Loving Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder
Do You Love Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder?
As a partner or family member of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), you may not know how to react to your partner’s emotional pain and unpredictable behavior. This confusion may feel increasingly hopeless and unbearable.
A hallmark of BPD is emotional dysregulation, meaning your loved one feels emotions more intensely than the general population. In a relationship context, that could mean small, inevitable relationship conflicts easily spiral out of control. In other words, seemingly minor disagreements or confrontations can erupt into significant outbursts or spells of silence that can last the afternoon or days.
With the emotional temperature running high, you may be wary of saying or doing anything that could lead to discord and hurt. This can make everything feel difficult, from decision making, to feeling emotionally safe and intimately connected.
Another hallmark of BPD is “splitting.” That means your loved one may idolize you one day and then seem completely put off by you the next. This “splitting” can be confusing and damaging. It may feel like you’re constantly being manipulated, lied to or caught off guard, only to receive an outpouring of affection that next day.
It’s possible you’ve considered leaving the relationship, but you worry about what will happen if you do. It’s common for people with BPD to struggle with substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harm and other reckless and impulsive behaviors. You might feel like the only safety net for this person, with no way out.
At the end of the day, no matter how destructive this relationship may be, you truly love and care for this person. You want to be there for them, but nothing you try seems to help. It feels unfair because you’re the one doing everything you can.
You Are Not Alone
The National Institute of Mental Health defines BPD as a serious mental disorder marked by a pattern of ongoing instability in moods, behavior, self-image, and functioning. These experiences often result in impulsive actions and unstable relationships. A person with BPD may experience intense episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety that may last from only a few hours to days.
BPD is much more common than you might think. According to Very Well Mind, about 1.6 percent of the population has BPD. While that number may sound small, that means that there are more than four million people with BPD in the U.S. alone.
Although the causes of BPD are largely unknown, experts theorize that it stems from poor attachment in childhood. In particular, studies show there’s a strong tie between survivors of childhood sexual abuse and BPD.
An integral aspect of healthy development is forming safe attachments. Ultimately this is what allows us to be ourselves, set and achieve goals and foster healthy connections. A person with BPD may have had their ability to form heathy attachments interrupted by something that shook their sense of safety to the core, like a traumatic experience.
As a result, a person with BPD struggles to feel emotionally safe in relationships. This could affect all their relationships or just one. They commonly fear abandonment, feel undervalued in performance roles and perceive judgment from others. They struggle to trust themselves or imagine their future. This makes fostering a healthy relationship—one with a normal trajectory of deepened connection and unified goals—very difficult.
The good news is education and support are available. An experienced clinician here can teach you tools to nurture respect and trust in all your relationships, including this one. In a dedicated space outside your relationship and life, we can carefully examine this relationship and develop skills that enable you to resolve conflicts and move forward.
BPD Support Can Provide Education & Solutions
Therapy can be extremely effective helping you understand the nature of BPD so you can navigate these stressors with increased ease and calm.
In the midst of living with someone with BPD, you may feel lost in the equation, as if there’s no energy left for you. In a safe space dedicated to your personal exploration, you have the opportunity to advocate for your wants and needs.
Here, you can expect to have a real conversation with one of our trusted therapists. These conversations will lead to insights and usable resources to make your home a more peaceful place, increase pleasure in your personal and professional life and strengthen your autonomy.
The skills we provide in therapy—which include CBT, mindfulness and other stress reduction exercises—are skills you can use for life. All of these will help you better understand yourself, reduce stress and set boundaries that lead to healthier relationships.
If you’re in a relationship with someone with BPD, don’t lose hope. Many people with BPD thrive and have healthy relationships. By working on your emotional health, you can see a positive shift in your relationship dynamic.
Everyone has the opportunity to make their lives better, and your situation is no different. You deserve to feel safe and valued. With support, it’s completely possible to set healthier boundaries and connect with your loved one.
You may still have questions or concerns about BPD symptoms and solutions…
How long does therapy take?
If you’re really hurting, chances are you want to feel better as soon as possible. We want that for you, too. That is why, from the beginning, we provide tools to reduce stress and make room for your joy.
With that being said, if you want to answer harder, underlying questions, therapy can be a process that leads to profound breakthroughs. These don’t happen overnight. If you’re ready to thoroughly heal hurts and learn more about yourself, we’re here to support you, every step of the way.
I doubt therapy will improve my relationship.
According to family systems theory, when one aspect of a system is changed, the whole system changes. That means any change in your personal health or happiness can have a positive effect on your relationship.
Even if therapy doesn’t ultimately lead to a more satisfying relationship, it can lead to tremendous personal development for you as an individual. You might even decide that this relationship isn’t serving you. In that case, we can provide support throughout that tough realization and design a safe exit strategy.
No matter what, we’re here to address your concerns and provide insights and tools that are tailored to your you and your therapy goals.
But I’m not the one who needs therapy…
You’re absolutely correct in that BPD is a serious mental health disorder that requires treatment from a specialist. The primary modality for borderline personality disorder treatment is dialectal behavioral therapy (DBT). We don’t specialize in DBT, but can provide trusted referrals to other professionals who do.
Our expertise lies in providing support to those who are affected by BPD. Just because you’re not the one with a diagnosable mental health disorder, doesn’t mean you are not emotionally impacted by this experience. If your loved one were to receive a cancer diagnosis, it would be understood that you’re struggling too. The emotional impacts of BPD are very real, especially for those partners whose lives suddenly feel unpredictable and unstable. Therapy can relieve these burdens and more.
BPD is also often not something that gets better without support. Therapy can provide you with guidance and tools to set a stronger foundation of BPD support for your loved one.
Therapy is not forever. There are times when support is good and other times when your relationship will come along on its own. If you need guidance right now, we are here.
My Partner Has BPD. What Do I Do Next?
Need help sorting through all this? Have more questions about borderline personality disorder signs?
To talk to a clinician, call 347-994-9301.
Learn more from our blog: 4 Keys to Loving Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder