- The Borderline Parent—A Survival Guide
- The Challenges of Unstable Interpersonal Relationships and BPD
- Mental Health
- What is a personality disorder?
- What is borderline personality disorder?
- Who does it affect?
- What can I do about it?
- Where do I go from here?
- Borderline Personality Disorder and Relationships: How to Make It Work
- Relational Essentials for Coping With a Personality Disordered Individual
The Borderline Parent—A Survival Guide
By Daniel S. Lobel, Ph.D.
The Value of Identity
Identity is a precious thing. It starts with a sense of self and grows over time to a set of values, a belief in what's right and wrong and an ability to stand up for oneself, despite consequences.
Good parenting fosters this precious part of being human. A strong identity gives you the right to ask for what you deserve, give graciously without feeling used, and say “no” simply because it feels right.
But, what happens if you were brought up by a mother (or father) who had been truly injured? Let's take a specific look at the borderline mother; how she may behave and what you can do to survive.*
Surviving a Borderline Parent
Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (IBPD) present a threat to the sense of self of those in sustained relationships with them. This holds particularly for their children, but spouses can suffer as well.
Survival of one’s sense of self while in a relationship with a IBPD requires an understanding of relating patterns that are characteristic of IBPD and some tools for protecting one’s self while trying to be kind, supportive, understanding and perhaps loving. Some specific brutal patterns of relating will be discussed here with some strategies for protecting the self during exposure.
Responses to previous blogs have pointed out that IBPD is a “medical condition” and that those afflicted do not choose to be so affected. While this is certainly true, it does not mitigate the effects of the disorder on family and friends.
Many psychiatric disorders have devastating consequences to family members. Examples include Pedophilia, Alcoholism, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Dementia, such as Alzheimer’s Dementia. Coping with affected individuals does not mean blaming them for being ill, but it does mean protecting one’s self.
Allowing an Autistic child to injure a caregiver does not help the child. Allowing an IBPD to destroy one’s sense of self does not benefit the IBPD.
Here are three brutal traps to avoid.
The Brutal Truth:
The “truth” to a IBPD is not fixed in reality but rather a story that can be changed to support their perceptions and motives. Objective standards are neither recognized nor acknowledged. As a result of this, inconsistencies and contradictions often occur.
- IBPD: “Why do you act guarded around me?”
- Child: “Because you have hurt me in the past and I don’t want to be hurt again.”
- IBPD: “I hurt you! I don’t remember that. When?”
- Child: “You used to hit me with a belt when I was a child.”
- IBPD: “I don’t remember that. You are making it up. You lousy shit.”
Here, memory is rewritten to serve the IBPD and then used as a bludgeon. This accomplishes a complete, albeit distorted, reversal of the victim role. The IBPD is accused of abuse and ends up being the victim of false accusations thus justifying subsequent abuse.
- IBPD: “I found a wonderful resort in Palm Springs. Why don’t we all go there for Christmas?”
- Child: “Mom we already have plans to go to Bermuda this year.”
- /BPD: “Am I going with you?”
- Child: “We hadn’t really thought of that.”
- IBPD: “But you said we are going away together.”
- Child: “I said maybe we could go away together sometime.”
- IBPD: “That’s not how I remember it. I understand that this is not something you want to do. I won’t ask again.”
The fluidity of the brutal truth allows it to be manipulated for selfish purposes. In this case, the IBPD wanting to pick a vacation and go with her child and grandchildren. The end result is once again the IBPD becoming the victim and justifying more abuse.
The brutal truth cannot be challenged or debated effectively. Even presentation of hard evidence does not change the dynamic whereby the IBPD is the victim and the child is cast as unloving and worthy of abuse.
- Child: “When we discussed this before we looked on the computer at several different dates, seasons and locations.”
- IBPD: “I don’t remember that.”
- Child: “I have the search history on my computer.”
- IBPD: “Clearly you don’t want me to be with you and your family for Christmas and so I won’t. It’s obvious how you feel about me.”
There are many techniques for dealing with the brutal truth. The best are preemptive. Be very careful about making suggestions. They are often recast as offers and then treated as entitlements. Utilize the Internet. Email allows you to refer the IBPD back to written text for reference. Be prepared to end the conversation with “I understand that this is how you see it”.
