Dating someone with BPD?
February 26, 2007 8:15 AM   Subscribe

Just starting to date someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, please help.

I am not 100% sure that I can continue to deal with this. As someone who grew up around an unpredictable and emotionally and physically abusive mother, I'm fairly used to chaos and irrationality from people close to me, but I've never had to deal with any where close to this from somebody I've been in a relationship with.

She seems to have it more or less under control, except when she drinks. I didn't really get this until the second time we went out drinking and it ended in tears and accusations.

But even when she is not drinking, there is a constant "Love Me, Leave Me" struggle where she is demanding of constant affirmations of her worth and if I don't respond (and even if I do respond), it ends up with her saying how worthless she is, I don't love her enough and that I'm going to leave her.

Almost anything seems to set her off, and anything I say to fix it only makes it worse.

Generally, my attitude with anyone like this is to just fold up and ignore the situation, tell her she's being silly and go off to be by myself until she calms down, but I gather one symptom of BPD is severe fear of rejection, so every time I do this, she acts like I just broke up with her.

I don't know if I can deal with this for too much longer. Can someone tell me if this gets better as you stay in the relationship, or is this something I'm going to have to deal with indefinitely? I've only been dating her for a little over a month, so this is something I can put up with for a while if she's going to calm down later.

But if this is never going to get better, I feel like I should just get out now.

Has anyone else here dated someone with BPD before?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (68 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Get out now. You have a get out of jail free card - you have only been dating a month and you are rightly wondering if you can go the distance. It may get better for a while, but it may also get much, much worse. You can find someone you like who is more stable and doesn't have these kinds of problems.

Also, the drinking is a red flag. Leave!
posted by zia at 8:34 AM on February 26, 2007

Never dated one. Seen lots professionally. They tend to be as or more destructive to individual and group relationships and group dynamics than alcoholics and sociopaths.

I truly would not understand if someone recommended anything to you short of getting as far from this person as quickly as possible. You will not be able to 'change' them through any action of your own. So take the worst you have seen so far and multiply it ten fold, and then add in a complete loss of contact with your family and friends who will likely cut off all but the most basic contact once they are sufficiently demonized by this person.

Learn and move on. Get professional help if necessary, given your background. There may be something in you that is attracted to this sort of person.
posted by docpops at 8:35 AM on February 26, 2007 [4 favorites]

Almost anything seems to set her off, and anything I say to fix it only makes it worse.

Do not date crazy people. Be nice and try to be as gentle when you break up, but she has issues that you can't or don't want to cope with them. And that's ok.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:35 AM on February 26, 2007 [7 favorites]

I haven't dated anybody with BPD, but I do know that the first few months of a relationship is when everybody is on their best behavior and trying the hardest.

If things are this bad already, don't count on things magically getting better without something else (new medications?) changing. That way lies the river Denial.

One thing you may want to spend time on, afterwards, is asking yourself what warning signs might have been present, what drew you to someone so closely resembling your mother in the chaotic, dramatic behavior, and how to check yourself from doing this to yourself again.
posted by canine epigram at 8:36 AM on February 26, 2007

If the second date ends up in tears and accusations, there usually isn't a third date. I'm hearing a lot about how crazy this person is, but nothing about how awesome they are--maybe you should ask yourself why you made the effort to go on a third date.
posted by DU at 8:37 AM on February 26, 2007

This will not get better, and likely will get worse. How do you know she has BPD? Was it actually diagnosed or does she just fit the pattern? Assuming that it actually is BPD (and I'm not doubting that it is, a lot of people have personality disorders), here is what I know about it:

Personality disorders are different from other mental health issues. Under the axis system of classifying mental health issues, Axis I = Primary psychological diagnosis; Axis II = Personality disorders; Axis III = Medical diagnosis; Axis IV = Life stressors; Axis V = Global Assessment of Functioning.

So, a personality disorder is a whole different thing from, say, depression or other psychological diagnosis. The big difference is that personality disorders don't respond to medication the way something like depression does. People with personality disorders are really resistant to change. Some people do manage to overcome it, but they are rare and can only happen if the person really, really wants to do it. And that doesn't happen too often.

Please get out. You deserve better. One huge red flag for me is this: "As someone who grew up around an unpredictable and emotionally and physically abusive mother..." You deserve way better. And the problem with being close to someone with BPD is that you fall down the rabbit hole. You get so sucked in that you lose your objectivity and end up walking on eggshells all the time.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:40 AM on February 26, 2007 [9 favorites]

This is probably going to be a tough slog for you if you're childhood is as you describe.

I have no diagnostic conjectures to offer about your girlfriend, but I will say that the difficulty with Borderline Personality Disorder and the people who suffer from it is that it does not "get better" in response to the things which might normally ameliorate insecurity or existential fears of abandonment. That's what makes it a disorder.

Which is not to say that it isn't possible for folks with Borderline Personality Disorder to improve their behavior and outlook, it is possible, but it takes a lot of desire to change and a lot of work at changing.
posted by OmieWise at 8:41 AM on February 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

I had a couple of years of dating a girl with this disorder - my advice is to get out now. it doesn't get better - it gets worse. The more you get to know her, the more the BPD starts to effect you yourself - you end up losing friends, lacking trust in people, etc. And the worst thing is that nobody can understand what you're going through - it's an intimacy disorder, so anyone who doesn't know her intimately starts thinking that maybe YOU are the problem.

The emotional rollercoaster thing is fun for a while, but it'll make you crazy yourself in the end.
posted by dydecker at 8:42 AM on February 26, 2007 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry you're in a tough situtation but just looking at the related AskMe posts it looks like you're in for a tough ride. It's hard to guauge after just a month of dating if it'll be "worth it".

Was she officially diagnosed with BPD and is she getting treatment for it? I don't think you should be expected to fix anything (different from support, I think). If she's not even seeking any treatment I honestly think you're better off getting out now because there's no way it's going to "calm down" on its own. And given your history with your mom, I'd give yourself a break and find a girl without such serious issues.
posted by like_neon at 8:44 AM on February 26, 2007

I haven't dated someone with BPD, but a family member of my partner has it. This individual's romantic relationships tend to be rocky and short-lived, and all aspects of her life are full of drama.

