Dating, having a favorite person, idealizing someone and then devaluing them, are all the not-so-fun parts of living with borderline personality disorder. With a mental health disorder that robs you of your self-value, sense of identity, and creates a confusing world of relationships (that are usually one sided), dating while living with BPD can feel like a burden.
Some of the cycles that borderlines face, while dating, looks like this:
- Meeting someone amazing. They're "the one." For sure.
- They say or do something minor that gets under your skin. Maybe they complimented someone in front of your face... something that they have never said about you.
- You try to hold it in... not let the monster take over again.
- But then your partner cancels on a date night for an emergency, and everything explodes out of you.
- You accuse, threaten, shout, say the most vile things, as if they were vomiting out of your body. You can't stop it.
- Your brain "splits" into black and white thinking. Uh-oh... now you're going for low-blows and really hurtful insults.
- Then suddenly, like a light switch, you forget everything that just happened. You kind of feel embarrassed. Your partner is terrified and has no idea what they just witnessed.
When living with borderline personality disorder, dating is even more complicated. Here are some of things that have helped me through phases of being in a relationship.
Phase: It's a crush
Let's be real... when we have crushes on people, it feels like we're in love and omg they're so perfect they can never do anything wrong, THEY ARE THE ONE. They fulfill some sort of emptiness within us.
For too many borderlines, not having a crush on someone makes us feel empty. This isn't the case for all of us, but for a large majority, we need to feel some sort of deeper connection with another person for us to feel whole. Often, this person is called the favorite person.
When having a crush on someone, I find that these three key points help me a lot with not getting my heart completely shattered or coming off as desperate:
- Don't have expectations. Crush on them without the expectation of having those feelings returned. Give yourself permission to have these feelings but respect the person enough to not force them to feel the same way.
- Keep it simple. If you catch yourself having elaborate daydreams about them, stop yourself. Treat it as an intrusive thought. Creating these fantasies will further enable you to be obsessed or have expectations of that person.
- Remind yourself that they're not the only person in the world. To you, they seem unique, special, and so different from everyone else. Give yourself a reality check. This prevents idealizing and then devaluing them later when you "see the real them."
Remember that it's okay to have crushes, but it's unhealthy for you to obsess over them or create fantasy worlds for the both of you. Keep it real and grounded.
Phase: Starting to Date
It's completely up to you if you want to disclose to your partner that you have borderline personality disorder. Personally, I disclose this upfront because I want people to know what they're getting into before they commit to me. This also saves me the heartache of being left for my mental health, later down the road.
Again, take it slow. Don't rush the relationship or fall into the trap of creating a fantasy future. Take it one day at a time and keep communication open.
Whether or not you choose to talk about BPD, specifically, I do suggest letting your partner know that sometimes you have days where you are particularly sensitive. On those days, you might say or do some things that are out of character. Give them some sort of heads up.
Give your partner a chance to be with you on your journey to recovery and don't let it be a shock if you have a breakdown in front of them.
If you do split in front of your partner, talk to them. Let them know what just happened. Apologize, even if you're too prideful to do it. Say "sorry," even if you memory dumped exactly what you did. When they tell you that you said or did something, don't fight them. Keep apologizing and let them know you appreciate them staying.
A side note: This is not to say that everything is your fault. You don't have to take the fault of whatever sparked the splitting, but you do need to take responsibility for how you handled it. Have a conversation about what caused the splitting, after you've calmed down from the episode.
Phase: A serious relationship
If you've made it this far, congratulations!
When you are in a serious relationship, it's all about maintenance!
Making sure that your needs are met.
Making sure your partner's needs are met.
By this time, you should have opened up a little bit and your partner and you should have established some sort of crisis plan if you do split. For example, what happens when you have an episode?
An example of a crisis plan is:
- When you feel the split coming on, you tell your partner you need some space because you're splitting.
- Your partner gives you some space and also cools off.
- Coming back to talk about things, without yelling or blaming, after both of you have cooled off.
Having a crisis plan can prevent fights and damages that could happen. Keep talking. If you see a therapist or take medication, keep doing that.
Another note about being in a serious relationship is to have an honest conversation about what you both want in the future. If you want to settle down, have a family, and start your career, make sure your partner knows. Both of you should have goals and ideas for the future that mesh well with each other.
Now would be the best time to have the conversations about the future. Now would also be a healthy time to mentally fantasize about what a future together should look like (versus the crush or newly dating phase).
Handling your insecurities and fears
When you have borderline personality disorder and you feel bad, it's often a dumpsterific depression with impulses to hurt yourself. You love deeply and you fall apart even deeper.
Maybe you saw your partner's ex girlfriend and think she's so pretty that you're not good enough for him. She'll eventually win him back.
Or that you are having a hard time getting by financially. You're such a bum that your partner can and will do better.
With the borderline community, I've noticed that we will do one of two major things, when confronted with these insecurities:
- We cheat on the partner with someone else and regret it later... only because that "someone else" makes us feel like we're in control, or wanted.
- We make wild and unfounded accusations to "test" our partner and see if they really love us and want us, as much as they say we do.
You and I both know, neither of these are healthy.
When your insecurities surface, let your partner know. I personally have to very literally say, "I constantly need to be told I'm pretty and smart and attractive and worth a damn. I will ask you to articulate why you love me and how I better your life. I know it's petty and insecure of me, but I need it."
And a good partner will do that for me.
These are humiliating and embarrassing conversations, but they need to be had because hey, our borderline brains will fashion some ridiculous scenarios and assumptions that will destroy a good thing.
If you saw the beautiful ex, simply tell your partner, "I saw a picture of your ex... they're gorgeous. I kinda feel insecure now and need your reassurance."
Handling a break-up
Break-ups feel like the end of the world. When you're low, you feel like the break-up might be a good thing, but when you're high, you wonder why you two even broke up at all.
They're confusing and frustrating for the general population, but in a borderline, it destroys our world. We become confused. We don't know how to be ourselves because our identity has become part of the person we were with.
We trick ourselves into believing "see, you weren't good enough" or "no one will ever love you because you're disgusting" or "if you were just a little smarter/skinnier/prettier/better, you could keep a partner."
These are invasive thoughts.
And they're not true.
And no, you don't need to rush into another crush or relationship to make yourself feel better, or worthy. You are deserving of being treated with respect (and don't tell me you crave being disrespected, you know damn well that that's not a solution). You are worth waiting for. However, you need to believe it first before anyone else believes it.
If you're dealing with a break-up, hang out with your friends. Head over to online support groups and vent about it. Create things. Start a blog. Try new food. Distract yourself until you don't need to distract yourself anymore. Keep going. Keep venting. Keep talking. Keep having fun. One foot in front of the other until it hurts so bad that it can't hurt any worse. And then you start recovering. One day at a time.
Handling your bpd
Dating while living with borderline personality disorder can feel like a death sentence. You do feel deeper. You hurt harder. And you love in a way that seems impossible to reciprocate. That's a unique part of you. You just have to learn to harness that intense love and unleash it only when it's healthy.
As with everything else, going to therapy and staying on medication is a great way to stay strong during crushes, relationships, and even break-ups.
You got this.