How to Be There for a loved one with BPD.

Last night my SO and I had a bit of a tiff.  In times like these we tend to revert to the same patterns and cycles of getting worked up and hostile and then shutting down and sulking, followed by more periods of harsh words and tears, followed by more sulking etc.

Anyone living with someone with BPD will be familiar with the Push-Me-Pull-You roller-coaster ride of emotions that come along with it, not just for the BPD sufferer but for everyone around them.  Relating to someone you love when they are hostile or depressed can be a very tricky business, often leading you to question your own mental health.

It can feel very lose/lose sometimes, especially when your own emotions are triggered and your defense mechanisms begin to kick in.  When we did make up, my SO very nicely asked me to write down a list of ways in which he can Be There for me in the way I want him to.  A classic BPD line is “you’re not there for me enough” which is heartbreaking to hear for the man who tries so hard to please you but always seems to get it wrong somehow.

For him, and anyone else who could use some advice in how to be there for their BPD loved ones, I’ve put together a little cheat sheet.  It’s purely my opinion; perhaps others would disagree (I’d love to hear your input!) but hopefully at least some of it will make sense.

1.     There is no One Size Fits All solution or magic formula that will fix every difficult situation. The SET (Support, Empathy, Truth) model which Jerold J. Kreisman, MD and Hal Straus (the authors of I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me and Sometimes I Act Crazy) developed is a good starting point (See SET – for more info).

Your BPD loved one is fraught with contradictions, feelings which shoot from one end of the spectrum to the opposite end without her even realising or knowing why.  Something which she may have very strongly wanted you to do yesterday suddenly makes no sense to her – it’s almost as if yesterday never happened.  This is not selective amnesia, she simply cannot connect the dots of her own patterns of behaviour; she is completely oblivious (until perhaps later).

Thinking that what worked yesterday will work today will frustrate you.  Try rather to listen, as opposed to act.

2.     Empathy comes to a BPD often only in hindsight.  She struggles to put herself in your shoes and ends up playing a lot of guessing games; most lead her to conclude she is rather worthless and will inevitably be abandoned for this crime.  Guilt is a feeling which makes her angry, which is why trying to get her to sympathise with how her moods/actions/words are affecting you is a waste of time.  BPDs can erect walls to hide their true feelings so quickly it will make your head spin.

3.     Honesty is usually your best policy.  Explain things calmly, even if they are ugly truths.  The hard part is trying to do that without taking, refusing or placing blame.  Don’t act humble to avoid a fight, or suck up to try and cheer her up; this puts you on the back foot – as though you were taking responsibility for what is wrong (without sometimes even knowing what is even wrong).

Don’t walk on eggshells or put your needs or opinions on the backburner.  Her sadness does not mean that you are not entitled to happiness.  She wants you to be happy.

Sometimes something as simple as informing her that she is still on top of your priority list, even if she feels like she isn’t on there, can do wonders to put her insecure mind at ease.  Deep down she is so afraid that her needs will push you away – let her know that they don’t change a thing. This is what “security” means to her.

Then, she can open up to you from a safer place, instead of a lonely, pained and angry one which always seems to lay the blame at your feet.

Which brings me to the most important point:

4.     DON’T FEEL GUILTY.  STOP blaming yourself.  Her emotions are intense and that is NOT YOUR FAULT.  It’s what makes your relationship so special.

It is only when we can separate our own feelings from the feelings which are bombarding us, can we see through them to the person on the other side; someone who is hurting and knows no way to express it without causing more pain to themselves and those around them.

We don’t want to hurt each other!  We love each other!  But when we blame ourselves for each others’ pain we are only perpetuating the cycle.  Step out!

This ones for everyone:

5.     Sometimes you have to feel shit to feel better.  Feeling shit isn’t always an indication that everything is coming apart; sometimes, it’s priming you for the next Big Thing.  If you are never dissatisfied with life then you will never try to transcend yourself.  Misery is the catalyst to progress.

When things are at their shittiest, take a moment to look back on all the shitty days you survived together. Probably much shittier ones, right?  You made it through it though, didn’t you?  Now, hang on to each other close and ride it out!


22 thoughts on “How to Be There for a loved one with BPD.

  1. I suffer from BPD, and find it important to set real goals because motivation can be a difficult factor. Long walks in the sunlight will always lift your spirit, and give you a sense of well being all day, so go early. Avoid isolation at all costs! I try hard to understand and perform all that’s required of me, while maintaining my independence and individuality… It’s not always easy, yet better when I derive pleasure from helping others…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a helpful post. Perhaps it applies to most folks living with the aftermath of childhood trauma. I like to imagine the trick is to slowly reduce the amount of drama, inside and out. But, of course, this is easy to say and difficult to accomplish….

    Thank you for following my blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you so much for the follow. I am glad you did as I have found your site. My daughter just turned 28 has BPD, has been attending privately a DBT clinic for over a year. The roller coaster, the guilt I have experienced from not giving in is enormous. The road has been very rough. The story too involved to put on a comment. A week ago she commenced Lexapro. Strangely their have been no meltdowns, possibly placebo affect, but at this point I am grateful. I have many questions, but I read as much as possible and also attend a support group once per month and speak to who I can, as her therapist doesn’t involve the family. I am sorry I have rambled on far too much, thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Please ask away – I am always happy to help shed some light on the situation. As difficult as it is to live with BPD it is almost as difficult to watch and to try and help. Getting support for yourself is an excellent idea to help you both through the rollercoaster ride. Be grateful for any reprieve even if it may be a temporary placebo effect – this is when the work needs to be done; while there is no crisis, instead of waiting for the proverbial shit to hit the fan only to realise that the coping skills aren’t quite there yet. The road is a long and narrow one but happiness and wholeness is acheivable. Thank you so much for the follow and best wishes xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much. Sorry this is of epic proportion. We all lived together my partner and K and her boyfriend (who we think suffers a bit of depression and also anger management issues) he has been with her for 3 years now, the ups and downs and though I have some feelings of resentment against him for things he has done and introduced her too, I give him credit for sticking by her. She has no close friends. Growing up she and her sister ..well didn’t get along. Her sister being the A grade achiever, always telling K to improve and wasn’t good enough. This is how I think it started. At school she was then bullied continually and swapped schools, before finishing in Year 9. Then she tried out for the Navy and spent 7 of the 10 required weeks in training. Unfortunately, due to being a little naive, she got herself into a dangerous situation, where she was then sexually abused by an officer. Not long after this, BPD manifested.