My impression is that it does not "get better." She drops out of therapy, quits taking meds, moves to another town or another state... Anyone who is contemplating a serious involvement with her would have to take on some incredible challenges.
posted by Robert Angelo at 8:46 AM on February 26, 2007

No BPD experience here, but don't stay in the relationship if you're this unsure at the beginning. I've been through the paces of staying in a relationship because you think it will hurt the other person too much if you leave. It is not worth it, to you or to your partner. In the end, I realized I was using that as an excuse so I wouldn't have to deal with ending it. Different circumstances, but it boiled down to the fact that she was generally unhappy and irrational, and nothing I did seemed to help. You do not want to spend any significant portion of your life basing your happiness on a person with an emotional/psychological disorder.

On preview, the "walking on eggshells" comment by selfmedicating is exactly what I had. You end up not being yourself so you don't accidentally set off something that is not based on logic in the first place. We had a shared group of friends, and they all realized how much more relaxed I was when the girlfriend wasn't around, despite the fact that they were her friends as well.
posted by shinynewnick at 8:47 AM on February 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

It wont get better as long as you reinforce her behavior. She's seeking people, like you, who will support her manic behavior, and if you don't (or leave her), she's probably going to make your life as dramatic as possible, then find somebody else with whom she can act out her need to manipulate people. This person is probably a psychic vampire, and you should run like crazy.
posted by baphomet at 8:47 AM on February 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Does she sleep very lightly, with her eyes open even? Is she sensitive to light? (ie, keeps the curtains closed at home?) I read somewhere that these little things are associated with BDP.
posted by dydecker at 8:50 AM on February 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

She will never get better. She may seem to be better for a day, a week, a month...but it will not be real. Get out now. ESPECIALLY with a history of abuse, it will be very tempting for you to "make it work." Don't do it. And be very careful when you break up with her-- she may make suicidal gestures. Be firm and don't become her caretaker. If you believe she really may hurt herself refer her to her family or a professional.
posted by miss tea at 8:51 AM on February 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yeah, if you've got the inner constitution to not reinforce her behaviors and just compassionately stand by as she denigrates herself, I suppose you could try to stick it out.

But really that's not fun for most people. And it already bothers you, a month in, get out.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 8:53 AM on February 26, 2007

An important factor to remember is people with BPD generally seek out emotionally abusive narcissists. Some also get better when they reach their 30s.
posted by meta x zen at 8:57 AM on February 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

It's something you have to deal with indefinitely, but it is something that can get better. BPD is an extremely treatable disorder if the person gets help.

Comments of 'crazy people' and 'psychic vampire' in this thread are a good example of the discrimination against BPD, which reaches even into therapeutic circles. Be sure that your own assessment of the situation is based on her own merits and your own experience, not bias.
posted by By The Grace of God at 9:02 AM on February 26, 2007 [6 favorites]

I dated someone with this disorder-then I married him. It does not get better. Perhaps with really really good therapy, but it is a hard journey to travel with someone.

Also, if you are hoping for children someday, you do not want this person to mother your children. It is very hard on the kids and not fair to them.
posted by Jandasmo at 9:02 AM on February 26, 2007

Do Not Date Crazy People.

Being someone who struggles with the type of problems that your girlfriend does (I'm fucking crazy, too) Please Follow BB's advice.

Regardless that you are re-living your relationship with you mother with this woman and that that feels good and comfortable to be with someone crazy ... Leave. You can't change her. And the more enmeshed you become the more gut wrenching it will be to leave her.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 9:05 AM on February 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Wow Meta X Zen interesting infopoint. My sister in law has BPD and made a mess of everyone she went out with. Two years ago (she turned 38) she met one of the sweetest men I have had the pleasure of knowing. They got married recently. Since she met him there have been no outbursts and she appears to be trying to repair the damage caused to several key relationships in her life. We are all walking on eggshells waiting for the next explosion but as the months go on and nothing happens we have started to relax a bit and wonder/hope if maybe this time.....

To the poster my SIL never drank, to me this sounds like a recipe for disaster. Get out now.
posted by Wilder at 9:11 AM on February 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Factsheet on treatment options for BPD. Treatment options.
posted by By The Grace of God at 9:11 AM on February 26, 2007

Some also get better when they reach their 30s.

I thought it was forties?

I remember saying as much to the Student Health Services when getting my Valium refilled when I was daft enough to date one.

His exact response is lost to time, but it was certainly along the lines of GET OUT.

It's nice that there're names now for the various types of assholic behaviour, but it doesn't mean anybody has to put up with it.

Ending the relationship got quite a lot of drama, too, including a public post claiming HIV+ status. (He wasn't, of course. But it was still no fun waiting for my test results.) Offer a polite good-bye and change your phone number at the first sign of trouble. There will be no calming down; you'll just get dragged in deeper the longer it goes on. And don't waste any time wondering if it's anything to do with you; thanks to the public histrionics, I eventually heard from other women who had dated or were dating him, and some worried peripheral friends of said women. Also not fun.
posted by kmennie at 9:14 AM on February 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

ahem, for everyone who says "She'll NEVER get better" I gotta say that's pretty harsh and may even be inaccurate. This is not advice saying stick it out, indeed you are most likely best served by leaving the relationship.
I know of a couple who have been married 13 + years, the lady has BPD (officially diagnosed and everything), and was pretty bad off for a few years. the difference is she DID want to change and did some pretty tough work to arrive at a point where she has been stable for quite awhile now. The fellow was able to provide the needed support and incentive she needed. But, it wasn't easy by any means, his outlook was that as long as she was honestly trying to make her life better it was worth it.
This is a person who sounds like she is not even trying, and is engaging in activities, such as getting drunk, that make the situation worse, so yeah perhaps it is best to move on.

