Dealing with someone who has BPD – dos and don’ts as I see them

This is my own, personal take on what I appreciate in people who deal with my BPD symptoms. Maybe it can help someone who has a relationship with someone who has BPD, so I’ll write it down.

  1. educate yourself – learn as much as you can about what Borderline Personality Disorder is, what the symptoms are, what motivates them. But also keep in mind that what is true for some people with BPD is not always true for everyone with BPD.
  2. see me as a person – I am more than a bunch of symptoms. I am a person, I am unique, I have good qualities and healthy parts that have nothing to do with BPD.
  3. take my feelings seriously – yes, I overreact and my reactions can be inappropriate to the situation. My feelings are real, though, and I have them for a reason, whether it’s a reason you can understand or not. The reason usually lies not within the situation, but in my own history. That doesn’t make my feelings any less valid.
  4. keep it cool and calm – good things happen, and I like it when they are acknowledged, but it’s not so good to make this big, giant fuss about them. Bad things happen, and it’s okay to acknowledge them and deal with them, but a big, giant fuss doesn’t help. I am more than capable of creating drama by myself, I don’t need anyone to aid me in escalating situations, thanks a lot.
  5. help me feel safe – most negative behavior is inspired by fear of one kind of another, and feeling safe is the best antidote. Now I am aware it’s not other people’s job to make me feel safe (except, in my case maybe, my mom’s) but it helps to know the other person is aware of things that frighten me and tries to avoid those things, or, alternately, explains to me why they can’t be avoided and what they mean or don’t mean for our relationship.
  6. try to talk with me – I am capable of reflecting on my behavior. Not always, not in every situation, and certainly not when I am being emotional about something, but it helps to have calm and non-judgmental talks when I am in a good place. Hear my side, too, and don’t just brush it away because I have BPD.
  7. don’t take it personally – I can get very hurtful, often over ridiculous and trivial things, but believe it or not, it’s not because of you. It’s because of me. Try to keep that in mind. If you are being extra capable of not taking it personal, you can try to figure out what my hurtful behavior says about my feelings, try to understand and gently validate them. Am I hurting? Am I afraid? Am I confused and helpless? It helps to be aware of what’s up.
  8. have reliable boundaries – I have issues with having healthy boundaries, so it’s important you have some, if you can. Know where you stand and what you want, what is okay for you and what you won’t put up with. Let me know about those things. It’s easier to define myself and find stability if I know where you are, rather than having to feel around in a fog because your boundaries are just as unreliable as mine.
  9. don’t let yourself be drawn into power games – this is not about winning anything. Where there are winners there are also losers, and that’s not a good basis for any kind of relationship. It’s better to figure a way to work together towards finding good solutions, with us working towards the same goal after our own individual abilities.
  10. try to be in touch with me – being emotionally in touch with the other is one form of safety. Try to be aware of small changes in my emotional availability, for they might be really meaningful and still solvable while they are small.
  11. be as non-threatening as possible – a lot of my issues have to do with fear. Appearing more threatening yourself (e.g. by yelling, making threatening gestures, blocking exits like by standing in the doorway, or being physically imposing) doesn’t make anything better. So if you speak with me, lower yourself to my level, keep a calm voice even when I can’t keep mine calm, and generally adopt body language and behavior that suggests that you are not a threat.
  12. accept help if it gets too much – just what it says. It’s not so good to let all the batteries run so dry and to deplete the last of the resources so that it’s hard to go anywhere without having the whole relationship fall apart. Accepting help early enough so that there still is time and room for improvement can be really important.
  13. keep on making good memories with me – not everything is a mess. Look for and value the normal, healthy, good parts and enjoy them with me. The road is a rocky one and being able to pause and breathe and enjoy the sunshine is really important. Memories of sunshine help with getting through periods of rain and thunderstorm.

Long list, isn’t it?  That’s all I can think of for now, but I might add more later. And yep, I am aware that it’s a big list of requirements, or whatever you want to call them. I am aware it’s not easy to have a good relationship with someone who has BPD. It’s probably just as challenging as having BPD.  No shit.

Feel free leave your thoughts to or suggest your own do’s and dont’s in the comments, too, if you think of some! 🙂

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