As I wrote in my previous article, ‘What Is Romantic Love?‘ and in some of my other articles (Date Night: The Difficulties Of Meeting My Partner and Unexpected Plans: Partner Wants To Meet A Week Early), I have great difficulties with relationships. These difficulties may be the cause of my borderline personality disorder or a result of it. Thus, I thought I would take a look at the love and relationship issues of sufferers of borderline personality disorder.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the main relationship characteristics of borderline personality disorder are intense, unstable, and conflicted personal relationships.
Love And Rejection
One of the key characteristics of borderline personality disorder is the fear of rejection. People who suffer from borderline personality disorder are meant to be in constant fear of rejection, which can result in the sufferer leaving the relationship before their partner has a chance to leave them first, even though their partner might not have such an intention (Cleveland Clinic).
As I’ve talked about in my other posts, especially the previous post (What Is Romantic Love?), my borderline personality disorder has made relationships very difficult. From the times in my life when my emotions were unstable, to the present, where I’m largely emotionally numb all the time. Stable emotionally through the lack of emotions.
My attachment issues were so bad that I eventually just gave up on having relationships. I hate the fact that after two-and-a-half months, my feeling of lustful love would be replaced with not being able to stand the person touching me. This change would come out of nowhere, and there was nothing I could do about it.
I feel lust/love really intensely for the first two-and-a-half months, and then it’s just gone. Due to this, I often ask what love is and look into finding out what love is and how it should make me feel. All because I really don’t know if I’ve ever felt it. I also wonder if my kind of love is just different from everyone else’s.
I don’t think my borderline personality disorder is rooted in any kind of fear of losing someone, as my attachment issues make it difficult to form attachments with people in the first place. I’ve never felt homesick and I’ve never missed anyone.
However, to avoid hurting people, I just stopped having relationships. I couldn’t cope with the pain I’d cause the people I would break up with when I broke up with them.
Somehow I’m in a relationship that’s been on and off over the last decade, and we’ve been together properly for two years or more now. But that’s only worked due to a lot of long conversations about my relationship and borderline personality disorder problems. We’ve established good personal boundaries, and my partner accepts that I’ll have repeated phrases where their mere touch will make me want to pull away.
We’ve agreed we wouldn’t live together and instead live nearby. That way we’re not under each other’s feet all the time and my issues will come less into play. We still message each other every day, but only meet once a fortnight over a weekend, and occasionally, a few other times for lunch and stuff. It’s our weird way of getting around my issues, and somehow it works for others. Mainly because my partner is incredibly understanding and also loves their space.
According to Very Well Mind, some borderline personality disorder sufferers can suddenly switch between feeling smothered and fearful of intimacy, which leads them to withdraw from relationships. This means there’s a constant back-and-forth between wanting and expecting love and attention to suddenly withdrawing and wanting to isolate themselves.
This would kind of fit my issues better than my having a simple fear of rejection. Although I still don’t think I have a fear of rejection. But the switching between wanting to be loved and having an overwhelming need to be away from that same person does better account for my problems, looking back at them.
Love And Attachments
Attachment problems are probably the cause of borderline personality disorder sufferers having a fear of rejection in the first place. But that might depend on your attachment type.
A study conducted by Agrawal, Gunderson, Holmes, and Lyons-Ruth (2004), reviewed 13 empirical studies to investigate the types of attachments borderline personality disorder sufferers had. They found a high percentage of highly insecure attachments among the borderline personality disorder suffering participants.
Agrawal, Gunderson, Holmes, and Lyons-Ruth (2004) findings aren’t that much of a surprise, as attachment problems are a big part of borderline personality disorder. Thus, attachment and rejection go hand-in-hand.
Love And Codependency
According to Psych Central, it’s commonly believed that most people with borderline personality disorder are codependent and find other codependent people to match up with in order to help them.
Due to my borderline personality disorder, I often fear that my current relationship is codependent (What Is Domestic Abuse?). So much so that I’ve asked my partner a few times to check that it’s not. They don’t believe we are, so I have no reason to doubt their opinion on it. I guess we just balance each other out, rather than it being a co-dependency issue. But I hope we’re not really two different codependent people that have found each other.
