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If You Love Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder, You Need To Read This

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How To Love Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
Love, Self

Be gentle and patient with yourself as you sort through your relationship.

Learning how to love someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can be difficult, especially when you don't know they have it. 

Do you have ongoing, serious blow-ups with someone close? Possibly a significant other, a family member, or a close friend?

Sometimes, the relationship seems normal, healthy, supportive, and happy.

But, suddenly, they’re raging, crying, and accusing you of saying things you don’t mean or doing things you never did.

You’re struggling to deal with the same terrible scenes again and again, when you’re not sure what happened or why it keeps happening.

Other people are telling you to set limits with this person and they’re annoyed with you when you can’t.

Or they’re telling you to leave and can’t understand why you stay. Maybe someone has actually said, "That person is crazy!"

When you don't know how to love someone in this scenario, you have to get to the bottom of it. 

And what could be going on is that you might be with someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

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

What is BPD? The National Institute of Mental Health defines it as "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."

I’ll never forget the moment I finally connected the dots. For years, I had been plowing through relationship and self-help books, trying desperately to figure out what to do during these volatile and depressing scenes. Or, better yet, how I could stop them altogether.

My friend Eva, who had an advanced degree as a trained researcher to recognize signs of mental illness, had come to Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' three years ago.

One day, halfway through my latest mom-distress story, she looked at me and said, "Well, you know, she’s mentally ill."

After Eva explained how she could tell my mother was mentally ill in only one afternoon, I said, "You mean you’ve been watching me read all these books, when you knew my mother was mentally ill three years ago and you never told me?"

When we’re having the same problems, over and over, with someone special in our lives and we can’t seem to get them solved, the issue isn’t always that there’s mental illness or some type of personality disorder in the picture.

But when it is, the "Ah-ha!" moment can be elusive. For those of us who get there, it’s only the beginning of our journey.

And for those who care about us, looking on, and watching us struggle, it isn’t always clear why we are having such a problem making decisions about a troubled person in our lives.

But, the truth is, when it comes to personality disorders with someone we love, we need to be patient with ourselves and others need to be patient with us.

Randi Kreger, author of Stop Walking On Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder, outlines what those who love someone with BPD go through when they try to understand what's happening.

Here are the 5 stages you go through when you love someone with a Borderline Personality Disorder.

1. The confusion stage

Those years I went paging through books, aware that something awful was going on and desperate for answers are very typical of the first stage.

Family and friends have no idea what’s going on — only that it’s bad. They don’t know who to blame.

Is it themselves or the other person? A lot of people in this stage resign themselves to living in a situation that feels intolerable. It’s important to keep looking for answers and not to stay stuck in this stage.

2. The other-directed stage

Now those living with the affected person know: an undiagnosed mental illness is probably affecting their relationship. Or perhaps the person has suffered a crisis, and now they have the diagnosis.

Once they know this, most people start a flurry of reading, trying to understand the illness, how their loved one is affected, and what makes the person act as they do. They feel angry at the person with BPD, but they understand that BPD isn’t their fault.

So, down on themselves for feeling angry, friends and family end up feeling depressed, hopeless, and guilty, especially when treatment is progressing slowly, when the borderline is refusing to accept that they need to be in treatment, or when the borderline doesn't comply with treatment.

People at this stage focus their efforts on trying to change the person with BPD.

If this is you, you might try harder not to trigger the person. You might work hard at getting the person to understand they have an illness, and to seek help to get better.

Basically, this is the stage when loved ones believe they can do something to cure the person, or to change the borderline’s behavior.

3. The inner-directed stage

Friends, loved ones, and family members now start looking at their own issues. They may question how they got into this relationship in the first place.

They start gathering information about the relationship not only from the perspective of the borderline and their feelings but from the perspective of themselves and their own feelings.

Important advice at this stage is to look at any issues you might have with codependency. Do you think you have the right to be happy? Do you only believe you’re worthwhile when you’re sacrificing to care for someone else?

In this stage, friends and loved ones of borderlines have to come to grips with the fact that the only person who can decide to get into treatment and make progress in treatment is the person with BPD.

No matter how much you love the borderline or how much you value the good times with that person, you can’t do the borderline’s healing work for the person.

You can only do your own work on your own life, not that person’s work on theirs.

If they don’t or can’t change, what does that mean for you? In this stage, these issues come to the forefront.

4. The decision-making stage

Now loved ones find themselves making decisions about the relationship. Why are they there? And can they stay?

In this stage, people find themselves torn between conflicting values. Decisions are tough and can take years to make.

For instance, you might be living with a violent borderline, but what if your family and your church don’t approve of divorce?

In my case, my mother’s behavior was such a constant and ongoing problem that I felt like I needed to cut contact, but I knew the rest of my family would get angry and tell me I was wrong.

It took me several years to feel comfortable enough with the consequences to actually do that.

In stage 4, people are working through these dilemmas and the process can involve a lot of soul-searching. 

RELATED: What People Get Right — And Decidedly Wrong — About Borderline Personality Disorder

5. The resolution stage

One way or another, friends and family have to resolve their relationship with the person with BPD. In this stage, one of two positive things happen: We figure out how we can stay in our relationship, or we realize we can't, and we make the decision to leave.

In the case where the friend or family member has to break off a love relationship, cut contact with a BPD family member, or severely curtail contact with one, that person now has the peace and space to heal their life and go forward.

In the case where the borderline is examining their issues and their own behavior, and you are as well, there are many times you and borderline can negotiate a new and improved relationship.

BPD may always be there or it may not — some sufferers do reach a full recovery.

But, some couples and families find creative ways to deal with symptoms, so the relationship can remain intact, with enough positives in it to make it fulfilling and worthwhile for everyone.

When people find they can work within the relationship while preserving their feeling of basic happiness and contentment in their lives, amazing and poignant journeys of love and friendship have happened, even with ongoing mental illness.

But that isn’t always possible, and when it isn’t, it’s okay to put yourself first.

If you sacrifice your own well-being for a mentally ill person who’s continually showing you out-of-control behavior they don't want to work on, it doesn’t help the person, and the problems in the relationship wreck you.

Then you have two wrecked people instead of one.

Each relationship is as different as each person who suffers from BPD. No one solution will work for everyone.

The important thing to realize when dealing with someone in your life with BPD is that you, as well as any children who might be involved, have the right to basic health and happiness in your life. Not only do you have that right, but it has to be your first priority.

That’s the main thread running through all of the 5 stages: understanding that while you can learn how to best support your loved one, you can't cure the person while getting comfortable putting your own well-being on a par with that of your loved one.

RELATED: 8 Important Ways To Love Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

P.D. Reader is a student astrologer and blogger. Her free novel, Split Black, depicts a police detective, struggling to solve the murder of his mentor in the department, who discovers that his own mother is borderline, and how that has affected his life. 

This article was originally published at PDReader.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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