        Her coping skills or using mindfulness are pretty much non existent, she feels that it doesn’t work… I had to sell my house as the meltdowns were severe and violent rages. My partner then moved giving me the opportunity to go with him or stay with K. This understandably hit her hard..fear of abandonment. Neither her or her boyfriend have full time work. She hasn’t been able to hold any office job down for longer than 18 months, before she sabotaged it. They moved into share accomodation, didn’t last. They moved into a married couples home about 8 weeks ago now. They also have another border. There have been moments, which then led me (and her B/F) to convince her to go on medication.

        Sorry I just thought I had to fill you in on how the situation is.
        Being her mum I have the guilt stamp emblazoned on my forehead. She asks for money continually as her benefits just disappear. They were smoking the artificial dope, which he introduced her to. This they assure me they aren’t anymore, but occasionally smoke weed. At least this is ‘natural’ but I have tried to tell her not too, especially with her medication now.

        She has 7 of the 9 criteria, she doesn’t self harm or have suicidal tendencies, but she has some tattoos, wanting to get a full sleeve done ( I dont want her to) but have resigned myself to ..if this makes her happy and all she does to herself..I’m going with the flow.

        We haven’t had any incidents since she started the Lexapro, though last Sunday she had a seizure, which we are still investigating.

        I know the meds aren’t the cure, but the reprieve is wonderful. We live an hours drive from her now, which is hard at times as my partner can’t forgive her for how she’s treated him, so I can’t have her over here, which upsets me greatly.

        She also has lost considerable weight, wanting to be a model..
        She lives in a non realistic world, most of the time, otherwise a very intelligent and beautiful girl.

        I’m so sorry for ranting, it’s just so wonderful to speak to someone else about this roller coaster! Thank you for reading..listening, it helps me to just blurt it all out…

        Liked by 1 person

  4. There is something that may help considerably. Perhaps try this and please let me know if there are any benefits.

    Do exercises to strengthen the core muscles several times a day. The core is the seat of the Will. It stores all our emotional power, spiritual power, which come through gathering experiences in our life.

    So yes I suggest for BPD you try core strength exercises.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have taken this under advisement (I LOVE pilates) and I have to agree that when I skip my pilates I suffer emotionally so thank you for that recommendation!


      1. yes… yoga, pilates or even 30 day plank challenge! all will help to contain emotional power in the core… build lower core muscles first then middle then upper…. because you want that energy to rise into your heart, we need to be able to physically contain emotional power…

        for the lady above… sorry to butt into your conversation, but perhaps these things may help, get your daughter to work on her core muscles and have a good exercise regime, yoga, swimming, dancing…. whatever, hopefully things she enjoys.
        Sometimes i find going to church helps puts the heart right to have a chat with our maker, good idea to go once a week.
        Also it’s good to find our interests and work on things that are interesting, then whilst we are doing those things we are focused on creating a better direction or momentum in our life. This helps to positively redirect the mind. It can be challenging motivating someone to find and start doing things that will be good for them, but just keep at it, i have written an article here on how to find our purpose

        what you are doing really is helping someone to lay good foundations and rebuild themselves. self worth increases when we begin to work on our interests, we soon find that by finding things that we enjoy doing the mind can find purpose be engaged, it’s focus sharpens and we carve a path for ourselves.

        …. happy Christmas 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Something that has really helped a bpd friend that I had was jogging. Not sure if if just released the angst or the oxygenation of the blood was the reason behind it, but she reduced the level of medication and the frequency of use through that.

    Plus, a good jog is like meditation and allows the mind to just relax.

    Clifford Mitchem
    Advocare Distributor
    Nutrition + Fitness = Health

    Liked by 1 person

  6. hey…

    You may find a link between Adrenal fatigue and BPD…..

    The doctor probably won’t be able to help you with that one….

    However the holistic natural medicine person will, you just need to find a good one 🙂

    I have written an article about how I am recovering from it and it has some good links that give a much better explanation than I can.

    Some additional things that I may suggest to help calm the mind are protein and fat, make sure you are getting enough high quality proteins and fats.

    Sunlight, or take vitamin D3, sunlight is better.

    By some good magnesium oil and rub it on your skin…. and wow, just go lie on your bed and feel how relaxed it makes you.

    So without those three things…. ohh and correct breathing from your belly (yoga or freediving) then your body cannot ground properly, which creates this anxiety and shakyness.

    Anyway I hope that helps…


    Liked by 2 people

  7. My night was filled with BPD BS. I got upset over a situation I created in my head and when my partner pulled away from me when I pushed him away I demanded that he be there for me. What I like about him is that he does calmly explain things to me and he is honest. He admits when he doesn’t know what to do, tells me that if I don’t stop certain behaviours he going to reach out to my friend who is more capable of being with me in those moments and, if needed, suggests the emergency room.

    I didn’t realize that I was a little tough to be with until him and I started going out. Since all my past relationships were chaos I couldn’t completely see what was me.

    Liked by 2 people

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