- People with BPD are prone to forming unstable or difficult bonds, especially in the context of romantic relationships.
- Using effective emotion-regulation strategies to overcome challenges alongside your significant other is important for staying together.
- If your partner has proven themselves to be fair and generous over time, it may be time to trust them openly.
Borderline personality disorder, or BPD, is a stigmatized mental health condition that can be challenging to live with. People with BPD are prone to forming unstable or difficult bonds, especially in the context of romantic relationships.
Despite the widespread belief that BPD is challenging to treat, there is growing evidence that, with the right intervention, individuals with the disorder can live a life of joy, love, and meaning.
Here are two ways people can overcome borderline tendencies to engage in more meaningful and fulfilling romantic relationships.
1. Use Your Emotions to Your Advantage
The study found that anxiety, not sadness, was the most common emotion experienced by those with BPD. The study also found that these emotions were not arbitrary. More than half the time, the emotional response could be explained by an interpersonal or social trigger.
“When participants reported the specific emotion of anxiety, they were more likely to try to problem-solve but when they reported sadness they were less likely to problem-solve and more likely to push it away,” says Cardona. “BPD symptoms actually make a lot of sense when you think of them as behaviors designed to help that person feel more in control of their out-of-control emotions.”
In the context of romantic relationships, the willingness to solve problems is highly valuable. What you must not do, however, is sweep your feelings under the rug. Unexpressed negative emotions can add up over time and turn into major relationship problems.
Emotions are signals. Using effective emotion-regulation strategies to overcome challenges alongside your significant other is an important step to staying together. A qualified mental health professional can help you arrive at healthy strategies to respond to your emotions.
2. Learn to Trust by Tapping Into Your Sense of Fairness
Trust is at the core of every successful relationship.
A recent study led by Erika Evelyn Lévay published in Frontiers in Psychology found that while people with BPD may be generally distrustful of others, they have their hearts in the right place.
The results of the study showed that borderline personalities exhibited the same amount of generosity as healthy individuals. Where the two groups differed, however, was in their expectation of selfish behavior from others: Those with borderline tendencies were far more likely than healthy individuals to expect unfair treatment from others.
“It has been established that people with BPD are sensitive to injustice and that even though actual cooperative behavior is impaired in BPD, it is most likely the reactive part of cooperation—that is, the ability to forgive and not retaliate—that shows impairment, not their proneness to be fair,” explains Lévay.
This pattern probably derives in part from an early family environment where cooperation of the child was obligatory but not reciprocated.
It is important to remember that while you do not choose your family or the conditions of your upbringing, you do choose your romantic partner. If your partner has proven themselves to be fair and generous over time, it may be time to trust them openly. This may seem daunting to many people with BPD, but there are several evidence-based therapies that can help you manage your expectations of being treated unfairly.
The researchers highlight four effective psychotherapies:
- Schema therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Mentalization-based therapy
- Transference-focused therapy
Research is discovering new ways to understand and treat BPD, which can help you strengthen your romantic relationship. With a complex condition like BPD, improvement is a constant process of learning, unlearning, and relearning about yourself.