4 Ways You Can Help a Partner With Borderline Personality Disorder
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness marked by unstable moods, behavior, and relationships.
It’s always weird telling someone that I have borderline personality disorder.
People tend to have this particular idea of what someone with borderline personality disorder acts like and I definitely seem to not to fit the description. I’m a black person who is in activism work, is in a loving polyamorous relationship, and seems “put together”, but that honestly took many years of self-reflection to be at the spot I’m in right now. Even then, I still struggle with the imploding and splitting.
And it’s a bit frustrating because I remember first looking up borderline personality disorder and wanting to get rid of my diagnosis because of the stigma attached to it. So many articles about dealing with the “evil borderline” and basically being told people with BPD are better off being alone and are incapable of being loved.
I’m here to mention to you that this information is completely false.
Whether you have BPD or are dating someone with BPD, it’s important to understand where they’re coming from. It’s also important to understand where you’re coming from. Here are some tips for being a dating someone with BPD, from someone who has BPD themselves:
1. Learn about BPD and Help Your Partner Who Has it: This sounds very straightforward, but it can be a bit difficult to look for information when so many things about BPD can be stigmatizing. It’s important not to look for articles that treat someone with BPD like a disposable burden, which is only a recipe for trouble and a recipe for disaster. Look for articles that have a tone of helping support you and your partner(s) with BPD. Learn about the symptoms associated with BPD and the experiences one might’ve had associated with this illness.
2. Be Gentle, but Firm When Calling Them Out on Certain Behaviors: As someone who has a lot of mental illnesses, BPD included, I will not be ashamed to say that I have partaken in a lot of problematic behaviors like suicide baiting or saying things like “Please don’t leave me like other people have.” While those things were not okay, I was never confronted nor was I ever confronted in a way that wasn’t so harsh or didn’t remind of trauma I have in the past. When confronting ANYONE and not just people with BPD or with a mental illness in general, it’s important to be gentle but not infantilizing. It’s also important to be firm, but remembering that you can do this without basically insulting their well-being. Yelling at someone about why their behavior was problematic or never confronting them does not get anything done and will just cause more frustration for you and your partner. If you need help with confronting someone, you can try to speak out to a trusted friend or write down what you want to say and practice. Make sure they take accountability, because while everyone has partaken in abusive behaviors, that doesn’t automatically mean that they are abusers and can’t listen to suggestions.
3. If Your Partner Doesn’t Want to Go to Therapy, Nudge Them to Try Non-Traditional Methods: Some folks with BPD may have had horrible experiences with therapists, which might open up a can of worms to suggest therapy. There is even stigma towards folks who have BPD in the mental health community, which is scary to think about. However, it exists. Therapists claim that “People with BPD cause the most drama” or “When I get a client with BPD, I groan because they’re never willing to try.” We don’t even know if they’ve ever had clients with BPD or were able to destigmatize their thoughts before dealing with the client. When suggesting to your partner to get help, it doesn’t have to be traditional therapy. It can be a variety of things like taking up a hobby, doing something like art or music therapy, perhaps encouraging them to find coping strategies in the realm of worksheets. Everyone is different, and perhaps your partner might want to try to go to therapy again, but they might not, and it’s completely valid.
4. Remember Self-Care, for You AND Your Partner: I’m not going to lie and say helping someone and dating someone with mental illness can’t be exhausting, especially when you might have one yourself, because that’s completely false. Sometimes you might end up having to help your partner out of a suicide attempt when you yourself has survived one in the past; you might have to help your partner out of dissociative or psychotic episodes when you’re not feeling your best. While it’s important to be a strong support system for your partner, you also need to be the strong support system for yourself and know when you might need to step out. Take a bath, vent to a trusted person, do something you like and unwind. It’s okay to step for a bit, cry if you have to. You’re only one person.
As someone with BPD, I know having someone being willing to support me and supporting someone else I’m dating allowed me to become better each and every day. I know it’s a struggle for everyone in the picture, but that doesn’t mean that it is an impossible feat.
People with BPD aren’t these monsters as many groups set us out to be, we’re passionate, compassionate, empathetic and fully capable of receiving love. Some of us implode, and some of us explode. Some of us are wonderful human beings, and some of us are abusive assholes. But couldn’t that be said about people who don’t have BPD?
If you are dating someone with BPD, don’t think of it as a challenge because you will end up making this more difficult for both of you. If you are the person with BPD, you deserve to be loved as much as the non-borderline. Relationships can be a wonderful thing, when parties are willing to put effort into it. And that’s important.
Featured Image: Flickr user Jessi RM via Creative Commons