Mon. May 20th, 2019

Debunking myths about borderline personality disorder in relationships

borderline personality disorderA colourful experience that needs further understanding,

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Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is, for the most part, a special type of mental illness. For those who have to live with it, it offers a complex, yet intriguing, experience of life. However, for their loved ones, it can be a difficult thing to deal with.

This is not to suggest that your partner — who has been diagnosed with the mental illness — is very much different from you.

We all have, to some degree, mood swings. Some days, we experience a sense of euphoria that allows us a positive outlook on life. Yet, in some instances, that feeling can be stricken away by external eventualities we may or may not have control over.

It is in those instances that we can distinguish ourselves from people living with BPD.

If I wake up, one day, with a positive outlook on life yet, come night time, my mood gets ruined by — let’s say — a micromanaging boss, I will most likely channel this feeling of frustration either internally, or by exerting it on strenuous activity such as a workout session.

For someone living with BPD, however, it is impossible to realise the change in their mood.

They do not have the ability to control their thoughts and emotions when they experience bouts of anger and frustration.

While we have the ability to suppress our emotions, limiting them to soft outbursts every now and then, someone living with a personality disorder will not be aware that he or she has crossed the line. After all, in the spectrum of BPD, what is a line?

The proverbial line. That is what a romantic relationship with a person living with this mental illness is founded upon.

Getting your partner who is living with this mental illness to consider you, the romantic lover, or life partner, as a soundboard of restraint and reassurance, is an improbable, but possible, task.

In many cases, this relationship becomes marred by spates of violence and instability.

Shari Manning (PhD), the author of Loving Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, wrote in her book that it is at this stage that most battle with questions like “how can I possibly help him when I have no idea where to start?”; or “I don’t know how much more I can take. I have left before and I keep coming back. What’s wrong with me?”.

This, according to Manning, is because of our attraction to the other extreme: people living with BPD can be tremendously compassionate and caring.

They can be very intellectual with a great sense of humour. The potential that lies in the perfect version of themselves is what keeps the pulse beating in the relationship.

Those who achieve this level of cooperation with their partners understand that it is a journey that can only be confronted with extreme patience and understanding.

Heading into this kind of relationship with misinformed beliefs will mark the beginning of a brutal end to a volatile situation.

Therefore, we have handpicked five common myths about loving someone with a borderline personality disorder and delved a little deeper in understanding the truth behind each misinformed belief.

Borderline personality disorder: Five common myths

Avoid the argument at all cost. You will only make things worse

As Paul Mason and Randi Kreger put it in their book, Stop Walking on Eggshells, your BPD parter’s actions “result from a complex disorder caused by a combination of biology and environment.”

This is what many people who are in relationships with partners who have BPD fail to understand.

Therefore, whenever the shit hits the fan — an argument breaks out and false accusations are thrown at them — they often tend to avoid the situation.

It is a common belief that space gives the BPD partner time to collect themselves.

What they don’t realise is that in that moment of anger and extreme rage, their partner is still susceptible to reassurance.

Instead of arguing back or going into denial mode, it is often more effective to sit back and listen.

Those bursts of anger often contain key points of interjection where, instead of countering the vitriol with yours, you have the opportunity to shift the BPD partner’s state of mind.

Walking out during an argument or avoiding each other will only exacerbate the problem and lock the state of your relationship into a weird, uncomfortable place.

Instead, as Manning put it, it is important to understand the unpredictability of your BPD partner.

Once this is understood, you will be equipped with the ability to turn arguments into moments that strengthen the ropes of your relationship.

“When I say that people with BPD have “extreme” emotions, I mean that they are typically very, very intense. What this adds up to for you is that your loved one’s emotions seem unpredictable,” Manning said.

The best thing to do is to give them space during episodes

This, for some reason, is the most common misconception about dealing with a partner with BPD.

An episode is a common occurrence in these types of relationships. For Manning, the constant shift in moods — from jubilant to being highly irritable — is a clear sign of an impending episode.

When he or she gets lost in an explosive outburst, it is often very common for the partner to remove him or herself from the environment, thinking that normalising this behaviour will improve the relationship in the long run.

However, this is is not necessarily true, argues Manning. Understanding the complexities of the emotions of a person with BPD will go a long way in equipping partners with the knowledge one needs to de-escalate and harness growth out of episodes.

“Things that trigger little or no emotion in most people trigger huge emotions in those with BPD. People with BPD are often described as ‘wearing their heart on their sleeve’ or ‘being just too sensitive.’

“They react emotionally to any trigger, whether it is with what we consider the “negative” emotions (fear, sadness, anger, shame, guilt) or the more “positive” emotions (joy, happiness, love),” Manning said.

