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nighttripper's avatar

How to cope with a boyfriend with borderline personality disorder?

Asked by nighttripper (162points) May 9th, 2008

How do I cope with this he can never make up his mind about anything and it’s so confusing. One day he is quitting smoking and is going to throw away any cigarettes he finds on me and the next day he is asking if I have a cigarette and a light. One day he wants to stop having sex because he’s terrified I’ll get pregnant (why he’s so worried I don’t know) and to prove to me that’s not all he wants and the next day I’m having to rip his hands off my zipper. I barely know who he’s going to be on any given day. help! :(

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35 Answers

shilolo's avatar

Ummm. I’m not sure how you know he has borderline personality disorder (is this something he told you?), but what you describe certainly fits some of the characteristics. This disorder is one of the toughest to deal with, both as a friend/girlfriend and medically. Don’t think you can change him, because thats impossible. I’ve never been in that situation (I mean as a boyfriend of someone with this problem), but I doubt I would be able to put up with it for too long.

MrKnowItAll's avatar

This sounds like regular hetro guy behavior to me.

gorillapaws's avatar

yeah, if he really had borderline personality disorder the only advice I could give is to get out of the relationship. What you are describing is a guy who’s got very little willpower to follow through on the comitments he makes to himself. That’s fairly typical of many males so I don’t think you’re dealing with a severe mental illness.

As far as how to cope, I would just be as direct as possible. Tell him that his indecisiveness is annoying and is pissing you off. If you are still having issues, just do what all women do when they are trying to get their man to do something he doesn’t want to do… Withold sex until he does what you want.

loser's avatar

are you sure he has BDP? He sounds kind of bipolar to me. Was this a diagnosis from a trained professional? Maybe he needs medication. Is he seeing someone trained in disorders? There are support groups online. Search around and you might find one close to you. Be honest with how your feeling and don’t be afraid to get help for yourself. Hang in there!

nighttripper's avatar

He told me that he has and is medicated for a mental disorder, but wouldn’t tell me what it was. I don’t believe he is bipolar because he knows I have bipolar friends and have no problem with them so I figure it must be something more serious. I noticed a book he was reading called girl interrupted about a girl with borderline personality disorder and looked it up and he seems to match it in some ways.

shilolo's avatar

First, not everyone treated for bipolar disorder responds well, and there are a variety of medicines that can be tried. Conversely, some psychiatrists will use medications to try to control some of the features of BPD. That said, just because he was reading a book about borderline personality disorder doesn’t mean he has it.

So, let me ask you a few questions to try to tease this out further. Is he impulsive? Does he show mood instability? Does he demonstrate self-destructive behavior, like self-mutilation (i.e. cutting) or suicidal gestures/attempts? Does he have a markedly and persistently unstable self-image? Finally, does he have a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships (i.e. moving from one friend/girlfriend very quickly)? Many of these are features of BPD, but only a trained psychologist or psychiatrist can make a definitive diagnosis.

NeroCorvo's avatar

If he does not trust you enough to tell you the mental condition under which he is being treated and you trust him enough to be sexually intimate then you are being used. I would RUN- not walk away.

In an intimate relationship his diagnosis is your business.

nighttripper's avatar

yes to pretty much all of those shilolo. He builds a lot of fires in the woods and sometimes he wont think the location or size of it through I’m amazed he hasn’t been arrested for arson yet quite honestly. I mean fires are fun to have but when I’m there i try to insist on using an existing fire pit or making a little one to use. (I gave another example of his impulsiveness below directed to olddog.) He can be really lovey at the beginning of the day and by the end just be really pissed off and want to go home real bad. He has cut himself though it’s not a common thing and he uses some drugs, but not so much anymore because he got caught and now has to take drug tests. He is really insecure and cares a lot about what other people think of him. Sometimes he goes so far as to put other people down (not me mostly strangers comments like omg shes fat and things like that) i think it’s to build himself up by putting them down. I’m not sure if he really moves from people quickly. We were a little rocky at the start he wanted to leave I guess before he got to connected to me or something but we talked through it and have been together for 5 months now.

