How to Avoid Being Manipulated by Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

Manipulation is one of many ways that people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) attempt to control others in their lives and influence their behavior. It is not usually a conscious decision on the part of the person with BPD to do this, but that doesn’t mean that it’s OK to allow it to continue.

It’s important to recognize when you are being manipulated by someone with Borderline Personality Disorder and learn to avoid falling into the trap.

What are the signs of manipulation?

Let’s take a look at how you can tell you are being manipulated:

  1. When the person with BPD is approaching you for a favor, are they warmer or more flattering than they are at other times? If their demeanor changes dramatically when they need something from you, that is a sign of manipulation.
  2. How do you feel when the person with BPD is asking you to do them a favor? Do you comply out of guilt or shame knowing that you will be made to feel bad if your answer is no?
  3. People with Borderline Personality Disorder often get angry or rage with little provocation. This alone can be seen as a form of manipulation. If you avoid saying or doing certain things out of fear that your actions will trigger a rage from the person with BPD, this in and of itself is manipulation.
  4. Beware of coming to the rescue of someone who is always the victim. The person with BPD may be soliciting your help under the pretense that they are helpless without you or the victims of others’ bad actions.

How can I avoid being manipulated by someone with BPD?

The best way to avoid being manipulated is to give yourself permission to refuse the manipulator’s requests. You must not buy into the idea that not acting as they want you to makes you responsible for their feelings.

It’s easier said than done. In my case, when I first began to say no to the person in my life with Borderline Personality Disorder, I knew I was acting appropriately in asserting myself, but I was still consumed by guilt afterward. The love I feel for my nephews was frequently used to get me to come and babysit them with no advance notice. My BPD sister-in-law would call me in the middle of an emotional breakdown and ask me to come over right that minute and take care of my nephews so she could go out. One day I even left a lunch date before the food arrived just to comply with her wishes.

Sometimes when I arrived she would be acting completely normal again and would be dressed and ready to go out. I was fully aware that my affection was being used as a tool to get me to serve my sister-in-law’s needs, but I felt obligated to my nephews and terribly guilty when I said no.

Now I realize that my life, my desires, and my needs matter, too. I have learned to keep it simple and short and to stick to my guns when I don’t want to do something she wants me to. I do this by practicing detachment. I keep my emotions at a distance and simply assert myself calmly, remembering that saying no is not a sign that I am a bad person. In doing this consistently, I find myself accumulating less resentment toward my sister-in-law. I feel better saying yes when it feels right to me as opposed to doing so primarily out of guilt or shame.

Learning to say no to someone you care about who has Borderline Personality Disorder is often very difficult, but in doing so you set boundaries that allow you to take better care of yourself and have a relationship that is free from manipulation.

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47 Responses to “How to Avoid Being Manipulated by Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder”

  1. Meghan 07. Jan, 2012 at 2:28 am #

    Wow talk about negative framing of those with BPD. I was shocked to see this headline at the top of the page that I had expected to offer information in SUPPORT of persons suffering with this diagnosis. This labeling of their difficulties with mood regulation as “manipulation” only strengthens a stigma they already struggle to cope with, and the following “advice” may help keep boundaries, but it does not help the BPD person. Is it your job to help? No, but that’s what people do for those they care about. Sacrifice everything? No – absolutely not. But there is a huge difference between having healthy boundaries and a healthy understanding and closing someone out due to lack of understanding and fear, two factors with the author here.

    I am really sorry that the author of this article felt “manipulated” by their sister-in-law when in reality what the BPD person is really trying to manipulate is themselves. One thing they got right was that persons with BPD who experience panic due to mood disregulation do not intentionally “manipulate”. I suggest that anyone with a BPD person in their life read the article here if they care to actually help the person with BPD while keeping their own HEALTHY boundaries:

    This article, among many others, clearly states that setting tough boundaries does NOT help the BPD person,

    “Avoid boundaries, limits, contracts, and tough love.

    These methods are not effective with people with BPD. Be sure that families understand that boundaries are generally viewed as punishment by the person with BPD. Be sure they understand how to change behavior by explaining reinforcement, punishment, shaping, and extinction so that they do not reinforce maladaptive behaviors.”

    Best of luck to all of you with BPD in finding people in your lives who understand that you are not bad and that you need support just as much as a person going through a physically debilitating crisis, and to those who are struggling with giving support.

  2. Jay Doe 24. Mar, 2012 at 12:21 am #

    My BPD stalker tells people that she will/has self-harmed to get them to do anything controlling to me…sad…

  3. Kyle 12. Apr, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    I thought this was a really helpful article. With all due respect to Meghan, the strategies in this article for establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries are geared primarily toward the preservation of the person with whom the individual with borderline personality disorder is interacting. I think it’s important for people (especially those with BPD) to understand that not everyone is their therapist, and that sometimes certain behaviors are expected and mandated in certain situations. Establishing clear expectations and contingencies, in my opinion, ultimately helps the person with BPD be more successful behaviorally regardless of their immediate (often irrational, angry, and unregulated) emotional reaction.

