Polyamory and Borderline Personality Disorder: Leave Your Assumptions at the Door
I am polyamorous.
I also have borderline personality disorder.
Add PTSD, depression, and a few other things, and this sounds like a very fun ride. Especially when trying to process and unpack trauma as someone who is trying to recover from so much, an abusive relationship included.
And as someone who is trying to recover, I will sometimes look to the Internet for immediate help when I can’t contact a therapist.
I decided to go to a search engine and type in the words “borderline personality disorder” and “polyamory” for help. Instead, I just wanted to throw my laptop out the window.
I could not find a lot of positive information for people who were polyamorous and BPD who wanted to find ways to cope with extreme emotions. Instead, I found forums about non-BPD folks. The way people asked and responded about people with BPD, it made my heart hurt. A lot of the time, they discussed folks with BPD like an unwanted rodent they were trying to get rid of. Or the gas that comes with lactose intolerance. For a community that claims to be inclusive, its members continue to display stigmatizing behavior. I’m still scared to speak openly about BPD because of the “crazy ex” trope that is associated with us. I’m even afraid of writing this article, but felt that it was important step toward removing that stigma.
Some in the polyamory communtity who have dated folks with BPD have claimed that we are nothing but “drama starters.” I’m going to tell you what BPD looks like to me and why I’m polyamorous. I’m going to shatter your image of what a polyamorous person with borderline personality disorder looks like. I am tired of this black-and-white thinking.
I’m polyamorous because monogamy is just not right for me. That’s it. Even though one of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder is being impulsive, my impulsiveness is not the reason for my polyamorous nature. Monogamous people with borderline personality disorder can also be impulsive. I am polyamorous because I can’t imagine having a fulfilling relationship with only one person. I have flirted with being monogamous, but I’ve realized that, for me, polyamory is of the most liberating things possible.
My borderline personality disorder is not the reason for my polyamorous nature. It is a reason for a variety of other things. It is a reason for my intense mood swings and feelings of isolation. It is why I had to leave college after going through a series of traumatic events, but it was never a reason for my polyamory. I knew I was polyamorous before I went to college. From the time I was 16, I always imagined myself being in serious relationships with more than one partner, but thought I was wrong for imagining it. Instead of acting on it, I stayed single and tried to force myself into monogamy. It didn’t work.
While I am comfortable with my polyamorous identity and with having BPD, I’ll admit it’s no walk in the park. Being polyamorous and having BPD means that I will be ecstatic to know my partner is going on a date with other people. At the same time, I’ll feel intense feelings of abandonment and past trauma. My feelings of joy will turn into flashbacks and frequent, anticipated check-ins, despite knowing that I’m okay with my partner dating someone else. It means frequently asking partners if they still love me, if they still find me attractive, if they still want to have sex with me and build potential futures with me.
It means that, regardless of partner, I will have a massive meltdown over simple things because they trigger me to no end. Sometimes I’ll end up in tears because I’m scared that, like everyone else, they won’t stick around. In reality, I know that no one will leave me and, if they do, that I’ll be okay. But when you have BPD, that shit becomes one of the biggest disasters of your life.
Being polyamorous and having BPD also means being extremely passionate and understanding of other people’s pain. It means holding one of your partners at night because they had a night terror — and texting “good morning!” texts to another because you know they had a bad night. It means having very intense and fulfilling conversations about stomping the patriarchy. It means constant cute little gifts, handmade or bought, given with a great deal of love.
When people think of BPD, they imagine a whirlwind of negative emotions — never the possibility of a wonderful and fulfilling relationship. They never think of the loving or passionate nature that this person could bring. People come in with one-dimensional views of us and expect us to be okay with that.
I’m in one of the healthiest relationships of my life. It has worked because we have good communication and understanding, which is important for all relationships, polyamorous or monogamous. My partner doesn’t reduce me to a simplistic caricature, acknowledges my faults and calls me on it when I mess up. That’s how relationships are supposed to work. But if you make assumptions about a person because of a diagnosis, the relationship is bound to be faulty from the getgo.
If someone has BPD, it is because of a variety of things. In my case, my BPD is amplified because I have psychotic depression and PTSD. I have all these things because of chemical imbalances — and also because of trauma. This means that although I am a nice person, that gets ignored as soon as I mention the mental illnesses I have. (Good. I didn’t need those people anyway.)
If you are reading this article and considering dating a person with BPD, don’t write them off. Everyone experiences their mental illnesses differently. People can be toxic and have BPD, but they can also be toxic and not have it. It’s important to acknowledge that no one is one-dimensional. Start by working to eliminate the stigma around BPD, and go from there.