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Being with someone who has BPD

Tigger2001Tigger2001 Posts: 15 Settling in
My lovely boyfriend has Borderline Personality Disorder and it is coming up to 2 1/2 years of us being together. Now, there are over 200 different ways you can fit the criteria to be diagnosed so please take this as one person's experience and not as the definition of BPD has a whole. If it helps you great and if it doesn't, there will be something else that does.

But here are a few things that he and I do which have worked for us and in some ways really improved our communication - that is the most challenging but rewarding part to handle but once you can talk and understand each other, it becomes a million times easier.

1. See what information is out there. I recommend Dr Daniel J Fox on YouTube - he really helped both my and SO to understand which behaviour is linked to BPD, how to spot patterns and really why things are the way they are so we can figure out to improve things for us both. It also mentions how to be aware of risks and how to make decisions that help you stay safe.

2. I highly recommend using SET-UP (Support, Empathy, truth, understating and preservance) communication for everyone not even those struggling handling BPD. It helps reassure them that we are on their side while achklowdging their feelings, holding everyone (including yourself) accountable and finding a mutually beneficial solution. I could talk about SET all day as I use it with my BPD SO and my autistic sister. I use it at work to mediate and I swear by this. So please let me know if you want me to go into detail about it.

3. Separating the symptoms from the person.
For most people with mental helath illness, it is easy to do this. But with BPD, it is a personality disorder. Therefore, it ties deeply into their sense of self - they do not know how to separate the symptoms from themselves as it all feels as if it is their own feelings or thoughts. That is why it is so important as a support network to help them realise which parts are them. I know for example, when his BPD is showing, he will say certain things like he hates the flat we live in and that I forced him to live here. I know this is his BPD as I know he worries about us loosing the flat due to his episodes and that we will have no where else to live - the BPD internalised this anxiety and converted into the phrase "I hate the flat" because then if we do loose the flat for whatever reason, the bpd has already stated his disgust over it and therefore it won't be as devastating if we did loose it in comparison to the pain he would feel if he did acknowledge how much he doesn't want to loose it. The key to knowing how he genuinely feels about things is to ask him when the BPD isn't so present so that you can remind him of his true feelings that he has told you (it will work even better if you ask him to write it down because then he cannot argue with his own physical words that he can see he wrote himself). I often say to him when his BPD is talking for him, "I hear you but I spoke to my SO earlier and he told me that he doesn't want us to loose the flat and that he likes it here. Therefore, I will listen to what my SO has to say as I love and care about him and I do not want to listen to the BPD as it is not what my SO has told me - he does not feel like that even if the BPD is trying to make him feel thay way, my SO has told me he likes the flat when I spoke to him earlier and because I love and care about him, I will listen to him instead. But thank you anyway". By achklowdging the BPD's presence you establish that his BPD is present and that these false feelings are real to him, but you also remind them that they are not what true to how genuinely feels himself. It is complicated but when you have BPD, your sense of identity and values change depending on how you are feeling at the moment in time, so by reminding him of his core values it brings him some stability and brings them back to their feelings are valid and does not need to change - he can still want to stay in the flat even though he feels anxious about us being told leave. He does not need to pretend he doesn't like the flat because he is anxious. I hope this makes sense.

4. Look after yourself.
You are as important as anyone else. You need to make sure you have a support network and are taking care yourself too. By neglecting yourself, not only are you causing harm to yourself but you will eventually become unable to support the person who is relying on you - you are only human and sometimes it is easy to forget when you have the expectations you are a superhero. You are a hero but you are human. You have limits. Pace yourself and give yourself time to genuinely relax too.

5. We are team.
One of the best things that has helped my SO is reinforcing the fact that we are a team. Through thick and thin. We are on the same side, by each others side. When it goes to chaos, we are a team. When things are going well we are a team. My SO recently forgot to pay his phone bill due to his poor finance management that is linked to his BPD, he didn't not want me to cover it. But I told him we are a team and that he has done so well working on his finances that the occasional slip up is expected. But we are a team, your becomes us. We did good today, we need to work on this. How can we get the solution. Even if they need to do the ground work, you will suport them. Therfore it is an us solution - a team solution. I paid his phone bill because we are fortunate that I had the money to do so but also because as a team it is our phone bill now. Let me help you, help us. I know he would have done the same for me if the tables were turned. Or at least he would have liked to if he wasn't struggling so much with his disorder but his drive for him wanting to get better so one day he can do things like that for us, is enough for me to suport us. He knows we are a team and that we work towards a better tomorrow together. This helps the common BPD feeling of being alone and being paranoid everyone is going to leave you - the fear of abandonment. The simple phrase "I am on your side, you do not need to fight me".

6. Boundaries
There are lines that should not be crossed and there should be mutual understanding of where that line is and what the consequences are if it is crossed - the consequences should be something you can stick to. For example, my SO knows that if he starts having a severe BPD episode and he decides to leave the flat during it, that I will call the emergency services if he does leave as my priority is to keep him safe and there has been past experiences where he has put himself at risk. He is less likely to do harmful behaviours towards himself if I am present and he stays at the flat. Therefore, we both know that it is with best intentions that he stays in the flat with me. Even if at the moment he does not like the idea, he knows it is for the best. We have a shared goal to keep him safe and a shared understanding of why the emergency services are called when it is needed.