The Brutal Test
The brutal test involves approval the expectation of perfection. The expectation of perfection is a set-up for failure and rejection.
- IBPD “How can I reach you in an emergency?”
- IBPD “What if you don’t answer?”
- Child: “Leave a message.”
- IBPD: “What if it’s an emergency?”
- IBPD: “I need to be able to reach you any time.”
- Child: “I will do the best I can.”
- IBPD: “What do you have in your life that’s more important than me?”
Here the IBPD has set up the situation where she gets to judge the priority of the security object. By asking for a justification as to what was happening when you could have been calling her, she puts herself in both the victim position and in the position to judge you as a human being a single criterion: reachability.
The IBPD is also a brutal judge. When there is more than one way to interpret a situation, the IBPD will pick the one that maximizes her role as victim.
- IBPD: “I called last night and you didn’t return my call until today. Why didn’t you call me back last night?”
- Child: “I didn’t hear the phone ring.”
- IBPD: “What were you doing?”
- IBPD: “Nobody in your house can hear a phone ring at night?”
- Child: “This hasn’t been a problem before.”
- IBPD: “Oh. So it only happens when I call.”
If one attempts to reassure the IBPD that they are available, there will then be a brutal test: The IBPD will attempt unexpected contact, under some pretense to check on availability.
If the child is available, it will then be expected that this standard will be maintained forever. Other tests will occur and eventually lead to failure, which is met with abuse. The brutal test is unforgiving.
No matter how many times the test has been passed, a failure cannot be forgiven.
Surviving the brutal test involves validating that it would indeed be nice to have someone who can offer unlimited availability but clearly acknowledging that this is not possible. Protection of the sense of self requires an understanding that not being able to fulfill an unreasonable request does not make one a piece of trash.
The Brutal Clock
IBPDs have their own special clock, which determines the quality of relationships. When they contact somebody or expect somebody to contact them, a clock is set. This clock determines if the response is timely or not.
Once the threshold for timely has passed the other party is determined to be an abandoner. This is the worst thing that anyone can be. This means that you are not good enough. A failure. Trash. Nobody knows what time the clock is set to.
Calling after the time limit is of limited use.
- IBPD: “Why didn’t you return my call?”
- Child: “In a couple of hours.”
- IBPD: “I wish I never had children.”
The Brutal Clock is a variation of the Brutal Test where the IBPD sets up impossible expectations of others. When others are unable to meet the unreasonable expectations, they are punished with emotional abuse, which is justified by the IBPD’s sense of being the victim because she did not get what she wanted.
Getting off the Brutal Clock involves validating that it would be ideal to have a source of security that could respond all of the time, but that you can only offer what you can offer.
Answering the question as to what is more important is a set up to fail, a form of brutal test, because almost no justification will be judged suitable since they are to be first priority. Therefore this question should not be answered.
An alternative response might be “something very important, it doesn’t matter what that was”.
Once again, the protection of the self is associated with the realization that the expectation is unreasonable and thus the failure to meet an unreasonable expectation is not grounds for condemnation.
Galvanize your Brutal Galoshes
If you have spent years trying to placate an IBPD and you decide now to get off the merry-go-round, you will almost certainly incur rage.
The longer you have allowed the abuse the longer it will take for the rage to begin to dissipate.
It will never fully remit but if you make it clear that expression of rage will induce separation while more socialized responses will yield a more positive result, there will be a gradual acceptance.
- IBPD: “I need you to come over right away. There is a mouse in the closet.”
- Child: “I am at work. I cannot get there until I am off.”
- Child: “You can either wait until I get off work or call an exterminator now.”
- IBPD: “You are a useless piece of shit.”
- Child: “Those are your choices. Abusing me will only serve to eliminate one of your options.”
Calling “abuse” what it is by name is very important to setting a boundary.
There are two caveats when using this approach. One is don’t bluff. Do not threaten any response that you are not prepared to mete out. The second caveat is that if you threatened you must follow through or you will be labeled as a bluffer and this will quickly lead to total disregard of any boundaries that are set verbally.
The borderline mother is abusive and poses a tough set of challenges. The natural response of a child, even the adult child of such people, is to avoid, challenge or appease. If you stay in a relationship with a borderline mother, then all three of these strategies will be attacked with anger, abandonment or guilt.
