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Beachgirl's avatar

Boyfriend with BPD - is it possible to have a rewarding relationship?

Asked by Beachgirl (8points) April 20th, 2009

Hi all, I’ve been dating this guy for 5 going on 6 months. He has all the sypmtoms of BPD, we got involved really fast, really intense, he’s super loving and attentive, was delcaring love after 1 months, proposing marriage after 2 months, wanted to live together at 5 or 6 months. I never heard of BPD and wasn’t aware of the signs and symptoms. Having just gotten out of a very neglectful relationship, I was starved for the attention and hence..well, you know.

He was here on a job contract so his actual residence was out of state. Early in March he moved his residence from East Coast to West Coast, transferred himself with his job (the unknown) to move in with me. After he was moved in, I realized it was too early and suggested he get his own place while we continued to date, as we had early on.

Well as you can imagine, he went into episode mode. I’ve never seen anything like this. I’ve never been afraid of anyone before. I was sleeping at different friends houses for a week. I had to change my phone number and got a restraining order just in case. I found out later that he doesn’t have any violence in his background, no domestic violence, no assault, or anything. It was more the intensity and unpredictability (plus the daily 35 or more text messages and phone calls). Long story short, we had three weeks where it looked as though we’d cut each other loose and it was over. Being unarmed with the necessary information and my own issues (which I’m in therapy for), I’ve allowed myself to get hoovered back in. It’s not full blown, I’ve set up some stringent boundaries that he’s respecting although he’s wanting to break them down a little here, a little there.

He’s in his nice phase now, he started seeing a therapist, owned up to having BPD, didn’t tell me before but said he’s been diagnosed with it twice in his lifetime. Thought he “had it licked”. Claims full responsibility for his actions, needing to get therapy, meds, says he understands this is for life – he will always need therapy, meds. Yada yada. My trust has been blown and my heart is not open although I’m still talking to him and saw him a lot over this past weekend.

My question is, oh and this guy is 46, has 2 grown kids, has been married 4 times, (one of the marriages was 13 years), is it possible to have a worthwhile relationship with someone who has BPD? I’m ready to end it because of all I’ve read, knowing that I don’t want to be anywhere near episode mode again. If he’s on meds, is this likely? I know everyone is different. Since he’s in “nice” mode now, I’m struggling with the idea of breaking it off knowing he will go into episode mode again, but I’m thinking for myself that I don’t think I can take a rocky rollercoaster relationship, someone this needy and controlling, and thinking that episode mode could be just around the corner (even with meds) I am thinking I need to cut it loose now and never look back. He’s had issues with alcohol too, and since he’s on meds, that’s been significantly reduced. I keep reading everything I can on BPD and I just don’t think I’m up for the task but that in itself is playing with me because I’ve never ended with anyone because of something like this. “Oh you have this so I’m outta here”. But it sounds like with THIS, I need to.

It hurts that he’s in “nice” mode right now and that’s wonderful. He’s being so attentive again and all. But I keep trying to put that into perspective too, telling myself it’s not real, and that the bad IS coming and it could be worse next time. Does anyone have any insight? Is out the only answer with BPD? I’m right on the edge of ending it and never looking back but something inside still pulls…

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16 Answers

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Bipolar or not, 46 and 4 marriages is not a good sign.

Offero's avatar

Wow, The only answer I can give is buy the ticket, take the ride. You know what you are getting into. Relationships are hard enough when there is no pathology involved. As for being perceived as selfish because you want to break it off. Of course you’re being selfish. Wanting to take care of yourself above another person is selfish, but sometimes it is the only right thing to do. This sounds to me to be one of those times.

adreamofautumn's avatar

I agree that the 46 and 4 marriages is not a good sign, however bipolar people are not inherently broken. A diagnosis doesn’t make you incapable of loving or caring. You are not selfish to want to protect yourself, but don’t assume that just because he’s diagnosed he’s a lost cause. He may be a lost cause for other reasons, I don’t know, but again being bipolar does not make you inherently incapable of a healthy, functioning and loving relationship.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

Having lived with an ADHD man for 4yrs and having crossed paths with bi polar people, all I can say is I wouldn’t touch it again with a 20ft pole but if you’ve fallen in love with this man then good luck to you.

knitfroggy's avatar

I would think if you had to stay out of your own home for a week because of his episode that should be your answer right there. And a restraining order and phone number change? Four marriages? I’d run….fast!

