Does My Spouse Have Borderline Personality Disorder?
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Does My Spouse Have Borderline Personality Disorder?

Spouses of individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) face unique challenges. They navigate a rollercoaster of emotions, impulsive behaviors, and intense interpersonal struggles. Coping with unpredictability, fear of abandonment, and communication difficulties can be emotionally taxing. However, with patience, empathy, and support, spouses can help their loved ones seek treatment and work together to build healthier, more stable relationships, fostering growth and understanding in the process.




Table of Contents

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What Is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?

What Would Happen If My Spouse Does Not Get Help For Their Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?

What Is It Like For Spouses of People with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?

How Do I Tell My Spouse I Think They Have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?






What Is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?


Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental health disorder characterized by pervasive patterns of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image, and emotions. People with BPD often experience intense and rapidly shifting emotions, making it challenging for them to regulate their feelings and reactions effectively. This disorder can significantly impact various aspects of a person’s life, including their relationships, work, and overall well-being.


Key features and symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder include:

  1. Intense and Unstable Relationships: Individuals with BPD often have difficulty maintaining stable and healthy relationships. They may idealize others one moment and then devalue them the next. This can lead to a pattern of intense, stormy relationships with frequent breakups and reconciliations.
  2. Unstable Self-Image: People with BPD may have a poorly defined or unstable sense of self. They may struggle with self-identity, self-worth, and self-esteem, leading to feelings of emptiness and identity confusion.
  3. Impulsive Behavior: Impulsivity is a common trait in BPD, which can manifest as reckless driving, substance abuse, binge eating, spending sprees, or other impulsive actions that can have negative consequences.
  4. Self-Harming Behavior: Many individuals with BPD engage in self-harming behaviors, such as cutting or burning, as a way to cope with emotional pain or regulate intense emotions.
  5. Emotional Instability: People with BPD often experience rapid and intense mood swings. They can go from extreme happiness to profound sadness or anger in a short period.
  6. Fear of Abandonment: Individuals with BPD often have an intense fear of abandonment, whether real or perceived. They may become extremely anxious or react strongly to any perceived threat of rejection or abandonment.
  7. Chronic Feelings of Emptiness: A pervasive sense of emptiness and boredom is a common feeling in those with BPD.
  8. Dissociation: Some individuals with BPD may experience episodes of dissociation, during which they feel disconnected from their thoughts, emotions, and even their own bodies.
  9. Difficulty with Anger: Managing anger can be challenging for people with BPD, leading to explosive outbursts or prolonged periods of anger.
  10. Paranoia or Brief Psychotic Episodes: In times of extreme stress, individuals with BPD may experience paranoid thoughts or brief episodes of psychosis.


The exact cause of Borderline Personality Disorder is not fully understood, but it is believed to result from a combination of genetic, neurological, and environmental factors. It often emerges in adolescence or early adulthood and can be diagnosed through a mental health evaluation conducted by a qualified mental health professional.


Treatment for BPD typically involves psychotherapy, particularly Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which focuses on emotional regulation and interpersonal skills. Medication may also be prescribed to manage specific symptoms or co-occurring conditions such as depression or anxiety. With appropriate treatment and support, many individuals with BPD can learn to manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.



Spouse Borderline BPD

Photo by Budgeron



What Would Happen If My Spouse Does Not Get Help For Their Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?


Untreated Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can inflict significant harm on individuals who suffer from the condition, as well as those in their immediate circle. The consequences of untreated BPD are wide-ranging and can affect various aspects of a person’s life.


First and foremost, untreated BPD leads to ongoing emotional suffering for the individual. The intense and rapidly shifting emotions characteristic of BPD, such as severe mood swings and chronic feelings of emptiness, can cause profound distress, anxiety, and depression. This emotional turmoil can lead to impaired functioning in daily life, making it challenging to maintain stable relationships, employment, or academic pursuits.


In relationships, untreated BPD can wreak havoc. The fear of abandonment and the tendency to engage in impulsive behaviors can strain even the closest bonds. Frequent mood swings, anger outbursts, and unpredictable reactions can leave loved ones feeling confused, frustrated, and emotionally drained. This can lead to a cycle of conflict and instability in relationships, often resulting in breakups or estrangement.


Untreated BPD can also contribute to self-destructive behaviors, including self-harm, substance abuse, and risky sexual practices. These actions are often used as maladaptive coping mechanisms to manage intense emotions, but they only exacerbate the individual’s problems, leading to potential physical harm and legal consequences.


Furthermore, untreated BPD can increase the risk of co-occurring mental health issues such as depression, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders. It can also heighten the risk of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, as individuals with BPD often struggle with intense emotional pain and feelings of hopelessness.





What Is It Like For Spouses of People with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?


