The world of dating can seem turbulent, tumultuous, and troubling as it is. But if you or someone you love have found themselves in a relationship with someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD), it can be even more difficult.
Borderline personality disorder relationships are entirely possible. However, there are steps that need to be taken in order to ensure that the relationship is going to be built for the long-term.
Throughout this article, we’re going to walk through some of the major hurdles that can arise when it comes to dealing with BPD – from handling the dating scene to finding ways to make a relationship work. We’ll also see how each individual in the relationship can take action regarding BPD which will strengthen the relationship as well as open new methods for communication and relief.
What is BPD?
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition in which the the person who struggles experiences shifts in emotional and mental states. Oftentimes, these causes conflict in an individual’s daily life and how they deal with others and relationships. ¹
BPD has shifts from high to low mental and emotional states which present usually in episodic displays of said states. These episodes range from subdued behavior to wildly erratic and sometimes volatile reactions.
There are 9 common BPD symptoms that are often looked at when making a diagnosis. These include: ²
- An intense fear of abandonment, even going to extreme measures to avoid real or imagined separation or rejection
- A pattern of unstable intense relationships, such as idealizing someone one moment and then suddenly believing the person doesn’t care enough or is cruel
- Rapid changes in self-identity and self-image that include shifting goals and values, and seeing yourself as bad or as if you don’t exist at all
- Periods of stress-related paranoia and loss of contact with reality, lasting from a few minutes to a few hours
- Impulsive and risky behavior, such as gambling, reckless driving, unsafe sex, spending sprees, binge eating or drug abuse, or sabotaging success by suddenly quitting a good job or ending a positive relationship
- Suicidal threats or behavior or self-injury, often in response to fear of separation or rejection
- Wide mood swings lasting from a few hours to a few days, which can include intense happiness, irritability, shame or anxiety
- Ongoing feelings of emptiness
- Inappropriate, intense anger, such as frequently losing your temper, being sarcastic or bitter, or having physical fights
If you or someone you love experiences at least two of the above symptoms, there’s a chance they have BPD. We highly suggest seeing a mental health professional in order to confirm diagnosis.
BPD Dating Difficulties
Entering into a new relationship is always a fascinating time filled with discovery, wonder, and excitement. However, for those that are also juggling the complexities of having BPD, entering into a new relationship can also be an extremely vulnerable period.
When it comes to dating someone with BPD or being someone who has BPD and dating, there are a few difficulties that you and your partner are bound to come across during the building of a relationship. We’re going to go through these difficulties and how they affect relationships. From there, we’ll discuss how you and your partner can find ways to cope and deal with these issues.
Abandonment sensitivity is a common issue with BPD relationships and it can greatly affect the vitality and the strength of your relationship. One of the things to understand about abandonment sensitivity is that it varies from person to person. Yet, it’s a common enough issue that couples have reported it becoming a frequent problem in their relationships. ³
Abandonment sensitivity, to put it simply, is a concern of abandonment from those that have a relationship with a BPD sufferer. Individuals with BPD commonly have fears and anxiety about abandonment – i.e. the loss of friends, family members and loved ones – due to their condition. This abandonment sensitivity is something that probably will become a factor in those that struggle with BPD and those that choose to enter a relationship with said person.
As someone who’s entering or has already entered a relationship with someone who has BPD, it’s important to understand, acknowledge, and find ways to cope and deal with this abandonment sensitivity in your relationship. Don’t ignore this issue or make this issue a larger thing than it is already.
Control Over People & Situations
Coupled by the abandonment sensitivity is a heightened desire to try and control people and situations for the patient’s benefit and overall peace of mind. A common complaint is that those dating someone with BPD feel stifled, suffocated, and smothered by their partners due to their consistent need to try and have some sort of control over what is usually the uncontrollable.
This control usually takes the form of suspicion and questioning partners intentions, whereabouts, and daily schedule. It can also appear as a fear that they may be being unfaithful in the relationship or having anxiety that perhaps their partner will leave them, thus the connection to the abandonment sensitivity.
