Do people with borderline personality disorder cheat in relationships?

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In this blog, we will answer the question “do people with borderline disorder cheat in relationships?” We will also define what Borderline Personality Disorder is, the symptoms of the illness, and the causes of Borderline Personality. We will also talk about being in a relationship with a person with Borderline Personality and if the illness makes them cheat.

Finally, we will look at signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder relationships and the management tips for borderline personality.

Do people with Borderline Personality Disorder cheat in relationships?

There is no research that shows that people with borderline personality disorder cheat in relationships. However, there is a negative association between people with BPD and infidelity. One symptom of BPD is engaging in risky behaviour, and this factor can make a person with BPD be linked to infidelity.

People with BPD have an intense need of feeling loved. When they feel rejected, they might engage in risky behaviours without thinking of the consequences. 

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

BPD (its acronym) is a mental disorder that affects how you feel about yourself and other people. It also causes problems in carrying out normal day-to-day activities. People with BPD have a negative self-image, find it difficult to control emotions, and have a series of unstable relationships.

People with BPD dislike being alone and have an extreme fear of abandonment. However, their negative traits of irritability, mood swings, and impulsiveness tend to push people away, even those who love you and want to have a meaningful relationship with you. 

The symptoms of BPD start in early adulthood and seem to worsen in young adulthood, however, the symptoms tend to improve with age and one can function normally with BPD.

Borderline Personality Disorder and relationships

A romantic relationship with a person with BPD can be rocky and dysfunctional. However, people with BPD can be very compassionate, loving, caring and very eager to spend time with their partner. 

They are also very sensitive to abandonment and when they feel a shift in their partner’s behaviour, they might withdraw or even become obsessive. These emotional switchbacks can cause instability in relationships and harm to both partners. These relationships require effort from both parties.

The stability of the partner is crucial in making the relationship work. Long-term relationships and marriage are possible.

Signs and symptoms of BPD

  • Sorrow
  • Shame 
  • Terror
  • Rage 
  • Feelings of sadness and emptiness (long-term)
  • Severe mood swings. Some people feel suicidal and then feel better after a few hours. Mood swings vary; some feel better in the morning and some in the evening
  • Having upsetting thoughts, i.e. thinking that you are a terrible person
  • Auditory hallucinations. Some people hear voices in their heads telling them to harm themselves.
  • Prolonged episodes of hallucinations, i.e. hearing voices and delusions, i.e. believing that your family members want to kill you
  • Self-harm, i.e. cutting yourself with a razor, burning your skin with cigarettes. The symptoms might go to the extreme of trying to commit suicide.
  • Engaging in reckless behaviour, i.e. having unprotected sex with strangers, binge drinking and extreme use of drugs, and going on shopping sprees.

Relationship problems in BPD

The following relationship problems are encountered in borderline personality relationships;

  • Constant text and calls
  • Abrupt calls in the middle of the night
  • Being physically clingy and refusing to let go
  • Making threats of harming or killing yourself if the person leaves you

In BPD, you may have an extreme fear that people want to abandon you, therefore, forcing you to make these frantic attempts to prevent being left alone. They might feel like other people are smothering and crowding you, which makes you act in ways that will push them away, like withdrawing, being verbally abusive, or rejecting them.

Causes of BPD

There is no single cause that can be identified as causing BPD. However, there are factors that predispose you to get BPD. They include;

Genetics

There is a likelihood of BPD genes being passed from one generation to another. Research has shown that if a twin is diagnosed with BPD, there is a likelihood that the other one will have it too. There is no gene for BPD, so these findings should be treated with caution.

Problems with brain development

An MRI showed that people with BPD had a problem with the development of parts of the brain that regulate mood. They include; 

The hippocampus; regulates behavior and self-control

Amygdala; regulates emotions

Orbitofrontal cortex; involved in planning and decision making

Brain chemicals

Altered levels of the neurotransmitters, especially serotonin, have been linked with depression, aggression and failure to control destructive urges.

Environmental factors

Common environmental factors common in people with BPD include exposure to long-term fear or distress, experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse, parental neglect, and growing up with a family member with a mental illness.

Unresolved fear and anger from childhood can make you put unrealistic expectations on other people, like expecting people to be like a parent to you, expecting others to bully you, idolizing others and behaving like others are adults and you are not.