In order to survive, you must understand that you are dealing with a brutal set of conditions. Know what's coming, set limits actively and be loving when you feel safe. All this is easier said than done. A good therapist can go a long way.
*While Borderline Personality Disorder is found in men as well as women, gender seems to play a role in how they manifest symptomatically. Borderline men are more anti-social, violent and impulsive. They probably don't manage to stay in a parenting relationship with their children the Borderline mothers, who tend to be emotionally labile, with anxiety and PTSD symptoms.
This piece is by guest blogger Dan S. Lobel, Ph.D. who is in private practice in Katonah, New York. Lobel can be reached for consultation at 914-232-8434 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Challenges of Unstable Interpersonal Relationships and BPD
Adene Sanchez/Getty Images
Does borderline personality disorder affect relationships between family members, friends, or other people in the community? How could BPD specifically create troubles, and what can be done to resolve these problems?
Many people with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have intense and unstable relationships with others. Their relationships tend to fluctuate between being all good or all bad and they can be unable to experience contradictory feelings when relating to the world or others.
This black and white thinking, or splitting, can spill over into all relationships including those at school or work with peers, professors, and instructors, managers, and supervisors.
If you have BPD, you may initially idealize a person or situation, throwing yourself into a relationship fully and without reservation.
However, soon something may occur that conflicts with this idealized view, such as a harsh comment from a supervisor, a poor grade on a paper or a fight with your partner.
This can cause you to switch from an idealized view to one of devaluation. You may think that there is suddenly nothing good about the person or situation and there never was.
Heightened sensitivity to rejection (abandonment sensitivity) may trigger your devaluing reaction. This sensitivity can cause you to overreact to real or perceived rejections. The feeling of rejection is overpowering and consuming and can feel very real, regardless of whether it was truly meant or unintended.
In response to devaluation, you may erupt in anger, quit the related task, become aggressive or just give up.
It is possible that the person, relationship or task will again be seen as ideal, but it is also possible that the negative view will remain constant or that the damage that occurred will be irreversible.
Friendships can be destroyed, jobs quit or classes dropped. It can be a debilitating experience with significant consequences.
Borderline personality disorder can have a significant impact on your relationships. Even with your family members, you may be sensitive to rejection, changes in plans or feelings of being slighted. These distortions in thinking can make you feel isolated, lonely and helpless.
In the past few years, significant progress has been made in understanding and treating BPD, both from a psychotherapy standpoint and through the use of medications.
There are many treatment options that have been proven to be effective. Specific therapies that have shown promise in helping with the relational aspects of BPD include:
- Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT, sometimes called “talk therapy” is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy. It looks at cognition, or thought, and relates this to behavior, or actions. There are now other forms of therapy available which address relationship concerns with BPD, but DBT is one of the therapies that was first found most effective for BPD. There are four primary skills taught in DBT, with one being interpersonal effectiveness skills designed to help people successfully state their needs in a relationship and manage conflict.
- Mentalization Therapy (MBT): MBT is a therapy that focuses on looking at your feelings, thoughts, and hopes, in order to see how they may be connected to your behaviors. MBT is a form of psychodynamic therapy which focuses on present situations rather than prior events and uses your relationship with the therapist to work through issues. Using specific examples or settings, MBT helps you to analyze both your feelings and the feelings and thoughts of others in a specific situation. For example, if a friend of yours gets angry and leaves your home, you would address what feelings she had which may have prompted her behavior of leaving rather than focus on the behavior of leaving.
In some cases, inpatient treatment may be necessary.
While there are currently no medications approved to treat BPD, medication is sometimes prescribed by doctors to help manage BPD symptoms and improve your interpersonal relationships.
Some studies have shown that certain medications approved for other mental disorders are effective in controlling symptoms anger, impulsivity, depression, and feelings of isolation.
Results can vary greatly and it is unly that medication will completely eliminate these feelings; you can most ly expect modest results.
While medication may be a useful tool for managing your symptoms while undergoing therapy, many of the medications used have significant side effects. Before taking any pills, talk to your doctor and your therapist about potential side effects and if the advantages of medications outweigh the drawbacks. For some people, the risk is not worth the modest improvements in symptoms.
