SHARI SHRIEBER

I often wonder what our society would be like if men could get pregnant. Would they be suing their former girlfriends or lovers for “maternity?” And how would women feel about being on the hook for eighteen years or so, while providing financially for children they never wanted in the first place? I’m curious about how a female would handle being tied for virtually the rest of her life to a guy she had a one-night stand with, just because he’d conceived a child with her.

Sadly, this happens to males all the time–in fact, the frequency of this kind of event is staggering. It’s disheartening to think that women intentionally entrap men by getting pregnant–and in this woman’s opinion, it’s a form of blackmail, and there ought to be laws prohibiting it! This article’s sole purpose is to caution men about the dangers of entrapment by pregnancy, and help them make sense of their most troubling and painful relationship experiences.

Tremendous advancements have been made in the field of contraception, yet countless males are still being trapped into marriage and/or fatherhood, and the repercussions are vast. Historically, women never wanted to be pregnant out of wedlock, so men have naïvely continued to give the issue of birth control over to their partners. While it’s always the responsibility of both parties to insure against conception, males are too easily seduced and entrapped–particularly when their voiced concerns are met with assurances that “it’s safe.”

Women with agendas to have children give men no say in the matter, and are often looking for a ‘free ride’ in terms of financial support. They may carry significant abandonment wounds from childhood that cause them to frantically grasp at opportunities for emotional security, so having a man’s baby insures that he cannot sever all ties with her, if he needs to leave. But ask yourself this; would an emotionally sound female want to keep a guy around, knowing he doesn’t want to be there? Conception doesn’t “just happen,” and with very few exceptions (such as rape) I’ve always believed that if a woman is clear about not wanting to conceive or mother a child, she won’t. Ambivalence is too often the cause of unwanted and ‘unplanned’ pregnancies–but tragically, the children of these mishaps suffer most, as they’re the unwitting victims of unstable relational dynamics that started long before they were born!

Certainly, not every female who conceives outside of wedlock has done so deliberately, but there are various options available for someone who has accidentally become pregnant, or thinks she may have–in fact, the morning-after pill (RU86) was developed in response to these situations! Alternatives to terminating a pregnancy can include surrogacy or adoption arrangements made through an attorney who specializes in finding responsible, loving couples who desperately want to be parents, but cannot conceive. While abortion can be a painful consideration for both parties, most men will readily accept financial responsibility for the cost of this procedure, and many are sensitive to their partner’s very difficult, but sane choice. Plenty of women (both straight and gay) yearn for a baby; when they’re certain they can provide a loving/healthy home for a child, they might adopt or use the services of a fertility doctor or clinic. My point is, these women are making the conscious choice to raise a child on their own, with complete understanding that they’ll be assuming full financial and emotional responsibilities for this decision. When a couple’s faced with an unintended pregnancy, and this wasn’t pre-discussed or planned by both, neither should be forced to pay the terrible, life-altering price for this occurrence! Unfortunately, inequities exist between men and women in any society–but in my view, this one’s the most hideous. Until our legal system makes both partners equally financially responsible for these “accidents,” men will continue to be brutalized by governing bodies that support this travesty of justice. Furthermore, if we condone a woman’s “right to choose,” how is it fair that a man is denied this same liberty?

Typically, women who ‘entrap’ are highly seductive, bright, charismatic and attractive/alluring–but exhibit uneven, unstable patterns of relating (come here/go away), which are very confusing and emotionally injurious to men. Their moods tend to be mercurial, and relationships are characterized by an ongoing series of breakups (or periods of distancing) and reunions. Within the same day or hour they can shift between adoring/glorifying/idealizing you and diminishing/criticizing/rejecting you. These women exhibit traits and behaviors that are consistent with Borderline Personality Disorder.

It’s not uncommon for a female with borderline features to conceive, in order to speed-up the tempo of her relationship, and secure a commitment of marriage. If her partner’s essentially good-hearted and responsible, he might respond dutifully to this predicament, by “doing the honorable thing” and marrying. But inherent in this choice are substantial risks, because no matter how attached he is to this woman, he’ll always feel some level of resentment (whether he admits it or not) throughout the course of their relationship. In truth, his choice to have a child has been stolen from him, and regardless of whether he feels equipped or ready to be a father, he must accommodate this immense life change. If he musters the courage to express his authentic concerns and/or feelings, he risks being shamed with accusations of not loving his partner enough to “really commit” to her.