How does BPD affect relationships?

Many people with BPD often have many short-lived relationships. This could be due to

  • You purposefully break off relationships for fear of your partner doing it
  • Your partner not being comfortable with the challenges that come with dating a person with BPD
  • Unrealistic expectations in relationships
  • A simple argument can trigger an emotional rollercoaster
  • They idolize and devalue people quickly

Despite all these factors, a relationship with a person with BPD is not impossible. Treatment, combined with a positive support system, can help you find stability in managing your emotions and in your relationships. Better coping mechanisms will help you react to situations in a way that will not harm you or your partner.

Why BPD causes trust issues

People with BPD have a higher chance of suspecting their partner of cheating. Due to low self-esteem, they have doubts that a person could love them fully without causing harm. They believe ‌their partner will cause harm in one way or another.

Their fear of abandonment also fuels their thought that their partners are cheating on them. This makes them feel like their partner might find someone better than them and move on. This makes the partner feel angry and mistrusted for being accused of cheating, and this worsens the relationship between them.

Tips on how to improve a relationship with a person with BPD and how to improve trust

Take care of yourself

Most relationships with people with BPD are focused on meeting their needs and wants and this can be exhausting. Use words of affirmation to communicate to your partner that you also have needs that you would also like to be met. For example, “ love you and want to be with you, but there are some things that I am missing”.

Build boundaries

People with BPD can be manipulative and use any means to get what they want. It is important to create boundaries, including things ‌you can and cannot tolerate them. Clarify that some behaviors like using threats, going through your phone and belongings, etc. will make you fall apart and cause a rift between the two of you.

Encourage therapy

BPD is manageable and therapy can help the person develop positive coping mechanisms for their stressors. For this to happen, your partner must be open to the idea of trying out therapy, as resistance will not yield any fruits. You can suggest couples therapy for them to feel more comfortable and understood.

Couples’ therapy ‌will be crucial in expressing your feelings too and getting help. A self-help group would also be helpful, as people with BPD like it when they are understood and what is better than a group of people going through the same struggles.

The condition should not play the leading role in the relationship

Although the illness should not be ignored, do not make everything happening between you two be attributed to their condition. Educate yourself about the illness to help distinguish between symptoms of the illness and your partner’s personality.

Do not ‌be your partner’s therapist. In as much as you have educated yourself about the illness, refrain from assuming the role of a therapist. The best you can do is to be there for your partner and offer support.

Treatment for BPD

Medication

There is no medication for BPD but medication can be given for the symptoms that manifest, i.e. antipsychotics, antidepressants and anxiolytics

Therapy

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy will help you respond to emotional situations with positive coping mechanisms and with reason and proper judgment. This will reduce seeing things in white and black.

Hospitalization

This is necessary if you are experiencing extreme symptoms like suicidal thoughts and attempts, or hallucinations and delusions that are affecting your daily functioning and relationship with others.

Conclusion

We have looked at Borderline Personality Disorder and the symptoms and causes of the illness. We have also focused on relationships with people with BPD and how the illness affects them. We have also looked at the relationship between infidelity and BPD.

Finally, we have provided you with tips to improve your relationship with a person with BPD and the treatment options available. Please feel free to comment on the content and ask questions in the comment section below.

Frequently asked questions: borderline personality disorder relationships and cheating

Can someone with BPD have a healthy relationship?

Yes, they are good and compassionate and though it takes effort and lifelong changes, they can enjoy long-lasting relationships

Can a person with BPD feel love?

A person with BPD might quickly fall in love and assume the other person will make them happy. It is very common for them to have unstable, intense relationships filled with quick-changing decisions.

Can borderlines have friends?

Borderlines make it difficult to find and maintain relationships because of their intense mood swings and tumultuous personalities. However, relationships are an excellent source of stability in their lives.

Citations

Holland K., (June 13, 2019). borderline personality disorder relationships and cheating. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/borderline-personality-disorder-relationships

Gracedowdlcsw.com, why do borderlines cheat? Retrieved from https://gracedowdlcsw.com/why-do-borderlines-cheat/

Salters K., (July 13, 2020). Borderline personality disorder and cheating. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/are-people-with-bpd-more-likely-to-cheat-425228

NHS (July 17, 2019). Causes- borderline personality disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/borderline-personality-disorder/causes/

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