    Unlike other types of psychological disorders (eg anxiety, depression) the interesting thing about personality disorders is that they often cause as much – if not more – distress to others as they do to the individuals who have them. It is the same with antisocial PD, narcissistic, etc.

    I thought this was a compassionate article that took into account the needs of the person with AND without BPD. People with BPD need healthy people around them for support, and keeping these sorts of boundaries helps toward that goal.

  4. Jonathan 28. Apr, 2012 at 2:38 am #

    This is an extremely helpful piece. The only way to deal with BPD when its symptoms flare up is to ‘Take your ball and go home,’ so to speak. One must learn how to do this in a way that is self-preserving but without obvious anger toward the other person. This is very difficult, because BPD tends to bring out the worst in NONs – especially those who are less experienced with the disorder. The ‘crazy-making’ and emotional dysregulation of BPD can be extremely disorienting. A lot of NONs report that after a certain point in their relationships with BPDs, they had a hard time distinguisning fact from fiction. This is a CLASSIC situation. Untreated BPDs often CANNOT deal with the reality they have created, so instead of capitulating to the NON’s interpretation of reality, they project their own emotional chaos onto the NON as a ‘survival’ mechanism.

    Most BPD’s have an uncanny ability to sense when you are getting that ‘Something is just not adding up,’ feeling. That is often when their manipulation tactics jump into high-gear. It is important to spot these tactics so that you can take a big step back and interpret your own reality without the interference of the BPD’s projection tactics.

    Generally speaking, when the BPD senses that you are starting to ‘sort things out,’ their abandonment issues flare up. If they gave you the space to sort things out, you might actually GET sorted out and discover how sick the relationship really is and LEAVE IT. More than anything, the BPD will try to avoid this – since abandonment is what lies at the core of their illness. The bitter irony is that the BPD’s behavior at this point will flare up and PUSH the NON even further away, thus causing the very abandonment that the BPD fears the most. This is tragic, because a lot of the time, the NON has no intention of leaving. But in the end, the BPD’s behavior gives them no choice.

    Hence, the untreated BPD goes through life fulfilling their own worst fears over and over and over and over again. In a very real sense, the disorder is a self-fulfiling prophecy. And the worst part of it is, the BPD’s maladaptive behavioral techniques are usually so ingrained that they have an INABILITY to see the truth of this.

    Of course, if you have the option, the best way to deal with someone who has BPD is to cut them out of your life and not deal with them at all. Despite what ‘professionals’ say, BPD has a very low recovery rate – especially among those with the disorder who are older (say, 30 and up.) More often than not, they will make YOU crazy before THEY get better. Recovery from BPD is a long, hard road that takes years of behavioral therapy (4 to 7 years, according to most professionals.) BPD is ‘characterological’ in nature; it is not an organic illness that can be managed with medication. Nor can it be managed solely by traditional talk therapy with professionals who are NOT specifically trained to treat BPD.

    Think of it this way: how in the hell do you cure a PERSONALITY? A personality is WHO YOU ARE!! BPD is not an ‘issue.’ Dealing with BPD is not like sorting through every day emotional baggage. A person with BPD is, essentially, acting out severe abandonment trauma (often in the form of sexual abuse) in EVERY personal relationship. Until the original abandonment trauma is faced and dealt with, their is NO HOPE of recovery. The problem is, the BPD has gone through life developing behavioral techniques to specifically AVOID dealing with this original trauma. And the irony is that in doing so, they have ACTUALLY RECREATED this abandonment trauma over and over again. So, in a very real sense, when you are dealing with an untreated BPD, you are dealing a person who is emotionally SHELL-SHOCKED.

    Marsha Linehan, the pioneer of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, refers to BPD’s as ‘emotional burn victims.’ This is a very accurate assesment. Until the burns are treated, their is no hope for healthy relationships. This treatment includes facing the original ‘trauma’ and developing new and effective behavioral skills. AGAIN, the difficulty here is that the BPD has usually spent years or DECADES in specific behavioral patterns that have become totally ingrained into their personality.

    So . . . if you’re in a relationship with a BPD, know that even if they go into treatment, it’s going to be a long haul. Your needs will most often be secondary (if that) to the BPD’s. You will essentially be a caretaker during the period of recovery, and there’s a good chance that you’ll remain in that role afterward. I was told this by a professional who had worked for three years on a BPD ward in a NYC hospital, under the supervision of one of the world’s foremost experts on Cluster B mental disorders.

