Navigating Relationships With Partners Suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder

couple dealing with borderline personality disorder sitting on couch together

Even in perfect circumstances, romantic relationships can be hard. Think about it: between 40 and 50% of American marriages end in divorce–even the strongest partnerships are susceptible to difficulties with communication, trust, and conflict. And while partnerships can already be challenging, it becomes even harder when one-half of the couple struggles with mental illness.

Relationship issues are common among people who suffer from borderline personality disorder (BPD)–your relationship will probably be tested by your partner’s intense emotions, unpredictable mood swings, constant fear of rejection, and impulsive actions, which can lead to instability and chaos. But you can improve your relationship by understanding what BPD is, practicing coping mechanisms, and getting the proper support.

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What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Characteristics of BPD include a lack of self-control and trouble maintaining healthy relationships. Mood swings, impulsivity, and a general lack of self-confidence are accompanying symptoms of BPD.

Getting a diagnosis and starting treatment for BPD as quickly as possible is extremely important, as the decrease of symptoms may take up to two years–but therapy can also help treat BPD.

The Hallmark Signs of BPD Include:

  • There are the usual methods to try to keep a significant other from leaving, unhealthy ways to try to prevent a breakup, like pleading with them to stay, and scarier tactics, like threatening suicide.
  • The recurring cycle of appreciating and discounting important relationships to a point where the other person becomes angry and frustrated.
  • Abandonment fears.
  • Rejection avoidance.
  • Quick shifts in one’s sense of self or identity.
  • Looking for closeness and attention in relationships with others.
  • The potential for self-destructive impulsivity.
  • Increased self-harming and suicidal thoughts and actions.
  • Lacking self-awareness.
  • Poor self-perception.
  • Intense, frequent, and quickly fluctuating feelings.
  • Volatile emotions.
  • Fits of rage and extreme hostility.
  • Dissociation or depersonalization as a reaction to abandonment.
  • Thoughts of purposelessness and lack of worth.

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Why Is a Romantic Relationship With a BPD Diagnosis Hard?

Relationship problems can become even more complicated when you’re dating someone who has borderline personality disorder. Conflicting relationship patterns, emotional instability, and a history of inappropriate behaviors are common among those living with BPD. Even if you’re their favorite for a while, they can stop paying attention to you if they think you’re about to leave them.

People with borderline personality disorder tend to have heightened emotional experiences, difficulty controlling their emotions, problems with attachment, a weak sense of identity, and unpredictable and impulsive behavior. You and your partner may both feel the effects of these mental health disorders in the relationship.

When you’re in a relationship with someone who has BPD, you could feel like you have to watch what you say so as not to anger them. And even if things are going great, you are always on edge, worrying about what will set them off or how to react if they break off the relationship in a fit of anger.

Consequently, you may experience emotions of shame, guilt, and self-blame as a result of assuming responsibility for your partner’s unpredictable and extreme mood swings. Feelings like these are quite normal when you are dating someone with a personality disorder. Thankfully, there are things you can do to better control your reactions and emotions, which in turn will improve your relationships with your partner and help you fulfill your relationship goals with them!

Tips for Dating a BPD Sufferer

When dating someone who has BPD, keep in mind the following important points:

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Realize That Your Significant Other May Have Multiple Illnesses

A partner with borderline personality disorder (BPD) may exhibit a number of troubling behaviors that strain your relationship. Overspending, careless driving, substance abuse, binge eating, and suicidal ideation are all examples of impulsive or self-destructive actions that can accompany these intense mood swings and borderline rage. Your partner may have more than one mental health issue; you can be confused and wonder if they have bipolar illness, anxiety, depression, or problems with substance abuse.

Notably, many people with borderline personality disorder also suffer from other mental health issues and have symptoms that overlap with one another. As a coping mechanism for their intense emotions and persistent feelings of loneliness, people with borderline personality disorder are more likely to participate in self-destructive behaviors. This means you might have a hard time understanding and helping them.