One of the more darker and common traits of borderline personality disorder are issues around being suicidal (Cleveland Clinic). I for one know I’ve had issues around thinking about dark thoughts and suicide almost as long as I’ve been alive (Suicidal Child #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek).
My issues with this do put a bit of a strain on my relationship because my partner wants me to be more open about my suicidal thoughts. The problem is, I have them all the time, and that’s fine for me. I’m used to it. It only really matters when I become completely consumed by it. But even then I don’t tell my partner it’s happening, but I might do once that suicidal phase has passed.
If I tell my partner afterwards, then they get a little upset about not saying anything whilst it’s happening. But it’s not like they could do anything to help when I’m in that state, so I don’t see the point in burdening them with it when it’s happening. But because my partner also gets a bit upset after the fact, I also don’t really want to tell them afterwards either, because of the hassle.
It Isn’t Easy
Loving someone, like me, with borderline personality disorder, isn’t easy (Bridges To Recovery). Being someone with borderline personality disorder isn’t easy either. In or out of a relationship.
But it is possible. It helps if you have some very honest conversations about how your borderline personality disorder affects you, your relationships, your needs, your issues, and your partner’s needs and wants. Then you need to work out boundaries to keep the relationship healthy.
Another way you could help maintain a relationship with someone who has borderline personality disorder is to acknowledge the sufferer’s emotions rather than dismissing them, and to keep your emotions in check when the sufferer is struggling with their emotions (CBS News).
If you have any tips for being in a relationship with someone with borderline personality disorder, then let us know in the comments below.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences of mental health, borderline personality disorder, relationships, and love in the comments section below as well. If you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.
Agrawal, H. R., Gunderson, J., Holmes, B. M., & Lyons-Ruth, K. (2004). Attachment studies with borderline patients: a review. Harvard review of psychiatry, 12(2), 94–104. Retrieved from doi:10.1080/10673220490447218 and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1857277.
72 thoughts on “Love And Borderline Personality Disorder”
Such an informational post.
My husband and I have been together 10 years, married for 8 and we’re still going. I have bpd as well.
Good to see it hasn’t held you back from having a meaningful relationship
It’s not always easy, I do ask him if he still loves me a lot, but we make it work
All relationships take work, and the willing to put in that work is what matters
Good post. Very informational. This is the first time learn about BPD although I have heard about it before.
BPD is quite a complex personality disorder, I hope you get to learn more about it
I’ve always wondered if I have this. Thanks so much for sharing your story x
Thanks for reading
This makes a lot of sense to me. My relationships always start out highly passionate and intense, but then I start to feel smothered but paranoid that they are going to leave me, which ends up causing the end of the relationship. It’s like a self fulfilling prophecy. I haven’t been in a relationship for 8 years now, I probably never will be again, but at least I won’t be hurting anybody else.
I use to think like that, that it was better for me to be single so I don’t hurt other people, but then often you’re just hurting yourself due to isolation. Going into treatment might help, but also finding someone who has a lot of patience and understanding is just as important, if not more so
Having said that, there’s also nothing wrong with being single if that actually makes you happy
Yes, I can understand that too. I think if I was alone I would probably go down the CBT or DBT route again. At the moment, I have too many children living at home, and crazy pets, so that limits my isolation.
I really appreciate your honesty and vulnerability in writing this post to help others who can relate. And I really admire your self-awareness. We all work differently, so it’s crucial to develop mindfulness and awareness of how we work. 🙂 It’s the only way we can grow.
My step daughter has BPD. It is very difficult to watch. She is 35 and self destructive.
Therapy not worked?
She is a drug addict. ?. Won’t accept any help.
Substance abuse is really hard to deal with, especially for the loved ones who can’t really do anything but watch it play out
You have that right. Tragic.
It’s possible she’s self-medicating to deal with some kind of trauma, that’s pretty common for substance abusers. If there was a way to help resolve that, if that was the reason, she might be more open to tackling their substance abuse issue
Thank you for sharing such a deep and heartfelt post. Especially for touching on your own personal experiences. ?
Thanks for reading it ?
I love this post, it’s such an important topic to discuss and raise awareness of. I hate the stigma attached to BPD x
I had not previously had a name for some of the cycles that occur within relationships, but I love how you explore how relationships begin, dawdle, and often spiral into smothering circles. Learning and being conscious is the first step to stepping outside the circle, if that is the step you need to take.
