If you suffer from borderline personality disorder (BPD), you will usually experience your life as challenging and your romantic relationships as intense, conflict-ridden and not very stable.
The effects of BPD can have a big impact on your relationship. It can be painful and extremely difficult for you and your partner to figure out how to be close, since you crave intimacy while being concerned about being addicted and being rejected1.
The thinking process can be something like: “I want to be close, but being close feels risky and even dangerous.”So you may want and ask for attention urgently, and in the next minute you feel that your partner is too pushy.
This mixture of fear of closeness and lack of closeness can be very confusing and painful for your partner because he feels he doesn’t know how to please you and how he can do it right for you.
Do I or does my partner have a borderline personality disorder?
Labels and diagnoses can be difficult and should always be preliminary when doing your own research. However, sometimes it can be helpful to have something to hold onto to know why you or your partner may have mood swings and find it difficult to deal with when triggered in your relationship.
We all sometimes have problems regulating emotions. However, if you know that this has not yet happened to you or your partner, it can be helpful to learn more about this label and to understand how you can improve the response to your partner if you have BPD or how You can respond effectively if you think your partner may have characteristics of BPD.
The symptoms of borderline personality disorder vary from person to person, but here are the most common symptoms:
- Have an unstable sense of self (how you feel can vary widely)
- I feel isolated and empty
- Intense, highly changeable moods that can last for a few hours or several days
- Strong feelings of fear, worry, and depression
- Recurring thoughts of suicide or suicidal behavior
- Impulsive, risky, self-destructive, and dangerous behavior, including reckless driving, drug or alcohol abuse, and unsafe sex
- A difficulty in feeling empathy for others
- Difficulty controlling anger and temperament towards people
- Extremes between idealization and devaluation of those you are close to
- An ongoing fear of being abandoned and rejected, including extreme emotional responses to real and perceived abandonment
- A story of unstable relationships that can change drastically from intense love and idealization to intense hatred
- Career plans, goals and aspirations that are constantly changing
Many people experience one or more of these symptoms regularly, but in a person with borderline personality disorder, many of the symptoms appear regularly in adulthood.7
Understand borderline personality disorder
Although the causes are not yet clear, research suggests that genetic factors and adverse life events seem to interact and lead to BPD. People with BPD speak of experiencing many negative events (e.g. trauma, neglect) during childhood3rd. They typically experience original fears such as rejection and abandonment.
Many of the behaviors of BPD overlap with people who perceive caregivers as both a source of security and a source of violation as children, and therefore develop an anxious-avoiding attachment style as adults that keeps them from close relationships. As Sue Johnson2nd said such people have experienced being left in an impossible, paradoxical position, and are still caught up in the way: “Come here, I need you so – but go away, I can’t trust you.”
A threat to love and security
As human beings, we all have to feel love and security. When we sense a threat, we automatically switch to protection mode. In a way, we can all be manipulative – it is in our nature to improve things for ourselves in order to survive. For someone with BDP, this feeling of threat can be triggered very easily, and what has often been called manipulation can be seen as a desperate attempt to deal with painful feelings or to meet their needs – without the aim of harming others4th. A person with BDP said: “My days and thoughts are not spent on plans of how to press which button in whom. My actions are about surviving and maintaining my identity. They are not a pre-planned sporting activity. “4th.
So many criteria for BPD fit the dynamics of a couple in which one or both of them have experienced negative parenting environments with unpredictable outbursts of anger and attention requirements while feeling suffocated, as well as a deep feeling of being unlovable.
Easy to trigger
It is understandable that growing up in an environment where your primary caregiver represents both security and fear would make it extremely difficult as an adult to learn to trust and trust an intimate partner. We all have a window of tolerance – the area where we can think and feel at the same time – when we are under stress. For people with BPD, however, the window of how much stress can be tolerated without becoming reactive is much smaller because it can be easily triggered.
How it feels to be a partner
It can be very confusing for your partner to know what caused your distress and how you can best react. Your reactions often make you feel blind.
If you suffer from BPD, you often use a number of behaviors to protect yourself, e.g. B. verbal abuse, perceived manipulation and shutdown. All of this can destroy trust and intimacy in your relationship.
