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Maybe you’ve begun seeing someone, and you’re suspecting this person that you’re dating may have BPD. So, what does dating someone with BPD mean?
“Does it mean the relationship is going to be rocky or bad? Will there be a lot of fighting? Is BPD similar to a mental health condition? What is it like to date someone with BPD? Does the person I’m dating actually have BPD? If so, what should I do?”
Take a deep breath, with a slightly longer exhale, as you allow yourself to ground in for a moment. This article will serve to address all of these questions. We will talk about what BPD is, BPD in the context of relationships, and provide strategies on how to care for and love someone with BPD.
The hope is that when you finish reading this article, you’ll have a better understanding of what it is like for someone to have BPD, as well as what it may be like to have a relationship and best support a partner with BPD in addition to yourself.
Borderline personality disorder: Signs and symptoms
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a complex mental health condition that falls under a personality disorder and is often misunderstood. A core feature of BPD is how an individual relates to others in the context of relationships.
Think of it as sailing through a constantly changing sea. One moment, the waters might be calm, and the next, they could transform into an intimidating storm. This is the world as perceived by someone with BPD.
People with BPD might experience turbulent emotional states, including intense anger, extreme anxiety, and/or depression. These episodes can last from a few hours to several days, causing distress and affecting day-to-day life—around 80 to 96% of people with BPD experience comorbid mood disturbances (1).
Another characteristic symptom of BPD is a high sensitivity to rejection, in addition to an overwhelming fear of abandonment.
This fear often surfaces even in response to seemingly minor incidents but is very real for the individual with BPD. These fears related to abandonment are often best described as an intolerance or extreme distress of being alone.
For example, their partner might be running late for a date for an insignificant reason like traffic. Still, the person with BPD may interpret this as a sign of abandonment, causing them to react with extreme emotions or even end the relationship prematurely to avoid the imagined rejection. This is one of the main reasons that people with BPD have difficulty in relationships, often having unstable relationships (2).
This high emotional sensitivity also applies to self-image. Identity disturbance often manifests in BPD.
People with BPD often struggle with their identity and self-worth, leading to frequent changes in jobs, friendships, goals, and core values.
One study revealed that BPD patients reported low self-esteem and often experienced negative self-related emotions such as shame and self-disgust. This may be related to the belief that this profound feeling of sense of abandonment implies they are “bad.”
Interestingly, another study paired people with BPD with those who recovered from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). Findings reveal those with BPD typically view themselves as helpful and sensitive but also suffering and perceive others as selfish (3, 4).
This unpredictable and inconsistent self-image can make it challenging for those with BPD to maintain consistent, long-term goals or to develop a stable sense of who they are and what they value.
Impulsivity is another significant symptom of BPD. This impulsivity is not just a preference for spontaneous decisions but can lead to harmful behaviors such as reckless driving, substance abuse, or risky sexual behavior (5).
The understanding of BPD is continually evolving, with an increasing body of research shedding light on this condition. About 1.6% of the general population is estimated to have BPD (6).
Still, the cause of BPD is not entirely determined yet. According to the research of Dr. Marsha Linehan, a renowned American psychologist who is an expert in BPD, biological vulnerability and early life trauma might be the two main reasons that cause BPD to emerge (7).
Genetics may predispose one to neurobiological differences observed in BPD, which may be compounded by trauma or adverse childhood experiences. While adverse childhood experiences and trauma may make one more susceptible to BPD, these are not absolutes or direct causes.
How to deal with someone with BPD: BPD and relationships
Being with a partner who struggles with BPD can be tough. One moment, they can be charming and passionate, but the next moment they can be cold as ice or highly emotional. Some people might want to stay as far from those with BPD, but others might wonder, “How to be with someone with BPD?” They love their partner, but this complex set of symptoms may be largely impacting their relationship. Let’s keep on reading to find out how BPD affects relationships and how to love someone with BPD while taking care of yourself.
BPD symptoms in relationships
Being in a relationship with someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can often feel like a rollercoaster ride.