Regardless if you take medication or not, therapy is essential for improving your relationships with others and managing your other symptoms. Talk to your doctor about your specific needs and concerns to come up with a strategy to meet your unique needs.
Take the time to learn about some of the most common issues faced by people with BPD in their relationships. Dating and romantic relationships with BPD, in particular, tend to be chaotic and intense and it is important that both you and your partner understand some of these issues and how to address them before they become apparent.
If you are living with someone with borderline personality disorder, it can be helpful to learn some of the ways in which a diagnosis of BPD affects the whole family.
While learning about BPD either in yourself or a loved one can leave you feeling depressed, learning to understand the common issues and seeking out therapy can make a tremendous difference. Family therapy, in particular, can make a huge difference not just for someone living with BPD, but for the whole family.
Thanks for your feedback!
What are your concerns?
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
Lazarus SA, Cheavens JS, Festa F, Zachary rosenthal M. Interpersonal functioning in borderline personality disorder: a systematic review of behavioral and laboratory-based assessments. Clin Psychol Rev. 2014;34(3):193-205. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2014.01.007
May JM, Richardi TM, Barth KS. Dialectical behavior therapy as treatment for borderline personality disorder. Ment Health Clin. 2016;6(2):62-67. doi:10.9740/mhc.2016.03.62
Bateman A, Fonagy P. Mentalization based treatment for borderline personality disorder. World Psychiatry. 2010;9(1):11-5. doi:10.1002/j.2051-5545.2010.tb00255.x
Ripoll LH. Psychopharmacologic treatment of borderline personality disorder. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2013;15(2):213-24. PMID:24174895
Choi-Kain LW, Finch EF, Masland SR, Jenkins JA, Unruh BT. What works in the treatment of borderline personality disorder. Curr Behav Neurosci Rep. 2017;4(1):21-30. doi:10.1007/s40473-017-0103-z
Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division
In the past, people thought that someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD) was “on the borderline” between psychosis and neurosis (anxiety/depression). Today, we know much more about BPD, and there is more research on BPD than any other personality disorder.1
But there is a lot of stigma around personality disorders. People living with borderline personality disorder may be given hurtful labels. But no one is ever just their diagnosis, whether they're living with a personality disorder or any other mental illness. There is hope and there is help.
What is a personality disorder?
A personality disorder is a pattern of feelings, thoughts and behaviours that may have been with you for a long time.
Personality disorders affect the way you understand yourself, the way you react to the world around you, the way you cope with emotions and the way you navigate relationships.
2 Having a personality disorder does not mean that there is something wrong with your personality—it simply means that you have a pattern of feelings, thoughts and emotions for a long time that cause problems.
What is borderline personality disorder?
Borderline personality disorder is a mental illness that affects the way to relate to other people and the way you relate to yourself.
If you're living with borderline personality disorder, you might feel there's something fundamentally wrong with who you are—you might feel 'flawed' or worthless, or you might not even have a good sense of who you are as a person.
Your moods might be extreme and change all the time, and you might have a hard time controlling impulses or urges. You may have a hard time trusting others and you may be very scared of being abandoned or alone.3
BPD is made up of five groups of symptoms: unstable behaviour, unstable emotions, unstable relationships, unstable sense of identity and awareness problems.4,5
Unstable behaviour means that you often act on impulses or urges, even when they hurt you or other people. Some examples of impulse control problems are:
- Thinking about or attempting suicide
- Hurting yourself on purpose, such as cutting or burning your skin (self-harm)
- Risky behaviours spending a lot of money, binge eating or problematic substance use
Unstable emotions mean that your moods can be extreme and change very quickly. Some examples of unstable emotions are:
- Extreme depression, anxiety or irritability that might last for only a few hours or days, usually in response to a stressful event
- Intense anger or difficulty controlling anger
- Intense boredom
Unstable relationships mean that you have a hard time maintaining relationships with other people. Some example of relationship problems are:
- Doing anything you can to avoid being abandoned or alone
- Feeling you don't know yourself or having very unstable sense of who you are and how you feel about yourself
- Intense relationships where you often impulsively shift between seeing the other person as 'all good' or 'all bad'
Unstable sense of identity means that you don't have a good sense of who you are as a person. Some examples of an unstable sense of identity include:
- Feeling you don't know yourself
- Having a very unstable sense of who you are and how you feel about yourself
- Feeling “empty” much of the time
Awareness problems mean that, from time to time only and often in response to a stressful event, you experience sensations or feelings that aren't based in reality. Some examples of awareness problems are:
- Psychosis (delusions or hallucinations)
- Feeling you're separated from your mind or body (dissociative symptoms)2,4,5
There are many different combinations of symptoms, so BPD can look very different among people with the illness.6 To diagnose BPD, mental health clinicians look for patterns of behaviour that last for a long time and have caused distress or problems with relationships or other areas of life, such as work.7
If you have several of these symptoms and you’ve noticed them for a long time, the best person to talk to is a doctor or mental health professional. BPD can look many other illnesses, so you should never try to diagnose yourself (or other people).9
Who does it affect?