olddog – He has trusted me with a lot. He robbed a high school with two other guys and trusted me enough to tell me before he was caught or anyone else knew he was involved. I talked him into turning himself in because the other kids involved had been talking about it and they were on their way to being caught for sure and turning himself in pretty much saved him from going to jail.

nikipedia's avatar

I would not try to go all DSM diagnosing him. If you don’t get out of this relationship, please make sure you have a trusted professional available for when things get out of hand.

nighttripper's avatar

why would things get out of hand? what do you mean? and I dont really want to get out of it if I can learn to deal with this.

shilolo's avatar

@Niki. I know the DSM is imperfect, and I am not a psychiatrist, but I was just trying to get the sense of whether he truly has BPD features, or whether he is simply insecure and immature (features consistent with the average, under 30 male). I agree that these behaviors are dangerous for everyone involved, as niki has neatly summarized below.

nikipedia's avatar

He builds fires, cuts himself, uses drugs, robbed a high school—and these are just things you happened to mention in a single post on the internet. His mental health poses a threat to both his own safety and, I believe, your own. From what you have told us this is not a matter of “if” so much as “when”. Sorry to be harsh but you really need to be able to protect yourself.

nighttripper's avatar

He doesn’t cut himself he has cut himself. He doesnt do that anymore. He was actually sort of tricked into robbing the school he was just the driver and didn’t know what they were doing. And the fires are fun I enjoy them too. As for the drugs he doesn’t do them around me and supposedly not that often otherwise so I dont have a problem with that.

NVOldGuy's avatar

Cuts self – uses drugs – fire starter – does or doesn’t take meds – won’t tell you about his illness
And these are the things you know! What next?

shilolo hit it on the nail

nikipedia's avatar

And I have nothing more to add to this conversation. Please protect yourself. The end.

nighttripper's avatar

obviously you didn’t read what i just said. It’s not helpful when you answer based on half the facts

shilolo's avatar

Look, one of the features of BDP (if thats what he has) is intense relationships. You feel super strongly because some days he loves you so much, but other times he probably says he hates you. I’ve seen this over and over again. The “ups” are great, you feel awesome. But the downs are terrible. There is potential danger here, as Niki has said. You asked about coping, and everyone here read into your post danger. That itself should tell you something when complete strangers can all agree like this. Just be careful and protect yourself.

nighttripper's avatar

He’s never said he hates me. He’s never been remotely violent with anybody. and they clearly are not reading what I’m writing. I clearly said he IS medicated and DOES NOT cut himself (one or two times more than a year ago) and he doesn’t use drugs around me or that often. and he does well in school so I don’t see that the drug use could really be that much of a problem

sccrowell's avatar

Why did you bother to ask for our opinion or our help? I as well as everyone else have read every word you have written!
And you know what? We have given you our collective answer/opinion/responses. And you defend him… I bet you find yourself having to do that all the time

nighttripper's avatar

I asked how to cope not for someone to tell me to end a relationship i don’t want to end

shilolo's avatar

@Night. You asked the question about how to deal with his emotional lability. Part of the miscommunications here are the disconnect between what you say on the one hand (like in response to my series of questions) and then how you defend him and minimize the statements on the other hand.

I mentioned “hate” only because that is typical of people with BPD. One day you are the best and the next day you suck. I wasn’t trying to put words into your mouth.

Finally, I think the responses here in general have been well meaning. As you can tell, most people wouldn’t be able to cope (including myself), and thus recommended you end the relationship. Sorry if that isn’t what you wanted to hear. Good luck.

sccrowell's avatar

because you would rather wear blinders than see the truth. Please seek profession al help! Good luck!

nighttripper's avatar

what is because i don’t know “the truth”? what is this “truth”? and how would you know the truth when you aren’t in the situation? are you sure the “truth” you speak of isn’t a bunch of assumptions you’ve made?