An emotional commitment to a woman and a commitment to fatherhood are two distinctly separate issues. Starting out a marriage with a baby involves unfathomable adjustments, including significant changes in a couple’s sexual dynamic, which can put tremendous strain on a developing relationship, and sour it very quickly. After the baby is born (or even during pregnancy) a man’s buried resentments can easily surface, and he may act-out his repressed feelings by having affairs, or exiting the relationship emotionally or physically. Men who’ve been trapped into fatherhood are forced to somehow reconcile their internal conflicts surrounding this, and often end up subjecting themselves to character assassination, for infidelities or leaving at the “worst possible time.”

Females determined to impregnate themselves without a partner’s consent are lacking in adult emotional development, so their capacity for empathy is seriously compromised. Accompanying moral deficits allow them to premeditate conception, which is diabolical/irresponsible behavior akin to criminal theft. Financially successful men are especially at risk for entrapment, but in no way is this issue confined to specific socio-economic status. Our legal system does not discriminate, even when your substantial monthly child support payments are going to a female who has; lied to you about where she was in her monthly cycle, told you she’s infertile or has never wanted kids, perforated her own supply of prophylactics, or inserted the contents of discarded condoms, to impregnate herself with your sperm! Any one of these actions is a prelude to extortion. A client of mine was once involved with a woman who actually stated she was going to “steal a baby” from him. She was engaged to someone else at the time, and was having sexual relations with other men–but genetic testing revealed that the child was his. This man has since made significant financial and emotional contributions to his son’s life, in effort to solidify his paternal bond. He’s chosen to become a loving and involved parent, despite the mother’s attempts to physically and emotionally alienate their child from him.

A man caught in the clutches of a borderline disordered female feels ebullient when things are “good” between them, and miserable when they’re not. He’ll come to think of her like a drug he can’t live without, because he feels alive and buoyant when she’s loving, attentive and available, and empty and tortured when she’s cruel and detached. Periods of disengagement may cause him to obsessively long for her return, and resort to elaborate strategies to re-engage her.

This type of woman is hypersensitive to any form of abandonment (real or imagined), but terrified of closeness and attachment. Thus, she’s incapable of sustaining an intimate connection–but if she senses you may be slipping away or distancing, she’ll become highly focused on luring you back (whether you actually matter to her or not). During the initial phase of this relationship, you may be intrigued/captivated by her intensity–but with time, her behavior can feel either suffocating or severely alienating.

A borderline disordered woman may be prone to romantic involvements with married men. These relationships provide thrilling intensity, while prompting dramatic sensations of longing/yearning for someone who’s just beyond her grasp. This kind of romance perfectly fits her emotional profile; it allows her to seduce you and get close, without activating her attachment fears–and may echo experiences of growing up with a father who indulged in extramarital affairs, that frequently kept him away from home (and her). Subconsciously, being the ‘other woman’ compensates for childhood deficits in nourishing, appropriate paternal affection, and gratifies her need to be the most alluring, compelling focus in a man’s life. Once this need is satisfied, a Borderline’s immediate abandonment concerns are eased–but if a man leaves his existing relationship and actually becomes available, he loses his value (and appeal) to her. For this kind of woman, it’s all about The Chase. A Borderline’s sense of Self is predicated on her ability to manipulate your desire; when a seduction challenge comes to an end, so does her ability to constantly reinvigorate self-esteem (at least, until the next elusive lover is found).

A borderline may have learned very early in life, that sex affords her the sense of mastery and control she desperately seeks–but given inherent attachment difficulties, she could be more inclined to use you, than love you. There may well have been sexual abuse or incest in her childhood, which is often not remembered–but may fuel her fascination with men who are already involved with, or married to another. She could easily have grown up being the object of her mother’s jealousy, which inhibited authentic parental regard for her safety and well-being, and as a child she may have repeatedly heard; “If you hadn’t been born, my life would have been so much better!” It’s incredibly sad and shocking, that a Borderline’s mother may have ignored or sanctioned her daughter’s sexual abuse, to keep a spouse/partner closer to home. Substantial lapses in early memory are frequently attributed to dissociative episodes that occurred during physical/emotional violations.

