Jul 20th 2023
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental health disorder that impacts mood, behavior, and relationships. Maintaining a friendship or healthy relationship with someone with BPD can be challenging because of their symptoms. Learning to communicate with them effectively and implementing positive boundaries can be helpful.
A common experience of people with BPD is a pattern of intense and unstable relationships. This may be within friendships, family relationships, or romantic relationships. People with BPD are known to have love-hate or push-and-pull relationships, which rapidly alternate between intense positive and negative feelings .
Partly of this instability is due to an intense fear of abandonment, which is a common symptom of BPD. The fear of abandonment can cause people with BPD to make extreme efforts to convince others not to leave or reject them. Extreme efforts might include making excessive attempts at communicating via text or calls, trying to communicate at inappropriate times of the day or night, or making threats of self-harm should the person leave them .
Individuals with BPD might also be intensely loving or doting on their friend or partner, to the point of becoming clingy. Then, the intense love can suddenly switch to anger or anxiety, causing outbursts of verbal or physical aggression or emotional and physical withdrawal.
These extreme mood swings and varying interactions can cause partners or friends of people with BPD to feel very confused, frustrated, or physically and emotionally hurt. The symptoms of BPD can make it very difficult for loved ones to know how best to communicate .
As people with BPD struggle with emotional regulation and interpersonal relationships, learning how to communicate with them can be beneficial. You can say several things to someone with BPD that may be helpful or supportive.
Showing that you recognize and acknowledge their feelings can help your loved one to feel validated and heard. This can help to reduce any negative emotions or fears that they are unloved. You can also offer them support and an opportunity to discuss their feelings .
Sometimes, someone with BPD might make assumptions or jump to conclusions about how someone else feels about them. For example, an unanswered call could cause them to believe you don’t like them anymore or are trying to ignore them. In this example, it might help to clarify when you are busy or why you can’t communicate with them .
Again, it can be common for someone with BPD to feel that they are being ignored if a text message or call is unanswered. This can cause false assumptions or anxiety about being rejected and abandoned. As such, try to communicate and respond when they contact you.
However, responding should be at a time that is appropriate for you. You don’t have to feel pressured to respond when you are busy or throughout the night .
Encouraging someone with BPD to utilize therapeutic skills can be very helpful in managing their emotional regulation. They may have learned skills and techniques through therapy or personal research. You could suggest practicing these techniques together to help them feel supported, motivated, and cared for .
It can be reassuring for someone with BPD to receive compliments or signs of love. Recognizing or thanking them for their actions will help them feel appreciated. Similarly, it can be helpful for them to receive praise or gestures of love, to confirm that they are cared for and reduce fears of abandonment .
Emotional lability is common in people with BPD, which can cause rapid mood swings and intensely negative emotions. Communicating with them calmly and kindly can help reduce the intensity of negative emotions and provide a calm and supportive environment .
It can be challenging to say no to someone with BPD, as it may result in anger, hurt, resentment, or fear of abandonment. However, it is vital that you form and maintain your boundaries for your well-being by doing the following :
Being transparent and direct about your needs can help prevent confusion around a situation. If you are saying ‘no,’ try not to leave room for interpretation, such as saying ‘I’m not sure’ or being indecisive with your answer. It can make it easier to understand the response if it is clearly expressed.
Try to be clear about why you are saying no, to prevent the person with BPD from making assumptions or feeling that they are being left out or abandoned. It can help to frame it from your perspective, such as saying ‘I feel…’ rather than putting the focus on them.
To help prevent feelings of rejection, try suggesting an alternative arrangement or idea. This can help demonstrate that you want to support your loved one and spend time with them on another occasion, but it is not possible this time.
If the person with BPD becomes upset or angry when you say no, you could offer to talk about it with them. Ask them how they feel about this happening and if there is anything they or you could do to help them feel better about it.
It can help to be consistent with your responses, so the person with BPD knows what to expect, such as the specific suggestions or circumstances you will decline. Consistent responses can be especially helpful in managing episodes of anger.
For example, you may wish to state that you will always walk away from them if they begin to shout at you, but that you will return and communicate with them when they stop shouting. This can help to prevent them from feeling abandoned when you walk away, allow you to protect your well-being, and give a clear message about the type of communication you will not accept.
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