NVOldGuy's avatar

Good luck nighttripper stay safe.

nighttripper's avatar

someone tell me what I’m not seeing I sincerely want to see it if I am being self delusional but nobodys told me what I’m not seeing. other than some generalization of him being dangerous to me when I see no evidence of that.

loser's avatar

Even with medication and the new BPD treatment of choice it will probably always be the way it is now. It is hard as heck to be with someone with BPD. I hear that you love him but love isn’t always enough. Are you truly happy? Are you really up for this?

nighttripper's avatar

It’s kind of strange when I am with him I want to be with him forever and I have so much fun (except for when he is excessively uhh lets say excited) but once he leaves I slowly start to question it more every day until I see him again then I love him to death again and see no issues

Derick's avatar

There is no medication FOR borderline personality disorder. Personality disorders are usually considered secondary to some other mental illness. If he’s medicated… it’s probably not for BPD. That’s not to say he doesn’t have BPD – just that there’s probably something else at work. But I digress…

As far as relationships and BPD go, they normally don’t end well. One of the defining characteristics of borderline personality disorder is the chaotic relationship. It’s the norm. Chaos is what feels natural. It will most likely never change. If he’s truly suffering from BPD (and it is suffering), your relationship with him will mostly likely continue to be turbulent and chaotic. Don’t expect that to change.

While you can’t change and/or control his behavior, you can control yours. One of the few things that may work to help the relationship is the setting of boundaries and expectations. If he says he’s going to do something, hold him to it. Set boundaries for behavior and activities that you will participate in. If he deviates from those boundaries, remove yourself from the situation. Let him know that if he wants you in the picture, he will have to learn to control himself. Chances are he won’t change. He’ll enjoy the drama and chaos that your attempts to cope will create.

If you continue to go on as is, you’ll be doing nothing but making the situation worse. He knows that he can act any way he wants… do anything he wants… say anything he wants… and you’ll deal with it. In the long run, setting some boundaries will be the best for both of you. It will be hard… and you will have to be firm about it (even when all you want to do is give in). But continuing status quo will simply make changing things in the future even more difficult.

It’s impossible for another person to answer this question, though. Only you know the details of your relationship and only you know how you truly feel. If you think you can deal with the relationship continuing the way it is, so be it. You might succeed. But chances are you will eventually begin to resent him for the way he behaves, treats you, etc.

Unfortunately… I fear there is only one outcome for this relationship. But you may need to live through it to learn for yourself. It’s not something anyone else can show you.

susanc's avatar

NIght, that is a perfect, wonderful description of what it’s like to be in a relationship of any kind with a person who suffers from BPD. I speak as someone who used to have a lot of therapy clients who suffered from it. I later found out that this disorder is so profound that it takes a big, well-coordinated team to really effect change. Learning this was a relief to me, because I felt very ineffective with them, while wishing desperately to help. I did help. But I could not help enough, and it drove me nuts. I LOVED them. They were funny, interesting, smart, fascinating people. I thought about them all the time. They were able to get me so interested in them that I would go seriously out of my way for them – letting them call me any time and talk for hours (for free) between appointments, throwing objects in the therapy room, cancelling vacations because they were in crisis…. exactly what Derick just finished writing about – they got around my boundary-setting capabilities, they inspired me to think they were so special that the ordinary boundaries didn’t apply. And then finally one time I actually went on a vacation, and after three days of intense worry about one young woman – really, I was longing for her, because she was so volatile and brilliant and full of life – I suddenly realized that she’d have been just as desperate if I was still available as she was if I was gone. The uproar she generated in me was the way she felt all the time. Teaching me to feel it too was her way of
helping me to understand her. It wasn’t the way I felt – I had my own feelings.
But these guys can’t explain themselves; it’s too hard to
get outside of all those chaotic feelings, so they have to act out. Almost like charades, but totally sincere. And you get involved in the intensity. It feels great till you step back, and then, just as you say here, you
“slowly start to question it more every day” – Well, that’s the part of you that’s capable of more than strong feeling. It’s a mature, sensible part that can learn from experience, reflect and assess.

Sounds like he can’t reflect and assess as readily. This is not his fault. Totally not.

I think you will continue with him, and I think that’s okay. It will hurt you some, because it will be frustrating. Fine – liking someone, loving someone, is always frustrating, so what’s the diff. Still,
you do have a certain confusion about his inconsistency, impulsiveness, poor judgment on occasion, and his great intensity. That confusion is healthy.
Trust it. Enjoy this relationship, but remember you are not him. Continue to be careful with those fires. Don’t help him drive any getaway cars. I know
that you can tell the difference between a getaway car and just giving someone a ride,
even if he couldn’t that one time. Trust your judgment.
We at fluther are on your side, even though we’ve pissed you off.

