Now before you read on let me say that this isn’t my way of putting the responsibility onto another person for the actions, thoughts, or feelings that a person with BPD may have or do. I’m simply saying that there are things that others do that make the symptoms worse and keep the BPD in their cycle, and in fact, prove to them that what they think and feel is accurate.
I’ve read a lot of posts around the world wide web from family or significant others of people with BPD and I often see people ranting and venting in a very finger pointing kind of way towards the one with BPD about their symptoms.
I think it’s difficult to remember this, because when you look at the person you see a grown adult. If you could only see inside them, you’d see a small child. If you could keep this in mind when dealing with them, you may not be so surprised and angered and hurt by their BPD symptoms. Afterall, a BPD mind functions very similarly to a child or adolescent’s mind.
VALIDATION IS POWERFUL.
No one in this entire world would choose BPD. No one. It’s like a life sentence. So it’s important to remember when dealing with them that it isn’t their fault. They are only functioning on the highest and only level mentally, emotionally, and neurologically that they can. When you proceed to respond or react to them in those very finger pointing, angry, dismissive type ways, you are only validating for them that all of their “irrational” fears, thoughts, and emotions are all very rational and real. This only continues their cycle, and each time they circle that cycle, it intensifies.
If you would only try flipping your validation to validate what they are feeling (sounds weird I know), it will actually make it better.
For example, let’s say she/he starts get fearful that you are going to leave (this is probably the number one thing; fear of abandonment). When you react to that with, “OMG are you serious?! We’re doing this again? How many times do I have to tell you that I’m not leaving? Maybe I should leave. You have to stop this. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” All this says to him/her, is that you are getting closer to leaving which means their fear of you leaving is real and true and then they feel the need to prepare even more and they wonder even more when it will happen because it terrifies them and they probably want to get it over with.
If you instead react with, “Wow honey. That must be a really difficult thought and feeling to live with everyday, thinking that the people who love you are going to leave you. We all get those feelings sometimes. We all worry from time to time about that. I know you experience it more frequently and more intensely but I’m here. When you love someone, you don’t just leave, and I love you. We will get through this together, ok?”
Take on the team approach. I know this may be hard because as the SO you may legitimately be angry and frustrated or even annoyed at dealing with this thought over and over. Do your best. Just like it’s hard for you to be calm and patient, it’s hard for them to be “rational” in your eyes.
Fighting BPD in the midst of a relationship takes both people, not just the one with BPD.