Incidentally, if everyone followed the "don't date crazy people" rule the world would be 1) A lot more depressing, and 2) no one would date.
posted by edgeways at 9:15 AM on February 26, 2007 [6 favorites]

Run screaming. One of my formerly good friends has BPD. Her ex-b/f is now one of my good friends. We don't talk to her any more. Flat-out fucking insane. She will try your sanity. She will threaten to kill herself (but in the end, she's far to selfish to do such a thing). Get away. Now.
posted by notsnot at 9:18 AM on February 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

I would advise you to run far, far away from anyone complaining that you "don't love them enough" after one month of dating, regardless of their diagnosed mental state.
posted by CRM114 at 9:21 AM on February 26, 2007 [5 favorites]

As another data point in the sea of voices, I knew a girl with BPD in college, who left a wake of destruction behind her the likes of which I've never seen. She was alternately extremely fun to be around, and an emotional black hole. It's very easy to get sucked in by some of the positive aspects of the disorder, but you of course know what happens when she swings from hot to cold. Seriously, it's too much of a risk, and too likely to end badly for all parties involved--you've still got an easy out, in that you've not been dating for so awful long, and it's probably not going to get better long-term.
posted by Mayor West at 9:21 AM on February 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I dated a girl for almost a year who was never diagnosed as such, but definitely admittedly hit 7 or 8 of the 9 in the DSM IV.

It was very, very hard to date someone who could be absolutely virulent, cruel and shockingly disproportionate to things that should not have been issues. It was also not fun to have to pull the knife away from her throat, take the pills away from her, encourage her to stop making herself throw up, or have to listen to her cut herself over the phone, when she was far enough away that there wasn't something easy to be done about it.

She got better in her next relationship, relatively speaking, but still exhibited some of those behaviors, and they came out frequently as a stress management thing, which was unfortunate, because she liked to push herself to the max. She would complain about being "broken," but would go for a period of time without having much trouble at all.

I think she's settled down more. That was also her last year in high school/first year in college, and she seems to have a better grip on things, but I'm not dating her now, and the guy after me complained of many of the same things. Self-destructive, virulent behavior out of nowhere, and more drama than should ever be sane.

Just know that people like that have the capacity to hurt you in ways you wouldn't otherwise think. (This isn't to say people without BPD don't, as that's clearly not the case. It's more to imply that they're a higher risk of truly cutting deep with you—I've never had someone hurt me with words quite so deeply.)

It's not something that's easily fixable, but that's especially the case if they won't admit there's an issue and talk to someone about it. And I don't know if it's your job to point out to the new girlfriend that you kind of think she's a bit psychotic and wouldn't she mind seeing a therapist to talk about her problems. Perhaps you can exit gracefully, but there's a fair chance that you don't want to leave at all. Take a deep breath, look at how severe things are, and if they might be manageable, think baby steps. Don't treat her as a project, but if you can't get her help, it will either not change at all, or take a very long time to change, and it'll be a horrible trip along the way, sprinkled with a few amazing times.

They're not enough for you to stay, though. There are passionate, funny and unique girls out there that aren't actually psychotic. Everyone loves a *little* bit of crazy. BPD isn't just a little bit. It's the whole bucket of nuts. You can find someone stable who impresses you just the same. And if you don't have to go through 14 months of hell to find that out, you're much better off for it.
posted by disillusioned at 9:24 AM on February 26, 2007 [3 favorites]

Sorry to agitate you, edgeways. I'm just speaking from my experience. And my naiveté on the subject has long since washed away in my destroying friendships and relationships with people I care about and my family.

Sure, people get better. And if you want the original poster to bank his/her emotional well-being on that until g/f gets better, just seems like bad advice to me.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 9:29 AM on February 26, 2007

She behaves in ways you don't like, so break up with her.

It doesn't really matter why your new girlfriend behaves in ways you don't like.

Maybe she has BPD and at some level can't help it. Maybe her childhood was fucked-up and the behavior you don't like is how she learned to deal with it. Maybe she's just a cast-iron bitch for no obvious reason. Maybe she has cancer or some other terrible disease and the behavior springs in some way from that.

Why doesn't matter. The simple fact of the behavior you don't like is a good-enough reason to split. You're not obligated to put up with behavior you don't like just because it might be rooted in some sort of disorder. Certainly not from a new boyfriend or girlfriend, anyway.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:32 AM on February 26, 2007 [5 favorites]

I don't know if I can deal with this for too much longer.

Since the "Get out NOW!!" side has been sufficiently covered, I'll play Devil's advocate and suggest that what you're feeling is probably shared, at some stage, by everybody who dates a BPD patient — including those whose relationships are ultimately successful.
posted by cribcage at 9:32 AM on February 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Has anyone else here dated someone with BPD before?

Yes, I have. And let me assure you that I will never do that again. You got your death. You got your taxes. You got the fact that I would never date a woman with BPD again, even if she were the most beautiful, brilliant woman on this good green earth and even if my decision not to pursue her caused me no end of pain and regret

It isn't worth it. It will not get better. You will not fix her.

I'm fairly used to chaos and irrationality from people close to me

Me too. I didn't grow up in the healthiest of families either. But it's important to realize that grownups don't actually act that way. Grownups develop nuanced views of other people and themselves. Grownups don't reduce people to All Good and All Bad. The fact that you're used to something doesn't make it right or healthy. Why not become the kind of person who's used to people treating him with respect, consistency and affection?
posted by jason's_planet at 9:38 AM on February 26, 2007 [4 favorites]

I recently read a book called _Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Love Has Borderline Personality Disorder_, by Paul T. Mason and Randi Kreger, c1998.

Kreger dated a man with BPD for a couple of years. After getting out of the relationship and learning a lot in the process of healing the personal trauma caused by it, she wrote this book with a therapist who specializes in treating people with BPD. The book is very readable, very practical and helpful, and compassionate toward people with BPD. Anyone in a relationship with a BPD person could learn a lot from this book. It doesn't let the non-BPD person off the hook. They generally make mistakes in the relationship that can make things worse, which is why it's important to read the book.
posted by onemorething at 9:43 AM on February 26, 2007 [3 favorites]

YoBananaBoy: I didn't advise for the OP to stick it out, quite the opposite. I did mention an instance that shows, at least for some, the symptoms of BPD can be controlled.

