Working as a relationship therapist, I often see clients with Borderline Personality Disorders (BPD) both in an individual and in a couples treatment.
My individual clients with BPD/BPD traits find me after years of difficult and unsuccessful relationships, feeling unlovable and lost. They desperately want a healthy and long-lasting relationship but they lack any skills to create or maintain one.
Couples with one of the partners with BPD tendencies usually find me to address the extremely explosive and unstable nature of their relationships. They tell me, “When we are good, we are really good. But when it’s bad between us, it’s as if all hell break loose.”
It is unfortunate that most people don’t know anything about BPD, how it can affect one’s relational aspects of life, and that BPD is treatable. Marsha M. Linehan, developed Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) as a treatment for BPD. It is highly effective and widely available now. It is recommended for clients with BPD to attend weekly DBT skills group and also work with a DBT therapist for an individual work.
Over the years, I have learned that it’s almost impossible to have a successful outcome in a couples treatment, when partners with BPD/BPD traits refuse to engage in DBT treatment for their individual work. The problem is that it is often very difficult for these partners to acknowledge that they have BPD/BPD tendencies as it triggers their fear of abandonment and their low self-esteem. They often internalize it to confirm their worst fear, “There is something wrong with me, therefore no one can/will love me.”
Understandably, it’s easy for them to feel that way as these individuals in most cases have experienced extremely painful childhood. The family members of individuals with BPD often have higher-than-expected levels of psychopathology. They might themselves have one of the personality disorders, (such as BPD, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and Histrionic Personality Disorder), struggle with substance use, have difficulty regulating their mood, and difficulty controlling impulse.
So, the individuals with BPD/BPD traits were often severely invalidated, sometimes neglected, or even emotionally/physically/sexually abused by their parents or by other family members as a child. Now as an adult, they are hypervigilant to any possibility of “getting hurt again” (possible abandonment/rejection) and react in ways that often end up self-sabotaging their relationship with others.
Marsha M. Linehan compared people with BPD to burn victims. Imagine how sensitive you would be to any trigger of pain if you didn’t have a new skin to protect the old wound.
Therefore, having a compassion towards yourself or your partner with BPD/BPD traits is crucial. We have to remember that underneath the intense anger, there is unimaginable pain that overwhelms individuals with BPD. And with help of therapist and their partner, they can start healing from their childhood hurt and finally create and maintain a healthy and long-lasting relationship they desire more than anything.
Contact us to find out more about how your/your partner’s BPD effects the relationship and how to get help.
You or your partner might have BPD if you experience:
- An intense fear of, and an extreme reaction (hypersensitivity) to a real or a perceived abandonment or rejection.
- Emotional instability (mood swings) such as being seemingly content and happy to feeling upset in a matter of minutes or even seconds.
- Difficulty regulating emotion. Especially inappropriate, intense, and often explosive anger.
- Oscillation between an extreme closeness and love (idealization) to an extreme dislike or anger (devaluation).
- A pattern of intense, unstable, even chaotic relationships that are often toxic and abusive.
- Unhealthy personal boundaries such as trusting or falling in love too quickly or being too paranoid or suspicious of others.
- Chronic feelings of emptiness and low self-esteem.
- Family history of personality disorders such as BPD, NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder), Histrionic Personality Disorder, and Antisocial Personality Disorder.
- History of childhood abuse (emotional, physical, and sexual).
- Impulsive and risky behaviors such as drug (including alcohol) abuse, binge eating, or unsafe sex.
- Suicidal ideations or attempts and other self-harming behaviors such as cutting.
How to get help.
BPD support websites
Liz Wee, LMFT, ATR
Do you want to learn more about how you can improve your relationship with your partner? Or are you an individual, who's working on self right now to have better relationships in the future? I would love to assist you!
You can make an appointment below for a therapy session or a free consultation.