Bub's avatar

You’re in for a rough ride here. Good luck!

RitaX's avatar

You’ve got to ask yourself if his disorder is not part of the reason why you love him. Would you have liked him if he was a regular responsible guy? I agree with the authors, it does sound BPD. I am asking this question at the moment myself having had to endure a boyfriend tantrum of sizemical proportian earlier today. I went to see if he was okay after trying several times to get hold of him. He was home and safe and overjoyed to see me. I expressed concern for his now week-long disassociative state. Normally it endures no more than two days but mostly minutes or hours. He interpreted this as an attack on his character. I left. He sent an sms threatening to have the security guard fired if the guy allowed me into the complex again. Just now he sent a gentle message that he was okay. One year ago I would have been rooting for team Shilolo, but today I get you. We forgive the madness the emotional weirdness because we know it is an illness. This is not co-dependency, I am as well adjusted as any human not classified on IVDSM but have fallen in love with a mentally ill person. I have fallen in love with the ‘out-of-episode’ guy and now have to deal with the very difficult ‘in-episode’ guy. The advice to leave him is obviously well meaning and probably right but it is simply not that easy. He’ll find ways to stay connected to you even if you try leaving. You’re young. Be aware that you have a very hard long, perhaps even dangerous journey ahead. This relationship needs constant work and an extreme level of emotional intelligence from your side. As I see it you have one of two choices, take real responsibility and learn how to protect yourself in the relationship or get help getting out of it permanently before you get even further invested.

Totally_Confused's avatar

Hi everyone, I have a question…. I have an ex boyfriend who shows all of the signs for BPD but like many of the other stories that I have read, has not once come back to me when we have broken up….can anyone shed any advice on this as it has always been me going back to him???

RAM7140's avatar

It is so difficult dealing with a BPD. You don’t know what is going to happen from minute to minute. I have made the mistake of acting on my impulse when he would rant and rage. I have learned that it is not their fault that they have this illness and it is so upsetting to see a very intelligent person, or anyone for that fact, to go through this. I have been split as being evil and it has been like that for a year. I have tried to make it up to him and show him that I am there for him no matter what. The words “love” and “Friends” are taboo to him. If you want to stay in a relationship with a BPD, it is important taht you have patience, understanding, and the will to stay for the long, rocky roller coaster ride. I wish you the best of luck.

qbecuhed's avatar

My girlfriend has BPD. I certainly haven’t figured it all out, but I can give you some advice.

I think the most important thing is to accept that he’s not going to be someone he’s not. And this will be hard, because some of the strengths he’ll never have will be traits you were hoping to find in a partner. He might never be someone you can count on for sympathy—sometimes he he’ll hold you and tell you everything will be ok, but other times he’ll tell you to stop being a pussy and that he needs to get work done. You’ll have to keep in your back pocket the extra strength to cheer yourself up and move on, and know that this will happen again and again.

Then, you have to accept that the relationship will never be something it’s not. It may lack certain kinds of trust that you were hoping to gain with him. There may be certain topics you can’t talk about. If you think he couldn’t be a responsible father, you may have to accept that the two of you will never have kids.

Knowing that, you have to accept that you will never be someone you’re not. If you always change and bend and grow to meet the needs of the relationship while he thinks mostly of himself, you’ll start to resent that you’re always the one compromising. I’m not saying be a stubborn asshole, just don’t bend over backwards to do something for him you know he’d never do for you. For example, if he’s prone to go for days without calling, you might just have to accept that that’s the dynamic of the relationship and do the same.

Next, you need to understand his fears, because they hold the power to both ruin or save the relationship. People with BPD are in constant fear of not being taken seriously. An interesting fact is that many people with BPD cling to an erroneous diagnosis of Bipolar. The reason is that Bipolar is connoted a more serious condition and thus validates the patient’s suffering—“I have Bipolar, so that proves my pain is real.” Your boyfriend probably worries every time he opens his mouth that you won’t really listen, thinking to yourself, “Oh, that’s just the BPD talking.” You may have noticed that he takes it hard when you two are talking and he thinks you’re not really paying attention. On the other hand, he worries that you’ll forget his suffering and start to wish he’d “just grow up.” These opposing fears will tear him apart at times.