7. You cannot have a rainbow without rain.
Accept the situation, accept the good, the bad and all the days inbetween. You want to more of those fond memories so remind yourself of them to have something to strive for and know that they can learn to manage their disorder so that the fond times happen more and more. But do not discredit how important the bad days are, they are the signpost that shows you what you need to work on, where you started and how far you have come. It gives you invaluable lessons. You will not notice change until you do something out of habit and realise you do not need to do that any more. Make sure your mind keeps up with the changes, do not allow yourself to get stuck in the past and miss the bright future infront of you because you are busy chasing your own shadow. Give them time, give yourself time and allow growth. There will be mistakes, and thats okay. Accept them and move forward. Be patient and be hopeful.

8. Risk Assess
Research BPD, know the risks such as substance abuse, addictions and be mindful of this. Explain that certain choices need to be made to keep everyone safe as they are more at risk. For example, my SO has struggled with drinking. I explained to him that drinking itself is not an issue when having a leisurely drink with dinner. But when he became more likely to harm himself when drinking, we had to have a conversation to say that if we want to stay safe, then we would need to put in place steps to reduce the risks which were in this case to avoid the risks of drinking when we are not feeling great

Personally, I believe everything happens for a reason. And it is most often with mental health issues, you hit rock bottom before it starts to get better.

If it is meant to be, it is meant to be and whatever that is, it has a purpose for being.

No one is responsible for the situation you are in, there are many factors that have brought this to you. But it is your responsibility what you and your SO does with it. You can both accept it and use it as something to build upon. BPD is not a life prison sentence, it is an agreed understanding that their brain is wired differently so we need to adapt how we do things so they are kept safe.

Wish you all the very best and feel free to give me a shout if you want to talk about anything. Related to this post or not.

I'm not here to judge. Only to be human with fellow humans. ☺

lovemimoonBrookeeLucy307Past Usergia9720AislingDMFriendlyneighbour


  • Laura_tigger82Laura_tigger82 Moderator Posts: 4,933 The Mix Elder
    Hi @Tigger2001

    Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom with us. How are things for you both currently? :)
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  • Lucy307Lucy307 Posts: 1,171 Wise Owl
    What a lovely and insightful post @Tigger2001 thank you so much for sharing this.

    I LOVE the sound of SET-UP, particularly as you can use it for different people with different needs by the sounds of it 💜 would love to hear some more - where did you learn this and how can I learn more too?
    Treat yourself as you would treat a good friend
  • Past UserPast User Recovering🥀 LondonPosts: 0 Just got here
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  • gia9720gia9720 Posts: 117 The Mix Convert
    Thanks @Tigger2001 - What an amazing, informative post, thank you so much for sharing this with us <3 !! Hope you are both well.
  • Tigger2001Tigger2001 Posts: 15 Settling in
    edited December 2021
    @Laura_tigger82 @Lucy307 @zaynab_5 @gia9720

    Hi All

    I am happy to hear you found my post interesting. It took me a few days to write as I could keep writing forever ever it seems!

    My and my lovely man moved house on Monday so it has been super stressful but we managed to get it done with the help of my lovely family to support us. It is taking time and its been a little wobbly as my man comes to term with the change but it is work in progress.Thank you for asking.

    @Lucy307 I am currently working on a post on how to explain SET which I will post soon - hopefully! But I originally came across this when researching BPD, it was originally designed for BPD but I have adapted it sightly to fit different situations. It is from a book called "Talking to a loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder" half the book explains what the steps are and the other half are examples of how to use it. Obviously, as it is for BPD, it will need to be adapted but the basic idea is still the same if you were to use for people without BPD. It is really good for mediating and reducing conflict during sensitive topics too. Especially for emotional people who get overwhelmed easily, it's a really useful tool as it has a structure and it teaches you how to actively listen to others responses.
  • Laura_tigger82Laura_tigger82 Moderator Posts: 4,933 The Mix Elder
    Hey @Tigger2001

    That just highlights how informative and supportive you are!

    How are you finding the move?

    Moving houses can be really stressful but also really exciting :3
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    I'm a community moderator. I'm here to help guide discussions and make sure Community Guidelines are followed. I can't send DMs, but you can message @TheMix or email [email protected] with questions or concerns.
  • Salix_alba_2019Salix_alba_2019 Deactivated Posts: 1,646 Extreme Poster
    Great post !
  • Laura_tigger82Laura_tigger82 Moderator Posts: 4,933 The Mix Elder
    Thanks @Salix_alba_2019. How are you today? I hope you are well! But if you need anything we are here for you :)
    FAQ | How to report a post | How to report spam
    I'm a community moderator. I'm here to help guide discussions and make sure Community Guidelines are followed. I can't send DMs, but you can message @TheMix or email [email protected] with questions or concerns.
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