Handling Conflict in Relationships with Someone with BPD
Are you in a romantic relationship with someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD)? I want to acknowledge that handling conflict within relationships where one person may have borderline personality disorder can be a sensitive topic for many, especially when talking about romantic relationships. It’s a challenging topic for those living with the diagnosis and those in close proximity to us. For me, making relationships work with borderline personality disorder is not about blaming and pointing the finger. It’s about both parties learning to relate to one another in a way that is healthy, reciprocal, and loving. Today, I’ll share a few suggestions in thinking about the conflict you may be having with your loved one with borderline and some tips in the video below for handling conflict within the context of BPD (Borderline Rage: What I Wish People Knew About BPD and Anger). I share just from my personal experience and what has worked for me.
Dos for Handling Conflict in Relationships with Someone with BPD
Do Consider Your Role in the Conflict
Relationships with someone with BPD can be difficult, so let’s be real. Those of us with BPD are easy targets. We can be manipulative and controlling. We may be prone to violent outbursts and struggle with regulating our emotions and impulsivity. So, it’s easy to see why in relationships with us, it can be easy to point the finger at us and say “Yep, she’s crazy.”
But, I offer you this: Relationships always take two to engage in conflict and dysfunction, whether family, friends, romantic or otherwise (What Are Abuse Victims Responsible for in the Abusive Relationship?). There’s no such thing as anything being all one person's fault. And I’m not excusing violent behavior. I’m not saying you "deserved" an attack or outburst by your loved one with borderline because of something you did. I’m just asking you to consider a few things.
- Do make promises or threats that you can’t keep? For example, do you threaten to call 9-1-1 when your loved one is suicidal? Do you follow up on things you say you’ll do?
- Do you engage the borderline drama and feed on it?
- Do you use your loved ones borderline diagnosis as a distraction from your own struggles or role in things?
- Are you constantly bailing your loved one out of crises?
Do Take Care of Yourself and Set Firm Boundaries
In any relationship with someone with a serious mental illness, it’s very easy to end up in a codependent relationship dynamic. It’s easy to spend time caring for the other person while not caring for ourselves. It’s easy to neglect our own needs while obsessing about someone else’s with "personality disorder" attached to them.
Lastly, are you setting boundaries firmly? Do you know what your boundaries are with this person? For example, do you yell and scream right back when your borderline loved one has something hurtful to say? Or do you firmly say “I will not tolerate X, Y, and Z in this relationship.”
If this is challenging for you, therapy can be helpful or join a 12-step program such as Al-Anon, which can help you to begin to take care of yourself and set firm boundaries with those you love (Setting Boundaries with Borderline Sufferers).
Do Watch These Tips for Conflict Resolution With BPD
In this video, I'll break down a few helpful dos and donts of navigating conflict management and conflict resolution in relationships with someone with borderline personality disorder.
Easton, W. (2018, June 3). Handling Conflict in Relationships with Someone with BPD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, November 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2018/6/handling-conflict-in-relationships-with-someone-with-bpd
Author: Whitney Easton
my husband has BPD it is untreated and he is in denial. He gaslighted me to win me and for the last 15 years has been splitting. It is so hard to love someone who will shout how much he hates you at the same time he wants to make love. NAMI was my saving grace and thru that I discovered I am now a co-dependent. The key to BPD is support support & more support. Thank you for being here to help us understand the person with BPD
Hi Torie, thanks so much for sharing your experience and I'm glad Whitney's article has been helpful. I am glad NAMI have been helpful for you. I just want to say that you don't deserve to be shouted at and that I can imagine being shouted at could be a very painful experience for you. It sounds as though it can be confusing to be shouted at that your husband hates you and at the same time he wants to make love to you. I want to share the Healthy Place Referral Resources and Hotlines page with you https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-refer… in case there are organizations there which might be helpful for you. When BPD is untreated, it can be incredibly difficult for the person and for those around them. I am really glad the article helps you feel understood. Take care. - Rosie Cappuccino, author on the More Than Borderline Blog.
Thank you for all the effort you put into the videos.
Hi Jenny! You're so welcome. It's my pleasure, Whitney
Can you make a video concerning BPD splitting? Thanks in advance.
Hi there! I do actually have a video already on splitting. If you go to my author page, you will find. The link is also here: https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2018/04/healing-from-borderline-personality…
I love your videos. Thanks for making them. I believe my exwife has borderline characteristics and think she was splitting and 90% of the time she thought I was bad and treated me like I was hated. I was a loving, loyal, and sympathetic husband, but her condition wore me down and out. She also gaslighted me regularly and physically abused me. Are there any online support groups that you know of that have online writings of questions, answers and discussions?
Hi Werner! Thank you for your message. I know it can be difficult to be on the receiving end of splitting and tiring, too. I'm not sure about online support groups, but you might try checking with NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They have many great resources and organizations listed on their website. I might also suggest a free support group like Al Anon in your area, a 12-step program. While it focuses on loved ones of addiction, there are many in twelve step groups dealing with the severe mental illness of a loved one and they also have online meetings. It can be helpful when you have a loved one with an addiction or mental illness. Wishing you all the best, Whitney