SuperMouse's avatar

I read the question with the understanding that this guy is not bipolar, but has borderline personality disorder. Is that correct? BPS can be amajor challenge under the best of circumstances, and it sounds like these aren’t necessarily the best. The 4 marriages are a red flag as well.

wundayatta's avatar

First of all, I think you should find a support group (DBSA has a list of them nationwide), and start attending. Boyfriend should go, too. These groups help folks with our disorder to share and learn, and it really helps us stay better. You can do this whether or not you stay with him, just so you can come to understand what you’ve been through. If you do get back together with him for a long time, then you have to do this.

I don’t know where you’ve been going to learn about this, but if you want to, you could check out stuff I’ve written. I’d say maybe a fifth of what I’ve written here is about the disorder. Anyway, I would encourage you to check out the DBSA website, since there will be more information there, and, of course, there are several memoires about the disease, which are useful to real; Kay Redfield Jamison’s being the one most cited.

Being bipolar, I’m always in favor of people giving bipolar folks a lot of support. We tend to try to pull the world down upon us when we’re depressed. The logic may not be all that bad, if what I read about quantum physics tonight is true. Reality might not be possible without us to perceive it.

Anyway, when you feel really bad, and there’s really no reason for you to feel bad, you can try to make a reason. And god, when you’re in love—it’s unbelieveably amazing. I don’t know if other people are like this, but I want to melt myself permanently into my love. I can’t bear to be apart. I feel like I’m addicted to love. It gives a high like no other.

I’m a pretty high functioning manic-depressive. I’ve kept my job through all this (although, I may soon regret it, since I would have great disability insurance if I were so sick as to be disabled). The point is that it is possible to behave similarly to “normal” people and be sick. If you take your meds, and go to bed early each night, and exercise, and take your meds, and go to group therapy and individual therapy and, see your shrink regularly, and oh, did I say “take your meds?”

It is possible to have a good relationship with someone with this disorder. Well, easy for me to say. Truly, you’d have to ask my wife. There are many folks like us who don’t believe we are sick, and don’t take our meds, and live in denial, and truly, act pretty dysfunctionally.

I don’t know which kind of person your boyfriend will turn out to be. I think you’ll have a better idea if you go to group with him, and also do couples therapy. Yeah, mental health can be expensive.

If you have more questions, feel free to ask me, privately or publicly. I think it’ll help if you find out more. In the end, though, you’re the only one who can decide if your boyfriend is worth it to you.

Garebo's avatar

Damn, he must be pretty good to stick around for that.

cwilbur's avatar

What are you getting out of the relationship that makes it worthwhile?

I mean, you were afraid to stay at your house, and you got a restraining order. These are not things that happen in healthy relationships.

If you get involved with him, you’re getting involved with all of him—the bad and the good. Are you prepared for that? Are you ready to deal with another round of “episode mode” when he decides he’s feeling so good he can stop taking his meds?

Darwin's avatar

My son has been diagnosed as being Bipolar, so I was surprised to see many people seem to think BPD is Bipolar Disorder. As far as I know, BPD stands for Borderline Personality Disorder. While BPD may share some symptoms with Bipolar sufferers, it is not the same thing.

