One of the main criteria of diagnosing Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is difficulty maintaining relationships.
If you’re not familiar with BPD, it can be explained, briefly, as a disorder that causes a person to experience intense and unstable emotions, which doesn’t sound like a particularly appealing dating prospect.
Googling the subject, I suddenly find the internet is awash with people who have an incredibly negative and distorted view about what it’s like to date a person with BPD.
Some of the comments hit home because, from an early age, I have had an extremely tempestuous love life, but I also know it can work if both partners learn to understand each other.
As such, I’ll try and share my two cents on dating someone with BPD.
One of the main symptoms of BPD, which I think is almost universal, is a ‘chronic feeling of emptiness’.
This is a hard concept to explain to a healthy person, who may have only ever felt something close to this when someone they love passes away, or they lose something they hold dear in their life.
People with BPD, even in their happiest periods, experience this pervasive feeling of emptiness almost every day, and often they try and fill this with things that stimulate them.
It’s well documented that we love to turn to a quick fix; drugs, alcohol, binge eating, any risk taking behaviour that fills us up for a second.
Personally, the only thing that gives me true happiness is other people, which is why BPD is a cruel illness – because most people who suffer from it are gregarious, true people lovers, but they struggle to maintain close relationships because of their illness.
When you finally meet the person who sets your world on fire, it feels incredible. You want to spend every minute of the day with them because you find them so interesting, so much fun, and so enjoyable to be around.
Having such strong emotions make people with BPD incredibly empathetic, and because of this we find it easy to connect with people on an emotional level quickly.
The feeling is so wonderful that when they’re gone (albeit maybe only to work for the day), you hit the floor like a rock and back comes that creeping emptiness.
You’ll do anything to keep it away, and because of this, it can become quite an addictive feeling to be around the person you love.
Now, obviously living in each others’ pockets is neither healthy nor feasible, and sometimes the intensity of someone with BPD’s love can be too much at first.
Some people pull away for space, which is possibly the hardest thing for us to take.
This may be because it’s thought that BPD could stem from early attachment issues in childhood, so another of the main symptoms is a ‘chronic fear of abandonment (real or perceived)’.
When people pull away for any reason, that part of our illness goes into overdrive and this is where the disorder may get its bad name.
The fear of being abandoned is almost always, even if only subconsciously, the driving force of our ‘crazy’ behaviour in relationships.
To understand why our reactions can be so adverse, our partner needs to understand that because of our illness, we think differently in some ways to others.
Paranoia is a common symptom among people with BPD, and this can blow not replying to a text, because your phone was on silent, into your partner thinking you have been hit by a bus/run away with the circus/are having an affair with your boss, in under 30 minutes.
This is not helpful and certainly not an easy quality to deal with in someone you share your life with, but the key to it working is understanding why the person does the things they do so you can work together to help them.
You wouldn’t ask a person with a freshly broken leg to climb three flights of stairs, and in the same way, you shouldn’t assume a person with BPD would just be able to handle certain aspects of a relationship.