He’s also terribly, terribly afraid of driving you away, because he’s driven so many other people away, and he’s worried you’ll be just like them. He might have said things to you like, “I thought you were different.” This fear also tears him apart, because while on the one hand he knows he has problems and that he’s the one at fault for his past failed relationships, on the other hand in every one of those failures he’s had an overwhelming sense that he wasn’t being taken seriously. He knows there’s a monster inside of him that will come out and drive away the ones he loves, but he also blames those same loved ones for seeing only the monster and not the person he really is.

My girlfriend once told me a story about a little girl who caught a chipmunk and brought it on the schoolbus to show her friends. She opened her hand to reveal the creature, who then quickly bit her; she panicked and squeezed the chipmunk to death. This is how many of your boyfriend’s past relationships have been: he found something beautiful, then panicked and destroyed it. And he feels awful about it.

You can turn this fear into a strength. He knows he can be harsher than he means to be. He knows that the words that come out of his mouth aren’t what he’ll wish he’d said when he looks back on it the next day. You can be honest with him—tell him when the things he does cause you pain. He’ll kick and scream and threaten to leave you and not answer his phone for days but he will listen and he will remember. He will never acknowledge it and you must never say “I told you so,” but he will learn from you what he needs to do to keep you, and he will try as hard as he can. And he’ll fuck it up again and again but as long as he can believe you take him seriously, that you honestly love him and that you’ll be there for him when he’s done pouting, he will keep trying. There is the key to saving your relationship.

qbecuhed's avatar

I also have some things to add on the topic of idealization. People with BPD tend to idealize people—that is, to see a person as all good or all bad. Your boyfriend might see you as the most amazing person he’s ever met, someone truly perfect in every way.

To some extent this is normal, to idealize your significant other. The difference is that for most people there is an element of choice in it—we idealize our significant other because we want to, because we’re willing to let go, to suspend disbelief. Deep down in our hearts we know that the other person is not perfect, but we’re willing to let the truth slide for the sake of love.

However, for the person with BPD this is not a choice. Your boyfriend is not trying to idealize you; he can’t help it. This also means that his opinion of you can fall curiously fast, because it doesn’t have the normal element of will to it. It is impossible for anyone to be passionate about their SO all the time; but for most people, a sense of dedication can take over when the passion fails. But for someone with BPD, they tend to get carried along by the wave of their emotions, alternating between delirious love and overwhelming apathy or hatred.

There are two things here. The first is that you need to keep your head above water a little bit. You need to know that you’re not really the best person he’s ever met—you’re just someone who hasn’t left him yet. You’re not different than the others, you don’t see him in a way that no one else saw; you’re not somehow able to see the real person in him that everyone else missed, and you’re no better able to deal with his emotional turbulence.

Don’t be afraid of showing the real you and spoiling his idealization. On the other hand, know that that is exactly what he fears the most. When he leaves you for good, he’ll say, “it turns out you were just like all the others.” And he’ll be right—you’re a real person, just like everyone else he’s ever broken up with, but if he’s going to be in a relationship he has no choice but for it to be with a real person.

The second thing is that you’re going to have to get through the low points. There will be weeks, maybe even entire months, where he will seem apathetic towards you. You may find that the only thing you can do is to be apathetic towards him back. Understand that this will become the nature of your relationship. You can’t have a relationship with him that is passionate all the time. If you feel that a relationship filled with long, apparently random stretches of apathy is not right for you, then he is not the guy for you.

There will be times when he seems to doubt everything you say. He will seem to resent the sight of you. Looking into his eyes will seems strangely tense. That’s a feature you are going to need to live with.

You will develop a tough skin. He will criticize you constantly, but seem to be unable to take criticism himself. It’s ok to get on his case about that. If you point it out to him, he will listen. Begrudgingly, yes, but he will listen.

He might hit you. He might tear you down verbally. He might cheat on you. If these things are show-stoppers for you, you might want to leave now. But he’ll also love you intensely and there will be many good times. Not unlike a normal relationship, just a little more intense.

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