People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) often have unstable, intense, and conflict-laden relationships. They experience an emotional rollercoaster and a constant shift in moods. This may pose a unique set of challenges to all their relationships, including the romantic ones.
This article explains how BPD symptoms can affect your relationships and how you can support people with BPD in developing healthy relationships.
In This Article
What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a condition in which people have difficulty regulating their emotions. As a result, they feel emotions intensely and may take hours to stabilize themselves after an emotionally triggering event.
This difficulty in regulating emotions may lead to impulsive behavior, intense response to stressors, difficult relationships, and dangerous behavior like self-harm and substance abuse.
People with BPD may also have a distorted self-image and perceive the world as dangerous and frightening. BPD symptoms can disrupt the quality of life, and people with this condition have a tough time relating to themselves. They are often worried that they will say or do something impulsive to hurt themselves or someone else. They might find it hard to maintain stable relationships because they are constantly shifting between:
- Idealizing someone one day (thinking they can meet all their needs)
- Feeling angry and disappointed if they can’t meet their impossible expectations.
These intense emotions and moods can make it hard for them to carry out daily tasks, cope with everyday problems, and maintain healthy relationships. Let’s understand how BPD can impact relationships.
How Can Borderline Personality Disorder Affect Relationships?
People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) often have rocky relationships, including romantic ones. Here are some ways that BPD can affect romantic relationships:
1. Blaming Their Partners
People with BPD often blame others for the problems in their relationships. They may have a distorted view of whatever their partners do (even if it is for their good) and see it as an indication of an unhealthy relationship. This might overwhelm the partner and lead to misunderstandings.
2. Unpredictable Behavior
People with BPD may frequently make irrational accusations or engage in self-harming activities over simple issues. These behaviors are part of their pattern of unstable moods and are often a way to seek attention from the people around them. Such behavior may make the partner feel unassured about the relationship, and they may try to distance themselves.
3. Lack Of Trust
Relationships based on mutual respect, trust, and understanding are essential for happiness in life. People with BPD can struggle to build such relationships because they often base their behavior and expectations on what has happened in the past. This can make them unpredictable as they are unlikely to trust their partner or respond consistently to new situations.
4. Intense Emotions
People with BPD have intense emotional responses that can be difficult for partners to manage. They may cry for hours when they are upset or become angry over seemingly small annoyances. These types of emotional imbalance may leave partners feeling unsettled.
5. Unreasonable Demands
People with BPD often have an unreasonable need for attention. They may easily feel jealous and act possessively to draw attention. This is a way in which they try to meet their basic needs for love and support. However, such unreasonable demands and behavior may make the partner feel pressured.
People with BPD may also withdraw from their partners when they feel depressed or stressed over life’s problems. This may confuse the partner as they may not understand the logical reason for withdrawal and may think they have done something wrong.
7. Manipulative Behavior
People with BPD may try to manipulate their partners into doing what they want by making them feel guilty or manipulating their emotions.
Being in a relationship with someone with BPD is not easy for either partner. It can be extremely difficult to understand what a person with BPD may be going through. If you are in a relationship with someone with BPD, here is how you can support them.
Supporting A Partner With BPD
1. Empathize And Connect
Empathize with your partner when they are experiencing intense emotions. Be compassionate and try to calm them down. Understand that they don’t have control over their emotions, and they usually experience a great deal of pain. Empathizing with them can help them feel better.
2. Discuss The Triggers
Focusing on the issues will not solve your problems. You need to focus on behavioral patterns and talk openly about them with your partner. Discussing the patterns will help you understand what triggers their outbursts. This way, you can work on avoiding conflicts and resolving arguments.
4. Establish Healthy Boundaries
As they fear being rejected or abandoned, people with BPD have problems with setting healthy boundaries in relationships. Discuss the issue with your partners and how their possessive behavior may affect your freedom and disrupt your other relationships (professional and personal). Set the rules and ensure that your partner knows what is and isn’t acceptable.
5. Talk To A Therapist
Psychotherapy and medications are the best ways to deal with borderline personality disorder. Therapies like dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and psychodynamic psychotherapy can help people with BPD learn to regulate their emotions. Therapists may also suggest medications like anti-depressants and mood-stabilizers. You may also reach out to support groups for help.
Being in a relationship with a person with BPD can sometimes take a toll on the mental and physical health of the partner. If you are in such a relationship, it is crucial to protect yourself.
Know When You Need to Protect Yourself
Borderline personality disorder affects all areas of life – work-life balance, professional relationships, and family relationships. When you are dating someone with borderline personality disorder, handling extreme mood shifts may become difficult. As a person with BPD tends to project their insecurities on you, situations may turn volatile.
It is important to know when you need to protect yourself from this kind of relationship. If therapy is not helping and the relationship turns highly abusive and unstable, it is okay to prioritize your security and walk out. Sometimes, the symptoms of BPD may become extreme and often need hospitalization. If you think the relationship is getting uncontrollable, you can talk to the therapist and make the right decision before it is too late.
People with BPD may struggle with regulating their emotions, but they too can have a healthy relationship. It requires early medical intervention and working with doctors and therapists to develop a proper treatment plan and work on behavioral issues. This can help address the issues and help maintain a healthy relationship. However, you need to be aware that it is a lifelong challenge and takes a lot of patience and work to sustain it.
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- Borderline Personality Disorder National Institute of Mental Health
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Efficacy of Psychotherapies for Borderline Personality Disorder A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
- Pharmacotherapy for borderline personality disorder: Cochrane systematic review of randomised trials