Home Mental Health How to Successfully Cope with BPD in a Relationship

How to Successfully Cope with BPD in a Relationship


Living with someone who has borderline personality disorder (BPD) can be tremendously challenging. However, with understanding, effective communication, and consistent effort on both sides, it is possible to have a caring and fulfilling relationship despite the difficulties posed by BPD.

In this article, we will discuss several practical strategies you can use to better cope with and support your partner who has BPD.

BPD and its Effects on Relationships

BPD is a mental illness characterized by an unstable sense of self, distorted patterns of perceiving interpersonal relationships, and difficulty regulating emotions. Individuals with BPD often experience fears of abandonment, unstable self-image, impulsivity, and self-destructive behaviors.

In a romantic relationship, BPD can manifest as intense worry over real or perceived abandonment, fear of engulfment from intimacy, unstable personal relationships, dissociative feelings, chronic feelings of emptiness, explosive anger, and fear of being alone.

These symptoms often take their toll both mentally and emotionally on partners. Common relationship challenges include unwanted separations, emotionally charged disagreements, trust issues, and conflicts over autonomy and dependence within the relationship.

The symptoms of BPD are not easily controlled and can provoke strong reactions in partners. However, it is important to remember that your partner’s difficult behaviors are generally a result of their illness rather than a reflection of you or the relationship. Approaching issues with patience, empathy, and care can help mitigate conflicts and reduce strain on the relationship.

Set Clear Boundaries

One of the most important coping strategies is setting clear and consistent boundaries within the relationship. This gives both partners a shared understanding of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. For the partner with BPD, clear boundaries provide predictability and safety within the relationship.

Limiting extremely emotionally expressive conversations to a certain time/place each day to avoid constant conflicts. Restricting self-destructive behaviors like substance abuse, gambling, reckless driving, etc.

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Establishing rules regarding respectful communication even during intense disagreements (no name calling, listening without interrupting, taking breaks if needed).

Having separate finances and not lending money that can’t be afforded. And Having independent friendships and activities outside of the relationship. Allowing alone time and privacy for each partner.

Establishing boundaries respectfully as equal partners can bring stability and trust to the relationship over time. The boundaries also need to feel fair to avoid triggering abandonment fears. Maintaining consistency is key.

Communicate Openly and Calmly

Open communication is crucial, yet can be challenging when high emotions are involved. The following strategies may help cultivate openness and understanding: Set aside regular time for calm, undistracted talks about the relationship.

Be willing to listen without judgment and reflect back what your partner said to confirm understanding. Share feelings using “I statements” instead of accusatory language. Validate your partner’s experiences and emotions while also voicing your own truthfully.

Express care, affection, and appreciation for positive qualities whenever possible too. In stressful times, agree to take a break and reconvene later once calmer. Yelling typically escalates conflicts. Consider seeking couples counseling with a therapist experienced in BPD. A mediator can help identify communication patterns needing work.

Consistent effort to communicate constructively, even in small ways, helps fight against the adversity BPD often creates in relationships. Understanding and teamwork are key.

Show Affection and Reassurance

The unstable self-image and fears of abandonment associated with BPD can leave one’s partner constantly seeking reassurance of being loved and accepted. While this can feels smothering at times, making consistent efforts to show affection is important for relationship health and your partner’s well-being.

Some affectionate gestures that may help include: Verbalizing appreciation and what you admire about your partner daily. Little acts of service like making their favorite meal, doing small chores, etc.

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Calmly restating your commitment to the relationship during arguments instead of retaliating. Spending quality time together engaging in shared interests or activities. Non-sexual physical touches like hugs, kisses on the cheek, handholding as wanted.

Remembering special days/events and celebrating together. Allowing extra reassurance during your partner’s low moments without becoming responsible for their emotions. Small positive affirmations go a long way for someone with BPD.

Manage Self-Care

Coping with a partner’s BPD day after day can take a serious mental and emotional toll. Unchecked, this stressors risk negatively impacting your own mental wellness and the relationship. That’s why managing effective self-care is imperative.

Setting aside alone time regularly for relaxing activities you enjoy, like hobbies, exercise, etc. Maintaining your own social network for fun and emotional support separate from your partner. Taking breaks or short trips away together occasionally for reconnecting quality time.

Practicing stress reduction activities such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, etc. Seeing your own therapist to prevent burnout, get an outside perspective, and cope with any codependent tendencies. Working to keep a balanced, fulfilling life alongside your relationship instead of sacrificing yourself.

Not taking your partner’s unstable behaviors personally and retaining optimism. Self-care is essential to maintain composure, perspective, and resilience to weather the challenging times while still providing care and stability as a partner. Your own well-being must remain a priority too.

Seek Professional Help

There are many effective therapies available today to better understand and manage BPD successfully with the help of a mental health professional. Encouraging your partner to regularly attend individual therapy and perhaps couples counseling with you as a united effort can go a long way.

A good therapist can: Educate on healthy patterns and provide coping strategies. Hold the individual accountable while supporting progress. Mediate conflicts objectively and identify relationship toxicity.

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Monitor mental wellness and make adjustments as needed with medication if applicable. Provide a judgement-free zone to work through emotions and challenges.

Seeking help does not mean the relationship is doomed or your partner is beyond hope. In fact, those committed to treatment often thrive. You may need to gently broach therapy by expressing your care and willingness to face struggles together as a team. Progress takes dedication from both sides.

Show Patience and Understanding

Coping with BPD day in and day out is taxing and may bring out frustrations understandably. However, showing patience and understanding for your partner’s condition will serve the relationship well in the long run.

BPD significantly distorts one’s emotions, thoughts and behaviors in uncontrollable ways at times. Progress will not happen overnight and episodes may still occur with treatment. This does not signify failure.

When upset, try not reacting rashly and make decisions. Revisit issues later on calmer terms. Avoid blaming, shaming, or accusing your partner if possible which will likely backfire.

Accept imperfections and relapses will happen. Focus on the overall positive direction of change together long term. Remember this illness is currently beyond most people’s control and have compassion.

Seek respite from the relationship if tensions are too high before permanently throwing in the towel. Patience, love, understanding and a problem-solving attitude can weather rough storms.


Living successfully with a partner experiencing BPD is unquestionably tough but achievable with diligent effort from both people.

Coping strategies like setting boundaries, communicating effectively, showing affection regularly, prioritizing self-care, and maintaining a problem-solving approach with patience can make a world of difference.

Seeking professional help demonstrates a willingness to face challenges as a united team rather than alone. With time and work on both sides, many discover fulfilling lives and relationships despite the inherent difficulties of this disorder.


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