Suspicions, Judgements, and Reactions
Some people with BPD may have unsubstantiated claims of paranoia that takes on the form of suspicion, judgement and over reactions. While this is common among those who struggle with BPD, it can obviously take a toll and causes issues in relationships. Most of these suspicions, judgement, and reactions are borne out of the abandonment sensitivity that we discussed earlier.
Inability to Control Compulsions
There are couples that have reported issues with the BPD sufferer being unable or unwilling to try and control compulsions that come to them at seemingly random times. Compulsions such as lying, inability to control sexual urges, and having emotional outbursts or having reactions that don’t warrant the situation are common in those that have BPD. The best way to try and counter control compulsions is usually through therapy and with certain medications.
The Do’s & Don’ts
There are a lot of basic do’s and don’ts when it comes to any kind of relationship. Yet, relationships involving those struggling BPD can be even more complex and sensitive. Here is a list of common do’s and don’ts when it comes to borderline personality disorder relationships. ⁴
Do Be Honest and Open
One of the most important decisions that can help sustain a healthy, long-lasting relationship with someone who has BPD is to establish open and honest communication. This ultimately means there are no secrets and nothing to hide. When a relationship is built on a bedrock of absolute honesty and ability to be open, without the fear of judgement or ridicule, it allows for a more engaged, connected relationship that is able to withstand issues and complications.
Of course, those that struggle with BPD and those that are living with them can attest that openness and honesty can be a tricky thing. Being the radical shifts in mental and emotional states, it can be hard for someone with BPD to be open and honest. Not to mention, a partner may find themselves having difficulty tracking their significant other’s emotions.
When situations like this grow tough, that foundation of open conversation will become essential.
Don’t Try and “Go Alone” on Treatment
One of the most complicated and sensitive things when it comes to those who are suffering from a mental disorder is the details and inner workings of treatment. It’s only natural to try and keep these aspects of your recovery private.
However, it is exceptionally hard to try and maintain a healthy relationship with a significant other when you don’t open yourself up and be honest with not only how you’re feeling but also how you’re handling those emotions.
These difficulties only compound with complicated disorders such as BPD – so, the need to inform your partner of your treatment is key to keeping a successful and strong relationship.
Do Find Appropriate Ways to Cope
In a previous article, we had discussed healthy ways to cope with a multitude of different mental illnesses. When you’re in an active relationship with another person, it’s wise to find ways to cope that also incorporates the other half of the couple.
Of course, coping mechanisms work differently for everyone. It helps to experiment around with a few different techniques in order to figure out what works best for you. Not to mention, through psychotherapy sessions, you should get an idea of your weaknesses and develop an understanding of how to overcome them.
Just remember, dealing with the stress of BPD symptoms doesn’t have to be done by yourself. Finding activities that you and your partner can share will not only make all the difference in helping you cope with the illness but will also help with the growth of your relationship.
Don’t Stifle One Another
Although its great to find ways to be together, its also important to try and carve out alone time. It’s a truly wonderful thing to find peace and solace in your own way.
And with relationships that are built on a basis of understanding that one or both of the partners in the relationship experience mental health complications, it’s even more important that each takes time for themselves to grow. As this will naturally grow the relationship as well.
Entering a relationship can feel awkward, exciting, nerve-wracking and exhilarating all at the same time. But when a chronic mental condition is added to the mix, it oftentimes complicates things. And with a condition as complex and delicate as BPD, those that are entering said relationship must be willing to make some hard decision of whether both partners are ready to take on this incredible challenge.
However, if both partners in the relationship are understanding of one another’s emotions and situations and have made the decision to go forward with a relationship, then it should be an option. The best thing to do to ensure a healthy and strong relationship is to establish an ability to be open and honest with one another and sensitive to one another’s fears, anxieties concerns or frustrations.
Still have questions concerning borderline personality disorder relationships?
We invite you to ask them in the comment’s section below. If you have any further knowledge on the topic to share – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Borderline Personality Disorder- Definition
² Mayo Clinic: Nine Common Symptoms of BPD
³ Sage Journal Publication: Reviewing the clinical significance of ‘fear of abandonment’ in borderline personality disorder
⁴ ViceMedia: What Is It Like To Date When You Have BPD?