Partnering in Mental Health

Loving someone with mental illness

Should You Stay or Go? Loving Someone with BPD

Leaving your partner is not the only solution

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) has a bad reputation in the world of mental health. Many clinicians refuse to treat people with BPD, claiming that these patients are too challenging, too time-consuming, too volatile, too unstable, too emotionally draining, etc., etc.

But what if the person you love has BPD, either formally diagnosed or not? Is the only solution to walk away?

No, it’s not.

Walking away is one solution, but my hope is that if you are reading this blog, you want to know all your options about how to possibly make the relationship work. And there are many.

  • Learn everything you can about the disorder. BPD is a serious diagnosis, as are all the mental disorders. Buy yourself some books (see this post for resources), look online at BPD websites (see below), and talk to others who have gone through what you are going through.
  • Recognize that there may be more than one problem occurring. If your partner is male, narcissistic personality disorder, substance abuse, or inappropriate use of pornography are common issues that happen simultaneously with BPD. Clearly, having any of these complicate being able to address the BPD symptoms. Also, bipolar disorder and BPD can look really similar. Only a licensed professional should make the diagnosis.
  • Learn skills to improve your relationship. In her book The Essential Family Guide to Borderline Personality Disorder, Randi Kreger outlines five skills that can help a partner feel less overwhelmed by their partner with BPD. She stresses that it is important to learn these skills in order. They are:
  1. Take good care of yourself.
  2. Uncover what keeps you feeling stuck.
  3. Communicate to be heard.
  4. Set limits with love.
  5. Reinforce the right behaviors.
  • Accept that if you choose to stay in the relationship, there will be behaviors you will have to learn how to tolerate. People with BPD will have distorted thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, as well as splitting, mood swings, intense uncontrollable emotions, feelings of superiority, suicidal gestures, and more.

On the other hand, acknowledge your own limits and know when enough is enough. BPD or no BPD, abuse of any kind in a relationship is unacceptable. It is a fine line between what is the disease process and what is outright indecent behavior, and only you can determine where that line falls for you. Set your boundaries and stick to them.

Online resources

Welcome to Oz Online Community for Families with a Borderline Loved One

Family Connections Program

BPDDemystified

BPDFamily

 

Image courtesy of www.minddisorders.com

Kate Thieda works as a therapist in private practice in Durham, North Carolina.

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