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Borderline Personality Disorder and Relationships: Navigating the Heart's Complex Journey

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Romantic relationships are some of the more complex social interactions a person has to navigate in their lives. While mainstream culture feeds us the hunky-dory narrative of love and romance, real-life relationships are far removed from that. Relationships often take a lot of effort and go through turbulent times.

For individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD), forging and keeping close relationships is often fraught with challenges. This condition complicates emotional regulation, which can strain connections with partners, friends, and family. Loved ones may also struggle to navigate these turbulent dynamics. This mutual difficulty can lead to misunderstandings and stress, impacting relationship quality. 

This article will highlight how BPD affects a person’s relationships while also taking the reader through what it takes to manage and sustain such a relationship. 

What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?

Borderline Personality Disorder is a mental health disorder that falls under cluster B of personality disorders. It is characterized by self-image issues, difficulty managing emotions, and unstable interpersonal relationships. 

Individuals with BPD often display face and intense fear of abandonment, impulsivity and emotional volatility, experiencing severe bouts of anger, anxiety, and depression. These intense emotional states can persist for hours or even days, impacting their work, personal relationships, and health. They might engage in self-harm, encounter accidents, or get involved in altercations, and unfortunately, the risk of suicide is higher among those with BPD.

Understanding the emotional experience of someone with BPD involves recognizing their struggle to return to a stable emotional state. Positive events can elicit prolonged feelings of joy, while negative experiences may result in a prolonged recovery period.

Though there is no permanent cure for the disorder, regular sessions with a mental health professional can help an individual cope better.

Effects of Borderline Personality Disorder inRelationships?

As discussed previously, bpd relationships has multiple effects on a person’s relationship with their partner. The symptoms of the disorder and the ways in which a person deals with them all cause difficulties. 

Emotional Instability 

Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) often experience intense and rapidly shifting emotions, which can lead to emotional instability. Their moods can fluctuate dramatically throughout the day, causing them to feel overwhelmed, and anxious, and sometimes even experience anger or sadness in response to minor triggers.

Fear of Abandonment 

Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) often experience an intense and pervasive fear of abandonment. This fear can be triggered by real or perceived threats of rejection or abandonment, leading to extreme efforts to avoid being left alone.

It can manifest in clingy or dependent behaviors, frantic efforts to maintain relationships and a constant need for reassurance and validation from others.


Lying can be a common characteristic among individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Individuals with BPD may resort to lying as a way to manipulate situations, control the narrative, or protect themselves from perceived threats, even if the lies are unnecessary or detrimental.

Impulsive Sexuality 

Impulsive sexuality is a common trait observed in individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). Due to their intense emotions and unstable sense of self, individuals with BPD may engage in impulsive sexual behaviors as a way to seek validation, alleviate emotional pain, or establish a sense of connection with others. 

These behaviors can include risky sexual encounters, promiscuity, or a borderline relationship pattern of unstable and intense relationships.

Unrealistic Expectations

People with BPD often seek to fulfill all their emotional and interpersonal needs through their relationships, aiming for an idealized perfection that rarely aligns with reality, according to Dr. Unruh. This mismatch can lead to significant strain, including feelings of frustration, anger, and misunderstanding among those close to them.

Acknowledging and managing these expectations is crucial for developing more sustainable and understanding connections.

Argument Escalation

Arguments in relationships are common, yet for someone with BPD, even minor disputes can escalate into intense emotional turmoil. It's often difficult for partners to bring up important matters without the risk of triggering a severe conflict, especially when concerned about the possibility of impulsive or angry reactions from their partner with BPD.

This highlights the importance of involving partners and loved ones in the treatment process, enabling them to understand how to handle specific situations effectively.

Polarized Perceptions

People with BPD tend to see others and themselves in black and white, quickly moving from admiration to criticism. This extreme way of viewing makes it hard to keep stable relationships, jobs, and friendships. It's particularly tough dealing with someone who changes their view of you so rapidly. Plus, it's even harder when individuals with BPD don't realize how their actions affect these relationships.

Why Understanding BPD is Important for Partners? 

Knowing everything you can do about the disorder your partner is battling is a key part of making a relationship work. BPD comes with a host of symptoms and triggers, and learning more about these can help an individual assist their partners during turbulent times. 

By taking the time to learn about these aspects of BPD, individuals can become better equipped to support their partners through the stormy periods that are characteristic of the disorder. This understanding can facilitate more effective communication, help in de-escalating conflicts, and foster a deeper emotional connection by showing empathy and patience during episodes that might otherwise lead to misunderstandings or hurt feelings.

Moreover, understanding BPD can also assist partners in recognizing the difference between the disorder's symptoms and their partner's true personality, helping to distinguish between moments of crisis and their partner's genuine feelings and intentions. This distinction is vital in preventing resentment and maintaining a compassionate perspective towards the challenges their partner faces.

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Supporting a Loved One with BPD in a Relationship

Supporting a loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in a relationship requires understanding, patience, and compassion. It's about navigating the complexities together and fostering a supportive environment that promotes healing and growth. Here's how to approach it:

Communicate Openly 

Open and honest communication is crucial, especially when a partner has BPD. Discussing the disorder and its impacts helps both partners. It enables understanding and empathy, allowing for support when needed. It also aids in recognizing triggers and symptoms, facilitating necessary adjustments. This foundation of understanding makes resolving conflicts easier, as both partners can identify and address the root causes together.

