Why do borderline personality disorder relationships break up? (5 reasons)

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In this article, we will answer the question “why do borderline personality disorder relationships break up?”. We will also discuss more about the diagnostic criteria for borderline disorders, reasons why borderline personality disorder relationships are short-lived, as well as how to improve BPD relationships and treatment methods for borderline personality disorder.

Why do borderline personality disorder relationships break up?

Borderline personality disorder relationships face potential break ups because of the chaotic nature of people with borderline personality. It is not uncommon to find BPD relationships laden with intense conflict because of mistrust, fear of rejection and abandonment, and the need for constant attention. 

For these reasons, it is important for persons with BPD to watch out for potential warning signs and triggers that can lead to relationship deterioration and finally break up.

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.

Signs and symptoms of BPD

The signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder include:

Emotional symptoms

The emotional symptoms of BPD include:

  • 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

Cognitive symptoms

  • 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

The cognitive symptoms of a worsening condition show the need to seek medical help.

Behavioural symptoms

  • 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.

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 behaviour 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, idolising 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.

5 reasons why BPD relationships are short-lived

Instability

BPD relationships are riddled with instability as a result of BPD symptoms. For example, a person with a borderline personality disorder may shift from idealizing (holding their partners in high regard) to devaluing them when reality sets home that anyone can make mistakes even when meaning well. 

Another cause of instability is the shift from needing constant attention to total isolation. As a result, persons in a relationship with a partner with a borderline personality disorder may not know what to expect from their partners. A constant state of instability can eventually result in break up

Lying

Due to the constant need for attention and fear of abandonment, lying can easily crop up in a bid to get the attention of their partners or manipulate them to stay committed to the relationship if they perceive any signs of being abandoned.

Impulsive sexuality

This is a classic symptom of borderline personality disorder. It is not uncommon to find persons with borderline personality disorder struggle with sexuality issues such as early sexual experience, more partners and more casual sexual experiences. 

As a result, issues of infidelity tend to cripple the relationship and finally result in a break-up.

Mistrust

Feelings of mistrust and suspicion are common characteristics of borderline personality disorder relationships. Due to the fear of rejection and abandonment, persons with BPD are always on the lookout for signs of real or perceived rejection and abandonment. 

Due to this reason, BPD relationships are riddled with chaos which culminates in a break-up.

Fear of abandonment

The fear of abandonment may influence persons with BPD to act in ways that are dramatic and damaging to the well-being of the relationship, including lies and manipulation. In the long run, suspicion causes mistrust which leads to the deterioration of the relationship and eventual break-up. 

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

In this article, we have discussed in-depth borderline personality disorder, its causes, risk factors, borderline personality relationships, reasons why they do not last long and how to treat and cope with borderline personality disorder in relationships.  

Frequently asked questions: borderline personality disorder relationships break up

Do borderlines regret breaking up?

While it is common for persons with a borderline personality disorder to experience multiple breakups, they experience anxiety and regret and try to initiate efforts to get back together.

What do borderlines do when they feel abandoned?

They tend to form unhealthy attachments, cut-off loved ones and make frantic efforts to hold on to the relationship.

Can borderlines have friends?

While borderline personality disorder friendships are frantic and unstable, they are capable of forming friendships that they can use as support systems.

Citations

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

Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault. (28th November 2021). Romantic Relationships Involving People With BPD. Verywellmind. Retrieved from:https://www.verywellmind.com/understanding-romantic-bpd-relationships-425217

Zambon, V. (5th November 20020). Borderline personality disorder and relationships. Medicalnewstoday. Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/borderline-personality-disorder-relationships#social-media-relationships

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