Real Advice for Loving Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder
How did you get here?
You fell in love with your partner, borderline and all.
While people with borderline personality disorder get the short end of the stick when it comes to emotional stability, they can also be quite intriguing creatures. At a party, you might want to approach somebody with borderline because there's something dark and mysterious about her. Borderline personality disorder is not a pleasant thing to have to deal with, but dealing with such pain in life can give a person insight and a certain special something that is attractive to others. Chances are, you were attractive to that "something different" about your partner.
Borderline may have contributed to your relationship progressing very quickly.
A person with BPD often struggles with blurred boundaries when it comes to what to share, how much to share, and when. The author of healingfrombpd.com accurately describes this phenomenon as the "accidental flirt." Because BPD is an extremely isolating disorder, a person with the disorder can tend to share too much personal information with strangers and acquaintances, giving the impression that a more intimate relationship exists. The "accidental flirt" is rewarded by a temporary easing of the loneliness and emptiness a BPD sufferer experiences nearly constantly, and because this behavior is rewarded, they continue to do it.
In the context of a blossoming relationship, the tendency to over-share and connect more intimately before an appropriate amount of time has passed can lead to a relationship moving very quickly. You may have found that, within a couple of months, it felt like you had been together for years. The problem with this is that you, in fact, have not been together for years. There is still a lot of learning you have to do about your partner, and when you move too quickly through the more intimate stages of your relationship, the unknowns about your partner can come as a shock and be quite damaging to the stability you feel in the relationship.
Keep it in context.
Even if it feels like you have known each other for decades, and it feels like you know every little thing about your partner, try to keep it in the context of the period of time you've been together. Your partner may want to feel intimately connected to you very quick, but if your relationship is still new, don't be surprised when there's a lot you don't know about her.
Talking About Borderline
People who suffer from BPD are not "borderlines", just like people who suffer from fibromyalgia are not "fibromyalgias". The disorder does not define you as an individual any more than that, and while some people with the disorder may not take offense to being called a "borderline," a great many do. More importantly, using the term in this way is incrementally damaging to the overall way this disorder is perceived and approached.
Borderline personality disorder does not only affect women, although I personally use "she" as my pronoun most often, because BPD is mostly diagnosed in women (about 3 to 1). Men suffer from the disorder as well, but they are more likely to be diagnosed with a different disorder (anti-social personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder).
You're in an airplane, and then...turbulence. NOPE. It's going down! The oxygen masks drop down. What do you do?
Don't Be Jack
Save yourself first! If you've ever listened to the in-flight announcement or read the pamphlet tucked into the back of the seat in front of you, you know this very basic rule. Because if you pass out before you can put the oxygen mask on that child, you're both done for.
The same rule applies when your relationship hits turbulence. Especially when your partner has borderline, they need you to make sure you survive so that you're alive and able to help them through that hard time. That is your top priority. Nobody wants you to be like Jack-- especially your partner. Don't close yourself off and separate yourself entirely from your partner, but know where you have to draw the line. If your partner is being hurtful, don't hang out and listen to it. That is damaging to your relationship and to both of you individually. It's in both of your best interests to leave for a while, and come back when things have cooled down. Also, is there any reason he could not get on that tiny raft with her?
Don't become your partner and don't let your partner become you. You were first attracted to each other because of each of your unique, individual traits. In a long-term relationship-- especially one that involves living together--you're likely to pick up certain things from each other, like terms of speech and movement patterns. But never forget what makes you you.
One of the characteristics of a successful and lasting relationship is a well-maintained differentiation between the two partners' individual personalities. When two people lose the boundaries between their desires, lives, and personalities as individuals, it is called enmeshment. It is also referred to as codependency. Being enmeshed with another person quickly becomes an unhealthy and frustrating way to live, because you aren't being true to yourself. An enmeshed couple is more likely to become unhappy and separate because they are not being fulfilled as individuals.
All couples must pay attention to this possible relationship pitfall, but it's especially important in a relationship with a partner with borderline because people with BPD more easily become enmeshed.
Now Stop Reading
The most important part of loving somebody with this disorder is remembering to not get too deep into advice and articles. The one you love has the most important opinion here, and if she knows that she has this disorder, there's a 100% chance she understands this disorder much better than the majority of forum posters out there. And the more misinformation you get from online (and even from therapists, who are only just beginning to understand the disorder), the harder it is going to be for you to hear what your partner is saying without prejudice. If you do to learn more about the disorder, which is completely understandable, it should be from:
A) A psychiatrist who is specifically educated in the disorder and has worked with patients with the disorder.
B) People who have the disorder and their husbands/wives who are happy in the relationship.
Why would you take advice from someone who hasn't been happy in a relationship with someone with BPD when that is what you want advice on?
C) Not anybody who uses the term "no-contact," or immediately becomes terrified that you want to be in a relationship with someone with BPD. They don't know what they're doing, psychologist or not.
D) Your partner of course.
Now stop reading and go be in love!
© 2015 Sarah B