Your partner can then feel insecure and can no longer be sure that his deep feelings and innermost thoughts will be treated with love, care and concern. He or she often walks on eggshells and holds back for fear of triggering you.
And if you switch between trying to hold on to the relationship and threatening to break up4thThis further burdens your partner and your relationship.
What to do if your relationship could be affected by BPD?
Getting a diagnosis may seem like the best option, and there are times when it can certainly be helpful to get proper treatment. However, we should never hurry to put a label on someone. It is important to consider the life of the individual and to care for and support them in the best possible way.
When someone says that they or their partner have BDP (regardless of whether they have certain characteristics or have been diagnosed), this is the most important factor it may be scary for them to be in close relationships just as it can be just as scary for anyone not to have a relationship.
A person diagnosed with BDP said, “When I was diagnosed, it gave me a feeling of hope that I would be better. Unfortunately I shared my diagnosis with my ex and then it went downhill because then everything that was negative in our relationship was my fault. “5 Instead of getting involved in the diagnosis per se, it is useful to understand that in every respect, both people are responsible for the state of things. If there are problems in relationships, both people have to work on it together.
How couple counseling can help
In most relationships it is difficult to find the balance between closeness and distance. However, it can be extremely difficult for someone with BDP to interpret their partner’s signals differently than they intended to know how to respond to their partner’s (possibly exaggerated) reactions.
While we can experience all moments of emotional outbursts, it can be helpful to recognize when they occur and work with a professional to regulate and learn your emotions react rather than reactUnfortunately, as reactions aimed at protection, this can affect proximity.
It can be very confusing and difficult for most people to respond when these moments of separation occur in relationships.
In couples therapy, we can show you how you can regulate each other by finding out what triggers you for conflict and distance, how you are perceived by each other, what your partner really longs for and how you can appropriately meet the needs of others .
Couples therapy can help couples slow down and listen and understand their own feelings and needs, as well as the feelings and needs of their partner. With support and more understanding, partners can reduce tensions and fears in the relationship and build more security and closeness together.
In addition to couple therapy, there are a number of well-established approaches to treating BDP, including Dialectal behavior therapy (DBT), acceptance and attachment therapy (ACT), trauma-informed stabilization treatment and schema therapy.
DBT was developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan developed who experienced her own struggle with BPD is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy that relates a person’s thinking to their behavior.
Four main skills are taught DBT6, including mindfulness, exercise tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness. The self-calming focus of DBT appeals to patients and therapists equally intuitively.
Regardless of whether you choose couple counseling or a single therapist, BPD is considered very treatable. With consistent treatment, you can live a happy life and have a healthier, more emotionally balanced relationship.
1Agrawal, H, Gunderson, J. Holmes, B & amp; Lyons-Ruth, K. Binding Studies with Borderline Patients: An Overview. Harv Rev Psychiatry. 2004; 12 (2): 94-104. https://doi.org/10.1080 / 10673220490447218
7Borderline personality disorder. National Mental Health Institute. (December 2017).
2ndJohnson, S. (2009). Attachment theory and emotionally focused therapy for individuals and couples, perfect partners. In Obegi, J. & Berant, E. (ed.) Attachment theory and research in adult clinical work. (Pp. 410-433). Guilford Press. http://www.creatingconnections.nl/assets/files/Sue%20Johnson%20ObegiCh16.pdf.
3rdF. Leichsenring, E. Leibing, J. Kruse, A. New & F. Leweke Borderline personality disorder. www.thelancet.com Vol 377 January 1, 2011.
4thMason, T. & Kreger, R. (2010). Stop walking on eggshells and take your life back if someone you care about has borderline personality disorder. New Harbinger publications.
5Ratner, R. (director), Troemel, P., Sandieh, S., Gabrosek, A. & Ratner, R. (producers). (2019). Borderline (a film). [Video recording]. Studio comma. https://borderlinethefilm.com.
6Salters-Pedneault, K. Romantic relationships between people with BPD. Very good. https://www.verywellmind.com/understanding-romantic-bpd-relationships-425217
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