9 Ways Borderline Personality Disorder Affects Relationships

Awareness about BPD is necessary to support your loved ones to get back on track.

Reviewed by Michele Waldron, Psy.D, LADC-I, CSCT Michele Waldron Michele WaldronPsy.D, LADC-I, CSCT facebook_iconlinkedin_iconinsta_icon
Written by , Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Sneha Tete Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years
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In the world of borderline personality disorder (BPD), relationships are a whole new ballgame. Those suffering from this condition often have unpredictable, difficult, and conflicting relationships. It is common for them to have mood swings due to emotional ups and downs. The impact of this can be felt in all their relationships, even the romantic ones. You can support people with BPD to develop healthy relationships by learning how they are affected by the condition. This article talks about all the nuances related to BPD relationships to help you steer things in the right direction. Read on.

What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?

What is borderline personality disorder
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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?

How can borderline personality disorder affect relationships
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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. This could also include gaslighting their partner. It could be too overwhelming for someone with BPD to consider that they may have done something hurtful, causing them to blame their partners in a way that could be experienced as gaslighting.

protip_icon Did You Know?
The term “gaslighting” originates from the British play ‘Gas Light’, written by Patrick Hamilton, revolving around a husband who mentally and emotionally manipulates his wife by dimming the gaslights in their home.

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. They can seem happy and engaged in a moment, and the next minute, they are crying or angry. Such behavior may make the partner feel unsure about the relationship, and they may try to distance themselves.

A blogger suffers from BPD and shared how her disorder affects her romantic relationship. She wrote, “Being borderline is basically being the most difficult person to be with – I crave intimacy yet sometimes act in a way that pushes people away. No matter how loving, caring, supportive, and willing my romantic partner may be – BPD still continues to rear its ugly head (i).”

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. In turn, it may be hard for a partner to trust them because of their mood instability and unpredictable behaviors.

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. They may feel helpless or hopeless to know how to support the emotions of their partner.

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.

6. Withdrawal

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. Unhealthy Escapism

People with BPD may try to manipulate their partners into doing what they want by making them feel guilty or manipulating their emotions. The person with BPD may not be intentionally manipulating, rather trying desperately to escape their distress. Often those with BPD will decide something that will help them manage this distress and then go to any length to get it.

8. Fear of Abandonment

Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) often struggle with intense and pervasive fears of abandonment that can significantly impact their relationships. This fear can lead to clinginess, emotional volatility, need for frequent reassurance, and efforts to avoid being alone. Loved ones may feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to respond to these intense emotions, leading to strain in the relationships.

9. Unrealistic Expectations

Individuals with BPD tend to have high expectations of themselves and others. They may oscillate between admiration and disappointment, leading to unpredictable shifts in their emotional responses. This can strain relationships as partners may constantly feel under pressure to meet their unattainable standards.

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

Supporting a partner with BPD
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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. Problem-solving is best done in a calm mental place.

protip_icon Pro Tip
Discuss your partner’s potential coping strategies, apart from educating yourself on their triggers, and encourage them to practice grounding techniques during intense emotional reactions.

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 know how to find support for yourself.

Know When You Need to Support Yourself

Know when you need to protect yourself
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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.

protip_icon Pro Tip
Create an emergency plan for when things become too intense or get out of control. This could involve having a code word, taking a break, and recognizing seeking professional help.

It is important to know when you need to be careful in this kind of relationship. If therapy is not helping and the relationship turns highly abusive and unstable, it is okay to end the relationship. 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 borderline personality disorder (BPD) have difficulty managing their emotions. Genetics and environmental stressors are common factors responsible for this disorder. It may affect many romantic relationships, and people with BPD may blame their partners, often struggle to build their relationships, and have unpredictable behavior. It requires medical intervention in its early stages, and a proper treatment plan must be implemented. In addition, if you are in a relationship with a partner with BPD, try to empathize, discuss the triggers, and protect yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do borderlines fall in love easily?

Specific case studies showed that people with Borderline personality disorder could fall in and out of love easily (1).

Are borderlines aware of their behavior?

Research shows that people with BPD are often aware of their behavior (2). However, the findings may vary from person to person.

Key Takeaways

  • A borderline personality disorder is a condition in which people have difficulty regulating their emotions.
  • People with BPD may feel emotions intensely, leading to impulsive or dangerous behavior, difficult relationships, and a distorted self-image.
  • BPD can impact romantic relationships and interfere with carrying out daily tasks and coping with everyday problems.

Do you know someone who has difficulty regulating their emotions during tough times? They could be dealing with a borderline personality disorder. Check out the following video to learn how it affects relationships.

Personal Experience: Source


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  1. Borderline personality disorder
  2. Can’t stand the look in the mirror? Self-awareness avoidance in borderline personality disorder
  3. Efficacy of Psychotherapies for Borderline Personality Disorder A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
  4. Pharmacotherapy for borderline personality disorder: Cochrane systematic review of randomised trials
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Michele Waldron
Michele WaldronPsy.D, LADC-I, CSCT
Dr. Waldron is a licensed clinical psychologist, certified couples counselor, licensed alcohol and drug counselor, and sex therapist. with 16 years of experience. She received her Psy.D from Antioch University, New England.

Read full bio of Michele Waldron
Sneha Tete
Sneha TeteBeauty & Lifestyle Writer
Sneha has a master's degree in Applied Linguistics from the University of Hyderabad, a professional Relationship Coach diploma, and over four years of experience in writing. She writes about relationships and lifestyle.Sneha began her career as an instructional designer, shifted to freelance technical and research writing, and self-published a novella on the theme of adolescent mental health.

Read full bio of Sneha Tete
Asmita De
Asmita DeAssociate Editor
Asmita De is an associate editor with over three years of experience. She graduated in English Literature from the University of Calcutta. She has collaborated with several digital companies and reputed publishing houses as an editor.

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Gracia Odile
Gracia OdileBeauty & Lifestyle Writer
Gracia Odile is a teacher-turned-beauty and lifestyle writer with three years of professional experience. She has a bachelor's degree in English from St. Stephen's College, a master's in Anthropology from the University of Madras, and a degree in education from GGSIPU.

Read full bio of Gracia Odile