I'm sorry you have had such a rough experience, and hope things get better for you.
posted by edgeways at 9:53 AM on February 26, 2007

I think this would be a different question if you'd been together for a couple of years, or if you had a kid, or if you were trying to decide how much more of your energy to invest in a psychologically damaged family member.

Yes, it's possible that with a huge amount of focus, effort, and desire, she may be able to get better. But you've only been with her for a month. A month into a relationship, you should be thinking about suprise picnics, sweet, dorkiy little gifts, and where you'll go when you're ready for your weekend away together. You shouldn't be thinking about mitigating damage and what her long-term psychiatric prognosis is.

This is too much, too soon. You should get out, and (even though it's 99.999% likely you won't need it) you should familiarize yourself with your town's procedure for getting a Domestic Violence Restraining Order and/or a Stalking Order. Just in case.

Best of luck.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 9:55 AM on February 26, 2007

I have to add, and perhaps this will be deleted. I fully understand where everyone is coming from and find no fault with the advice to leave, but it does make me sad.
posted by edgeways at 9:56 AM on February 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Just adding to the chorus. My brother was married to a woman with BPD for eight long, tough, horrible years. They were constantly "working on their relationship," and nothing he could do was ever enough. Things never got better. She was threatened by everything, resented the presence of the rest of our family, and constantly shifted moods to remain at the center of attention. By the end, they were each seeing therapists several times a week, and were miserable.

This is a very insidious, persistent illness. At this point you have very little invested in this relationship. You cannot fix this person, and she will not get better without significant help and commitment.
posted by mosk at 10:51 AM on February 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

I have seen two people with BPD up close. My impression in both cases was there was nothing, nothing, nothing that could be done by romantic partners to help them. (Both had other problems with men, beyond the BPD, so my sample isn't pure. Friends could help a bit, therapists could help a bit, but part of the BPD was that all interactions with romantic partners would be crazy in the ways you describe -- regardless of how kind, stable, etc the partners were.) I realize that's a horrrrrrible thing to say, and I agree with edgeways that it's sad. But with the two women I knew, they were like avalanches. There were two options available to romantic partners: (A) try to stand with them, and be destroyed yourself while not actually helping, and (B) get out.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:02 AM on February 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

It sounds terrible, but run run run! Fast! Pretty much everyone will say the same thing. It makes me feel bad because you know.. people really can't help being.. ill/troubled/disturbed/crazy. Whatever one wishes to call them.

But really.. for your own good, stay away from her.

Also.. I want to make it clear to people that there is nothing you can do to help someone. It is not your job to "fix" them. It's not even possible. So please do not be sucked into thinking that you can be a hero.
posted by VegaValmont at 11:11 AM on February 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

And when you do break up, prepare for the campaign of disinformation. It is extremely common for people with BPD to do stuff like report you for "abusing" them, spread vicious rumors among your friends, or call up your exes and tell them that you have some nasty STD.
posted by selfmedicating at 11:19 AM on February 26, 2007

Damn, she must be the hottest woman ever (or Ms. Spears) if you don't see those things as an immediate deal-breaker.
posted by klangklangston at 11:40 AM on February 26, 2007

I dated a BPD man for about eight months, which were eight of the most painful, confusing, isolating and traumatic months of my life. He was on his best behavior for the first month, which lured me in but good. After that, the drinking and drama and lying started up and never, ever got any better. I was so blindsighted by it, so unable to disentangle myself, that I couldn't see what was happening and get out sooner. It was the worst relationship I have ever had and if I could go back and prevent it from happening, I would in a heartbeat.

You can't fix it. She can't even fix it. You'd do yourself good to detach and exit the scene. And by detach, I mean disengage emotionally so that the ensuing drama is minimized. There will be drama, but if you're less emotionally invested with this particular brand of crazy, it will make it easier for you to get away with a minimum of damage to your life.

Treat this thread as a gift that you might escape and not go through what some of us have who have been in your posisition. Good luck to you.
posted by hollisimo at 11:48 AM on February 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Maybe you're hesitating because you want to be fair or to do the right thing. But forget the diagnosis and don't blame alcohol, either -- base your decision on what she does and the way she treats you. The reason it will get worse: she will find out more about you and will know exactly which buttons to push. And the more involved you get, the more comfortable she will feel showing her true, manipulative self.

My husband's sister has BPD. People who work with her, and those outside the family, think she's a lovely person. As soon as my husband and I announced we were getting married, the sister began treating me like one of the family -- and it got continually worse until a therapist helped my husband and me to set extremely strict limits. A person with BPD can control her own behavior when necessary. But with those closest to her, she will act abusive and irrational.

A couple of books you might look at: Stop Walking on Eggshells and I Hate You, Don't Leave Me.
posted by wryly at 12:02 PM on February 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

BPD is tricky, unpleasant and generally something you don't want in your life. Get out now while it's easy for you. BPD people are very very manipulative and put simply it's going to be bad for you to allow yourself in that situation for very long
posted by singingfish at 12:15 PM on February 26, 2007

I want to make it clear to people that there is nothing you can do to help someone.

That's simply not true. And if you are indeed, as you wrote, "20 years old with not even one relationship under [your] belt," then perhaps you ought to reconsider whether you have anything valuable to contribute to threads like these.

While I tend to agree with the majority's notion that the OP should walk away (based on what he wrote), I don't agree with the hyperbole. People seem to be suggesting that BPD patients are flawed persons who should be constrained from romantic attachment altogether. I find that offensive — but more to the point, it's unrealistic.

People do get better. It happens both with and without clinical help. Also, mental illness is not a binary state: There are varying degrees of BPD, and just because MeFiUser246 married a severe and incurable case doesn't mean there's any reason to believe that this girl's condition isn't relatively mild. (For that matter, I didn't notice the OP use the word "diagnosed.")

