Borderline Personality Disorder Doesn't Have To Ruin Your Relationship
New research offers ways to beat your borderline tendencies and maintain a happy relationship.
By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | September 13, 2022
Borderline personality disorder, or BPD, is a stigmatized mental health condition and can be challenging to live with. Especially in the context of romantic relationships, those with BPD are prone to forming unstable or difficult bonds.
Despite the widespread belief that those with BPD are "damaged" or "untreatable," there is growing evidence that with the right intervention, such individuals can live a life with joy, love, and meaning.
Here are two ways science says you can overcome your borderline tendencies to engage in more meaningful and fulfilling romantic relationships.
#1. Use your emotions to your advantage
The study found that anxiety, not sadness, was the most common emotion experienced by those with BPD. The study also found that these emotions were not arbitrary. More than half the time, the emotion experienced could be explained by an interpersonal or social trigger.
"When participants reported the specific emotion of anxiety, they were more likely to try to problem-solve, but when they reported sadness, they were less likely to problem-solve and more likely to push it away," says Cardona.
"BPD symptoms actually make a lot of sense when you think of them as behaviors designed to help that person feel more 'in control' of their out-of-control emotions."
In the context of romantic relationships, the willingness to solve problems is highly valuable. What you must not do, however, is sweep your feelings under the rug. Unexpressed negative emotions can add up over time and transform into major relationship problems.
Emotions are signals. Using effective strategies to overcome challenges alongside your significant other is the best way to stay together. A qualified mental health professional can help you arrive at healthier strategies to respond to your emotions.
#2. Learn to trust by tapping into your sense of fairness
Trust is at the core of every successful relationship.
The results of the study showed that borderline personalities exhibited the same amount of generosity as did healthy individuals. Where the two groups differed, however, was in their expectation of selfish behavior from others — those with borderline tendencies were far more likely than healthy individuals were to expect unfair treatment from others.
"It has been established that people with BPD are sensitive to injustice and that even though actual cooperative behavior is impaired in BPD, it is most likely the reactive part of cooperation — that is, the ability to forgive and not retaliate — that shows impairment, not their proneness to be fair," explains Levay.
"The pattern we found might derive from a family environment where cooperation of the child was obligatory, whereas the environment did not reciprocate it. Rather, their cooperation was met with selfishness and disregard for the needs of the child."
While you do not choose your family or the conditions of your upbringing, you do choose your romantic partner. If your partner has proven themselves to be fair and generous over time, it may be time to trust them openly.
This may seem daunting at first due to the nature of BPD and what you may have been through in the past, but there are several evidence-based therapies that can help you manage your expectations of being unfairly treated.
The researchers highlight these four effective psychotherapies:
- Schema Therapy
- Dialectical-Behavior Therapy (DBT)
- Mentalization Based Therapy
- Transference Focused Therapy
Research is catching up to new ways to understand BPD. Understanding BPD better and addressing the underlying reasons for your BPD behaviors can help you strengthen your romantic relationship. With a complex condition like BPD, improvement is a constant process of unlearning, learning, and relearning about yourself.