Recently I wrote an article on Borderline Personality Disorder, a common condition I see in my office. It primarily impacts relationships. Do refer to the previous article on BPD to know the basics before reading this one.
If you have a close friend or family member suffering from BPD, you already know that BPD not only affects those with the diagnosis—it affects everyone who cares about them. Caring about someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD) tosses you on a roller coaster ride from being loved and lauded to being abandoned and bashed.
Nothing is gray or gradual. For people with BPD, things are black and white. They fluctuate dramatically between idealizing and devaluing you and may suddenly and sporadically shift throughout the day. BPD relationships of any kind are intense, chaotic, and full of conflict, but this is especially true for intimate relationships.
How do borderline personality disorder relationships evolve?
First, let us understand that most people with BPD are kind, caring individuals with a lot of positives to offer in a relationship. People are most frequently drawn to individuals with the disorder because of the excitement and passion they bring to a relationship.
Despite the downs, it is possible to make these relationships work. It simply takes a generous amount of commitment, patience, and understanding to pull it off. At this point, you’ve got to step back and decide whether you’re willing to go all in and do whatever it takes.
How do you cope with a partner who has BPD?
Seek Professional Help:
If you feel you are struggling in your relationship, or you find it hard to cope “emotionally,” contact a therapist. Do NOT try to diagnose your partner or yourself.
Psychotherapy helps someone with BPD manage emotions and learn how to create and maintain stable relationships.
Attempt to Remain Calm:
Reacting desperately or angrily when there is an outburst will often add to the existing problem. People with BPD struggle with emotional management. Once they calm down, they are most understanding and empathetic.
This does not mean that you agree with these feelings, or that you think that the actions resulting from them are justified. However, it is reassuring if you listen to them describe their feelings, the pain they are experiencing, and the difficulty they are having in dealing with this pain.
Don’t play into arguments:
Since people with BPD have trouble with self-identity and self-awareness, they also frequently think comments are pointed at them, when, in fact, they are not.
If your loved one misinterprets something you’ve said, you may bear the brunt of a raging fit about how disgusting and judgmental you are. Don’t get involved. Explain your true intentions and request them to stay calm.
Remember that you do not have to defend yourself if verbally attacked , or develop solutions to their problems. The destructive and hurtful behaviors are a reaction to deep emotional pain, but they’re not about you!
Communicate and Stay Involved:
Communication is a key part of any relationship but communicating with a partner who has BPD can be especially challenging.
It’s important to recognize when it’s safe to start a conversation. If your partner is raging, verbally abusive, or making physical threats, now is not the time to talk.
Better to calmly postpone the conversation by saying something like, “Let’s talk later when we’re both calm. I want to give you my full attention but that’s too hard for me to do right now.” or “Is it possible that you feel very sad/angry/helpless right now? Tell me how I can help you to feel better.”
When things are calmer:
In addition, do not be hesitant to express your feelings freely and openly, but with moderation. Caring involvement with your loved one with borderline disorder is associated with better outcomes than a cool, disinterested approach. Stay involved. This approach works in every relationship!
Support the Treatment Program:
Once in treatment, encourage and support your partner to regularly attend therapy sessions, to take medicine as prescribed, to eat, exercise, and rest appropriately, and to engage in wholesome recreational activities.
If alcohol or other drugs are a problem, strongly support their efforts to abstain completely from these substances.
Put on your own oxygen mask first!
When a partner has BPD, it’s all too easy to get caught up putting most of your energy into caring for him/her at the expense of your own emotional needs. This can lead to resentment, depression, burnout, and even physical illness.
You can’t help someone else or enjoy sustainable, satisfying relationships when you’re run down and overwhelmed by stress yourself.
For partners, it’s also important to seek therapy in order to raise your self-esteem, learn to be assertive, and set and maintain boundaries.
Don’t play the rescuer- Encourage your loved one to take responsibility for her choices and actions.
Don’t give in to abusive treatment, threats and ultimatums.
While helping your loved one cope with BPD, it is important to be patient. There is always a way out, but it is bound to take some time. People with BPD need structure, and a combination of knowing that they’re cared about plus boundaries that are communicated calmly and firmly.
Constant support can be extremely challenging, but you will eventually see both you and your loved one successfully able to maintain a healthy relationship and be each other’s pillar of strength.
Remember, you MUST contact a psychologist for a diagnosis. BPD requires intensive therapy. This article is applicable to both genders and all sexual orientations.