For someone to be labeled as BPD they need to show any five out of nine listed criteria to be present for a significant period of time. The criteria are (from (2004). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR (Text Revision). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association):

1. Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment. [Not including suicidal or self-injuring behavior covered in Criterion 5]
2. A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.
3. Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
4. Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., promiscuous sex, eating disorders, binge eating, substance abuse, reckless driving). [Again, not including suicidal or self-injuring behavior covered in Criterion 5]
5. Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-injuring behavior such as cutting, interfering with the healing of scars (excoriation) or picking at oneself.
6. Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
7. Chronic feelings of emptiness, worthlessness.
8. Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
9. Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation, delusions or severe dissociative symptoms

And yes, you could make a life with such a person but to be honest I wouldn’t do it willingly. The reason why my son still lives in my house is because he is my son. He came to us as a baby and has lived with us 14 years. We love him although we often don’t like him, and there is nowhere else he can go realistically unless we relinquish our parental rights.. We are hoping he will be able to live on his own in adulthood, but we don’t know that for sure. The good times are good, but they hardly make up for the bad times. We are currently dealing with both CPS (Child Protective Services) and APS (Adult Protective Services) because of what having him in our home has done to us.

It is something else again to voluntarily step into a relationship with someone who has a mental illness. I know people who have done so. But, unless he is willing to take his meds and go to counseling and really work to overcome his symptoms, you probably won’t be able to make a satisfactory life with him. You also need to be aware that he will need a huge amount of support from you and that if you offer that support, and then realize the burden is too great and so withdraw it, you could be responsible for his going off the deep end.

Whatever you decide to do, I suggest you find a group that deals with this disorder or provides support for caregivers so you can learn more about what you will be facing once you agree that “Until death do us part.”

Good luck!

adreamofautumn's avatar

I am aware that BPD stands for Borderline, but you labeled “bipolar” in your tags. I just want to say my first response goes for Borderline people as well as bipolar. They are not inherently incapable of a healthy, loving, relationship. Keep that in mind.

Beachgirl's avatar

When he’s in “nice” mode, he’s charming, funny, very sweet, a good companion, we enjoy each others company, a hard worker, good cook, good provider, fantastic lover. I just don’t know if any of this is real? You read that people with BPD are social chameleons, manipulative, etc. Is he doing all this just to attach himself to me like a parasite? All your responses are good, thank you all. It’s very helpful.

cak's avatar

@Darwin – lurve!

cwilbur's avatar

@Beachgirl: there are two symptoms of BPD that sound like they’re at play here. One is that people with BPD will do anything to avoid abandonment. If he thinks you’re likely to actually leave him, he’ll be a perfect person of whatever sort he thinks you want. This is not necessarily what he’s really like; this is a result of him being desperate to prevent you from leaving, and willing to say anything and do anything to keep you around. The other is that he is going back and forth between the extremes of idealization and devaluation. When he’s in “nice” mode, he’s at the idealization extreme. When he’s in “not-nice” mode, he’s at the devaluation extreme.

I don’t think that he’s incapable of healthy, loving relationships, but the only way it can be a healthy relationship is if he’s working on the BPD. I was involved for several years with a man who, while officially undiagnosed, exhibited just about all of the diagnostic criteria for BPD, and it was miserable. He lied to me about skipping work, even when it got him fired, and then he lied to me about getting fired. He had a madonna/whore kind of attitude towards sex (that idealization/devaluation thing again), which made it pretty much impossible to have a normal sex life. When things were on the rocks, he hadn’t been able to hold down a job for a year, and I said, “you must get therapy,” he lied to me about that too—he went to three sessions, and then cancelled his next appointment, but spent the next two months “going to therapy” every Monday night. He was a compulsive eater who blamed his lack of success in life and his jobs on his size, but when I pointed out that he did most of the cooking and we had a family gym membership that he never used, he made excuse after excuse. I eventually ended it out of self-defense.

What I wish someone had told me about that relationship: there was no way he would work on his issues until he had no other choice. As long as I was willing to put up with his lies and pay his rent and keep the pantry stocked, he had no motivation to change. And when I finally did break it off, he moved in with his parents, and now they’re paying his rent and keeping the pantry stocked.

cak's avatar

@cwilbur – lurve!

Violet's avatar

He needs to get on a good combination of meds, and get a good psychiatrist. Once he’s on meds, you’d never know he was bipolar

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