On the one hand, people with BPD can exhibit a depth of love and passion that can be intensely appealing. On the other, the emotional turbulence they frequently experience can cause them to oscillate between intense affection and equally intense dislike or anger (8). This is because those with BPD often have extreme difficulty in regulating their emotions, as well as experiencing intensity and insecurity in attachments.
Let’s take the case of Sarah and Steve as an example. Steve, who has BPD, is in a relationship with Sarah. When things were good, they were perfect. Steve’s passionate and caring nature made Sarah feel deeply loved.
However, Steve’s BPD symptoms often turned these moments of joy into distress. One slight disagreement could spark a significant argument, with Steve’s intense emotions causing him to lash out at Sarah.
Chronic fear of abandonment is a common reason that causes disputes in a BPD relationship. While not necessarily based on actual events, this fear can create significant strain within a relationship. For instance, if Sarah were late coming home from work, Steve may interpret this as a sign that she was leaving him. As a result, Steve might react with extreme emotions out of fear and anxiety.
Another common dynamic in relationships where one partner has BPD is this pattern of idealization and devaluation. In the beginning, Steve would see Sarah as his perfect match. But when disagreements arose, his view would shift dramatically, perceiving her as similar to the worst person he’d ever met. This often comes from the feeling that the person does not care enough or is there enough for them.
Not only does this emotional turbulence impact the person with BPD, but it also has significant implications for their partner’s emotional health. Sarah found herself regularly walking on eggshells, worrying about saying or doing something that might set off another emotional outburst.
Over time, this constant anxiety might begin to take a toll on her mental health, leading to feelings of depression and emotional exhaustion.
Can people with BPD have meaningful relationships and love?
From the examples above, it seems that someone with BPD will only cause havoc in a relationship. Yet, love is a universal human emotion, and people with BPD are no exception. While those with BPD may lose perspective from time to time due to the intensity of their emotions, they also have the capacity to be greatly empathetic, as they know what it feels like to feel a lot of intensity.
So, to answer the often-asked question: “Can people with BPD love and have healthy relationships?” We want to emphasize that the answer is a resounding yes! However, when expressing love, people with BPD might display unique behaviors that can confuse their partners. Below are some possible signs your partner with BPD cares about you and may be trying to express their love to you:
- People with BPD feel everything more intensely. This means that when they love, they love deeply and passionately, and it can sometimes overwhelm them and their partner (9).
- They are often very caring and sensitive, with a deep desire for close relationships (10).
- They might shower their loved ones with affection and attention one moment, only to withdraw the next because of the fear of rejection or abandonment (2). This is often the result of having increased sensitivity in interpersonal relationships due to adverse, unpredictable, and invalidating experiences in their attachments.
How to love someone with BPD: Insightful tips to strengthen your relationships
Emotional instability, fear of abandonment, and rejection, in addition to the shifting self-image that characterizes BPD, can add complexity to your partnership. However, this doesn’t mean that love is off the cards – far from it.
Whether you’re in a relationship with a BPD partner, a deep, fulfilling relationship is entirely possible with understanding, patience, and effective strategies.
Here, we’ll provide some insightful and practical tips to strengthen your relationship and demonstrate how to love someone with BPD effectively.
- Understand the Disorder: Read about BPD, consult mental health professionals, and attend BPD support groups. This will help you empathize with your partner’s experiences, as the distress they feel is very real for them.
- Don’t Take It Personally: People with BPD can experience intense mood swings and can sometimes say hurtful things or act out. Learning how to live with someone with BPD means understanding that their negative actions or words do not reflect your worth.
- Set Healthy Boundaries: Make your mental health a priority, and communicate your limits to your partner. Also, be sure to set consistent boundaries that you follow through with. This will support both you and your partner’s improved wellness in the long run.
- Communicate Openly and Calmly: Stay calm, especially during conflict or emotional distress. Regularly check in with each other about feelings, thoughts, and fears. Honest, open dialogue can prevent many potential misunderstandings. A core of BPD is fear of abandonment and heightened sensitivity to rejection, especially in the context of intimate relationships. So, try to remain mindful of this.
- Be Consistent: Consistency can help create a sense of stability for people with BPD. Try to be consistent in your actions, communication, and promises. This can help to build support between you and your partner, as well as help them to cope with their emotions in more adaptive and constructive ways.
