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How Borderline Personality Disorder Affects Functioning in a Relationship

Any mental illness presents difficulties with coping and treatment, but borderline personality disorder (BPD) can be one of the most complicated. Characterized by impulsive or self-destructive behaviors, intense moods, and feelings of low self-worth,BPD requires extensive treatment and a strong support system.

Because of the nature of the condition, relationship problems are common in borderline individuals. Flaring tempers, low self-esteem, and fear of abandonment are challenging factors in the healthiest of relationships. However, when the relationship itself is deeply flawed at its core, the results for both parties can be dire.

Understanding how BPD affects your interactions with a significant other can help you gain clarity in your relationship. By determining whether it is helping or harming your health, you can come closer to making the best choices for yourself and your loved one.

How Borderline Personality Disorder Affects Functioning in a Relationship


If you now or have ever engaged in borderline personality disorder treatment, you are likely familiar with several characteristics that tend to emerge over the course of a romantic relationship. These include:

  • Guilt. Aspects of your condition, such as angry outbursts, can make you feel as though you don’t deserve love. As a result, you may accept abusive treatment from others.

  • Balance of power. Having a mental health condition doesn’t mean you have less power than your loved one, but it can seem that way at times. If a significant other has taken responsibility for your mental health treatment or assumed more financial or household duties, you may feel they have the “upper hand.”

  • Fear. Worrying about being alone can spark comprehensive anxiety for those with BPD.

Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship


For borderline individuals, the need for companionship can trump a regard for one’s health or safety, leading to dangerous relationship dynamics. If a relationship has become toxic, it will likely exhibit one or more negative characteristics, such as:

1. It impacts your other relationships. Does it seem as though your significant other has control over with whom you interact and when? If you are having difficulty maintaining friendships, family ties, or other relationships due to your partner’s interference, you may be in an unhealthy bond.

2. You blame yourself for his or her abusive treatment. It is never acceptable to physically or verbally abuse another person. No matter what “personality flaws” you believe you have, your partner does not have the right to hit you, berate you, or otherwise harm you.

3. Your partner threatens harm if you leave. Whether a partner threatens to commit suicide or kill you, anyone contemplating such extreme measures should not be in your life. You have no control over what your loved one does to him or herself, but help is available if you believe your life is in jeopardy.

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