Relationships and Borderline Personality Disorder
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, adults suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder are often unaware that they have a problem unless it starts significantly interfering with their lives. It is rare for for an individual with BPD to seek out treatment or feel the need to go to counselling. This blog looks at relationships and Borderline Personality Disorder where there can often be a deep seated pattern of instability in relating to other people. It is usually closely related to the person’s self-image and sense of self and there are close connections with their early social interactions. They are very sensitive to environmental circumstances. They can sometimes experience intense abandonment fears or inappropriate anger in situations where others would quickly adapt – such as when kept waiting for an appointment. In fact they will make frantic efforts to avoid this abandonment. They find being alone very difficult and can often feel a deep sense of emptiness.
Moods can be volatile: they may go quickly from seemingly calm and content to intense anger, irritability, or anxiety which they find difficult to snap out of for several hours. In a new relationship, people with BPD may idealise a partner at the first or second meeting, demand to spend a lot of time together, and share the most intimate details early in a relationship. However, they may switch quickly from idealising other people to devaluing them, feeling that the other person does not care enough or does not give enough. They can appear to switch in an instant from being kindly and supportive to cruelly punitive.
A roller coaster ride
For this reason, caring about someone with borderline personality disorder puts you onto a roller coaster ride. It is important to stress the for the individual with the disorder, life is pretty challenging too. You live in unbearable emotional pain much of the time as it distorts your perceptions ad makes the world a perilous place.
In a relationship with someone with BPD, if you prioritise calmness and predictability, you will have a rough ride. There will be constant drama, excitement, and intensity, a series of accusations and anger, jealousy, bullying, control, and breakups. They have the quintessential Jekyll and Hyde personality and so they (and you) can be up one minute, in the depths of despair the next. They can be vindictive and punish you with words, silence, or other manipulations, which can be very destructive to your self-esteem.
There are likely to be constant “mind games” where they try to bait you into anger, then falsely accuse you of rejecting them or make you doubt reality and your sanity. It is not unusual for them to cut off friends and relatives who they feel have betrayed them.
How can you deal with a partner, family member or colleague with BPD?
Borderlines need boundaries. Setting a boundary can sometimes snap them out of their delusional thinking. Calling their bluff also is helpful. Both strategies require that you build his or her self-esteem, learn to be assertive, and derive outside emotional support. Giving in to them and giving them control does not make them feel more safe, in fact it can do just the opposite.
If its practical, sometimes, it’s best to avoid personal contact or deal with the person only in a group setting, such as the workplace or group outings. The most important tool is not to internalise the person’s behaviour, or take it personally. It’s not about YOU. People with borderline personality disorder aren’t fully aware of their behaviour and the effect on other people. Try to be as sympathetic as you can, but maintain appropriate boundaries to protect yourself.
Need some advice and support?
If you are experiencing difficulties in a relationship with someone who you think may be suffering from borderline personality disorder, whether a partner, a friend, a family member or a work colleague, and would like to talk it over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.
Book a counselling session today!