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Get Educated on BPD

Dating someone who suffers from borderline personality disorder requires you to educate yourself as much as possible on the condition–improving your relationship with a partner who suffers from borderline personality disorder requires you to be aware of the symptoms specific to their type.

Finding resources to help your loved one cope with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and reading up on the disorder are good first steps.

The Different Kinds of Borderline Personality Disorder Are as Follows:

  • Petulant borderline personality disorder
  • Impulsive borderline personality disorder
  • Self-destructive BPD
  • Discouraged or quiet BPD

“By learning more about borderline personality disorder, you might find comfort in the knowledge that your partner’s maladaptive behaviors are usually not deliberate but rather stem from their mental health condition and unresolved emotional trauma. By learning more about borderline personality disorder, you can develop into a more understanding partner and learn how to react in ways that can safeguard your relationship from possible issues,” according to research.

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Think About How Your Partner Sees the Relationship

One reason why relationships with people with borderline personality disorder are so tumultuous is that people with BPD often make faulty assumptions about the world around them. In a relationship with a person who has BPD, it’s important to keep in mind that they could have different expectations and perspectives than you do. As a result, this may have a major impact on their interactions with you and how they regulate the relationship.

Typical Misconceptions That a Partner with Bpd Can Have about You Are:

  • You are their ideal match and soul mate.
  • The only person who can save them from their mental torment is you.
  • As soon as you get closer, you will reject or leave them.
  • They are going to doubt you and will question your motives.
  • You will be the perfect partner one minute and the worst the next.
  • The only thing that’s wrong in the relationship is you.

You can better prepare yourself emotionally and psychologically to engage with the person you love if you are mindful of their perspectives and expectations.

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Know About BPD Cycles

Managing romantic relationships with people who have BPD can be quite challenging, especially if a dysfunctional pattern known as a BPD cycle takes shape.  Usually, this process starts with an idealization or what some may call the “honeymoon phase.” During this time, the partner with BPD places you on a throne and sees you as flawless, thinking that you can do no wrong. The duration of this period can vary, ranging from a few days to several months. But in most cases, it’s followed by a decline in status or a loss of respect.

When your BPD partner is in the devaluation phase, they may start to withdraw or even leave you with the intention of ending the relationship. Both partners can become emotionally drained as this vicious cycle continues throughout the relationship. Confusion, mistrust, and uncertainty regarding future prospects and the security of your partnership can come from this.

Having a solid understanding of BPD cycles can help you and your partner navigate the challenges and work towards building a stronger and more secure bond as a team.

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Protect Your Emotional Well-being

When you are in a relationship with someone who has BPD, it can be challenging not to become completely consumed with your partner’s needs. Consequently, your personal health can take a hit, and you may experience stronger feelings like anger and resentment, as well as mental fatigue and even physical health issues.

Take an inventory of how this connection changes your daily routine and how you’re handling it. Are you avoiding people, putting off taking care of yourself, misusing alcohol or substances, or doing anything else that could be harmful? If that’s the case, consider finding a way to bring back a sense of equilibrium by engaging in positive and fun activities that are separate from your relationship. Make sure your overall health and happiness are helpful not just for yourself but also for the well-being of your relationship.

Here Are Some Strategies to Take Care of You:

  • Manage your stress.
  • Maintain your physical well-being.
  • Develop genuine relationships with friends.
  • Spend time with your family.
  • Look for individual counseling.
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Set Boundaries and Limits

It is critical for a relationship featuring BPD to set healthy limits. To be clear, the purpose of these boundaries is not to exert control over or influence over your partner but rather to safeguard your own emotional and mental health while taking into account and respecting theirs. Although creating and maintaining appropriate boundaries may be challenging, doing so can help you stay stable and learn to adapt to improper or hurtful behaviors.

Knowing how to establish proper boundaries in a relationship is also helpful for figuring out what is and isn’t acceptable. Remember that this is an ongoing process that needs patience as well as time. Respecting boundaries, however, will make you both feel more comfortable in the connection while promoting a higher level of intimacy, trust, and respect.

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Communicate Openly and Honestly

No relationship is complete without open and honest communication; when dating someone with borderline personality disorder, it becomes even more important.  Problems in resolving issues and interacting are common among people with BPD, which can make relationships difficult.

