In that paper, Links drew on his own clinical experience to argue that, when the partnership involves a narcissist, its survival depends on that person's ability to: In addition, says Links, the Arthur Sommer Rotenberg Chair in Suicide Studies at the University of Toronto, the couple needs to "rebalance" itself so that that the narcissist's partner--likely a more masochistic, dependent type--still gratifies the narcissist's need for admiration, but also can glean increased love, approval and support from the narcissist.By comparison, in a borderline rebalancing, the other partner needs to stop feeding the borderline's impulsivity and emotional volatility, notes Links in other writings.By now, Florida psychologist Florence Kaslow, Ph D, has seen the pattern so often among some couples that it's practically a clinical archetype: Both parties have personality disorders (PDs)--but on opposite ends of the spectrum.The fastidious, stoic spouse with obsessive-compulsive PD clashes with the often messy, flamboyant spouse with histrionic PD."So, for example, the histrionic is attracted to the OCD perfectionist because of the histrionic's need to be stabilized, and the OCD person is fascinated by the histrionic's devil-may-care attitude.But after a while they start to rub each other the wrong way." Fatal attraction Problems derive from each partner's unexpected reaction to the other, Kaslow says.In addition, these features must be (1) relatively stable across time and consistent across situations, (2) not better understood as normative for the individual’s developmental stage or socio-cultural environment, and (3) not solely due to the direct effects of a substance or general medical condition.
It may seem like an oversimplification, but all too commonly one person with a PD attracts someone with a different one, Kaslow has found in her 30-plus years of practice. "They seem to have a fatal attraction for each other in that their personality patterns are complementary and reciprocal--which is one reason why, if they get divorced, they are likely to be attracted over and over to someone similar to their former partner," Kaslow says. In it, Links maintains that a narcissist's PD severity and willingness to change can make or break a couple's attempts to fix problems.Not only does it shed more light on the couple's interaction, but it prevents "he said, she said," or "she said, you said" situations, says Kaslow.At this point, however, mental health professionals know considerably more about treating PDs in individuals (see page 46) than in couples, notes Links.She explains: "These people often literally see the other person as 'their other half.' But that half is one they have cut off in themselves, so they're essentially attracted to the thing they've rejected or have a negative attitude toward." Exacerbating the situation is the fact that each partner stirs up some unconscious, unresolved developmental issue in the other, says Joan Lachkar, Ph D, a Los Angeles practitioner who writes on partners who exhibit certain traits and characteristics of narcissistic and borderline PDs.For example, explains Lachkar, an instructor at the Southern California Psychoanalytic Institute, the borderline's neediness chips at the narcissist's armor against intimacy, and the narcissist's rejection stokes the borderline's abandonment anxiety, reaction to shame and tendency to feel shunned or abused.Cluster A (Odd, bizarre, eccentric) Paranoid PD, Schizoid PD, Schizotypal PD Cluster B (Dramatic, erratic) Antisocial PD, Borderline PD, Histrionic PD, Narcissistic PD Cluster C (Anxious, fearful) Avoidant PD, Dependent PD, Obsessive-compulsive PD Before going on to characterize these 10 personality disorders, it should be emphasized that they are more the product of historical observation than of scientific study, and thus that they are rather vague and imprecise constructs.As a result, they rarely present in their classic "textbook" form, but instead tend to blur into one another.Most often, Kaslow and Solomon see attractions between people diagnosed with Cluster B (antisocial, borderline, histrionic and narcissistic) and Cluster C (avoidant, dependent and obsessive-compulsive) personality disorders.Kaslow offers a theory on the attraction between Clusters B and C: "Someone in Cluster B or C will more likely seek a polar opposite they see as exhibiting qualities they lack and assume this will make them feel more complete or whole," she explains.Their division into three clusters in DSM-5 is intended to reflect this tendency, with any given personality disorder most likely to blur with other personality disorders within its cluster.For instance, in cluster A, paranoid personality is most likely to blur with schizoid personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder.