as we like the fun and excitement someone can bring into our lives, if they are also bringing darkness and misery, then it’s time to move on to someone who isn’t up and down and black and white, charming and bullying, fun and cruel.
Relationships with Cluster Bs are off and on because their bad behavior drives people away but their fun side brings them back. Normal relationships aren’t like a roller coaster ride. Normal people disagree and make up, but things don’t get so bad that they cut ties then come back. If things are so bad that you have to cut contact, it is time to keep it that way.