About 1% to 2% of the general population has BPD. It's usually diagnosed in teens and young adults, though it may also be diagnosed later in life. It seems to affect more women than men.2
- Family members—You are five times more ly to develop BPD if a close family member a parent or sibling has BPD. You also have a higher risk of BPD if a close family member has an impulse control disorder a substance use disorder or antisocial personality disorder.2
- Childhood trauma—Abuse, neglect, loss and other hurtful events that occurred in your childhood increases your risk of developing BPD.2
- Age—BPD is more ly to be diagnosed in your 20s. This is also the time with the highest suicide risk. Many people find that their symptoms become more manageable as they get older,2 and many people recover by the age of 50.4 Researchers aren’t completely sure why people often feel better as they get older. One theory is that people become less impulsive as they get older. Another theory is that certain brain structures related to emotion change as we age.10
- Other mental illnesses—Many people living with BPD have other mental illnesses. This can make it hard to diagnose BPD properly. The illnesses most often associated with BPD are mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, eating disorders, dissociative disorders11 and other personality disorders.12
What can I do about it?
Treatment for BPD can be very effective. It may include a combination of therapy (counselling), medication and self-help.
Several different therapies may help:
- Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is often a treatment of choice. It's cognitive-behavioural therapy and mindfulness. Cognitive-behavioural therapy teaches you how your thoughts and behaviours affect your emotions, while mindfulness teaches you to focus on the present moment. DBT teaches you to replace extreme and rigid ways of thinking with more open and flexible ways of thinking, and teaches skills acceptance, problem-solving and tolerance.13
- Several newer therapies also show a lot of promise in the treatment of BPD. Mentalization-based therapy helps you understand your behaviour and other people’s behaviour, and the thoughts and feelings associated with the behaviours. Transference-focused therapy helps you understand how you see yourself in your relationships. Schema-focused therapy focuses on identifying unhelpful way of thinking, feeling and behaving.14
- Other types of counselling may also help. Supportive therapy helps to improve day-to-day life skills, increase self-esteem and helps you understand your feelings. Interpersonal group therapy lets you share your problems and successes with others, and it teaches relationship skills. Family therapy helps family members understand the illness and teaches them coping skills.15
Medications won’t resolve BPD, but they can help manage some troubling symptoms. Atypical antipsychotics, mood stabilizers and certain antidepressants may help.
There are many things you can do to help manage BPD. Learning about the illness can help you understand what's going on. It's always a good idea to get enough sleep, eat well and exercise regularly. Finding help for other issues a substance use problem or another mental illness can also help you cope with BPD.3,9
BPD can take some time to treat. It's important to build a trusting and open relationship with a counsellor or doctor and keep a consistent, long-term treatment plan.9
Where do I go from here?
In addition to talking to your family doctor, check out the resources below for more information about borderline personality disorder.
BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information
Visit www.heretohelp.bc.ca for the Managing Mental Illnesses series, more info sheets and personal stories about personality disorders. You’ll find information, tips and self-tests to help you understand mental health. You’ll also find the Borderline Personality Disorder issue of Visions Journal.
Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division
Visit www.cmha.bc.ca or call 1-800-555-8222 (toll-free in BC) or 604-688-3234 (in Greater Vancouver) for information and community resources.
