If you have a romantic partner, a family member, or a friend with borderline personality disorder (BPD) — or if you suffer from the disorder yourself — the BPD relationship advice offered in this article is for you. Even though one of the most common characteristics of borderline personality disorder is relationship instability, that doesn’t mean people in relationships impacted by this mental health challenge are without hope.
When given the right kind of compassionate and consistent support, people with BPD can and do form meaningful and long-lasting relationships. And their friends and family members, once they learn how to encourage and provide loving support in a meaningful and healthy way, can help pave the way for greater relationship harmony.
BPD Symptoms and the BPD Relationship Cycle
The symptoms of BPD can seem at odds with establishing and maintaining meaningful and long-lasting relationships. Add in the prevalence of what has been termed the BPD relationship cycle, and it’s easy to see why people dealing with borderline personality disorder, family members who love them, and others living with someone with BPD can struggle with navigating their way around what are often confusing and complex interpersonal interactions.
Symptoms of BPD
Borderline personality disorder is part of a cluster of mental health disorders referred to as “personality disorders.” People with BPD find it challenging to regulate their emotions. They suffer from persistent fears of abandonment, which can severely impact their ability to engage in healthy intimate relationships with romantic partners, family members, and friends. It’s no wonder that people with BPD experience relationship instability, often adopting dysfunctional and counterproductive relationship patterns.
Other common symptoms of BPD include:
- Intense and abrupt mood swings
- Inappropriate anger
- Acting impulsively
- Having a negative self-image
- Engaging in self-harming behaviors
The BPD Relationship Cycle
The BPD pattern of intense and unstable relationships can negatively impact families, friendships, and intimate partners. In their efforts to avoid abandonment — which can be either real or perceived — people with BPD will typically rush into friendships or romantic relationships and eventually end them in a jarring and abrupt manner.
While each relationship is unique, the BPD relationship cycle usually follows a pattern of unrealistic highs and equally irrational lows. In the beginning, the relationship will feel fantastic. Individuals with BPD may feel euphoric and hold their new love interest or friend in extremely high regard, thinking they can do no wrong. This idealization will only last for a short time before it begins to decrease and, ultimately, devolve into a level of devaluation that will destroy the relationship.
With their bubble burst, the person with BPD shifts their focus from holding their partner high up on a pedestal to finding negativity and disappointment everywhere they turn. No longer feeling safe, the BPD partner or friend will turn away from the relationship. This recurring pattern where idealization is followed by devaluation sabotages most relationships between a person with BPD and their family members, partners, or friends.
How to Cope When Your Loved One Has Borderline Personality Disorder
Maintaining relationships, in general, can affect your mental health and well-being. Fortunately, some coping strategies can help.
- If your loved one has BPD, learn about the condition, its symptoms, and how they impact your day-to-day interactions with your loved one.
- Seek a behavioral health services provider to help you learn how to set personal boundaries and practice self-care.
- Encourage your loved one to get help from experienced mental health professionals.
- Participate in your loved one’s mental health journey by helping to foster a non-judgemental environment punctuated by empathy, understanding, and acceptance.
Strategies to Help Those with BPD Develop Healthy Relationships
A diagnosis of BPD doesn’t mean you have to stay trapped in the destructive relationship patterns of your past. With the proper support, people with BPD can improve their relationships with partners, family members, and friends. Some affirmative steps you can take include:
- Engage the services of an experienced BPD therapist who can provide appropriate mental health treatment customized to your unique needs and circumstances.
- Seek out emotional support from peers experiencing BPD through in-person and online groups.
- Work on reducing stress by exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, practicing yoga or other techniques to encourage body flow and mindfulness, and avoiding drugs and alcohol.
Find the Help You Need at Synergy Health Programs
If you suspect a family member or close friend suffers from BPD, are married to or in a romantic relationship with someone who has been given a BPD diagnosis, or are seeking help with your own BPD symptoms, the seasoned and compassionate mental and behavioral health team at Synergy can help.
To learn more about Synergy Health Programs and our mental and behavioral health care services, contact us today by calling (855) 859-8808.