I love how honest you have been about your personal experiences; that lends a lot of emotion to the writing.
Thanks for reading
This was an incredibly interesting and eye opening article to read. Keep up the good work!
– L // https://afinnontheloose.com
I wish you the best on your love life. Love can be difficult, even without mental health issues thrown in the mix. I’ve had difficulties since getting out of a longterm emotionally and verbally abusive relationship. It took me two years to be able to say I love you to the man I’m with now. He’s good to me and patient with me.
I’m glad you’ve found yourself someone who is caring and patient, as absuive relationships can leave there mark on you, and it can take a while to recover from them
I think it’s fantastic how open you are on your blog!
I was in awe reading your post on love and borderline personality disorder. I felt proud of your awareness of how this disorder affects you and your decision to abstain from relationships. I was even more intrigued later by your decade long relationship. To me, what you two have is a powerful example of the power of love. You two respect each other enough to respect your limits and boundaries and create new norms. I wish you all the best and thank you for teaching me about love and borderline personality disorder.
Thank you for reading ?
Thank you so much for educating those of us (including me) about BPD! I honestly don’t know too much about it, and I know a lot of people don’t either. I’m glad you’ve found a partner who understands and respects your boundaries. I know all relationships aren’t perfect, but I’m glad you both have found way to work through things. I hope I can find someone like that one day who understands my mental health issues, or at least tries to. It hasn’t always been the easiest being in a relationship when my mental health wasn’t the best, so thank you for sharing your experience with love and BPD. 🙂 It’s given me a bit of hope and has helped me understand BPD a bit more!
Emily | http://www.thatweirdgirllife.com
It can be hard to find someone who’s understanding about mental health, but you certainly shouldn’t settle for someone who isn’t willing to be understanding. I’m sure you’ll find that person, just takes a bit of time and patience
Thank you for the kind words! And you’re absolutely right! I did end up learning that the hard way with an ex :/ One of the reasons I’m currently single right now, but you’re right, with time and patience maybe I’ll find someone who’ll understand 🙂
If I can, then anyone can, because my life is normally just a list of things not working out for me
I can relate alot to this.. feeling of rejection ect, but Ive been with my husband almost 6 years now and although I know he loves me to absolute bits, I still fear he will leave one day. Im glad you’ve found a routine with your partner that works!! Xx
Such fears are hard to move past, but remember, he did marry you and he’s been with you for 6 years, that shows commitment to being with you
I think one of the scarier parts of BPD TO ME, is the difficulty you have within your relationships. I think this because not everyone has suicidality but for those that do those negative thoughts can often be stopped by a distraction, going to therapy or having anyone to speak to. Not having anyone to go to can be a trigger of itself.
It helps to have a partner who you can talk to and who is understanding of your mental health issues.
That said, I’m guilty of not following my own advice. I rarely talk to my partner about my suicidal thoughts, because it’s an almost daily problem I’ve lived with since I was in primary. I’m use to having these constant thoughts, but I’m not sure my partner could handle the constant worry if I told them every time I had them. My suicidal thoughts are as normal to me as having lunch. But my partner doesn’t see it that way, and they will worry
I always learn so much from your posts and your struggles break my heart. Through your writings I sort of feel like I’ve come to know you and care about the person you are because your posts are so genuine and insightful. I love your attitude, bravery in sharing your story, and your strength.
Thank you very much ?
It sounds like you struggle a lot with coping with bipolar disorder and your love life but the part about you and your current partner finding ways that work for you both made me super happy. The fact that they’re understanding of everything you’re going through must make things a lot easier for you. Sounds like you’ve got a special one.
It does make it a little easier to handle my BPD
Thank you so much for this post. I am not diagnosed with BPD but I do understand the on and off lust you were mentioning in your post. I would say I’m pretty difficult to date at times as well with my depression and anxiety. I’m an empath and draw narcissists so I’m currently on a dating break.
Understandable that you’d take a break if you keep ending up with narcissists, they’re very draining
I think, no matter, what we are having – disorder, depression, illness etc. Every relationship on its base is different and complicated. And it’s an art, to find a balance between our problems and accepting other persons problems or habbits. But as you said – everything is possible! We just need to find the right way!