Resources available in many languages:
*For each service below, if English is not your first language, say the name of your preferred language in English to be connected to an interpreter. More than 100 languages are available.
If you are in distress or are worried about someone in distress who may hurt themselves, call 1-800-SUICIDE 24 hours a day to connect to a BC crisis line, without a wait or busy signal. That’s 1-800-784-2433.
Alcohol & Drug Information and Referral Service
Borderline Personality Disorder and Relationships: How to Make It Work
People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) often have rocky relationships, both romantic and platonic. Romantic relationships present a unique set of challenges for people with BPD and for their partners.
Symptoms of BPD can cause constant changes in emotions.
For example, a person with BPD may be affectionate and doting, but within a few hours, their emotional state may switch. They may feel smothered or overwhelmed. This can lead them to push away the partner they had just been drawing closer.
With treatment and continual support from family and partners, people with BPD can have successful relationships. Read on to find out how it’s possible and what you can do if you or your partner has BPD.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a condition that affects the way a person processes everyday emotions and reactions.
People with BPD are often impulsive and emotionally unstable. They may have intense episodes of anger, anxiety, and depression. These episodes can last several hours and be followed by a more stable period.
These episodes could also last several days and negatively affect the person’s work, relationships, or physical health. Some people with BPD are prone to self-injury, accidents, and fights. Suicide is also more common among people with BPD.
Another way to understand how a person with BPD experiences life is to realize they have a more difficult time returning to an emotional baseline.
When something exciting or positive happens, they may experience greater joy for longer. But the opposite is also true: If something bad happens, they may have trouble bouncing back.
For friends, family members, and potential partners of someone with BPD, these emotional peaks and valleys may seem chaotic, which can lead to intense, conflict-filled relationships.
A romantic relationship with someone with BPD can be, in a word, stormy. It’s not uncommon to experience a great deal of turmoil and dysfunction.
However, people with BPD can be exceptionally caring, compassionate, and affectionate. In fact, some people find this level of devotion from a partner pleasant. A person with BPD may also be very physical and eager to spend a lot of time with their partner.
At the same time, people with BPD are sensitive to abandonment or rejection. Many are hyperfocused on perceived signs that a romantic partner isn’t happy or may leave them.
When a person with BPD senses a shift in their partner’s feelings, whether real or imagined, they may immediately withdraw. They can become angry and hurt over something a person without BPD would not react to. They can even become obsessive.
These emotional switchbacks can be difficult to handle. Sometimes they can lead to uncomfortable public scenes. The impulsive behavior of a person with BPD may put that person or their partner at risk, too.
However, the stability of a partner may have a positive effect on the emotional sensitivities people with BPD experience. It may require a great deal of work from both partners, but long-term relationships and marriages are possible for people with BPD.
The most common BPD behaviors and symptoms could be detrimental to any relationship. If you have been diagnosed with the condition, you ly know this already. People with BPD are more ly to have many romantic relationships, which are often short-lived.
This could be because you purposefully broke off the relationship for fear your partner might do it first. It could also be because your partner wasn’t comfortable facing so much difficulty.
It’s important to know that you can have a healthy relationship despite your personality disorder. Treatment, along with a strong support network, can help you find stability in your emotional state and in your relationships.
Treatment won’t cure BPD, but these options can help you learn to cope with the symptoms and react in ways that aren’t as harmful to you or your partner.
treatment for bpd
The most common treatments for BPD include:
- Therapy. Dialectical behavioral therapy is commonly used with people who have BPD. A therapist will help you learn to respond to emotional situations with reason and proper judgment. This will reduce the dichotomous thinking (the belief that everything is black and white) that so many people with BPD have.
- Medication. There is no medication that can treat BPD, but antidepressants, antianxiety drugs, and antipsychotics may help treat some of the symptoms.
- Hospitalization. If you begin showing signs of self-harm or suicidal ideation, a doctor may hospitalize you for observation and intensive therapy.
If you or your partner has BPD, you can find ways to cope with the cycles of emotions that the condition causes. This can help you build a stronger, more resilient connection.
ways to improve bpd relationships
- Learn about BPD. Part of caring for a partner with BPD is understanding what they’re experiencing. Understanding the level of emotional disorder they experience can help you respond in a way that protects both of you from additional chaos.