I don't mean to derail. Based on the the OP wrote, I tend to agree that "Leave" is good advice. "Never date anyone with BPD," however, is naive and short-sighted advice — and "There is nothing you can do to help anyone, ever" is just flat-out wrong.
posted by cribcage at 12:18 PM on February 26, 2007 [6 favorites]

Has anyone else here dated someone with BPD before?
I am in a relationship with someone who matches a lot of the criteria for BPD. We've been living together for six years, and I'm only just now moving out again and getting a place to live of my own. It is indeed traumatic, almost every day. Tears, accusations, violence, isolation from friends, suspicion, etc. are all part of it. Luckily, she doesn't read AskMe or my work email. If you stay together, you'll be hurt horribly, and so will she. She doesn't want to, but it will happen.

We started together from a good point: I really admired her honesty about her feelings and her determination and intelligence. Maybe BPD comes along with some of these things; the honesty-to-a-fault seems to be related to seeing things in absolutes. Her determination and drive have gotten her- in the six years we've been together- from greasy-spoon waitress to multi-millionaire. We used to take the bus together; now she flies in her company's jet. She's an amazing person, under all that trouble and pain. Or because of it.

The other related AskMe threads mention that a lot of it comes from childhood- I agree. A father's suicide, a childhood rape, and parental emotional abuse and physical neglect all really messed her up. And despite the pain and broken dishes, I wouldn't trade her for anyone. We may not be able to stay together, but it won't be for lack of trying. I've almost given up and disappeared a hundred times, but I've always stuck it out, misguided or not.

If your relationship is more casual than this, GET OUT. If she really is the most amazing and complex person you've ever met, maybe try to help her out with some therapeutic suggestions, and come back later. But don't get into it with someone who's not improving. Don't be a martyr, and don't be her therapist.
posted by wzcx at 1:00 PM on February 26, 2007 [4 favorites]

You know, cribcage, I get where you're coming from. But the OP didn't ask whether his girlfriend should have romantic relationships in general-- he asked whether he should stay with her. And statistically, "recovery" from BPD is very rare, and when it occurs, it takes a lot of effort from not only the sufferer, but from his or her loved ones.

So yeah, it's reasonable advice to tell someone not to date someone with BPD, especially before he or she becomes enmeshed with that person. I don't think it minimizes the impressive efforts some BPD sufferers have made, or their potential for recovery, to say that.
posted by miss tea at 1:02 PM on February 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

In 1999 I dated a guy who confessed he was as well but that he "always took his medication." I felt badly for him and was determined to be understanding. My dad was bipolar and this guy seemed much more aware and as though he was trying really hard. I liked him a lot & admired that.

Well, about the time he started hearing voices talking to him from the piano I realized I was in way over my head. I ran. Fast. I felt guilty because I liked him, but we had only been dating 2 weeks and I could tell that it was only going to get worse. I knew he would pull me down with him because I was emotionally attached.

I talked to him on the phone about a year later. When I hung up, I realized that I had definitely made the smartest decision I could've ever possibly made. After hearing the details of his life since we'd broken up (drama I was happily absent for), he tried to ask me out again. I politely declined with no regrets. To quote earlier in this thread "Do not date toxic/crazy people." It's really not worth the drama. Sane people are crazy enough.

You cannot change other people, you can only control how you react to them. It's good to care about someone else's problems & want to help them, but always try to choose a path that doesn't turn you into a victim or make collateral damage of your own life.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:43 PM on February 26, 2007 [4 favorites]

A close friend who was a psychotherapist for years, worked with addicts and broken and abused women and people with various disabilities told me that BPD is the most difficult to treat, and that many psychotherapists will not work with that population, it's just too difficult and too heartbreaking and too often unsuccessful. They demand an entirely different form of psychotherapy than used with other people, you can't talk about feelings with them, you can't allow them an inch or you'll end up in their drama and trauma and next thing you know you're nuttier than they are.

It's not their fault, btw, be perfectly clear that this is not her fault, and have compassion for her, love even. But not romantic love. Love as a friend, love as a brother, love as a compassionate person. The people in this thread who have maybe sounded hard-hearted are probably not hard-hearted, just concerned for your well-being, and many of them with hard experience with people who are afflicted with BPD. It can be, mostly is, a nightmare, in my experience.

One of the bravest souls I've ever known was alcoholic, drug addicted, confused and totally overwhelmed by what was happening to him. When he was told of his diagnosis, and his prognosis (not good - as noted in this thread, you've not only want to get better with all your might but also have to be given great care, and it's a life-long process), he gave it his all, he really tried to get better. He was smart, tough, determined, good-hearted, helpful when he could be - he'd give you his shirt. We talked about it a lot - too much, of course, and I often left totally empty and trashed, that whole vampire thing others have related - and in these conversations it became clear that he knew what he was up against and really wanted to change himself. But he couldn't. And he wasn't able to stay clean and sober, he ended up dead of an overdose two years ago, forty years old. He had helped many people, best as he could, he was loved by many, his funeral was well attended by many in his AA recovery community and many in his family, his life wasn't a failure but it was I think a tragedy. He is a model of courage to me - he fought the good fight - and a reminder of how powerless people can be in the face of illnesses and lifes difficulties. I miss him.

Anyways. To you. To your question, to your problem. I'm in agreement with most in here - get out. Get away, also, unless you're really, really strong, and willing and able to defend your self against the almost certain games which will come at you at any time, for any reason or none at all. I'm in agreement with those who've said to break with compassion ie love, but if you can't do it that way do it in any way you can, if she won't let you off the hook get off the hook anyways. While she won't want to hear it, you can help her by letting her know why you are out the door; it maybe will help her in someday deciding to push against the tide of her situation, to fight the good fight.

I wish you peace. Good luck, to you and to her.
posted by dancestoblue at 1:50 PM on February 26, 2007 [4 favorites]

You have the advantage of realizing how irreparably messed up she is early on in the relationship, and before she's done something like get herself pregnant to prevent you from leaving her.

