Loving Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder
Caring about someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD) tosses you on a roller coaster ride from being loved and lauded to abandoned and bashed. Having BPD is no picnic, either. You live in unbearable psychic pain most of the time, and in severe cases, on the border between reality and psychosis. Your illness distorts your perceptions, causing antagonistic behavior and making the world a perilous place. The pain and terror of abandonment and feeling unwanted can be so great that suicide feels like a better choice.
If you like drama, excitement, and intensity, enjoy the ride, because things will never be calm. Following a passionate beginning, expect a stormy relationship that includes accusations and anger, jealousy, bullying, control, and breakups due to the insecurity of the person with BPD.
Nothing is gray or gradual. For people with BPD, things are black and white. They have the quintessential Jekyll and Hyde personality. They fluctuate dramatically between idealizing and devaluing you and may suddenly and sporadically shift throughout the day. You never know what or whom to expect.
Their intense, labile emotions elevate you when they’re in good spirits and crush you when they’re not. You’re a prince or a jerk, a princess or a witch. If you’re on the outs with them, all their bad feelings get projected onto you. They can be vindictive and punish you with words, silence, or other manipulations, which can be very destructive to your self-esteem. Unlike bipolar disorder, their moods shift quickly and aren’t a departure from their normal self. What you see is their norm.
Their emotions, behavior, and unstable relationships, including work history, reflect a fragile, shame-based self-image. This is often marked by sudden shifts, sometimes to the extent that they feel nonexistent. It is made worse when they’re alone. Thus, they’re dependent on others and may frequently seek advice from several people about the same question on the same day. They’re desperate to be loved and cared for, yet are hypervigilant for any real or imagined signs of rejection or abandonment. It is common for them to cut off relatives or friends who “betray” them.
For them, trust is always an issue, often leading to distortions of reality and paranoia. You’re seen as either for or against them and must take their side. Don’t dare to defend their enemy or try to justify or explain any slight they claim to have experienced. They may try to bait you into anger, then falsely accuse you of rejecting them, make you doubt reality and your sanity, or even brainwash you as emotional manipulation. It is not unusual for them to cut off friends and relatives who they feel have betrayed them.
They react to their profound fears of abandonment with needy and clingy behavior or anger and fury that reflect their own skewed reality and self-image. On the other hand, they equally fear the romantic merger they try to create, because they’re afraid of being dominated or swallowed up by too much intimacy. In a close relationship, they must walk a tightrope to balance the fear of being alone or of being too close. To do so, they try to control with commands or manipulation, including flattery and seduction. Whereas narcissists enjoy being understood, too much understanding frightens the borderline.
Generally, borderlines are codependent, and find another codependent to merge with and to help them. They seek someone to provide stability and balance their changeable emotions. A codependent or narcissist who acts self-sufficient and controls his or her feelings can provide a perfect match. The borderline’s partner vicariously comes alive through the melodrama provided by BPD.