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8 Important Ways To Love Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

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How To Love Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) & Help Manage Their Mental Illness
Love, Health And Wellness

Overcome the feelings of abandonment in the relationship to form secure bonds.

Many people struggle with learning how to love someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). 

The relationships can be volatile, intense, and heated due to the overwhelming feelings of abandonment, jealousy, and insecurity.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder and why is it difficult to form a secure and loving relationship with someone who has this personality disorder?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, BPD is "a mental illness marked by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image, and behavior. These symptoms often result in impulsive actions and problems in relationships."

RELATED: If The Woman You Love Has These 10 Personality Traits, She May Have Borderline Personality Disorder

The person who is borderline lacks a sense of object constancy. When their partner is not available, they feel that their partner is no longer there. This causes the person who is borderline to accuse their partner of things such as cheating, wanting someone else, or not loving them.

Often the person who is borderline can be depicted as having what psychoanalyst John Bowlby describes as an insecure attachment or disorganized attachment, whereby the expectation is that others will not be there for them. Therefore, they fear that they will become abandoned, causing the relationship to feel insecure.

According to Bowlby, a person develops a set of internal working models which forms the internalized views of how they see themselves and others, originating from the earliest attachment figures.

Internationally recognized psychoanalytic psychiatrist, James Masterson, who formulated the study and treatment of personality disorders, elaborated on Bowlby's theory.

Masterson concludes that the person who is borderline, who endured abandonment or abuse in childhood, internalizes the view of themselves as having a bad 'self' representation, and an 'other' representation which consists of seeing 'others' as withdrawing, abandoning, or not caring.

In adult relationships, the activation of this attachment dyad triggers, what Masterson calls, the "abandonment depression", whereby the person with BPD feels intense abandonment, rage, anger, anxiety, or even suicidal ideation.

When this withdrawing attachment unit is activated, the person who is borderline will often react in ways that become abusive or accusatory in order to defend against the abandonment feelings. Therefore, their partner gets blamed for causing them to feel this way, forgetting where these feelings originated from.

In order to love someone with BPD, the person who is borderline requires a strong partner to help them re-examine their perception so that they do not react according to their abandonment feelings.

This requires a partner who does not take their anger personally.

Those with BPD react in ways that push loved ones away, when they perceive rejection, making it difficult to have a relationship with them. Healthy separation — such as having separate interests or friends — can trigger feelings of abandonment.

Often, the partner can feel accused of something — such as being uncaring or being unloving — when the borderline partner defends against these feelings of abandonment and being not good enough.

These feelings become externalized as being caused by their partner in order to rid themselves of these feelings. Thus, the partner becomes the bad person who mistreats them so that they do not have to feel this way.

The partner of the borderline usually ends up reacting when they feel wrongly accused of not wanting them or ignoring their needs.

Those with BPD are usually not aware of their underlying abandonment feelings but often react to alleviate them when they need constant reassurance that their partner loves them, in order to avoid feeling abandoned or unworthy.

The person who suffers from borderline personality can feel abandoned when the partner works away or does not show them how much they care.

A partner of a borderline can feel constant pressure to always be there in some way, such as calling or messaging, doing things for them and showing gestures of love.  

The person who is borderline can protest when it feels that love has been withdrawn from them, as a way of wanting their partner to put more effort into the relationship to show them that they care, to avoid feeling abandoned.

The borderline person becomes angry, to rid themselves of these feelings, hoping their partner can take them away. Yet, their reactions often propel their partner to feel pushed way, rather than becoming attuned to how they’re feeling.

Many people struggle to know what to do, what to say, or what to do to express themselves and becomes taken the wrong way, as if they do not care. Many end up saying nothing or avoiding arguments, which perpetuates the feelings of abandonment in the borderline person.

It is difficult to love someone with borderline personality disorder because the person with BPD will test their partner's love to prove their love for them, but it will never be enough.

Reacting to their feelings or avoiding them will confirm how they already feel, where the partner is perceived as abandoning them and does not care. These responses further invalidate the borderline person.