- Seek professional help. Therapy can help people with BPD learn to better process emotions and events that upset them. Partners of people with BPD can also benefit from therapy. A professional can help a partner understand how to react, understand, and be supportive.
- Offer emotional support. Someone with BPD may feel very isolated because of their past. Offer your partner understanding and patience. It is possible for them to learn and have better behaviors.
People with BPD are good and compassionate, and they can have healthy relationships. It takes work, and lifelong challenges will remain.
Therapists and doctors can work with you or your partner to develop a treatment plan. These healthcare providers can help you address the BPD symptoms that are most damaging to you and to your relationship.
Relational Essentials for Coping With a Personality Disordered Individual
Anyone who has had relationship interaction with someone who is personality disordered with anti-social, histrionic, borderline, or narcissism readily recognizes the frustration, feelings of hopelessness, and “beating your head against the wall”. Conventional clinical wisdom advises that if someone with a personality disorder comes into your life, head in the opposite direction, never look back, and end all contact.
Ah, if it were only that simple.
Many victims of personality disordered people are unavoidably in longer term relationships with these difficult people that they would otherwise to be. It could be that the personality disorder is a sibling, parent, or ex that the victim has a child with, or a colleague or boss at a job you dearly love or need to keep.
Then what? The literature is very thin on coaching on how to cope with the personality disorder in these kinds of situations other than grind your teeth and tough it out. This article is an attempt to help the victim to formulate a plan of action that just might help them get back to a secure, serene, and satisfying life.
The tactical measures of “Relational Aikido” (RA) that are listed below have their roots in several significant sources that I have found have some logical and functional common threads.
First, the therapeutic approach called “Cognitive Behavior Therapy” (CBT) is a widely accepted therapeutic approach to helping people address the problems of their lives in a direct and practical way.
Stripped down, CBT postulates that if we alter our thinking and behavior from the negative to positive, our emotions and life satisfaction become more positive as well.
Secondly, RA makes extensive use of some Asian resources, namely an ancient book called “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu, and an unusual martial art from Japan called “Aikido” by a master named Morehei Ueshiba.
In the first book, “The Art of War”, you can find an amazing outline of approaches to battle that are still cited in today’s military academies around the world. Though intended originally as a book about actual war, the text can be remarkably interpreted and applied to human relationships with difficult people.
The basis for Aikido is outlined in a text by Ueshiba titled “The Art of Peace”. It outlines a marital art philosophy that spurns attacks, yet does not harm the attacker. By harmonizing with the attacker, the attack is neutralized and the practitioner can then achieve accord with the attacker, essentially making the encounter “win-win”.
Ueshiba even postulated that if a person fully understands the underpinning philosophy of Aikido, they may never have to use the physical form of self-defense.
Lastly, RA uses key elements of more modern-day conflict resolution and arbitration approaches with difficult people and stressful situations that we find ourselves in. The handy illustration of this would be the Civil Rights movement and the non-violent student movement of the 1960’s in the Untied States.
It should be noted that many of these modern-day tactics and strategies owe a great deal to a long history of peaceful efforts to cope with difficult people and even nations; including the movement by Ghandi for example, in India, that finally forced the British to turn over India to the people of India.
In keeping with the spirit of Cognitive Behavioral Self-Help, it is essential for victims of personality disordered perpetrators to alter their way of thinking and behaving. Dealing with difficult people is both a science and an art, and is often counter-intuitive.
Victims recognize that they often turn to putty in the perpetrator’s hands, quickly folding to the will of the personality disorder. This is because the perpetrator has trained the thinking and behavior of the victim through countless abusive interactions.
Breaking this ‘spell’ is the first step in gathering a comprehensive and effective strategy for dealing with the person in the long term.
Purging the infected, manipulative thoughts, negative self-esteem ideas and emotional-behavioral reactivity that the perpetrator put in the victim’s head is sometimes best done with the assistance of a qualified, skilled clinical counselor who has experience in helping victims of personality disordered perpetrators. The victim must transform their thoughts and behaviors from that of victim, not only to “survivor”, but “thriver”
Closer, of course. You must become an expert at personality disorder, your perpetrator’s disorder, and then your perpetrator’s unique expression of that disorder.