Get out now. If you don't, you have only yourself to blame when she ruins your life.
posted by Dasein at 2:00 PM on February 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

If you leave, don't feel bad about it - people will have left her many, many times before and she'll get over it pretty quick. Like maybe even in a day. I once had a conversation with my BPD girlfriend about how I'd had a falling out with my friend and I was pretty cut up about it - she had zero sympathy, acted like I was talking about how my toaster broke. People with BDP think it's completely normal to have clean breaks with people. She'll just get up, go on with her life. The one who'll be left with the pain is you, because you'll have had to give up the good things about her. She won't feel a thing.
posted by dydecker at 2:28 PM on February 26, 2007 [4 favorites]

I don't know that it's fair to say she won't feel a thing. She is a human being and all people are different, BPD or no. Some are more sensitive and some are less so. The main point here is simply that it's your job to take care of YOU before you can go about taking care of anyone else. With someone who has BPD, your well being can almost become superfluous as their issues take over everything, all the time. And that's not a healthy or fun way to live. Period. Her BPD is not her fault, but unfortunately it's her cross to bear for the rest of her life. It's not yours, though.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:57 PM on February 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

told me that BPD is the most difficult to treat, and that many psychotherapists will not work with that population, it's just too difficult and too heartbreaking and too often unsuccessful. They demand an entirely different form of psychotherapy than used with other people, you can't talk about feelings with them,

This just isn't true, and it's a horrible way to think and talk about a whole group of people, mostly women, who've frequently been the victims of tremendous abuse. Mental health professionals who "won't work with borderlines" are bad mental health professionals. The types of boundaries and therapies that are appropriate with all patients are also appropriate with patients with borderline personality disorder.

I'm a psychotherapist.

The diagnosis here is really a separate issue from the behavior and whether or not the questioner should be with his girlfriend.
posted by OmieWise at 6:23 PM on February 26, 2007 [8 favorites]

If she's not actively seeking help for the condition, it probably won't get better. My ex-girlfriend has been in DBT for about a year and a half, and it's made all the difference in the world with her. I broke up with her long before she started seeing a therapist, and she did exactly the "love me or leave me" thing you described.

Best of luck to you either way.
posted by honeydew at 7:20 PM on February 26, 2007

Has anyone else here dated someone with BPD before?

Yes. She was awesome in so many ways and it was a shame to have to end it. There was no way to work it out. Our own bad episodes paled compared to the trouble she got into on her own. I could tell many many colorful tales of woe about it all, but I won't. My conclusion was that she had a ton to work out for herself before a relationship was possible. I ended it quickly and cleanly without placing blame, and ultimately we remained friends. I'm glad, because I've been able to see her work and improve over the years since then. I don't think she blames me for breaking it off, and she even apologized unconditionally for all the trouble - years after it all went down. There is hope for her, but you can't fix this relationship and her all in one at this point.

If you are not married or parents, I would suggest withdrawing and trying to be a friend.

Drinking was a catalyst for trouble in my case, too. She could not be trusted around alcohol. Seriously, I would consider yourself potentially in danger if she's drinking.
posted by scarabic at 7:21 PM on February 26, 2007

cribcage, I don't need relationship experience to decide when a person can or cannot be helped. Helping someone isn't a relationship thing.

A person needs to help themselves. And then, sure you can be a part of that process. Whether you're a parent, a sibling, a lover or just a friend. But if a person is not willing to help themself then I do not believe it's possible to help them.

I once knew a guy who wasn't BPD.. actually he very well could be BPD. But that's not for me to diagnose since I'm not a psychiatrist/therapist/etc. He's certainly a troubled young man. In my opinion, he needs/needed help. But he did not seek it. Why? Money reasons, perhaps. But I'm convinced that even if he had the means he wouldn't go. And then what would I do? What could I do to help him? Nothing.
posted by VegaValmont at 8:35 PM on February 26, 2007

I was diagnosed with BPD in my late teens. I don't agree with everyone upthread who said she will never get better. I am now (AFAIK!) cured, but from what I hear, I am one of the lucky ones. I did want to chime in & tell you that her diagnosis does not doom her for life! In your particular situation, though, it is probably best to sever all ties. (Being that you don't know her very well & therefore don't have the history or deep love it will require to tolerate her.)

My previous two relationships were crippled by my BPD and try as I did to become healthy, it didn't work out whilst entangled in a romantic affair. I put both those guys through the ringer, but I am actually close friends with both of them now so I refute anyone who claims people with BPD are "psychic vampires forever". I understand why people might say that, and perhaps it's easier for one to believe that, than to cling on to the relatively slim chance that they'll recover, but it's simply not true.

I met my current partner when I considered myself pretty-much free of BPD behaviours – I was still a little loopy! But mostly in a harmless way – and I think it was with his support that I could watch myself become 100% free of it. We have been together three years with no problems. I am 24, so people can obviously grow out of it before their thirties.

If you're interested, you should read Sometimes I Act Crazy by Kreisman & Straus, which has some up-to-date advice that helped both me, and my current boyfriend. I can't tell what type of person you are, e.g., how compassionate you are etc., but I would urge you to take a look at this book and then make up your mind whether to "run for the hills" or not.

Although I do tend to agree with what canine epigram said, "I haven't dated anybody with BPD, but I do know that the first few months of a relationship is when everybody is on their best behavior and trying the hardest... If things are this bad already, don't count on things magically getting better without something else (new medications?) changing."

In my relationships, it did take me a good few months before I started with the craziness. So that's not a good sign.

p.s. FWIW, I was also a severe case, not a mild case.
posted by mjao at 8:48 PM on February 26, 2007 [7 favorites]

My ex was diagnosed with BPD after we'd been together about 6 months. Her doctor asked me how long we'd been together, and advised me that it would be a long road ahead— his actual words were "she will probably never change, and if you aren't very committed, then I'd suggest breaking it off, or at least that you have a serious think about whether you really can put up with her."