So, how does a partner respond when they feel wrongly accused of mistreating them or abandoning them in some way? How do you love somebody with a borderline personality disorder?

Loving someone with BPD requires a partner to be attentive and understanding to how they feel, without getting drawn into being responsible for their feelings.

Here are 8 ways to love someone with a borderline personality disorder (BPD) and help them manage their mental illness.

1. Do not label or judge them

When loving someone with BPD, it is important to see their behavior as a reaction against feeling abandoned.

Do not react. Otherwise, you will escalate their reaction.

2. Do not take their reactions personally but listen to what is underneath it

It is crucial for the partner of a borderline to demonstrate that they are there for them.

So, listen to how they feel, without necessarily feeling responsible for their feelings.

3. Listen to their feelings, without taking on the blame

Essentially, angry outbursts are purely ways to communicate how they feel deep inside. It is important not to be offended, but to allow their feelings to be felt and expressed so that they can be better understood. 

You do not need to take on-board that you’re to blame, but rather understand how they feel, so you can be attuned.

4. Validate how they feel without taking responsibility for their feelings

If you feel responsible for how they feel, then you will get drawn into enabling the destructive behavior to continue.

This makes it all the more impossible to love someone with BPD.

RELATED: The Intense Truth About Loving Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

5. Let them know you were not coming from a place of rejecting them

In order to love someone with BPD, it is important to understand and acknowledge their feelings, whilst also demonstrating that your actions were not coming from the place that they see you: "I am sorry you feel so upset that I came home late from work. I couldn’t leave earlier and I had an urgent meeting, so I couldn’t call you."

By acknowledging their feelings, you are showing them that you’re not the person that they made you out to be. Instead, you are someone who does care about them and would never abandon them.

This will provide them with a corrective emotional response of an attuned partner who understands them and is willing to work through it, without taking on-board the projection as the bad guy.

6. Widen the lens in how they see your behavior

By showing them that you are there, you can modify their perception of you as abandoning them, while also getting them to re-examine their response, and assisting them in putting the past behind them and not projecting their past wounds onto the present situation.

It assists the borderline person to mentalize and stay present in the moment, rather than seeing things from the perspectives of their past wounds, through discharging those feelings onto the partner who then feels responsible for them.

In loving a person with BPD, it is important that the partner separate themselves from feeling blamed for these feelings and not feeling responsible for them, but understand how their partner is actually feeling, without taking their reactions personally.

7. Raise the unwanted behavior instead of walking on eggshells or placating it

It is also very important to address unwanted behavior without blaming or judging the person. In loving someone who is borderline, placating unwanted behavior or not addressing their behavior enables it to continue, until it gets out of control and takes over the relationship.

Therefore, the person who is borderline needs a strong person to set realistic limits on unwanted behavior, with healthy boundaries as well as emphatic attunement and understanding

If their partner gives into placating their behaviors and then reacts in the heat of the moment, they further reinstate the triggering wound which causes them to act out. This leaves the borderline person to defend against feelings of worthlessness and abandonment, in ways that can push the partner further away.

8. Help them work through the feelings of abandonment

The person who is borderline needs to stop projecting how they feel onto others and making them responsible for their feelings. They will keep feeling abandoned until they address their feelings and work through them.

It is imperative to address these abandonment feelings, so that the borderline person becomes aware of them, understands their triggers and modulates the feeling. In this way, they can see their partner clearly in the present situation and not project their past wounds on their partner.

If the partner of the borderline can assist to help modify the internal working models, by overcoming the perception of abandonment, then the borderline person can form a secure and loving relationship.

RELATED: 4 Ways People With Borderline Personality Disorder Love Differently

Nancy Carbone specializes in the treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder trained from the Psychoanalytic International Masterson Institute in New York. To find out how to love someone with BPD contact Nancy at Counselling Service Melbourne

This article was originally published at counsellingservicemelbourne.com.au/. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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