- A person with borderline personality disorder (BPD) may have difficulty maintaining stable, healthy relationships.
- Despite certain misconceptions people living with BPD can be loving, dedicated partners. They’re often acutely aware of how their condition affects others and want to seek treatment to improve their relationships.
- While BPD can have its challenges, there are ways to support your partner and strengthen your own mental health.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental illness characterized by severe and sudden mood swings, self-destructive behavior, and a deep fear of abandonment. Left untreated, these emotional and behavioral challenges can make it difficult for people with BPD to have stable relationships.
But unlike some of the common myths about BPD, people living with this condition can make loving and supportive partners. So if you’re dating someone with BPD, know that there are things you can do to support your partner and contribute to a healthy relationship dynamic.
Understanding borderline personality disorder (BPD)
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), BPD affects about 1.4% of the adult population in the U.S. And over 75% of people diagnosed with the condition are women. Some of the most common symptoms of BPD your partner may exhibit include:
- Fear of abandonment: Your partner frequently worries about being left alone, even when there is no concrete reason to feel this way.
- Unstable relationships: Your partner’s relationships tend to be tumultuous and intense. One moment, they idealize someone. Next, they perceive that person as terrible.
- Changing self-image: Your partner’s perception of themselves and their self-worth constantly fluctuates. One day, they may feel confident, while the next, they may experience self-disgust.
- Impulsive behaviors: Your partner engages in actions without considering the potential consequences, which can harm either themselves or others. Examples include overspending, engaging in risky sexual behavior, speeding, or gambling.
- Self-harm: At times, your partner contemplates self-harm, or they actually engage in self-destructive behaviors, such as cutting or attempting suicide.
- Mood swings: Your partner’s emotional states can shift rapidly, changing from happiness and joy to devastation and depression within a short time frame.
- Chronic emptiness: Regardless of their efforts or experience, your partner constantly feels a persistent sense of inner emptiness.
- Intense anger: Your partner frequently experiences anger, often over trivial matters, and has a short temper.
- Suspicion of others: Your partner struggles to trust people and frequently experiences feelings of paranoia, particularly under stress.
Misconceptions about dating someone with BPD
BPD is undoubtedly a challenging condition to live with. But there are some common myths and misconceptions surrounding BPD to be aware of if you’re dating someone with this condition.
Sometimes, people think that people living with BPD are incapable of being a loving partner. But that couldn’t be further from the truth and these ideas contribute to the stigma around BPD that can make it more difficult for a person to seek help.
Most people living with BPD are acutely aware of how their condition affects their lives and their partners, and don’t consciously want to engage in harmful or dangerous behaviors. Despite the difficulties caused by their condition, it’s possible that your partner may want to gain control of their symptoms so they can improve their well-being and build a healthier connection with you.
Challenges and rewards of dating someone with BPD
If you have firsthand experience dating someone with BPD, you may know the toll that BPD can take on relationships. Your partner’s symptoms can cause frequent conflict and instability in your relationship and they may engage in behavior that harms you or themselves.
There can also be some unique benefits to dating someone with BPD. Research shows that people living with BPD tend to have higher intelligence and more artistic ability than the average person. Having a creative, intellectually curious partner can result in meaningful, connective experiences that can enrich your life in a variety of ways.
Of course, these benefits don’t negate the impact of your partner’s challenging symptoms. But honoring your partner’s strengths and gifts can help you both build the resilience and patience needed to weather more challenging times.
Building the foundations of a strong relationship
Just like in other relationships, it’s important to build a strong foundation in a relationship when one partner has BPD or another mental health concern. Throughout the course of your relationship, practice making time for open, honest dialogue about how BPD is affecting your connection. These conversations are usually best held at a time when both partners are feeling calm as it’s harder to problem-solve when emotions are flaring. Keep in mind that this conversation shouldn’t be a one-time affair. You’ll both need to commit to fostering open communication and practicing active listening with one another.
As you learn more about your partner’s experience of BPD, be sure to offer validation and empathy. Living with BPD can be a painful, stigmatized experience. So try to demonstrate compassion for what your partner has lived through. At the same time, be sure to practice setting healthy boundaries and prioritizing self-care. The more both partners can do to take care of their own individual mental health, the stronger your relationship will be.
4 Tips for supporting a partner with BPD
Every person living with BPD will have their own unique experience of the condition. So in addition to the tips listed below, make sure to speak with them about the types of support they find most helpful.
- Educate yourself about BPD: Living with BPD can be an isolating experience because the condition is surrounded by confusion and misinformation. By educating yourself about BPD you’ll be better equipped to offer informed support and help your partner feel less alone.
- Expand your support system: If you’re dating someone with BPD, seek support from friends and family. Expanding your support networks can help you both feel loved and increase your sense of connection with others. It can also help prevent the strain and burnout that often result from a romantic partnership being someone’s only source of support.
- Encourage therapy and professional help: There’s a prevailing misconception that BPD is untreatable, but that isn’t the case. There are several research-backed therapies that have proven effective in treating BPD. So encourage your partner to go to therapy, seek some professional help for yourself, and consider going to couples therapy to strengthen your relationship.
- Create a safety plan: People living with BPD are often at risk for self-harm and suicidality. So it’s important to have an open conversation about your partner’s potential triggers and to create a safety plan with the help of your partner’s therapist or another mental health professional.
Find support for BPD with Path
When a partner or loved one needs support for BPD, it can be difficult to know where to turn for help. But thanks to Path, you don’t have to embark on this journey alone. Whether your loved one needs individual therapy, group therapy, or medication management, we can help them connect with a provider to provide effective support for BPD.
Mental health concerns like BPD can take a toll on partners and families. So we can also help you find your own individual therapist or connect you with a family or couples therapist if needed. To start, we invite you to explore our therapist-matching platform to find a BPD-focused therapist who takes your insurance in just a few seconds. From there, our team will work with you and your partner to find the right provider for your needs.
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