A variety of childhood betrayals have deeply fractured a Borderline’s core, and psychic trauma from this period cannot help but seriously impact all adult relationship endeavors. A tough, self-reliant demeanor may initially mask her fragility, but at some point you could still be manipulated into rescuing her financially, sexually or emotionally; suicide threats and/or attempts are not uncommon, especially if ‘Borderline Waif’ features are present. Eating disorders can be part of this picture, and are usually driven by a deep need to exert control over an existence that feels like it has none. In adolescence or early adulthood, she may have begun cutting or burning herself to escape emotional anguish; numerous body scars, piercings or tatoos can be vestiges of a high threshold for, or addiction to pain. Borderlines have a very limited capacity for empathy and impulse control, which leaves you vulnerable to physical attack, as well as psychic and emotional abuse.

As the novelty/intensity of a new relationship starts to settle and you’ve begun orchestrating a committed life together, a Borderline still needs to control the emotional climate between you. This can prompt her to pick fights or act-out her feelings (passive-aggressively), rather than speaking with you about them. Once you’ve sensed something’s troubling her, she may respond to your attempts to discover what it is, by replying “nothing,” or bringing up issues from ages ago (even if previously resolved). These maneuvers support emotional cut-off and interrupt any closeness you may have gained, reinforcing the chasm between you. When authentic intimacy is derailed, her false self has opportunity to re-seduce you after each episode of turbulance. In an ongoing relationship where she cannot win you over or steal you from another’s arms, fighting with you creates the ‘distance’ she needs, to mollify internal tension surrounding attachment. Want to see this aspect of borderline behavior in action? Watch or rent HBO’s TELL ME YOU LOVE ME.

Males who allow themselves to believe that marrying a woman will (finally) put an end to her constant “nagging” and pressure, are sorely disappointed in the aftermath of their nuptials. While the topic of her discontent changes, the pattern of conflict does not.

Whether your Borderline thinks that you’re failing to meet her expectations professionally, emotionally or sexually, her diminishing comments and frequent haranguing can have you questioning your self-worth. You might be willing to endure this emotional abuse, in order to maintain the bond you share with your child/children–but the cost to your health can be considerable. If you decide to save yourself and leave, her attempts to get you back could become pitifully desperate/hysterical–she may even threaten to kill herself, if you don’t return. This is the ultimate emotional blackmail, which may be used to influence your behavior–but resist feeling flattered. These frantic measures are primitive reflexes that are triggered by overwhelming needs that have very little to do with you. If your conflict reaches this point, you should encourage her to seek help from a mental health professional.

Be aware that during a separation, your absence may force her to confront deep sensations of emptiness and/or self-loathing, and this can happen within a very short period. She’ll usually re-engage when this psychic pain becomes unbearable, or she wants/needs something from you–but this is always according to her terms and timing. Typically, the more you attempt to bridge this gap, the longer you’ll have to wait for contact. You should anticipate that during (relatively brief) periods of reconnection or reunion, she’ll have shifted back to her ‘adoring’ behavior (making you wonder why the heck you left in the first place!) until your next minor infraction sets her off again, and this cycle repeats. You’re not weak, you’ve just been re-seduced by a highly skilled and experienced actress.

Perhaps not too surprising, many of these women are celebrities who are constantly in the public eye. They thrive on media attention, as it continually feeds/relieves their core emptiness, which is the function of any addiction. For some, magnanimous/charitable gestures have brought them worldwide acclaim, and gratified their unquenchable need for adulation. But even when press coverage is prompted by negative circumstances, the details of this exposure can be far less important to a Borderline, than keeping her image in the forefront of your mind! In essence, The Media has become her primary lover, and when attention from this relationship wanes, she can literally feel unworthy and invisible. These extremely difficult sensations are reminiscent of childhood abandonment despair, and can feel nearly impossible to tolerate. Compulsions to self-medicate during these episodes can prompt drug/alcohol abuse, overeating, self-mutilation, shopping sprees, sexual affairs, etc. Along these same lines, Borderlines are notorious for having rebound relationships, in order to deflect their pain.

