UPDATE: Colleen contributed to the article Living with Someone with Borderline Personality by Hope Gillette for PsychCentral.
Living with someone with borderline personality can be a challenge because of the person’s moods, feelings, and behaviors. Understanding these behaviors is key to dealing effectively with them in daily life. What follows are some of the most common symptoms of BPD and tips for living with someone who has it.
A relationship with a person diagnosed with borderline personality disorder is often complicated and challenging. People with BPD tend to struggle to maintain healthy relationships, especially with those closest to them. It’s important to remember that BPD symptoms can vary widely between individuals. People who suffer from BPD may seem calm and collected at times, but they might suddenly become erratic and unpredictable. Here are some common challenges both of you may face when dealing with BPD.
- Regulating emotions is challenging for your loved one and often leads to verbal attacks or physical violence. Mood swings can include episodes of depression, mania, or hypomania. Other responses could consist of feeling angry, enraged, or paranoid. These emotions are part of your partner’s emotional regulation process and are not something they can control on their own.
- Difficulties controlling impulsive behavior. Impulsivity is one of the core symptoms of BPD. It involves acting without thinking, often disregarding any consequences that might result from doing so. They may engage in self-destructive behaviors such as cutting themself, overusing drugs or alcohol, or having unsafe sex. They may make poor decisions about what they do and don’t want to do. Therefore, anticipating your loved one’s actions is difficult and adds significant stress to the relationship.
- Struggles to exhibit appropriate behavior in social situations. BPD individuals often struggle with how to behave in public. Feeling uncomfortable around people or in unfamiliar settings results in anxiety and panic. Empathy is another key symptom of BPD. It may be difficult for your loved one to read nonverbal cues and understand other people’s feelings. The possible feeling of being overwhelmed by crowds, loud noises, or other sensory stimuli can lead them to experience isolation, which makes it even more challenging to maintain friendships.
What are some general tips to approach/manage having a relationship with someone living with BPD?
- Educate yourself in understanding BPD. This is important as it will affect your life. You’ll need to know what to expect from your partner to deal with mood swings and outbursts. Try to avoid arguing and conflicts. If you notice signs of an episode coming up, take a break from each other and give yourself time to cool off before talking again.
- Set clear and firm boundaries. Your loved one will try to get you to do things you usually would never consider doing for them. Be clear in your relationship’s expectations and how you will interact. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t agree with every request. Set limits and stick to them.
- Be patient with your loved one. Even though you know your loved one has BPD, there will still be times when they do not respond well to instructions or your suggestions. Remember that these are only temporary reactions and don’t necessarily indicate anything else. They will eventually come back to a normal state once cooled down.
- Take care of your mental health. It can be emotionally draining for everyone working with someone with BPD. Develop healthy coping strategies and find ways to relax without your loved one. Don’t let your loved one control your life. It’s essential to take regular breaks throughout the day so you can re-energize yourself. This will aid in keeping a positive attitude and outlook on your relationship.
What is the BPD relationship cycle?
If your loved one has a borderline personality disorder, their behavior will likely cause a cycle of ups and down in your relationship. You’ll have both good and bad times together. There will be days of frustration and constant worry as you wonder why they acted the way they did. On other days, you might feel disappointed and wonder why they didn’t listen when you told them something. As challenging as this gets, this doesn’t mean you should stop trying to help. The two of you will have positive days too. You’ll enjoy spending quality time together and sharing new experiences. But, the cycle will always be in motion, taking on a yo-yo effect and bringing with it an emotional rollercoaster ride.
Get Support From A New Heights Mental Health Counselor
You will need support! New Heights counselors are mental health professionals specifically trained to address borderline personality disorder issues. As therapists, they can provide insight and help you develop healthy coping skills. They will become part of your support team and work alongside you to achieve a better quality of life for you and your loved ones.
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- Helping Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, Melinda Smith, M.A, Lawrence Robinson, and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.
- Borderline personality disorder, Mayo Clinic Staff
- Welcome Video New Heights Counseling Founder & Clinical Director Colleen Wenner
About the Author:
Colleen Wenner is the founder and clinical director of New Heights Counseling, where she provides counseling services for individuals struggling with mental health issues. She is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Master Certified Addiction Professional. Colleen is a certified supervisor in Florida and an EMDR trauma-certified practitioner and consultant in training. Colleen is committed to providing excellent client care and services the Fort Walton Beach, Crestview, Niceville, Destin, and surrounding communities.
Colleen has consistently advocated for mental health wellness and has dedicated her entire life to promoting awareness among the public. She has been featured on various podcasts such as Practice of the Practice (The #1 Podcast for counselors in private practice), Shrink Think Podcast, and The Salty Christan Podcast, to name a few. She has also contributed to several Yahoo Best Life, Unfinished Man, UpJourney, and WebMD articles. Colleen uses compassionate and authentic communication to help clients understand themselves better and feel more confident about their ability to improve their lives.