It is advisable to educate yourself at the highest level of understanding that you can attain; it is important for you to stretch yourself, even though some of the material you may read or come into contact with is hard for you to understand or make sense of.
Start by going to the internet and searching for “personality disorders”. From there, refine your search to the characteristics of your perpetrator to ascertain what you are dealing with. Then read everything you can find on that identified disorder.
Search for seminars and training events, even ones that counselors and psychologists attend, and if you can afford the fee, attend them. There are several good support groups online to look over.
Find one that fits you the best and join it; others who are further down their road of healing can often help you greatly.
Though we all may be sick of hearing about ‘walls’ in the news, walls can be useful.
Taking logical, fair, and legal measures to place healthy boundaries and limits between yourself and the personality disorder is an essential step that can give you the breathing room you need to begin to create a life that is more secure, serene, and satisfying in your life beyond the perpetrator.
Things restricting communication routes, court orders for protection or child custody orders, home security measures, having a helper to emotionally back you up in face-to face encounters with the perpetrator, or even learning physical martial arts can be bricks in your wall.
What you decide to construct your wall of, and how large the wall is a matter of individual need and choice. Just make sure that the wall you build does not put you in any legal jeopardy or add to your stress burden, but serves to help you to feel better and have a life of your own.
If you have ever watched a martial-arts film where the hero is in some dark alleyway, surrounded by five big guys, and the hero takes a breath, then puts them all on the ground, then you have had a glimpse of “centering”. The implication is that while the hero is talented and in great physical shape, if he did not hold on to his own emotions; if he had panicked, he would have surely lost such a challenging battle.
So too, victims of personality disordered perpetrators need to learn the deep-skill of emotional self-control. Indeed, if the personality disorder can “rattle” you, they will have already beaten you.
Learning how to hold your unshakable center, even under the onslaught of their mind-games, is a foundational skill that the others are built upon. Gaining this takes practice, drilling, and training.
The result of successful centering is the ability to engage far more often in “positive flow”.
Positive flow is when you are engaging in a great variety of positive activities, and your life feels secure, serene, and satisfying.
The personality disorder hates when you have positive flow; they work hard to interrupt it and deprive you from it. Your task is to gain positive flow, and hold on to it.
Personality disorders are often compared to “vampires”, which is an apt description. They constantly drain the energy and positivity from their victims, making them exhausted, paranoid, and miserable.
Just victims of vampires, the victim of a personality disordered predator can become “hypnotized”, finding it very hard to break away from the ever-present negative focus.
By self-disciplining to alter your thinking and behavior to make both more positive, you are beginning to starve the predator of their all-important drug: your total attention.
Life happens to everyone, and life is stressful, even aside from being a victim of a perpetrator. Keeping your balance is a key activity, as personality disordered predators are keen observers. I am convinced some of them are so good, they can smell an off-balance victim from miles away, a shark can smell blood in the water.
Just because you have gained some control over one personality disorder, does not mean others are not out there hunting. And you, my dear reader, have been already trained to be a victim.
This is the reason you must keep your balance and a healthy vigilance concerning secondary perpetrators, or from backsliding in your skill use that signals to your primary perpetrator that you are once again ripe for manipulating.
What balance? Intellectual, emotional, physical, sexual, spiritual, and difficult issues balance. If any of these are balance, they all tend to begin to wobble. Being healthy in each of these areas is a true armor to keep the predators from sniffing around and trying to…manipulate you.
Just a student of the martial art of Aikido needs to learn techniques of how to physically deflect attacks and neutralize them, so do you need to learn practical relational positioning and verbal techniques to deal with the challenges that the perpetrator presents when you are in direct contact with them. And just a martial artist, you need to train and keep your skills sharp for when you need them. Educate yourself. Seek out helpers and teachers. Become secure, serene, and satisfied in your life.
I’m a clinical counselor in Altoona, PA. I have a passion for helping people who have been or are potentially victims of difficult people and bullies.
In my opinion, the entire world needs to have the skills I speak about; it would make for a far more peaceful, progressive, and beautiful world. It’s my dream to have ongoing group training for RA in a virtual or real ‘dojo’.
If you live in the Blair County area, and would be interested in forming a training group, just let me know!