Opinion: Borderline Personality Disorder And Relationships

Libby Shively McAvoy
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A relationship with someone with Borderline Personality Disorder is usually very rocky, with many ups and downs. Long-term relationships and even marriages are possible with patience, effort, and hard work. More commonly, someone with BPD has more frequent short-term relationships. Before we get deeper into what a relationship may feel like with someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, I will provide a basic understanding of this mental illness.

Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

BPD is a mental health disorder affecting your thoughts and feelings about yourself and others. Reality can become distorted, causing problems in everyday life.

Often people with BPD experienced childhood trauma, and often it was sexual abuse. It is most commonly diagnosed in young adulthood when symptoms peak. Symptoms can improve with time, and treatment is recommended.

Fear of abandonment is a common thread, yet someone with BPD has mood swings, bursts of anger, and impulsivity that pushes loved ones away.

Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

  • intense fear of abandonment (real or perceived)
  • fear of rejection
  • unstable intense relationships
  • stress-related paranoia
  • impulsive, risky behavior
  • intense mood swings
  • feelings of emptiness
  • intense bursts of anger, verbal and or physical
  • self-harm and suicide attempts

If you have these symptoms, you should be seen by a professional for a possible diagnosis. This is a very misunderstood mental illness and needs to be talked about more openly to eliminate the stigma. An estimated 2% of Americans have BPD, and 8–10% of those commit suicide.

People with BPD struggle to regulate emotions, particularly in social relationships. The symptoms are generally not present when the individual is alone. They are only present in interpersonal relationships. 89% of people with Borderline Personality disorder are also diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

Other disorders commonly associated with BPD
90% anxiety disorder
26% PTSD
26% Bulimia
21% Anorexia
10% Bipolar

Being In A Relationship With Someone With BPD

Most relationships with a partner with BPD are unstable and intense, with many highs and lows. As mentioned earlier, a long-term relationship is possible and has a better chance if the other partner has a secure attachment style and can provide stability.

The beginning of the relationship might feel overwhelmingly perfect. You may feel as if you have found your soul mate. Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder is very compassionate and affectionate toward their partner. There may be strong sexual chemistry. But the sex may be complicated if the person with BPD was sexually abused as a child.

After you get through the honeymoon phase, things start to destabilize. You may feel as if you are walking on eggshells. The person with BPD may sense a change in their partner’s feelings (real or perceived) and pull away. Withdrawing may be an effort to test their partner to see if they will abandon them.

A person with BPD may tell lies. They may also exhibit impulsive behaviors such as spending sprees or drinking benders which affect their partner and family.

A person with BPD tends to have black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking, making reasoning difficult. They may pull you in, and then their bursts of anger and unjustified fears may push you away. They sometimes throw fits in public or beg you not to leave them. They may be happy one moment and angry the next, all in one meal.

When people with BPD are reactive, they may insult you or make false accusations. As their partner, it is essential to remain calm. Remember, they have an illness. The best thing you can do is practice active listening. You do not have to agree with what they are saying, but it helps if you recognize and try to understand.

If they are in a violent rage and being hurtful to you, let them know you will resume the conversation later. Then walk away to prevent provoking the argument further.

Final Thoughts

Studies show that a combination of intensive psychotherapy and comprehensive training in emotional intelligence is a highly effective treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder. This is logical because someone with BPD struggles with interpersonal skills and regulating emotions.

Increasing emotional intelligence, which can be done at any age, increases self-esteem, social skills, and regulating emotions.

It is thought that increasing emotional intelligence improves their ability to regulate and express emotions and improves depression.

Having BPD may seem lonely and frustrating, but it is manageable and can even go away with intense effort. We all deserve to experience loving accepting relationships, and someone with BPD is no exception.









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Libby is a Personal Development and Relationship coach specializing in emotional intelligence. By blending motivational speaking, leading yoga and wellness retreats, and writing, she has mastered the art of living her best life while helping others.

Cincinnati, OH

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