Given that most Borderlines are exceptionally bright, they’re capable of convincing you it’s your fault or shortcoming, that’s ruptured the relationship. You’ll have a strong tendency to buy into this, even when overwhelming evidence is stacked against her argument, and you’re unequivocally certain she’s wrong. Her brilliant (but twisted) logic and verbal dexterity can distort facts and details, to where her perceptions actually make sense to you, even if her statements are completely contradictory from one day to the next! You might come to doubt yourself at these times, and begin questioning if you’re going crazy. These feelings you’re having are directly related to spending time with someone whose psychic/emotional balance is very unstable.

There are no ‘grey’ areas or middle-ground perspectives with these women. Within the lexicon of borderline pathology, “splitting” is a commonly used clinical term that describes their pattern of alternating between idealizing or devaluing perceptions and behavior. Borderline psyches are so delicate, they’re incapable of maintaining a sense of you as a whole individual who may have shortcomings, but who is essentially loving and good. In their world, events and people are perceived as black or white (all good or all bad), so they either love you or hate you. You might spend a lot of time and energy trying to get back into a Borderline’s good graces by making promises you can’t necessarily keep–but none of this will matter anyway, the next time she decides to punish you for a perceived transgression by stepping away. You might assume that if you “try a little harder” to love or please her, certain desirable facets you’ve glimpsed at various times will be more consistently available to you. They won’t. The closer you get, the more she’s compelled to push you away. The diagnostic term, “Borderline” describes someone who lives dangerously near the edge of psychosis.

A Borderline can feel threatened by meaningful connections you have with others. She may be jealous of the closeness you share with friends, your children or family, your therapist, your hairdresser, etc., as these (trusted) relationships trigger her abandonment concerns. Whether these feelings are stated or not, you’ll sense a level of tension that signals her discomfort. The upshot is, if she’s successful in separating you from sources that are nourishing and supportive, her power over you is amplified. The Borderline mother may exert this kind of influence over her children’s associations as well, even to the extent of pitting them against each other, and/or driving a wedge between them and their father.

A wife with borderline features might intensely focus on her children (or yours from a prior marriage). Her devoted attention to them and their needs may appear wholesome and healthy–but may actually provide convenient excuses for avoiding closeness and connection with you! If you’re patiently awaiting the day when your children are grown, and hoping to share more sexual/emotional intimacy when the nest is finally empty, this is a fantasy that may never be realized. It’s very common in fact, for a couple’s conflicts to escalate during this time, due to fewer “distractions.”

It takes a fair amount of courage/fortitude to actually leave a Borderline, and scores of men never do. Your motivation may finally come from recognizing that this ‘prize’ is not worth the ‘price’ you’re paying to remain. Some men develop a secret plan for their escape, in response to many years of having to fear their partner’s emotional and/or physical volatility. This is certainly not the best or most advisable way to exit this relationship, but the sad reality is, it might be the safest option.

Unfortunately, your torment may continue in the aftermath of this coupling, as her sense of self-worth is generally tied to remaining connected; this can take the form of solicitous contact after numerous months or years. She may be flirtatious with you even after you’ve become involved with another, which speaks to her lack of boundaries. Disappointment or disatisfaction with her current affair can trigger phone calls or unplanned/impromptu visits with you. If you’ve gotten a lot of ‘hang ups’ on your answering machine or voicemail, these could be the unrestrained/juvenile impulses of someone who’s underdeveloped. At some point, you’ll probably have to set firm parameters and limits with this woman concerning acceptable behavior (as you would with an adolescent), as she’s incapable of setting them for herself.

