Mental Health Blogs

Borderline Personality Disorder, Relationships and Valentine’s Day

St. Valentine’s Day is coming up–or, as some of us prefer to call it, “Singles Awareness Day” or “Half-Price Chocolate Day”.

One of the symptoms of borderline personality disorder is a history of intense, unstable relationships. We alternate between idolizing and loathing other people. We also have a tendency to stay in relationships longer than we should, out of fear of being abandoned. This is especially true for romantic relationships.

Our culture places a lot of emphasis on being in a romantic relationship. From a Facebook status to “chick flicks” to that garbage sold as “entertainment news”, it’s easy to feel pressured to be in a romantic relationship.

Nothing could be more dangerous.

Relationship Question 1: Is it safe?

unstable-relationshipsBroken hearts heal faster than broken bones.

People with BPD–especially those who have survived abuse–may stay in an unsafe relationship because they would rather be in a familiar situation with someone than be alone in an unfamiliar situation.

Hindsight is always 20-20. Learn from my mistake: break off a relationship at any sign of violent behavior.

My ex-fiance was court-ordered to be in treatment for BPD. He refused, and started to become violent.

First, he would tell stories–which I believe and hope are false–implying he had a hand in several murders. If true, the problem is obvious. If not, what kind of person would make up a story like that.

Second, he began shooting me with a pellet gun–and continued to do so when I asked him to stop. It was a disregard for my own well-being.

Finally, he grabbed a knife one night and went off “to save Jennifer from that drug dealer”. I was terrified; I believed he would kill me if I didn’t break off the relationship. When he returned, I gave him the ring and told him to leave me alone.

It hurt like fire, but I felt tremendous relief within minutes.

Relationship Question 2: Is it healthy?

After that disaster, I concluded “Better happily single than unhappily married.”

He’d given me a plaque with a Bible verse on it: 1 Corinthians 13, also known as “the lover chapter” or “the wedding chapter” due to its popularity in marriage ceremonies. This 2,000-year-old letter to the Roman Empire’s Las Vegas is still an effective “relationship checkup.”

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Replace “love” with the name of the person you’re romantically involved with. The less accurate the description, the more unhealthy the relationship.

“Don’t date anyone you meet in therapy.”

An Alcoholics Anonymous saying is “Two sickos don’t equal a well-o.” As angry as that may make us, it’s true.

Two people with BPD should not form a romantic relationship. Don’t make my mistake. A person with BPD should also not form a relationship with someone in an active addiction (as I was) or someone refusing treatment.

There are advantages to being single. As the late Ann Landers told TIME in 1989, “This may sound terribly selfish, but I love the freedom that I have. I don’t have to worry about anybody but myself. I don’t have to worry about a man’s wardrobe, or his relatives, or his schedule, or his menu, or his allergies. I would not be married again.”

Singleness is an incredible advantage for me. Journalism requires odd hours since news rarely happens from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. It can require travel–I went to Canada on three days’ notice and post-Katrina Mississipi on five days notice. Not surprisingly, journalists have a high rate of divorce.

Relationship wrap-up

Regardless of what anyone says, you don’t have to be in a romantic relationship. No other person will fill you; trying to fill a void with someone else makes that void worse. You have to find completeness within yourself. You have to find your own happiness, regardless of relationship status.

Meditate on that while munching the chocolate you bought on clearance from the drug store.

This entry was posted in Borderline Symptoms, Borderline Treatment and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Borderline Personality Disorder, Relationships and Valentine’s Day

  1. Teri says:

    I just lost a man…the first man I had dated in almost 10 years…because I can’t quit sleeping all the time. I’m bipolar. My “downs” are tenfold compared to my “up” or even normal times. It seems to be getting worse instead of better. The worst thing about it is that I could play games, make promises, etc. to keep him but I know that wrong and unfair to him. But at the same time it was wonderful to be able to say I had a boyfriend. I was divorced 16 years ago with three young daughters and this is nothing like that but it’s here and now and it’s not fun. It was a bit dysfunctional in that he has some problems too but nothing that we couldn’t have worked out if I could just get more energy and be normal. Dang it!

  2. teri1960 says:

    Tell me what I need to work on before I can have a healthy relationship. As of right now I have what I consider and incurable disease. It can be managed with medication and counseling. But my borderline personality is far from manageable. Does that mean I can’t have a relationship?

  3. Becky Oberg says:

    Honestly, I have no idea because we haven’t met and I am not familiar with your situation. I do want to say, however, don’t give up. I was a hopeless case, one counselor told my family–in front of me–”She’ll drift in and out of hospitals until they get sick of treating her.”

    One of the dirty little secrets of BPD is that research is beginning to cast doubt on the effectiveness of DBT (dialectical behaviorial therapy). Studies on DBT are often inconclusive, and one even suggested it is no more effective than treatmeant as usual.

    What worked for me is schema therapy. You can learn more about it at http://www.schematherapy.com.

    In the meantime, keep being honest about how your BPD symptoms are affecting your ability to relate to others. Ask yourself if being in a relationship is right for you at this time.

  4. Becky Oberg says:

    I wish I knew what to say, but everything sounds trite. Is the exhaustion a medication issue? I know that some psych meds have knocked me out for days at a time. If that’s the case, you need to talk to your psychiatrist and tell him/her that you’re almost always asleep. You have a right to enjoy your life.

  5. Monica says:

    BPD is a serious issue and can worsen if not treated at the right stage. I really liked question 2 and the tricky love paragraph.It’s a great way to know how healthy your relationship is. Staying happy and composed with one own self is far better than seeking happiness elsewhere .
    Here’s a personality test hope you will like it.
    How Well Do You Know Yourself?
    This test aims at discovering how well you know yourself.
    http://www.3smartcubes.com/pages/tests/selfawareness/selfawareness_instructions.asp

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