Therefore, it is very easy to trigger an episode. More than likely, a considerable portion of your relationship with someone who has BPD will be marred by episodic fights.

However, the fact that your BDP partner loses control of his or her emotions and is unable to draw in the anger, does not mean that they are not responsive to certain things.

Maintaining a calm demeanour is crucial in de-escalating the situation. More importantly, the tone and choice of words are critical in ensuring that the BPD partner does not slump into a depressive state after the adrenaline has rushed through his or her body.

Being the listener and soundboard of reassurance and positivity can help strengthen the relationship so don’t be afraid to step up to your BPD partner in a non-imposing way.

Allowing this as a feature of your life together is a big hurdle to get over. Once that reality has set in, one can easily minimise the veracity of the episodes by assuming the role of the supporter, not the enforcer.

Tread lightly around the elephant in the room – intimacy

There are many facets to the topic of intimacy in relationships, in general. Therefore, experiences with a BPD partner should not be looked at any differently because intimacy. in relationships. is closely attached to sexual attraction.

However, in the same breath, it can be difficult to maintain this aspect of a relationship with someone whose mood may turn for the worst at any moment.

In their book, Mason and Kreger state that a more proactive commitment to engaging in intimacy and other activities is the key to happiness.

“The person in your life with BPD didn’t ask to have the disorder. And you never asked for someone in your life to have BPD. But if you are a typical non-BP, you have taken on a huge chunk of the blame for the other person’s problems, and you probably feel that you—and only you—can solve them.”

As hard as it is to be with someone who view their relationships as either black or white, it is the responsibility of the non-BPD partner to remain enthusiastic — as naturally as humanly possible — about participating in intimate activities.

There are boundaries between therapy and communication at home

The fact that these can exist as two separate realities is a huge problem. A person with BPD has a unique way of unloading his or her feelings, Every word they utter is attached to a particular emotion.

The non-BPD partner often understands this as medical treatment that does not require his or her participation in any way. And often, they are right, to a degree.

The therapy session, for the BPD partner, is a platform to speak his or her mind, without perceived judgment, to a professional. It should not be influenced by the non-BPD partner in any way.

However, this does not mean that the same environment cannot be recreated at home, where communication is held in the same way as it is with the psychologist.

The doctor may have the academic background to know how to steer communication with a person who is — in some capacity — narcissistic.

As difficult as it may be for the non-BPD partner, it is critically important for there to be an air of easiness about speaking one’s mind in the relationship.

There is nothing better to equip oneself with, as a non-BPD partner, than knowing how to disarm a person with BPD.

“The person may refuse to participate in this mode of interacting. Emotions may still be too high… Whenever a person with BPD answers the question ‘How can I help?’ with something like ‘You can’t help; there’s nothing anyone can do,’ you should go back to validation. Say, ‘I know it feels that way right now. I don’t know if I can help. I am sure willing to try.’,” Manning explained.

Happiness does not last, learn to live with that

This is generally true. It is applicable to all relationships. The strain on sharing a life with a person who has BPD can weigh heavier than normal circumstances though.

In all facets of reality, happiness is never certain, and if it does encapsulate a person, it is often only a matter of time before something strips that away.

For people with BPD, this feeling can come and go, uncontrollably, for a very long time.

Therefore, unlike in other relationships, where the pursuit of happiness is binary, the effort of keeping up with the pace — in this regard — largely rests on the non-BPD partner.

Without the keenness to invite happiness in most cases, this type of relationship often runs out of steam at this plateau.

There are plenty of ways to maintain a sense of happiness in BPD relationships.

Outdoor activities are one of them. Preference is still a massive decider but it is encouraged that these kinds of couple experience the outdoors a lot. Another way is participating in things that interest the person with BPD,

One of the easiest ways (speaking, somewhat, from experience) to invite positive vibrations in the home environment is diving into the BPD partner’s favourite forms of entertainment.

Music is an extension of how they really feel, so engaging in that can be very helpful.

No matter what it is that brings laughter and a sense of easiness in your BPD partner’s aura is highly recommended.

However, it is also the non-BPD partner’s responsibility to practice versatility and consistency, as repetitive gestures can be viewed from an extreme perspective.

In summation, there are few things that can poison the bond of two people who have sworn to spend the rest of their lives together.

BPD is a special type of mental illness that, more than any intensive medical treatment procedure, requires extreme patience and keenness for understanding.

Living through it with the knowledge that although everything is fleeting, nothing will break the bond of love, will make this bumpy ride all the more pleasant.

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