Those suffering with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have a proclivity for unstable interpersonal relationships. These individuals are unable to tolerate being alone due to their abandonment anxiety. They also experience severe anger and frequently undermine their significant others. Those with BPD commonly mask their dependency and manipulation. An unstable sense of self is characteristic of the disorder, along with impulsiveness and demanding behavior.
Substance abuse and promiscuity are also common, and may be connected. Researchers have found that BPD symptoms and diagnosis successfully predict dating satisfaction and stress, adolescents’ conflict with romantic partners, domestic violence, and separation and divorce.
Typically individuals with BPD have difficulty trusting others. Irritability and inappropriate anger with temper tantrums may occur. The symptoms of BPD may resemble love addiction. While love addiction is not medically diagnosable, addictive behavior is difficult to live with. Relationships build quickly and intensely. They are unable to see the faults of their partner, and cannot tolerate changes in intimacy. Because their partner will eventually disappoint them, the person with BPD must reconcile their black and white conceptualization. Splitting shields those with the disorder from the anxiety of conflicting emotions.
One study found that those with BPD have a distorted sense of social norms, which impacts their ability to trust or cooperate. When something goes wrong in their relationships, they do not respond in a manner that would repair the damage. By doing so, they limit others from being able to fully cooperate in return.
Frequently these individuals are unable to focus on the feelings of others because their own emotional pain is too great an obstacle. Research has evidenced that women diagnosed with BPD display problematic sexual behaviors and patterns of unstable love relationships. Sexuality is frequently used to avoid the chronic feelings of emptiness experienced by those with the disorder. It may also be used to temper the anxiety felt surrounding perceived abandonment.
Individuals with BPD may feel that their emotional needs are not met in a relationship, but they do not have the capacity to assert their emotional needs in a productive and healthy manner. When they do not get what they want or need from the relationship, frustrations arise. Because of the intense fear of loneliness and abandonment, when the relationship is viewed as at risk these individuals may feel extreme anger.
Those suffering with BPD do not have the skills to manage their rage. Because of this, they may physically lash out at their partner. Studies have found that BPD is related to intimate partner aggression, including physical, emotional and sexual aggression.
Overall, those with BPD have intense and unstable relationships. Commonly they view people as all good or all bad, and in a relationship this perspective is used to devalue their partners. They do not want to be abandoned, however, so manipulation and control are used to prevent their partners from leaving.
Men who suffer from BPD may be emotionally volatile. Anger, jealousy and depression are typical of these men. They may be physically aggressive when they believe that a social or emotional distance exists between them and their female partners.
Studies of lesbian abusers found similar dichotomous thinking and feeling patterns. In these relationships, violence was used when they felt their partners were becoming emotionally distant or when physical separation was threatened. Furthermore, women with borderline personality disorder may be at a greater risk of using interpersonal physical aggression than those without the disorder.
Counseling is vital, and couples may wish to seek their own therapists who practice dialectical behavior and other forms of therapy. Seeing therapists separately is important so that each individual can work on their own issues before working on the relationship. Skilled therapists who specialize in working with BPD individuals will be better able to offer help.
Treatment for borderline personality disorder may include hospitalization, medication, substance abuse treatment and psychotherapy. Support groups for the loved ones of individuals with BPD may also be helpful. Like others, individuals suffering with BPD seek acceptance, forgiveness and reconciliation. Because of childhood trauma histories experienced by many with the disorder, it is important for the patient to be able to collaborate emotionally and therapeutically so they may tell their story.