True enough, no relationship is easy, but they’re far harder when you have attachments issues or don’t feel love in the first place
My girlfriend of three months is diagnosed w BPD and I’m learning as much as i can w how to be there for her and what i need to do. I’m finding it’s a very complex disorder – however – I’m willing to stand by her and do everything I can. Whether it’s pull her close, or take a step back.
BPD can be quite a complex disorder, and it’s great that you’re trying to educate yourself more about it. Your partner can probably explain how it effects them as an individual. A discussion about boundaries can also be beneficial
I have BPD and have struggled my whole life with relationships. There is confusing information in this post that doesnt seem to necessarily line up with BPD symptoms. Maybe there are other issues at hand? My opinion with personal experience living with BPD and not all of the information in this post lines up with BPD struggles and symptoms. Possibly a combination of another disorder? BPD and abandonment are so closely entwined I have never known someone with BPD to be okay being separated from a close relationship. BPD is afraid of rejection and abandonment to a point where desperation and unknowing manipulation goes into effect if it dangers them losing a relationship. This seems blurry with a possible misdiagnosis.
Hi Julie, thanks for sharing your insight. It could be possible that it’s a mixture of BPD and another condition, as a lot of mental health conditions overlap. However, I’ve been diagnosed with BPD on several separate occasions, the first being by a court appointed psychiatrist, and the two main reasons for the repeated diagnosis of BPD has been my relationship/attachment issues and my emotional extremes.
I did mention in the article that I didn’t believe my BPD was connected to my fear of rejection due to always having a poor connection with other people, which was the result of relentless racist abuse in primary, abuse by teachers at my primary school, and emotional neglect at home. However, it’s possible that the reason I have such an extreme reaction in a relationship from loving someone with everything I have to hating them touching me at the two and a half month mark is because I subconsciously need to reject them before they reject me. After all, you can’t be rejected or abandoned if you do it first and stay alone.
There’s also the possibility that individual differences are at play, as it’s likely no two people with BPD have the exact same causes and symptoms of BPD, especially if you’ve been able to adapt to some of the issues it causes due to having lived with it for so long
So tragic really – yet in some ways so beautiful. My boyfriend who lives in the UNITED KINGDOM and I in the USA – both have abandonment issues, although I’m unsure if I have a personality disorder this nearly described me to a t. He has said he was diagnosed with PTSD and personality disorder , sometimes I want to call bull or that he’s making a excuse for being a jerk and then I try to focus back on why I love him and how can I be stronger and help him. I too was diagnosed with PTDS / anxiety so bad at times I can’t breathe – yes we are both on medications.
He was to be here last Sept. got canceled due to Covid – so struggling with not seeing one another has also been a struggle. Tonight I was going to stay in; However got a wild idea to go out with a friend of mine ( female ) and have drinks – when I sent him a voice note to say hey babe would you mind if I go out – out of respect etc and because earlier said I was staying home. I had asked if he’s okay I going out – he said have fun and don’t get into trouble or flirt basically- I don’t. My goodness I’m a mother of 4 , 38 years old and he 39 – 40 in March , I promise the last thing on my mind is cheating or doing any of that silly stuff , but it felt he was angry at me. He did write back and said he isn’t that he promises – but sometimes he’s so short or will go forever without talking to me and it hurts.
I’m a big communicator ( ugh probably can tell huh – sorry ) and he doesn’t say to much unless pushed or he has hurt me – but first he will tell me to f* ck off and nasty things, break up then soon say he’s so sorry for his behavior and loves me and it’s coming from a hurt place. I’ve explained at his age I’m over the excuse – but maybe it’s not, maybe like me his anxieties get the best of him and he lashes out because so many have left him before – I’ve confirmed this with both his mom and sister – both super lovely. They always say give him time he will come around , he will say he’s sorry and he will regret it as I guess he’s done similar to them. Also he has major issues keeping promises, yet I want to believe the intentions are pure ?!
It just breaks my heart as I want to love him so right – and so hard. Those are my anxieties I suppose – that I want him to trust me and open up to me. I know I can’t fix him , hell I can’t fix myself but I love this man with all of me and just want him to see I’m not waking out, although days I won’t lie it’s exhausting – the never knowing. So add PTSD – anxiety – PERSONALITY DISORDER and distance and not a small bit of distance but nearly 4 k miles hahahah – oh man. HELP!?!