Learn about BPD

Educating oneself about their partner's mental health disorder, such as BPD, is vital. Learning about its symptoms, triggers, and coping strategies helps in recognizing signs and providing emotional support. This knowledge equips one to assist their partner towards recovery more effectivelyWhile reading up on BPD relationships, a person will understand the symptoms, triggers, and coping methods against the disorder. 

This can help them identify the signs in their partner and allow them to offer emotional support and encouragement when necessary.

Set Boundaries

Having clear boundaries is one of the most fundamental keys to a successful relationship. Partners should have a crystal clear understanding of what is okay and what isn’t. Especially in cases where one of the partners is battling a mental health disorder. These boundaries, in the case of bpd and relationships, could be around emotional outbursts, sexual promiscuity, and continuing treatment. 

Practice Empathy

Make an effort to deeply understand the emotional states and experiences of your loved one with BPD, even when they appear complex or difficult to grasp. This approach encourages a deeper connection and enhances communication.

Encourage Treatment

Actively support your loved one in seeking out professional assistance and participating in effective therapies like Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), CBT. These interventions are key to enhancing their ability to regulate emotions and develop healthier relationship skills, contributing to overall well-being and stability.

Adjust your Expectations

Recognize that progress might be slow and that there may be occasional setbacks. Maintaining patience and staying committed are essential for assisting your loved one as they work towards building stronger, healthier relationships.

Provide Emotional Support

People with BPD may often feel alone because of their experiences. It's important to offer your partner patience and empathy. Over time, with the right support, they can develop more positive behaviors and outlooks.

Treatment for BPD

Treating Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) requires a multifaceted strategy, designed to cater to the unique needs of the individual. The main aims are to stabilize emotional responses, better interpersonal skills, and boost quality of life. Effective treatment usually combines psychotherapy, medication, and support groups to address different aspects of the disorder and support recovery


Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is the cornerstone of BPD treatment. Several types of psychotherapy have proven effective, including:

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), is often considered the gold standard for BPD treatment. DBT focuses on developing emotional regulation skills, interpersonal effectiveness, mindfulness, and distress tolerance. 
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can also be helpful in challenging negative thought patterns. They are also helpful in changing core beliefs and behaviors that are inaccurate and harmful, enabling them to handle stress and emotions better.
  • Schema-Focused Therapy: This therapy combines elements of CBT with other forms of psychotherapy to help individuals identify and change deeply rooted patterns and beliefs.


While there is no medication specifically approved to treat BPD, certain medications may be prescribed to manage specific symptoms such as depression, anxiety, or impulsivity, although they are typically used in conjunction with therapy. 

Support Groups

Support groups and self-help strategies, such as journaling and practicing self-care, can complement formal treatments, providing individuals with BPD a comprehensive approach to their healing journey. 

Family Therapy

Family therapy can be beneficial in educating family members about BPD, improving communication, and resolving conflicts. It helps build a supportive environment conducive to the individual's recovery.

Ultimately, the treatment plan should be individualized, taking into account the person's specific symptoms, challenges, and life circumstances. 

When to Seek Couples Therapy or Counseling?

Couples therapy can offer invaluable support to a couple where one partner is battling Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). The therapy sessions provide a platform for both partners to express their concerns, fears, and needs openly, with the guidance of a trained therapist. 

The couple can work together to learn effective communication techniques, gain a deeper understanding of BPD and its impact on the relationship, and develop coping mechanisms to navigate the emotional intensity that may arise. 

Through therapy, the partner can acquire valuable tools to support their loved one with BPD, while also receiving guidance on setting boundaries, managing their own emotions, and promoting self-care. 

Ultimately, couples therapy can help the couple rebuild trust, strengthen their emotional connection, and foster a healthier and more resilient partnership in the face of BPD.

Towards Healthier Relationships for Individuals with BPD

People with BPD possess qualities of kindness and compassion, and with effort, can cultivate fulfilling relationships despite ongoing challenges. Healthcare professionals, including therapists and doctors, can collaborate with you or your partner to create a customized treatment strategy. This approach aims to tackle the BPD symptoms that most significantly impact both personal well-being and the health of the relationship, paving the way for improvement and understanding.

How Cadabams Can Help?

If you're seeking support in managing BPD, Cadabams is here to help. With a team of experienced professionals and a range of personalized treatment options, we have been helping thousands of people live healthier and happier lives for 30+ years. Cadabams is committed to providing the care and guidance needed to navigate BPD. You can contact us to learn how we can support you or your loved one on this journey.


Book screening with our director of triage,  Kamlesh Verma

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What are the 4 types of BPD?

Borderline Personality Disorder is a serious mental health condition that impacts a person’s sense of self and their relationships with others. It is characterized by unstable relationships with individuals and a distorted sense of self. The types of BPD include:

  • discouraged (“quiet”) borderline.
  • self-destructive borderline.
  • impulsive borderline.
  • petulant borderline.

How serious is borderline personality disorder?

Borderline personality disorder is a serious mental health condition that affects emotional regulation, relationships, and self-image, requiring professional treatment to manage its symptoms effectively.

Can a Relationship Survive with a BPD Partner?

All relationships face challenges. It is just that when the relationship is with individuals who are battling BPD, the challenges can be unique. Though the symptoms of the disorder make it difficult for a person to sustain a relationship while battling the disorder, it is not impossible. Having clear communication and seeking professional help can allow a couple to remain in a happy and loving relationship. 

What happens if BPD is left untreated?

If BPD is left untreated, it can lead to worsening emotional instability, relationship issues, increased risk of self-harm or suicide, and complications with work or social functioning.

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