I judged that to be a pretty unprofessional remark. I was in love, and thought I could make it work. I stayed with her... two years down the line, we broke up, and as much as I hate to say it, in many ways, that doctor was right. That relationship destroyed my self esteem, and probably didn't help her in the slightest.

I reall hope whatever decision you make, good luck. Don't feel guilty if you decide to end it. I learnt the hard way that my self esteem is much more important to me than any body else's!
posted by indienial at 8:52 PM on February 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I was raised by a mother with an untreated personality disorder/severe depression. My childhood was marked with chaos, emotional and physical abuse and neglect. As a young woman, I found myself attracted to friendships and dating partners who possessed similar personality traits as my mother. The drama felt familiar and in a weird way, comfortable. It felt like home.

The combination of a person who has borderline and a person who was raised by a borderline can be really toxic.

I finally changed my dating behavior after a 3 year relationship with a BPD man who combined the psychological drama and jealousy with some physical violence and public humiliation. The breakup was horrific and I ended up relocating to another state.
posted by pluckysparrow at 10:10 PM on February 26, 2007

I had a good friend in college who had been diagnosed with BPD. Basically in a particularly self destructive episode, after her boyfriend had broken up with her, she decided that she 'deserved' to sleep with my boyfriend. Later discussing it with her face to face, she told me that other people's feelings didn't have any reality for her, and that she was sorry but she didn't think I'd mind. The conversation was like staring into a vacant abyss, where a person should be. The whole event, and aftermath of me trying to understand, was so traumatizing, that I assure you, I will never let someone with BPD be close to me ever again. Please don't let something like this happen to you.
posted by amileighs at 11:15 PM on February 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Are you stupid? Dump her, and forget about her.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 1:09 AM on February 27, 2007

Okay, all of you who say BPD = crazy can just jump off a cliff. I used to have BPD, and after therapy I no longer meet the criteria. I can safely say I am a whole different person now, and I can see exactly how I acted in the past and say, man, I had some problems. To say that people with BPD have no hope is just cruel.

To the OP, I say gently extract yourself if you feel you can't deal, and suggest she get some help. (But don't imply you'll come back if she gets therapy.) Be firm... don't come back if she begs... you'll only prove to her that if she begs a little harder, you will come back. But don't be mean about it... try to be gentle... "Now Sally, I asked you to stop calling me, you need to respect that." Get more firm after that if you have to.

I screwed up a lot of friendships and relationships when I had BPD, and from where I stand now (a much more healthy outlook), I am a little sad, but I can understand how suffocated they felt. I wish they could see me as I am now, but I won't go back and bother them.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:25 AM on February 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

After re-reading the thread a little more calmly...

BPD is borderline personality disorder, not bipolar disorder, to those of you talking about manic behavior - although they can be very similar. Here is a good page on the differences.

Dydecker - I have no idea where you're getting that. I read dozens of BPD books in my quest to get better, and I never read a single thing about being sensitive to light.

meta x zen - I think that's a bit of a stereotype, not necessarily true. Also, I don't think age alone is a factor in improving... if some people get better in their 30s, I think they've had life experiences to make them change.

By the Grace of God and Edgeways and OmieWise - thank you all so much for your breath of fresh air.

mjao - hi. Same boat.

It seems like there's a lot of misinformation floating around, and yes BPD is a hard road to travel... but please don't think it's easy for the person diagnosed with BPD. I sort of subscribe to the theory that personality disorders are caused more by environment than biology, so there is usually something that has caused a person to act this way. I am so grateful that I no longer meet any of the diagnostic criteria (met 8 when I was first diagnosed, you have to meet at least 5 at once to be diagnosed) and have a much healthier life... I am infinitely happier than I was before. I wanted to get better badly, and I put in the effort to do it.

Please, people, BPD is hard to deal with, but don't make it sound like it's impossible to get over... the BPD person has feelings too. Not all of us are "Flat-out fucking insane."

Get out early if you can, if you can't deal with it... I know I'm being a bit hypocritical since I know how much rejection hurts when you're BPD. The thing to understand is that YOU can't fix her, but it's not impossible for her to get better. But SHE has to want it and to put in the time and effort to go to therapy and understand the disorder.

And please don't think BPDers are all deliberately manipulative. I can now see how I manipulated people in the past, but I didn't realize I was doing it then.
posted by IndigoRain at 7:49 AM on February 27, 2007 [3 favorites]

Having re-read the thread several times and given myself time to calm down (I was having a bad day before I even started reading this thread, so you can imagine what the thread itself did), I'd like to say something from the perspective of someone currently diagnosed with several personality disorders, including borderline*. I was diagnosed as such two years ago, and have been in therapy for six months.

The people who say that borderlines don't feel a thing are talking unmitigated bullshit. Borderlines feel *everything* *very* strongly. I've been told by my psychiatrist (and read in several articles in online journals) that borderline personality disorder is the equivalent of emotional haemophilia. The WHO calls it 'emotionally unstable personality disorder', which is a bit more accurate in terminology. The tears and tantrums you see are all real, and are all genuinely felt. As a borderline, every painful emotion is so painful that Ican'tstandanothersecondofthisagonyandI'lldoanythingtogetoutofit! Which short-circuits the thinking process, and makes me likely to want to do stupid things without considering their effects on other people. A drowning person will push another swimmer under the water without thinking twice in their panicked attempts to get to the lifering. Borderline is the same thing - drowning in painful emotions.

The emotional roller-coaster is not manipulative. Borderlines are not manipulative. Manipulation is a deliberate act, not a reflex. Borderlines act the way they do in an attempt to defend themselves against abandonment. It is an ineffective defensive reaction that attempts to " relief from a painful illness through desperate behaviors which are reinforced by negative and distorted thinking."