I’m glad I found this page and look forward to getting to know others with similar struggles and how to cope – thank you for this
Thanks for sharing your experience, I know mental health issues and long distance relationships can add extra complications, but that doesn’t mean people get a free pass to act that badly. I hate to suggest this, and it’s not my place to pass judgement on your relationship, but you mind find it useful to read my other article https://unwantedlife.me/what-is-domestic-abuse
With all my issues with relationships over the years, I’ve always tried to avoid hurting people which is why I ended up avoiding relationships for so long. I’ve also found myself in relationships where I was abused, staying in them longer than was healthy for me because I wanted to help them, but sometimes you just can’t help them
Thank you for the honest, informative post. I’ve been with a BPD spouse for 15 years, and I had a perfectly healthy childhood with loving family. I can tell you that I am not codependent whatsoever; I am quick to leave a situation that I’m being treated poorly in. I’m not going to impulsively break off a relationship for being mistreated, but I am going to walk away & stand up for myself after emotions cool down. It does make a difference when the BPD person cares about you deep down; and it makes a big difference talking to their therapist with them, so you can better understand them. It takes extra commitment from the spouse to have a ‘healthy’ relationship with a BPD person, because there’s so many strong emotions that cause so much instability in the relationship from time to time. I deal with the bad times, because I love her so much during the good times & OK times.. and I am very optimistic, patient, and have strong moral values that center my thinking. It’s difficult when you’re loved/missed & pulled in closely all day, and you adapt to it.. and 2 days later, they’re telling you that you’re too clingy, because you met them at their emotional level & stayed there. It becomes a crime to love someone too much, and you start to question yourself, your actions… till you’re told they’re leaving you for some new impulsive reason.. but they never leave, and then they push you to leave… and then they’re back to telling you how much they’re glad you’re there & love you with all their heart. It’s incredibly unstable, it requires a very emotionally & psychologically strong person to deal with the illness. I’ve grown accustom to it, but each time the push-away still catches me by surprise, because I refuse to stay so emotionally distant that I can’t feel close love with her. I love her so much that I understand she’s in pain & is trying. I give her the space, take time for myself, and come back. It’s important to have a strong network of friends/family that deeply care & can let you talk in these times. The times that I don’t have anyone to talk to can be very difficult. I find that recognizing the signs of her wanting to push people away EARLY is important, because it gives you a chance to be there & understanding, without being smothering. The problem with all of it really comes down to the fact that the BPD requires 2 people’s energy & effort regularly to meet their needs, taking away from the focus to meet the other person’s needs. This is the deeply rooted issue of BPD relationships.. and when the BPD person has a lot of emotions & stress, it’s basically impossible for them to care about anything else. And when the non-BPD tries to bring up their issues (no matter how they’re brought up really, but there’s okay, bad, & really bad ways to bring them up), the non-BPD has to be prepared for the BPD to turn the issue back around on how it’s a problem with them. It’s very easy to not resolve an issue or feel emotional connection at that time, because the non-BPD’s personal concerns get easily misinterpreted into faults of the BPD person.
Providing Stability (emotional, financial, psychological), Understanding/Acceptance, and relaxing to have fun are very key parts to having a successful relationship with a BPD person (female at least). It’s so tempting as a man to just want to “fix” things, it’s easy to slowly deteriorate the feeling of love in the relationship. It’s also tempting to give too much space, when the person really just needs space while knowing you’re there, understand, and care.
BPD relationships are difficult, and they are worth it when you love someone so strongly. It unfortunately does get worse over time, just as all relationships struggle more over time. There’s so many distractions & changes in the world, it just adds a layer of emotional complexity that can’t be reasoned with & can only just simply be understood & loved (sometimes at a distance, when pushed away when you want to be there the most).
Thank you for sharing your detailed experience of being married to someone with BPD. Has there been any improvements to how frequently your partner keeps trying to push you away over your entire time together? You have a strength I wish I had, because I wouldn’t be able to handle such a situation
I have just found out I’m borderline and it explains everything I’m madly in love with my husband but I think after ten years of me walking away and hurting him cause he was hurting me we might be done and I don’t want that I’m sad and scared
If you’re both hurting each other in this relationship, maybe couples therapy might help with the issues that cause each of you to hurt each other