Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD is a psychological condition more common than most people realise, largely because it mostly affects interpersonal dynamics and is often wrongly seen as a relationship issue rather than a mental health one.
People who have BPD are prone to frequent, excessive emotional outbursts, which explains why maintaining a relationship with them is a real challenge. If your partner suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder, you may have felt exhausted more than once, but you can support them effectively and help them to build healthier ways of relating to you and others.
Look After Yourself First
The first thing that cannot be stressed enough is that you shouldn’t neglect your own needs. Being in a relationship with someone who has BPD is very much like riding a roller coaster and can be draining, even if you love them and understand what they are going through and why. Make sure you have “me” time scheduled and that not all of your life revolves around your partner and their disorder.
It is easy to become engulfed in your partner’s emotional hurricanes, and you shouldn’t hesitate to set limits. With love, but firmness. It should also be said that BPD should never be an excuse for verbal and physical abuse, as difficult a condition as it may be.
Therapy has a very important role to play in helping people with BPD to develop new strategies to deal with their issues. Don’t be surprised if they don’t welcome the idea at first, as they may take it as criticism, but the benefits they, and your relationship, can draw from therapy are worth persevering. The Robert Street Clinic is a practice specialised in Counselling in Auckland, and we can help you with how to approach that very delicate conversation, and plan a treatment programme.
Don’t take it personally
It is certainly easier said than done, but try your utmost to remember that your partner’s behaviour isn’t deliberate. Their fears of abandonment and rejection, their outrage at perceived offenses, their black-and-white perception of the world cause them even more distress to them as it does to you.
There is no denying that having a partner with BPD is hard, but think what it would be like if you were a prisoner in your own head, could never escape your sabotaging strategies, but could only watch helplessly as your personal and professional relationships fall apart again and again.
It is said that spontaneity keeps a relationship fresh, but if your partner has Borderline Personality Disorder, being spontaneous is a really bad idea! People with BPD need to feel safe, and the best you can do for them is to keep your word, even if it is about not yielding to an unreasonable demand. If you are on the receiving end of accusations, harsh criticisms or passionate tears, it won’t be easy, but giving in will only reinforce their undesirable behaviour, so be consistent.
Don’t take responsibility for their actions
A common characteristic of BPD is reckless conduct. Whether it is dangerous driving, drinking, uncontrolled spending, don’t rescue your partner every time. We all want to protect and help those we love, but in this case, you have to be cruel to be kind: letting them face the aftermath of their actions is the only way they will learn about consequences, and the best motivation to change.
People with BPD have an “all or nothing” view of the world: others are placed on a pedestal, until they are worthless. It would be tempting to go with the path of least resistance and agree with everything they say to avoid a confrontation, but it would only contribute to your loved one’s belief that “everybody” is treating them unfairly for example. People with BPD are so overwhelmed by their own feelings that they rarely realise how their behaviour affects situations. So always be honest if you know their perception not to be true.
You can’t win an argument, so don’t try
If your partner starts getting upset, you won’t be able to reason with them: be sensible, and you will be accused of not being on their side, and other hurtful things; show sympathy and you will be bombarded with outrage at your being patronizing. Whatever you say, your partner will only get more emotional. So, no matter how frustrated and hurt you may feel, stay calm.
Having a partner with Borderline Personality Disorder is hard, so if you are looking for a therapist in Auckland to help you cope, or to help them, email the Robert Street Clinic or call us on 09 973 5950 to discuss how counselling can support you and make a difference to your partner’s life and your relationship.