Can This Relationship Be Saved? My Partner Has Borderline Personality Disorder

Updated on December 28, 2016

What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?

So you became romantically involved with someone who was exciting to be with and so unpredictable at times but has a heart of gold. The relationship has had its difficulties but somehow, discovering that your partner was diagnosed with a psychological disorder is more of a relief than a concern…because now you understand why he/she keeps acting that way. In other words – it’s not you, it’s them!

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious psychological condition characterized by unstable moods, behavior, and relationships. It affects a person’s perception of themselves, their ability to relate to others and their behavior. Persons with BPD typically view themselves as evil or bad. As strange as it sounds, some have felt as if they don't exist at all. Such a transient self-image may lead to repeated changes in jobs, friends, goals, and morals.

What Causes BPD?

It is commonly taught that personalities are formed during childhood. The factors that influence its development are both genetic and environmental, that is, how you were socialized while growing up. Some factors that may increase the risk of developing borderline personality disorder include:

  • Hereditary predisposition. The likelihood of persons developing this disorder increases if one or more close family members are diagnosed with it.
  • Childhood abuse. Persons who were sexually or physically abused during childhood may develop BPD.
  • Neglect. Severe deprivation, neglect and abandonment during childhood can also increase the likelihood of developing BPD.

Someone with BPD may feel misunderstood, alone, empty and hopeless. They may experience self-hate. Interestingly, they may also be fully aware of and unhappy about the emotional damage caused by their destructive behavior. The areas of their life most commonly affected are relationships, work and/or school. Self-injury, such as cutting is common and suicide rates among persons with BPD are very high.

Can a Relationship Survive This Diagnosis?

Yes it can. This diagnosis is associated with a lot of emotional turmoil and is not easy to navigate in a relationship. The level of commitment and ability of the other partner in the relationship to remain emotionally healthy is vital.

The emotional risks that accompany being in a relationship with someone with BPD include the natural tendency to react to an act of rage or to be overly protective and eventually co-dependent. It will be important to have suitable avenues of temporary escape/distraction to stay grounded.

It is important to understand and accept that persons with BPD are emotionally underdeveloped and do not possess mature emotional skills - especially when stressed. If you are in a relationship with someone with this diagnosis it is important to be realistic about how much consistent respect, trust, support, honesty and accountability you should reasonably expect in the relationship. It is important to note that changing your behavior may not necessarily result in an improvement between you.

BPD and Relationships - A Toxic Dance?

The Role of the Emotional Caretaker

Dr. Kraft Goin of the University of Southern California, describes borderline personalities as needing a partner who is constant, consistent and empathetic. Such a person should be able to listen and handle bursts of intense rage and idealization while concurrently establishing boundaries with resolve and honesty. Some effective strategies you can employ as the capable emotional caretaker are:

  1. Try to maintain routine and structure in your lifestyle together
  2. Be sure to set and maintain boundaries between you
  3. Be empathetic and build trust as consistently as possible
  4. Do not tolerate abuse, threats or ultimatums
  5. When things get tough, stay calm. Don’t get defensive and don't take anything personally
  6. Allow them to face the natural consequences of their actions
  7. Always seek immediate professional intervention if suicide is threatened

Do You Love Someone With BPD

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Some Words of Wisdom

If you are in a relationship with someone with BPD, there are important considerations that you must keep in mind:

  1. It is important that you try to protect the family financially and emotionally, from the possible negative repercussions of the actions of someone with BPD.
  2. It is important to have a significant emotional support system for yourself (e.g., close friends, family or therapist). These caring persons should be able to journey with you through the challenges of your own life that you will face.
  3. It is important to understand the reasons why you are in a relationship with someone with BPD. Such a relationship is founded on a life that evolves centers around and is always compensating for the antics of a destructive person. Working with a therapist on your own can help you to uncover those motivations and address any emotional deficits in your own life.

Just Believe!

The most important thing to remember is that someone who has been diagnosed with BPD can be rehabilitated and live a healthy normal life and contribute positively to their relationships, but this will require a deep personal commitment, consistency, patience and a little bit of faith!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Karen McGibbon


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