Boundary issues typically draw intense media exposure, because of their sensationalistic or bizarre nature. Headline stories about women or men engaging in self-sabotaging/foolish behaviors at great risk to their personal and professional lives, are frequently generated by borderline disordered individuals. Whether we’re hearing of teachers having sexual relations with their students or a wife severing her husband’s genitals, we’re observing a lack of impulse control that’s associated with borderline pathology. Are you feeling incredulous or shocked by incidents reported in the news? You’re probably hearing about the consequences of someone living with this disorder.

Hell hath no fury like a Borderline scorned. In the aftermath of a love affair, her statements to you might be cleverly disguised as benign (or even, caring), but you could experience them as castrating, just the same. Make no mistake, this is part of her vindictive reactivity, and it’s intentional. Regardless of who left whom, your Borderline is furious you’ve abandoned her, and may derive more satisfaction from getting back at you, than getting you back! She may retaliate with favorable comments about a new love (whether true or not), to fortify her stance that it’s “all your fault” this relationship failed. She’s invested in having you believe that, “no other man would disappoint (her) in the ways you have, nor even imagine letting go of such a trophy!” While her words may be shaming, you could still be inclined to think you want her back, despite the difficulties you’ve struggled with before. She’s very smart; she knows that if she challenges your manhood and makes you feel guilty/bad enough about yourself, you’ll feel compelled to try and make it right (if only to salvage your poor, trampled ego).

Your trophy wife/girlfriend is magnificent. She could have the most exquisite body and face you’ve ever had the pleasure of being with–which makes the notion of walking away, inconceivable. This woman’s physical beauty alone, can heighten your sexual enthusiasm and erotic responses, to where you fear you’ll never be able to replicate these intense sensations with another. This presents an understandable quandary, but there’s often a deeper issue; for the very first time, you may have started believing you’re worthy of such a treasure, which is the insidious hook that’s kept you ensnared beyond instinct and reason, and prevents you from moving on.

You might feel excruciating shame and regret, as your Borderline throws herself into a rebound relationship, and leaves you behind. Your obsessive response to this, is acutely tied to self-worth issues you’ve been battling and compensating for, since childhood. Whether these boyhood difficulties are consciously held or not, they’ve actually enabled this woman to control and manipulate your self-image throughout this entire relationship. While this tormenting pain you’re feeling is (in part) due to the scabs being torn off some very old ego wounds, you must try to remember; the exact same patterns that you wrestled with during this relationship, will be repeated with other suitors. These disturbing, disruptive patterns are associated with deeply entrenched survival mechanisms. Without competent intervention, she just can’t help herself.

You’ll mostly remember the good times, even though you’ve taken some heavy hits to your self-esteem, and the bruising hasn’t completely healed–but a word of caution is imperative here: After a significant break-up, any (unclothed) reunion puts you at serious risk for entrapment, no matter what she says to the contrary! She’s now painfully aware you’re capable of leaving, and may do whatever’s necessary to insure that this never happens again. You’ve managed to dodge a bullet. Try not to tempt fate.

If you’re divorced and share children together, it’s virtually impossible to avoid some level of contact, but it often feels punishing or toxic. This type of woman will try to hurt you in the most damaging and sadistic ways imaginable, which frequently means turning your children against you. If she makes them think she’s been victimized by your “brutal, volatile or abusive” nature (and she’s a good actress, remember?), she’ll inspire their sympathy and protection. Over time, they may literally be programmed to distrust and despise you. Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is very common among Borderline mothers, but it’s a tragic, no-win situation for all concerned. Your ex’s consistent brainwashing methods compromise your child’s capacity to build self-esteem, and forge solid/balanced relationships in adulthood. PAS inhibits children’s ability to maintain healthy perceptions of the alienated parent as loving and good (which is damaging enough)–but on far deeper levels, it instills shame and self-loathing they may struggle with the rest of their lives.

The more your ex-wife erodes the connection between you and your children, the more she (and they) may vilify you for “neglecting” them. Under these conditions, you could feel damned if you see them, and damned if you don’t! If you’re a man who’s felt hopelessly trapped in the frustration and pain this kind of situation invokes, your rage is completely understandable.

