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Repairing Damage by Borderline Personality Disorder

Changing these three basic beliefs can save your relationship.

Key points

  • Beliefs frequently associated with BPD can damage relationships and threaten their existence.
  • Many individuals with symptoms of BPD have a low frustration tolerance and are angered by other people’s boundaries.
  • Changing certain beliefs and the actions associated with them can repair and improve relationships.
 Gerd Altmann/Pixabay
Change your beliefs, change your relationship.
Source: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

Individuals with symptoms of BPD often have patterns of behavior that reflect unhealthy beliefs about relationships. Changing these beliefs and behavior patterns can lead to life-changing improvements in relationships and personal mental health. Three of the most powerful beliefs and how to change them are illustrated below.

Unhealthy Belief #1

It is acceptable to hurt others if they don’t give you what you want or agree with you. When humans don’t get what they want, they experience frustration. Most individuals with symptoms of BPD have a low frustration tolerance. They find even low levels of frustration intolerable and seek immediate and sometimes extreme methods of getting what they want. This often takes the form of lashing out hurtfully towards whoever they perceive to be the source of their frustration.

The lashing out is sometimes successful in getting others to give in. Regardless of the outcome, damage is done to the relationship by the hurtful lashing out. In the following example, Ari became frustrated because the family car was not available.

Ari: Dad I need to use the car tonight.

Dad: I am sorry but the car is in the shop.

Ari: The repair shop?

Dad: Yes.

Ari: You left it overnight?

Dad: Yes.

Ari: What kind of stupid move was that?

Dad: Excuse me?

Ari: You left me stranded.

Dad: You did not tell me until now that you needed the car tonight.

Ari: Tell them the car needs to be fixed immediately.

Dad: The shop is closed for the evening.

Ari: I have to have the car tonight.

Dad: It is not drivable.

Ari: You are pathetic. You let everyone walk all over you.

Dad: Now you will not use the car even when it is fixed.

Ari’s behavior reflected a belief that being rude and aggressive would result in his father providing a car for him even after he told him the car was unavailable. His lashing out not only failed to get the car, but now he will not have access to the car even after it is fixed.

Repair

Ari needs to give up the belief that hurting his father will get him what he wants. He should replace it with the belief that cooperative behavior will yield a better result than antagonism. He might achieve a better result by saying, “I have something tonight that is really important and I need transportation. I would really appreciate your help in making that happen."

Unhealthy Belief #2

If something goes wrong, you must blame others rather than take responsibility. Many individuals with symptoms of BPD fear being seen as flawed or defective. Acknowledging that they made an error makes them feel flawed and inadequate, which is intolerable to them. They blame others as a way of maintaining self-esteem.

This causes damage to relationships by leaving others feeling wrongly blamed, scapegoated, and gaslighted. In the following dialogue, Robi and her friend Yori arrived late for a wedding and missed the ceremony.

Yori: I can’t believe we missed the ceremony.

Robi: Yes, but we can still celebrate at the reception.

Yori: It’s all your fault.

Robi: My fault?

Yori: You made the travel arrangements.

Robi: I checked with you before each booking and you said it was great.

Yori: Next time you need to be more careful.

Robi: I made the reservations because you asked me to.

Yori: Just apologize to the bride and groom.

Robi: I think we both should.

Yori: I don’t have anything to apologize for. You need to do a better job next time.

Robi: There won’t be a next time.

Robi felt scapegoated by Yori’s refusal to take joint responsibility for showing up late to their friend’s wedding. She is hurt by Yori’s accusations and shamed by Yori telling their friends that it was Robi’s fault that they missed the ceremony. Robi will now be reluctant to attend events with Yori, which will compromise their relationship.

Repair

Yori needs to stop blaming others for errors and take appropriate responsibility. In this example, she needs to apologize with Robi and take ownership for arriving late. This will strengthen the relationship and facilitate their working together more closely in the future instead of inhibiting attending events together.

Unhealthy Belief #3

It is hurtful for others to set boundaries, so you should challenge them. Many individuals with symptoms of BPD are angered by other people’s boundaries, as they see them as impinging on their freedom or comfort. Because of this belief, they often challenge boundaries rather than respect them. This causes anger and resentment which leads to damage to the relationship.

Harold is very particular about how his home is kept. He asks people to remove their shoes to keep his carpet clean. He does not like others to use his bathroom. He does not like anyone to go in the refrigerator, etc.

His mother Leslie thinks that Harold is obsessive and excessive. She thinks his telling guests to remove their shoes is rude and she will not be told which bathroom to use when in her son’s home.

Although Leslie has been in Harold’s home many times, she does not remove her shoes until he says something. Then she argues with him that the rule is “stupid”. She makes a point of using his bathroom when she is there. When he asks her to use the guest bathroom, she says, “I am not a guest, I am your mother,” and insists on using it anyway. Harold eventually stopped inviting her to his home.

Repair

To fix the damage done, Leslie will need to respect Harold’s boundaries. Hopefully, she can come to see his boundaries as a way to be closer to him, rather than being insulted by his feelings and needs.

Three unhealthy beliefs are responsible for a significant amount of damage to relationships affected by BPD. Correcting these unhealthy beliefs will improve relationships significantly so that they can heal and grow rather than deteriorate further.

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