Falling in love with a person with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is an emotional roller coaster ride. The relationship involves never-ending emotional blackmails, hurtful criticisms, threats, manipulations, verbal attacks and silent treatments. Borderlines are known to call you at work more than 20 times in a day. Borderlines need constant reassurance. Borderlines feel the need to check up on you all the time. Borderlines also wake you up in the middle of the night because of their concerns.
How can you continue to love a person who will give you the responsibility for anything and everything bad that happens to them? You are accused as the source of all their pains, heartbreaks, anger, frustrations and hardships? The Borderline will emotionally wear you out by their insults and accusations.
Borderlines have a problem with regulating their emotions. They feel real pain and fear of abandonment.
No matter how much a trusted friend will tell you to leave the relationship, you just can’t do it. At least for the time being, you want to stay and give it another try.
A person with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is mentally ill. This is one of the reasons you hesitate to leave your loved one. You want to separate the disorder from the person. You believe that there is no other person in this world who can help your BPD loved one except you.
Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to cure the disorder instantly. However, there are techniques that can help you survive the relationship.
1. Self-esteem Self-Check
You cannot survive a relationship with a Borderline if your self-esteem is shattered. You need to learn to take care of yourself. Your Borderline loved one is incapable of taking care of you. You have to believe that you can commit to your partner’s treatment and recovery.
2. The Four (4) Don’ts
There are four things you should not do or say to your Borderline partner. The first is don’t defend yourself. The second is don’t explain. The third is don’t justify. The fourth is don’t counter attack. The Borderline loved one may misconstrue the above-mentioned statements and actions. The Borderline thinks you are disagreeing with their reality. The Borderline feels that you are literally screaming at them that they are wrong, bad and stupid. They become defensive and will start to confront you.
3. Practice SET Communication Method (Support, Empathy, Truth)
Erin Johnston, LCSW in About.com explains why SET is effective to handle the Borderline loved one. In SET strategy, S stands for Support. It is very important to give a support statement to reassure a Borderline that you have a desire to help. The E stands for Empathy . It involves making your Borderline partner feel that you understand their feelings. The T stands for truth. This technique entails re-stating reality after the emotional outbursts are diffused.
4. Understand Validation and How, When to Apply It
You can validate the feelings of a Borderline by accepting their right to their feelings. Though you do not necessarily agree with them, acknowledging their feelings will help you identify their current feelings. These emotions circulate as feelings of being sad, frustrated, unheard, misunderstood, lonely, depressed. By validating, you can help them label their feelings and be there for them. The goal of validation is to calm your Borderline loved one. Otherwise, a trivial issue may instead escalate to anger and rage.
5. Set Healthy Boundaries
Sometimes, your Borderline loved one becomes very emotionally deregulated. They become very agitated and angry. If initial attempts to do the 4 steps above do not work, protect yourself from damaging criticisms and verbal abuse. Let your Borderline loved one know that their message is important but you need to set another time to discuss the issue. Boundaries provide structure to the relationship and prevent abuse.
All the best advices in the world will not stop a person from falling in love with a Borderline. After all, Borderlines are human beings with the right to love and be loved. Their mental health issues are very difficult to understand for people without proper training and tools. In fact, many children and spouses of Borderlines are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PSTD). Many lives have been devastated by this disorder.
However, for those who made a choice to be with a Borderline, there are 5 important ways to handle your BPD loved one. First is the commitment to continually check your self-esteem and emotional health. Secondly, clarify and remember statements that do not work with Borderlines. Thirdly, learn appropriate communication tools that will express support, empathy and reality. Fourthly, understand the secrets of implementing validation techniques. Fifth, put boundaries critical to both your emotional health and your Borderline loved one’s health.
If you have decided to remain in the relationship with a Borderline, you must be prepared to protect yourself first. Otherwise, each minute unarmed will slowly make you lose the battle. Then, you are useless to help them.
Erin Johnston, ” Support, Empathy, Truth SET for Borderline Personality Disorder”, About.Com
“What is Validation?”, Validation Training Institute, VFvalidation.org