- Encourage Professional Help: Therapy can be incredibly beneficial for individuals with BPD. Encourage your partner to seek professional help if they haven’t already. This might involve Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), the primary evidence-based approach for BPD encompassing Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Distress Tolerance, and Emotional Regulation skill building. Other therapeutic modalities such as mentalization-based treatment (MBT), Schema-Focused Therapy (SFT), Transference-Focused Psychotherapy (TFP), and Systems Training for Emotional Predictability and Problem Solving (STEPPS) have also been found to be evidence-based psychotherapeutic therapies for BPD (11). Finally, a support group for yourself or to join your loved on in their session if they’re open to that may be beneficial for improving communication and strengthening the relationship.
- Practice Self-Care: When you’re in a relationship with someone with BPD, it’s easy to focus all your energy on supporting them, but don’t forget to take care of yourself too. Make time for your own interests and activities.
Whether you’re dealing with a borderline personality disorder girlfriend or boyfriend, remember that you’re in this together, and with patience, understanding, and love, you can navigate toward a more secure and loving relationship.
Dating someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. You’ll experience intense moments of love but also serious arguments driven by the person with BPD’s fears and shifting emotions. This can be hard on everyone’s mental health. However, people with BPD can love deeply, though their love might feel more intense and complicated. Understanding BPD, setting healthy boundaries, consistent communication, encouraging professional help, and practicing self-care are crucial to fostering a fulfilling relationship. With patience, understanding, and love, a relationship with a BPD partner can grow stronger.
Dating someone with borderline personality disorder: Practical tips
Meet John. He’s an average guy, but his romantic journey is a little more complicated.
He’s been dating with BPD – not him, but his girlfriend, Jane.
Jane is an incredible, vibrant woman with a contagious zest for life. However, she also had moments of intense emotion followed by severe anxiety and unpredictable mood swings.
At first, John wasn’t aware of Jane’s diagnosis. He simply thought that Jane was just more sensitive and emotional. But over time, he noticed the patterns.
He wondered if Jane might be a “BPD girlfriend” after stumbling across an article about BPD girlfriend signs.
John, like many others who wonder, “Does my partner have BPD?” sought professional advice. He accompanied Jane to a mental health professional, where she was diagnosed with BPD. Although this was a challenging time for both, it was also a revelation – an opportunity to better understand Jane’s emotions and behavior.
Now, you might wonder, how does John handle being in a relationship with someone who has BPD? Here’s where John’s journey offers insights into how to date someone with BPD.
First, John recognized that loving someone with BPD meant facing unique challenges. It required him to comprehend that Jane’s actions were manifestations of her disorder, not personal attacks on him. This was a significant step that allowed John to separate Jane from her BPD, and this helped him to react with compassion rather than frustration.
For John, providing emotional support was essential. He began anticipating situations that might trigger Jane’s symptoms and took proactive steps to reassure her. He learned that his support and understanding could make Jane feel more secure in their relationship.
John also discovered the importance of setting healthy boundaries. Although he strived to support Jane, he also understood the necessity of maintaining his mental health. To this end, he expressed his limits, and Jane, appreciative of his honesty, tried to respect these boundaries.
Educating himself was a game-changer for John. He dived into books, blogs, and clinical resources to better understand BPD.
He joined online support groups, where he found comfort and guidance from others in a relationship with a BPD partner. Understanding BPD helped him realize why Jane had an intense fear of abandonment and sometimes exhibited signs of ‘quiet’ BPD, marked by internalized symptoms.
Finally, John learned to celebrate small victories. Every moment of tranquility, every day without an emotional storm, was a testament to their mutual understanding, patience, and love.
A relationship with a BPD partner may require some additional effort, but at its core, it’s a relationship filled with moments of joy, sorrow, and growth. Love, patience, and understanding can indeed go a long way.
You’re not alone in your journey. Like John, you too can learn, grow, and love deeply, building a fulfilling relationship with your BPD partner.
