Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness that can take a toll on personal relationships. If you have BPD, then you know how the instability caused by the disorder can impact your life. Constantly shifting moods, dramatic changes in how you perceive yourself and erratic behavior make it difficult for those with BPD to form healthy bonds with others. This is especially true when it comes to building romantic attachments.
BPD distorts the line between reality and psychosis, making the world a perilous place. Relationships that build quickly and intensely can devolve into pain, fear of abandonment and feelings of rejection. It's not completely clear what causes BPD, but it's believed that those who have endured an abusive childhood, neglect and abandonment may be at risk.
If you or a loved one has borderline personality disorder, it's important to understand the implications this illness could have on your personal relationships. You should also know that you are not alone. BPD is not a life sentence, and treatment is available.
Ways BPD Can Affect Relationships
Building healthy relationships is possible, even for those with borderline personality disorder. But first, it's important to understand how the disease can impact relational bonds. By learning and understanding how BPD affects both those who struggle with it and their loved ones, you can be aware of common dilemmas that many with BPD encounter with close personal relationships:
- A desire for codependency: Although relying on others is not wrong in a personal relationship, those with BPD struggle with codependency. This is when one person relies heavily on the other in the relationship to meet the majority of their desires and needs. Those with BPD can even derive their self-worth based on how much the other person is doing for them. This can cause their partner to become burned out and exhausted.
- Testing boundaries: Boundaries are healthy in any relationship. But those with borderline personality disorder may have a hard time understanding and respecting these. When they encounter a personal boundary, they may try to push its limits. This could include taking cash from a loved one without asking, calling at all hours or asking questions that are inappropriate.
- Splitting: Most people understand shades of gray and taking the good with the bad, but those with BPD struggle with this concept. For that reason, their relationships with others can fluctuate between perceiving someone as entirely good and switching quickly to thinking they're entirely evil. Their judgment is black-and-white. This could mean they are head over heels in love with someone one minute, and then on a dime, those feelings switch to intense anger. All memories of past good become tainted.
- Manipulation: The intense need for others in those with BPD is coupled with a fear of being dominated by them. To walk this tightrope, some people with the disorder may resort to controlling their relationships by using manipulation. One moment they could be inducing their loved one with flattery, and the next, they could be baiting them to become angry and lash out. It can even take a vindictive tone by using words or silence to punish others.
- Self-harming or suicidal behavior and threats: The psychological pain experienced by many with BPD is often unbearable. It can be difficult dealing with the roller coaster of feelings and perceptions. Some people with the illness use self-harm as a means to cope with this emotional pain.
Treatment Is Available For BPD
Although it may be difficult, there is hope for those struggling with borderline personality disorder and their loved ones. It may require patience, but with specialized treatment, BPD sufferers can find relief. Common treatment options for BPD include individual therapy sessions, group therapy, medication and learning to develop healthy habits and boundaries in their personal relationships.
If you are married or romantically involved with someone with BPD, remember that this is an illness. Healthy boundaries will protect you and them, but they also need to know they're loved and cared about. It may be a good idea to seek help for yourself so that you can learn how to cope as well.
If you or a loved one has borderline personality disorder, we invite you to contact Brookhaven Retreat, a women-only facility offering compassionate care to those who struggle with mental health disorders. We're here to help you break the negative patterns that BPD has caused and move forward with a healthier life.