Things To Keep In Mind When Dating Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

Medically reviewed by Majesty Purvis, LCMHC
Updated June 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
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Are you in a relationship with someone who has BPD (borderline personality disorder)? Individuals with BPD may experience difficulties in intimate relationships, and in these relationships, both partners may face a unique set of challenges. Symptoms of BPD can include sudden changes in emotions and reactions, and this may strain the relationship at times. But, with treatment and support, it is possible for individuals with BPD to have strong, healthy relationships.

If you’re in a relationship with someone with BPD, it may be helpful to learn more about this mental illness and its common symptoms. This article highlights six things to keep in mind when dating someone with BPD. BPD can bring challenges in a relationship, but for both you and your partner, help is available. 

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Living with BPD or dating someone with BPD?

What is borderline personality disorder (BPD)?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition that is often marked by symptoms such as an intense fear of abandonment, impulsive behavior, and unstable but intense relationships. A person with BPD may experience extreme mood swings and rapid changes in temperament that push others away at times, though they don’t wish to do so. People with borderline personality disorder may also experience intense episodes of anger, anxiety, and depression.

People with BPD can experience a variety of symptoms, similar to bipolar disorder, with intense mood swings as one of the most common. The individual may have a quickly changing and inconsistent opinion of both themselves and others, which can affect romantic relationships. Developing better communication skills and seeking individual therapy may help improve their own well being and maintain healthier connections with others.

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Included below is a list of possible symptoms of BPD:

  • Fear of abandonment: Someone with BPD may experience a severe fear of abandonment, and for some individuals, this fear could be prompted by even seemingly small things like arriving late from work. To cope, they may engage in destructive behaviors to try to avoid separation.

  • Unstable relationships: People with BPD tend to have one short, intense romantic relationship after another. They may believe that a new person they date is “the one” and then quickly switch to thinking that the person is horrible. They may experience shifts from one extreme to another, affecting the healthy relationship they desire.

  • Unclear or shifting self-image: An unstable sense of self can be another one of the BPD symptoms. Sometimes a person with BPD may switch between hating themselves and holding themselves in high esteem. They might also experience shifts in their direction in life, frequently changing careers, friends, goals, and risk factors associated with their decisions.

  • Impulsive behaviors: People with BPD may engage in impulsive behaviors, such as reckless driving, engaging in unsafe sexual behavior, stealing, binge eating, or using drugs and alcohol.

  • Self-harm or suicidal behavior: Self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and suicidal behaviors may be other symptoms in people with BPD.

  • Intense emotions: Strong, sometimes extreme emotions and mood swings can last from several hours to several days and can include both positive and negative emotions.

  • Chronic feelings of emptiness: Some individuals with BPD may experience emotional pain and a lasting feeling of emptiness.

  • Explosive anger: A short temper and anger management problems can also be observed in individuals with BPD, often affecting BPD relationships.

  • Feeling paranoid or out of touch with reality: Paranoia and dissociation may occur in individuals with BPD. These feelings could last from several minutes to several hours.

If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately by calling the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. It is available 24/7.

Dating someone with BPD

While dating someone with borderline personality disorder can be challenging, the most important thing is that you have a trusting, respectful relationship with someone you connect with. It may help to remember that this mental health condition often involves intense emotions and the individual often experiences unstable relationships in their lives. 

When you're dating someone with BPD, understanding their need for support and possibly encouraging them to seek behavioral therapy can be helpful for maintaining a healthy relationship where you both feel safe and happy. It's often beneficial to educate yourself about borderline personality disorder to navigate the complexities of dating someone with borderline with tact and compassion.

Six possible ways BPD affects romantic relationships and things to keep in mind:

While a relationship with someone with BPD can bring challenges at times, especially as BPD affect romantic relationships, it can also be filled with love and compassion through the efforts of both you and your partner. When dating someone with a BPD diagnosis, it may be useful to keep in mind some of the following suggestions.

1. Try to create healthy boundaries with your partner

Setting—and sticking to—boundaries may give your relationship a much-needed sense of structure. Open communication can help when forming boundaries for a relationship. You might start by being clear when communicating your preferences, values, limits, and general desires to your partner. Setting boundaries may encourage your partner to take responsibility for their actions, prevent you from having to put up with unhealthy behavior, and strengthen your relationship. When you set limits and boundaries, your partner may initially take your attempts as rejection. However, if you can remain calm and communicate clearly, these boundaries may encourage a healthy and strong relationship.

Living with BPD or dating someone with BPD?

2. People with BPD may feel insecure about themselves

Jealousy and anger may easily flare up in people with BPD. This tendency can sometimes stem from their fear of abandonment, which can cause them to react disproportionately to a situation. They may often need the reassurance of your love and commitment to them. Keeping this in mind may allow you both to develop positive dynamics.

3. People with BPD may need to feel validated

When your partner attempts to communicate their feelings to you, you may benefit from listening actively and validating their feelings. While you may not always understand your partner’s reactions or emotions, they are very real for them. Validating your partner’s emotions and thoughts doesn’t necessarily mean that you agree with them. Listening, mirroring back their words, and showing compassion may help validate your partner’s feelings and make them feel like they are being heard. This may be helpful in creating a more open and stable relationship for both of you.

4. Managing BPD can be a slow process

Managing BPD effectively may take considerable time and effort. Remaining patient and setting realistic expectations with the treatment process may help you and your partner both with their treatment and your relationship. Family support can be crucial during this journey.

5. It is important to take care of yourself

When you are caught up in relationship challenges, it can be easy to let your own mental and physical health fall by the wayside. But, taking good care of yourself can be essential. Exercising, resting, and eating well may help you cope with the stress and challenges you’re experiencing. Try to maintain close relationships with friends and family so that you have a support system in place with people to lean on. 

6. Help is available for both you and your partner

Living with BPD or dating someone with BPD can come with unique challenges, but for you both as individuals and as a couple, professional help is available.

You and your partner can seek counseling as individuals for personalized support with your own concerns, and if you would like to seek counseling together, couples counseling may help you learn how to communicate more effectively with each other and manage your relationship. 

More and more people are seeking online therapy for assistance in coping with mental illness or supporting loved ones who have received a diagnosis. With online therapy platforms like BetterHelp, participants can choose the communication format that works for them: videoconference meetings, phone calls, text messages. Getting the help you need may be easier than traditional in-person avenues that typically have less flexible booking availability. Additionally, there is no need to commute to a physical office building when you engage in online therapy.

Online therapy has shown effectiveness in treating people living with borderline personality disorder. In a 2022 review of 11 relevant studies, researchers concluded that internet-based interventions for personality disorders like BPD show effectiveness in decreasing the symptoms and that patients showed moderate to high levels of satisfaction.

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Started speaking with Josh a few weeks ago and he's definitely helped me with my relationship. He taught me how to navigate conversations with my girlfriend in order to keep us both engaged and not get defensive and shut off from each other. I can say that it doesn't seem like I'm talking to a therapist during our sessions. It feels more like talking to a friend who is helping me navigate tough times in my relationship, and that's exactly what I was hoping for.”

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As a partner to someone with BPD, a personality disorder often diagnosed in early adulthood, you might find it helpful to learn more about BPD from sources like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and consider some of the suggestions above as you navigate your relationship. For both you and your partner, help is available through online therapy for individuals and couples so that you can work through challenges and move forward together. A mental health professional can provide nonbiased insight, knowledge, and tools that may be helpful for those with BPD and their loved ones.
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