But don't think for a second that I'm trying to tell you to stay with her. Quite apart from anything else, you staying in a relationship with her when you don't want to will be bad for her. Given that her illness makes her acutely sensitive to any hint from you that you're going to abandon her, then if you stay with her whilst wanting to leave, you're going to be constantly giving off the very signals that send her into a panic. If you want to leave her, then tell her so as soon as possible. She will feel the breakup as the most painful thing that has or will ever happen to her, pretty much however gently you try to tell her. If you think there's a risk she'll do something dangerous to herself, then you could ensure that someone (not you!) makes sure she isn't alone until the emotional storm calms a little and she can think straight again. If you intend to leave, there is no way to avoid this emotional storm. There is, however a way to avoid the constant eggshell-walking you'll be inflicting on her by telling her you'll stay whilst sending off "i'm going to leave you" signals, and that's breaking the relationship off as quickly as possible. Anything else would be sheer cruelty.

But once you have broken up with her, then you must be careful not to send mixed messages. As a borderline, whatever is happening *now* has a greater weighting on what happened before. If you told me yesterday that you hate me and never want to see me again, but this afternoon you smiled at me on the train, then I'm going to get confused and wonder whether I hallucinated yesterday altogether, so I'll respond to the smile as if yesterday didn't happen. Or I may even forget altogether that yesterday happened at all. So if you break up with her, stay broken up! Borderlines have a split in their thinking about other people - people are either all-good or all-bad. And they/I believe that other people think the same way. That's what leads to the stalker-like behaviour.

In summary, unless you are fully committed to working through this with her - and after only one month of the relationship there is no reason why you should be, and it's no ill reflection on you that you aren't - then you should break up with her as soon as possible. She needs help, and you are not it.

* The others include avoidant, depressive and subclinical obsessive-compulsive. But they're less relevant in this situation
posted by talitha_kumi at 9:25 AM on February 27, 2007 [10 favorites]

It gets worse.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:35 PM on February 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

This explains a lot for me. I was with someone who has BPD, but I didn't realize that. You have the benefit of a diagnoses. I knew there was something up, I knew about her incredibly abusive past and thought she may be manic depressive. It was difficult. We were together for 2 years. The first year we saw each other every day. She had come off a 10 year relationship. I though it was maybe because we met 2 months after her departure, she needed time.

I gave a lot of love and I have the patience of a saint, clearly. The 2nd year she moved across the country to take a position to further her career, we were on the phone everyday. I wanted to move too, but felt I was giving up everything and was getting nothing in return, so held off. When we hooked up traveling after 1/2 year, it was an odd trip. I was scratching my head wondering what the hell was going on¿ Why was she so nasty, uncompromising, wouldn't discuss what was on her mind... Anyone else would have cut the trip short and guessed there was nothing there anymore. But not me. I persisted.
That Christmas I got dumped. She flew into town and called me to tell me the relationship was over. That we argued too much. It was always due to her assumptions and how she took them as fact. Why would you think that, I always asked. She never did understand why.

I was beside myself with grief. I had two other major nasty strikes that Christmas too....
A long time afterwards, I came to realize that I never was treated as a friend by her. So I told her we aren't even friends, bye. Before she moved cross country, we were discussing her getting psychiatric help. That never happened.

I knew way deep down there was a good person, but was having a hard time coming out. What a perfect person for me otherwise.

I always wondered how an intelligent person would throw logic out the window when we had disagreements. I never understood why, but kept working at it.
I'm just sad for me and for her. My loss and the fact her life is not going to get any better. I'm afraid she'll run into violence and disappointment on the relationship front.
The fact I'm seeing a psychiatrist and am on meds due to my own mood disorder with a side of OCD, it was a confusing time.
Now I understand my gut feelings were correct and won't doubt myself ever again.
BPD don't realize the hurt they cause their loved ones and aren't aware. I'm afraid this'll translate to her work relationships and performance too...

She's one sad woman and I feel for her and understand, but this is no friend of mine. I can't believe how long I stuck it out. I was very much in love with this person, to be sure.
I wish she was well.
posted by alicesshoe at 1:02 PM on March 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

I dated someone with undiagnosed and untreated BPD for about 3 years. I can only echo what everyone else has said.

Get out.

It has only recently occurred to me that my relationship problems I have now are related to what I went through with her.

Every time I get close to starting a new relationship all the memories of nights wondering who she has slept with this time, or which new man is going to come and "sort me out" for "beating on her" come flooding back.

Relationships for me mean anxiety, drama, tears, unreasonable demands, guilt and threats (and attempts) of suicide when I try to leave.

I started the relationship with a reasonably good number of friends. Now I have none. She slept with the males and alienated the females. She told many of my friends that I beat her, which I never realised until reading this thread was common for people with BPD.

It’s not all bad news. My ex and I are still friends; she has been having regular psychotherapy, group counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and medication. She isn't cured, but she is 100% better than when we finally broke up (she left me once she had found someone new).

About a month into the relationship a work colleague told me to get out. She was right.

I can't say I regret everything, but it’s not the kind of relationship you want to be having if you can avoid it. You can. Get out.
posted by cornflake at 4:31 PM on March 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

I dated somebody with BPD for about 4 months. I wanted to rip my hair out every single day. I used to be a patient human being and trusted easily. She broke up with me after 4 months because I started scaring her according to her. She was in abusive relationships in the past according to her and she saw me in them when I would get upset after she would be irrational. The anger and frustration only builds more and more. It is very unhealthy. Her breaking up with me was the best thing in the world for me, but I have yet to realize it because I thought we were in love. She would accuse me of cheating on her every single day with no reason, proof, evidence. I wasnt cheating and I think she knew that, but she needed something as leverage so she could perpetuate the conflict. It turned out she was the one cheating on me. Remember that BPD's usually see themselves in others. It is not anything you are doing. If you cant convince this girl to get help then I suggest that you leave her. Things are only going to get worse. Nobody will think anything less of you. You deserve better.
posted by Friend Of Jesus at 1:10 PM on April 9, 2007

I've watched friends date people with BPD, and it was a disaster. They were much better equipped to deal with it than someone with your background, and it was still a problem.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:54 AM on May 27, 2007

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