Being the spouse of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is an incredibly challenging and emotionally taxing experience. While relationships often come with their own set of difficulties, being in a relationship with a person who has BPD can add unique layers of complexity and stress. The rollercoaster of emotions, impulsive behaviors, and intense interpersonal struggles that often accompany BPD can take a toll on the mental and emotional well-being of the spouse.


One of the most significant challenges faced by spouses of individuals with BPD is the constant instability in the relationship. People with BPD often experience intense and rapidly shifting emotions, making it difficult for their partners to predict their moods or responses. One moment, the spouse may feel deeply loved and cherished, and the next, they may be subjected to anger, blame, or devaluation. This unpredictability can create an environment of emotional turmoil and uncertainty, leaving the spouse feeling constantly on edge and walking on eggshells.


The fear of abandonment, which is a core feature of BPD, can also have a profound impact on the spouse. Individuals with BPD may have an intense fear of being abandoned or rejected, even in situations where there is no real threat to the relationship. This fear can lead to clinginess, jealousy, and possessiveness, making it challenging for the spouse to maintain their own autonomy and independence. Feeling suffocated or controlled can strain the relationship further.


Additionally, the impulsive behaviors often associated with BPD can put the spouse in difficult and sometimes dangerous situations. Reckless spending, substance abuse, self-harm, or risky sexual behaviors may not only jeopardize the person with BPD’s well-being but also have significant consequences for the spouse and the family as a whole. Coping with the fallout of these impulsive actions can be emotionally exhausting and financially draining.


Communication can be another significant hurdle for spouses of individuals with BPD. Effective and healthy communication is essential for any relationship, but it can be especially challenging when one partner struggles with intense emotions and distorted thinking patterns. The spouse may find themselves caught in a cycle of trying to de-escalate conflicts, defend themselves against accusations, or provide constant reassurance, all while feeling unheard or invalidated themselves.


The chronic feelings of emptiness and identity disturbance that often accompany BPD can also impact the spouse’s well-being. They may feel like they are constantly trying to fill a void or provide a sense of purpose for their partner, which can be emotionally draining over time. Furthermore, the spouse may grapple with their own sense of identity and self-worth as they navigate the ups and downs of the relationship.


Despite these profound challenges, many spouses of individuals with BPD are deeply committed to their partners and their relationships. They recognize that their loved one is struggling with a complex mental health condition and may empathize with the pain and suffering their partner experiences. This empathy often drives spouses to seek support, both for themselves and their partners, through therapy or support groups.


In navigating the difficulties of being a spouse to someone with BPD, it’s crucial for the individual to prioritize self-care and seek their own emotional support. They should not hesitate to reach out to mental health professionals or support networks that specialize in dealing with BPD. It’s also important to set and maintain healthy boundaries to protect their own well-being while supporting their loved one on their journey toward recovery. Ultimately, with patience, understanding, and appropriate help, some spouses can find ways to navigate the challenges of a relationship with a person who has BPD while maintaining their own emotional equilibrium. However, it remains a complex and demanding journey that requires resilience, empathy, and self-compassion.



How Do I Tell My Spouse I Think They Have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?

Telling your spouse that you suspect they have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a sensitive and delicate conversation that requires care and consideration.


Before bringing up the topic, make sure you understand BPD and its symptoms thoroughly. Knowledge about the condition will help you communicate your concerns more effectively.


Find a calm, private, and comfortable setting for the conversation. Avoid discussing this in the midst of an emotional crisis or during an argument. When you do begin to speak, share specific instances or behaviors that have raised your concerns. Be objective and avoid generalizations or judgments. Describe what you’ve observed rather than making assumptions about their feelings or motives.


Let your spouse know that you are there to support them and that you want to work together to address any challenges they may be facing. Emphasize your commitment to the relationship. If your spouse is willing, consider seeking couples therapy or counseling together. A trained therapist can help both of you navigate the challenges associated with BPD and improve communication within your relationship.


Remember that BPD can be a complex and challenging condition, and addressing it may take time and ongoing support. Be patient, understanding, and empathetic as you navigate this journey together. Encourage your spouse to seek professional help, as therapy can be a crucial component of managing and improving their mental health.


















Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, LMFT

Published : 09/02/2023



Disclaimer: ALL IN Therapy Clinic aims to improve people’s lives. We do this through providing effective mental health counseling by passionate professionals. Inspired by this, we write content for your own education. Also, our content is researched, cited, reviewed, and edited by licensed mental health professionals.  However, the information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Additionally, it should not be used in place of the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.






Written and reviewed by

Dr Kyle Zrenchik, PhD, ACS, LMFT

Dr. Kyle Zrenchik is the Co-Founder of ALL IN, the Creator of the Couples Erotic Flow model for treating sexual issues in individuals and couples, Designer of the Deep Dive programs at ALL IN, and is one of the most well-respected couples counselors in the Twin Cities.

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