Best ways to support your loved one with BPD
When a loved one is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), it can be disorienting and overwhelming. However, you can become a pillar of support with empathy, understanding, and a solid toolbox of resources. Here, we lay down some practical steps to ensure you’re prepared and equipped on this journey.
Cultivating Empathy: BPD can manifest in volatile moods, irrational fears, and impulsive behaviors. Remember, these actions are often an expression of deep-seated fears and anxieties. So refrain from judgment, and respond with empathy.
Practice Patience: BPD can lead to unpredictable behavior and mood swings. It’s crucial to remain patient during these times. This doesn’t mean you need to ignore negative behavior but respond to it calmly and clearly.
Your Self-care Matters: Supporting someone with BPD can be emotionally demanding. Prioritize self-care – consume nutrient-dense foods and adequate hydration, engage in physical activities, get plenty of rest, and practice stress-relief activities such as meditation, yoga, or even a hobby you love.
Work with Healthcare Professionals: They can offer strategies for managing crises, setting boundaries, and improving communication. With your loved one’s consent, consider accompanying them to their appointments for better understanding.
Leveraging Resources: There’s a wealth of resources at your disposal, from books like “Stop Walking on Eggshells” by Paul T. Mason and Randi Kreger to online support groups like BPD Family and BPD Chat. These platforms offer advice, share experiences, and provide a sense of community, showing that you’re not alone in this journey.
Celebrate Progress: No matter how small, celebrate your loved one’s progress. This could be a day with fewer mood swings, successfully using a new coping mechanism, or even recognizing their emotions better. Celebrating these victories together can give you encouragement and hope.
Supporting a loved one with BPD is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be highs and lows, but with patience, understanding, and proper care, you and your loved one can successfully navigate this journey.
How to explain BPD to my boyfriend?
When discussing BPD with your boyfriend, try to be transparent and honest. Describe how you feel, such as intense mood swings, fear of abandonment, and challenges with self-image. You might explain how these symptoms can influence your behaviors and the dynamics of your relationship. Assure him that these are components of the disorder, not a reflection of your feelings towards him.
What are the signs a BPD loves you?
Love, as experienced by someone with BPD, can be intense and passionate. When a person with BPD loves you, they might display high levels of affection and devotion or express strong love or admiration. Their love is deep and profound and can often feel like an emotional rollercoaster.
Do people with BPD get attached too easily?
It’s common for individuals with BPD to form attachments quickly and deeply. They can idealize their partner, falling in love instantly. Along with this rapid attachment comes a heightened fear of rejection and abandonment, which can sometimes lead to emotional problems if the relationship does not meet their high expectations.
Do people with BPD get jealous easily?
Yes, people with BPD often experience heightened jealousy due to their acute fear of abandonment and insecurity in relationships. This fear, coupled with their intense feelings and difficulty regulating their emotions, can cause them to be oversensitive to potential threats to their relationships.
Why do those with BPD hurt the ones they love?
When people with BPD unintentionally hurt their loved ones, it’s typically a byproduct of their overwhelming emotions and their fear of abandonment, not a deliberate action. It’s crucial to remember that they are often struggling with intense emotional pain.
Do people with BPD regret pushing people away?
People with BPD can feel intense guilt or regret after their inability to emotionally regulate, leading to distress and conflict. Their actions during these periods often stem from intense emotions; once these go away, they will likely feel remorse for pushing loved ones away.
What is the best partner for someone with BPD?
An ideal partner for someone with BPD is patient, understanding, and empathetic. They should be willing to learn about the disorder and support their partner in managing it. Good communication skills and the ability to set healthy boundaries are essential for maintaining a stable and mutually respectful relationship.
Yes, dating someone with BPD can be challenging. Their constant mood swings can be confusing, and unintended harsh words may hurt you. However, they are someone that you care about. After you realize that BPD is a symptom they cannot always control, your relationship will start to pivot into a more calm and stable one.
How to love someone with BPD? Like in any relationship, empathy and care are fundamental, but in this case, you will need a bit more effort. The resulting connection, however, can be incredibly fulfilling.
We hope this article helps you build resilience and joy in your relationship with your BPD partner, guiding it toward better understanding and deeper affection.