This material is not intended to suggest that Borderlines or those with BPD traits are bad people. Many in fact, have exceptional qualities and attributes that keep men from surrendering these relationships, in spite of their pain! But a borderline disordered woman may be badly damaged, due to unhealed childhood wounds. It is this damage that influences/inhibits interactions and activities like your sex life (particularly after marriage), and deters healthy, harmonious unions. It’s crucial you realize, that many of these individuals have survived early traumas and setbacks that fostered a sense of desperation–and desperate people do desperate things (just ask any man who’s been stalked by one)! In the 1987 movie Fatal Attraction, Michael Douglas portrays a married man who’s captivated and tormented by a Borderline (Glenn Close’s character), and it may serve you to view this film, or watch it again. Any woman with borderline features can destroy your livelihood, and turn your world upside-down. One who’s diagnosable with Borderline Personality Disorder is capable of heinous crimes, which may include murdering her own children, or you.

Borderline women are often attracted to narcissistic men, and vice-versa. The reasons for this are numerous–but in terms of the core difficulties that both have had to surmount, these personality dynamics allow each partner to side-step real intimacy, for which they are equally ill-equipped. A female with borderline characteristics has the remarkable ability to perfectly mirror her partner’s attributes (and fuel his grandiosity), without invoking his engulfment fears. Her alternate loving/rejecting patterns of relating allow him to come close (but not too close), and nearly always leave him wanting more; this of course, gratifies her need to control/manipulate his desire, and accommodates his need to maintain ‘safe’ emotional proximity.

If you’ve ever fallen in love with a Borderline, you could come away from this experience having lost your trust in women–but also, in yourself. In my view, this is the most tragic consequence of these relationships. Everything you’ve grown up believing you should want in a female, has come into question during the time it’s taken you to survive and recover from this emotionally wrenching affair. Along the lines of a post-traumatic stress reaction, you’re no longer able to feel confident that your perceptions and instincts will serve and protect you. In short, you’re left with considerable scars–and while your head might tell you that not all women are going to wreak such havoc, your heart is never again quite sure. Later in life, you may be willing to take another risk, but hurtful memories start to replay each time you contemplate loving again–and you talk yourself out of it, before you’ve even begun. Part of the pain that remains is archaic, meaning it goes to very old/deep layers within you. Why else would you have such difficulty getting close to someone? More than a few men have told me, they’ve realized that they married their mother; relational dynamics with a borderline wife or girlfriend closely paralleled their earliest struggles. Certain traits seemed strangely familiar, or like “coming home.”

Borderline Personality Disorder is not a gender specific issue. This problem is directly related to attachment difficulties between a mother and her infant, which lay the groundwork for unstable patterns of relating in adult females and males. While in men, this disturbance generally presents as narcissism, the male Borderline has similar features described above, and is susceptible to acquiring a Casanova Complex. This control issue stems from a deep, archaic distrust of women that’s characterized by a pattern of adulterous affairs, or (if single) an ongoing series of seductions, or fairly brief “love ‘em and leave ‘em” encounters.

This is a complex disorder that can take a considerable amount of time to dismantle or repair, even with specialized therapeutic intervention. You are not equipped to heal your woman, but if she’s receptive to sensitive, ongoing psychodynamic treatment, your love and patience can be part of her reparative process. If you think there’s a pattern in your romantic life that propels you toward Borderlines, a professional well-versed in this arena can assist you in resolving background issues, that consistently attract you to dangerous, dysfunctional women. You should expect to gain essential tools and insights during this process, which will enable you to disengage from tormenting relationships, and build healthier, more gratifying attachments.

If you’re seeking help with this issue, or your group or fraternity would like me to speak on this topic, please feel free to contact me. If you live in or around the Los Angeles area, Men’s weekly support groups are now forming, to assist and empower you. Phone for details; (323) 936-3637.

Recommended reading: UNDERSTANDING THE BORDERLINE MOTHER; Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship, by Christine Ann Lawson, PhD. Lawson’s book delineates the four sub-types of Borderlines; the Waif, Witch, Queen and Hermit. See Borderline Personality Forum for archived replies to questions concerning BPD in males, and you may be able to find more recent Q & A’s concerning this topic, here.