Relationships are hard enough. Add the explosive element of emotional instability or a complex mix of mental conditions, and you have an almost uphill climb in finding happiness with a loved one. Complications can become so overwhelming that these eventually begin to overshadow the good parts of the relationship (i.e., there are more downs than there are ups).

Beyond emotional instability

Such is the case in relationships with people who have BPD, or Borderline Personality Disorder. People with borderline disorder have apparent difficulties with relationships; Borderline Personality Disorder sources describe the condition as a “disturbance of certain brain functions,” which then lead to a variety of behavioural issues, namely:

  • Impulsive actions that are harmful;
  • Poorly regulated and extreme emotional reactions, and
  • Distorted perceptions and impaired reasoning.

People with Borderline Personality Disorder also seem to have more migraine headaches; they may also suffer from anxiety, depression, ADHD, and have substance abuse problems or eating disorders. Recognising these symptoms is the first proactive step toward dealing with a partner afflicted with borderline personality.

Pleasing Is not the answer

Some people might give up, burned out by the unbearable situation. But some people might also want to work it out. You may seek to appease or please a partner with Borderline Personality Disorder by watching what you say or do—to walk on eggshells so as not to set off an episode or an argument. You might even think that your love and devotion will help your partner overcome the disorder.

While admirable, these approaches might not work; they may even damage you (e.g., physical exhaustion, depression, etc.) and distort your perception about relationships (e.g., abuse in a relationship is tolerable).

Here are better ways of dealing with a loved one’s borderline personality.

  • Take good care of yourself.

If you’re not whole yourself, you may not have the energy and the right frame of mind to help out your partner. Have a life outside the relationship. Stay fit and active. Manage stress with relaxation techniques.

  • Learn to communicate better.

Communication is key with partners who have borderline personality. Focus on the emotions rather than the words. Listen actively—without distractions. Be calm even as your partner begins to act out. Set aside judgments and criticisms. Validate and acknowledge your partner’s pain.

  • Set healthy boundaries.

Structure will allow you and your partner to deal with negative behaviour. Boundaries will also tell your partner that abuse will not be tolerated; this includes uncontrollable rage during an argument.

Introduce boundaries in small doses. Come up with consequences that you will be able to reinforce—never back down. Even if that means leaving your partner.

Finally, Borderline Personality Disorder is treatable. You do not have to take it on all by yourself. Seek a support group and don’t isolate yourselves. Get help for your partner when the behaviour is beyond your control. And never let the disorder define your relationship.

If you or someone you love is struggling with BPD, search our directory of psychotherapists who work with Borderline Personality Disorder.