One symptom of borderline personality disorder is a tendency to misinterpret both internal and external cues. This is particularly problematic in relationships with a breakdown in communication, as it often leads to misunderstandings that snowball into heated arguments.

In times of emotional upheaval, listening actively and validating your loved one’s feelings can be helpful.

To prevent unnecessary arguments and develop a stronger, closer relationship with your partner, it is super helpful to be aware of the consequences of poor communication–understanding how they process what you say and modifying your own communication style is a good approach!

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Support Them

Finding effective ways to support someone dealing with BPD can be fraught with challenges, so an emotional expression of sympathy and moral support is an excellent place to start. “People suffering from borderline personality disorder are more likely to improve if they are in stable domestic environments and have a loving partner. Having a strong support system is a necessity for a person with BPD to recover successfully,” according to Utah Addiction Centers.

Make it a point to compliment and encourage your partner when they do things well. Just as being understanding and sympathetic toward your partner’s challenges can help them feel better internally, so can supporting them in getting therapy and keeping a better sense of self. Remember that your significant other can get better at managing their emotions and responding well through developing new skills.

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Increase Accountability

Because of the potential for conflict in BPD relationships, it is particularly important to address issues in a thoughtful and accountable manner. It can be really hard for someone who has this mental health issue to acknowledge how their behavior affects others, but a gentle push toward promoting accountability and support can do wonders. A little introduction to promoting accountability can go a long way toward helping someone with borderline personality disorder understand their impact on others.

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Practice Patience

Dating someone with borderline personality disorder requires a great deal of patience. There is a way to manage the relationship’s impact on treatment, which requires time and could involve a lifetime of therapy. Knowing that you have a personal support system and are capable of taking care of yourself is also important!

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Can a Relationship With a BPD Sufferer Last?

Is it possible for a relationship with BPD to be long-term? Of course! But these relationships are typically rocky, especially when one partner has persistent indications of borderline personality disorder. Still, it seems that the non-BPD partner’s personality is more important in determining the relationship quality in such scenarios.

A deciding factor, however, is the BPD partner’s ability to acknowledge they have problems and willingness to get treatment.

People with BPD and the ability to keep up healthy relationships benefit from other factors, like getting the right treatment while also having a supportive partner.

Last but not least, research shows that people with BPD who are able to achieve emotional stability while minimizing their symptoms are more likely to be able to maintain happiness in relationships and get married–they are less prone to break up than those with BPD who hadn’t gained any traction in recovery.

Your relationship may not last, even if some BPD partnerships do. It could be because you’re not happy in the relationship or because it’s detrimental to your health. More serious problems, such as your partner’s refusal to get help and destructive, violent, repeated behaviors, could also emerge. What matters most is for you to reconsider the relationship and, if need be, to prioritize your safety by deciding to walk away.

Final Thoughts

Itis more than possible to have a fulfilling relationship with someone who has BPD without feeling overwhelmed. It’s also important to remember that feeling this way is common and doesn’t mean you don’t love your partner! Learning how to communicate and support individuals who are facing challenges effectively is a process that requires time and effort. However, it is indeed possible to establish a rewarding and fulfilling relationship. Investing time and effort into understanding each other and providing support during therapy can have a profound effect, and attending couples therapy together can provide valuable structure during difficult periods.

No matter what your particular circumstances may be, and that includes all romantic relationships–not just with those who suffer from BPD–it is extremely important to put aside time for self-care and spend time with your support network outside of your romantic relationship. And don’t feel guilty for doing it.

Locating a Mental Health Professional: If you or your partner are unsure about where to find a suitable mental health professional, an online therapist database can serve as a useful starting point.

Molly Davis
Molly Davis

Molly is an East Coast writer who lives on West Coast time. She’s been in the journalism field for over 20 years — newspapers are her first love but she’s finding digital media to be just as fun and challenging as print! When she’s not giving therapist-quality dating advice, she’s curled up watching movies, reading, or volunteering at local dog shelters.