Separation of Stuff

Excerpted from "Putting the Pieces Together"

Separation of stuff is one of the more critical aspects of recovery from BPD. It is this separation of stuff that allows us to differentiate responsibility, and thus reduce feelings of guilt and/or feelings of persecution. It is by separating stuff that we become more stable in our inter-personal relationships, and are better able to maintain healthy, mature, adult relationships.

But what does "separation of stuff" really mean? I'm not talking about separating the laundry as you prepare to do a wash. I'm not talking about separating the boys from the girls. I'm talking about the ability to look at a situation or relationship and separate what belongs to each side or person.

Okay, but what does that mean? Let's take a look at an example:

Maria and Tom have been dating for a while and Maria gets it set in her head that going to the state fair would be an ideal romantic setting. She can picture the two of them wandering around, holding hands, talking and laughing, trying games, going on rides, sharing cotton candy and getting sticky. It's been a number of weeks since the two of them have gone out to have any fun at all. Usually it's been dinner together or some phone calls to keep the connection between the two of them alive. Maria is eager to rejuvenate their relationship.

So Maria tells Tom, "I think we should go to the state fair this weekend."

Meanwhile, Tom has been looking forward to a quiet weekend, home alone, after a long and draining workweek. Due to a pending merger at work, all employees have been doing close to double shifts for the last four months, barely able to take a half day off on the weekends. This is the first chance he's had to have two solid days free of all work obligations, and not only is he looking forward to his down time, his body is almost requiring it.

So Tom tells Maria, "Honey, I don't think so. This is my first weekend off in months and I was looking forward to vegetating on the couch in front of some college football games."

Maria is stunned and hurt because Tom would rather stare at "the idiot box" rather than have a romantic and fun, relaxing time with her at the fair.


The last sentence in that example shows us that Maria has been unable to separate the stuff of their relationship. She is viewing Tom's words and actions as a direct reflection on her worth and value to him as a human being and as a romantic partner. She is unable to see that Tom's stated desire to relax by "vegetating on the couch" is a reflection of his inner self rather than of her inner self.