    As far as Meghan’s comment; this looks like a shaming tactic. ABUSE IS ABUSE, no matter the origin, and just because a BPD doesn’t mean to do it, that doesn’t make it ok. I look at it this way: ‘Did I cause whatever the BPD is suffering from? Was I part of their original trauma? NO!! Well then, I don’t have to stick around to suffer the consequences. I’m just as important as they are, and I have a right to live without their emotional chaos!’

  5. Kim 03. May, 2012 at 5:50 am #

    Dear Jonathan
    Your reply makes sense to me. I have been married to a man for 10 years who I believe has BPD. Rage is the main thing I have to deal with, it seems to come from nowhere and he cannot come down from it, especially after alcohol. I hoped that my husband would also be my best friend but that was not to be as there are so many things I cannot talk to him about. Topics go through my head and I envisage the negative reaction so don’t bother. I end up listening to his monologues which currently involve messages from time travellers and which he has filled copious notebooks with. I have been at the receiving end of physical abuse on occasions and mental abuse often, the fault never lies with him it is because I am a bad wife. He is in his mid 50’s and I would say he’s getting worse the more he isolates himself from people. I have tried boundaries to the point where I live separately during the week but things are getting worse when I am with him as he cannot understand that a woman who has been abused cannot simply smiled and act as if nothing has happened. The latest incident where I left the house barefoot with torn clothing having been pushed on a staircase, hair pulled, hands around my throat and threats of broken limbs has made me realise I cannot help him, only myself. He shows no remorse for this and blames me. I stand to lose financially by leaving him but my health is more important.

  6. Suzanne 21. Sep, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

    Fantastic article!
    I have been in counselling and therapy from a psychologist for about 10 years to help heal and recover from being raised by an abusive mother with BPD. I never thought I would be free from her abusive & twisted world.

    Once I FINALLY realized that it was never me but my mother who had all the problems and personality disorder…my life changed. I was conditioned to believe I was responsible for all of my mother’s issues, mood swings, happiness….everything. I was hated one moment, then “loved” the next as I was drained of everything I was for her stability. We never knew one minute to the next what behaviour from us would trigger her outbursts of rage and hostility…or her sobbing episodes.

    It was awful.

    I am free now, though there is a long journey ahead of me in learning how to interact with her while protecting myself. This article has clearly expressed the tools I have recently learned from my psychologist about setting boundaries and protecting yourself from a family member with BPD. If you do choose to go limited contact (as I have done – as opposed to no-contact)…boundary setting is the first thing to learn. It is necessary.

    Thanks for posting!

  7. ben 27. May, 2013 at 12:46 pm #


  8. SHAWNCURLE 02. Aug, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    This article and the comments have been so helpful and enlightening! I have anti-social BPD and it’s a living hell to say the least. But I do find comfort in knowing so many others suffer and deal with this disorder.

    Reading these comments has given me hope that my life is not a total disaster. I also believe that a strong faith in God is paramount in dealing with the guilt and shame brought on by this illness.

    Thank you for posting.

  9. Ken 13. Sep, 2013 at 7:54 am #

    Kim, I hope you have reached out for help by this point. YOU do not have the ability to change him, his “personality.” However, you can change how you allow it to affect you, and I believe that this is the point of this article. Yes, the person with BPD did not ask for this, they would not choose it and need help. However, you do not need to be an additional casualty as well. BPD recovery is a long road uphill in the snow, so to speak. I will remember you and your family when I next pray!

  10. Aelida 18. Feb, 2014 at 10:11 pm #

    I find good points in every comment. I have long believed that ALL emotions are valid, even when they’re nuts, because to whomever is feeling them, they are probably very real.

    I too am rubbed the wrong way by the constant “manipulation” term getting thrown out there everywhere I look. Why? Because as a person who *SUFFERS* with BPD, I very rarely have any clear picture of reality during conflict or these types of situations. In fact, it usually takes me writing things down constantly and reading them days later to get a grasp on the reality vs. my “perception.”

    I don’t feel like my motivation is ever malicious. I know that I often allow negative treatment from others (yes, I know, abandonment issues) to go unpunished so to speak and will forgive the most heinous things with an “I’m sorry.” Manipulation seems deliberate and I don’t see it in myself (very rarely at least) and apparently neither do the majority of people I know. It’s an ugly trait.

    Boundaries are cool. In my experience though, I’m compelled to break rules, push buttons, and I’d rather not. I’ve responded to validation and honest communication. Yes, I’ll eventually recreate trauma etc. and it nearly kills me every time (it scares me to read our mortality rate). But even in those crazy wtf moments, I’m trying to explain what I’m feeling at the time, and expressing how it may not be reality but at that time it’s mine. And I ask for help and apologize (then proceed to launch the stupid inevitable war)

    “Manipulation” hurts. I feel like I deserve to be known as a victim of myself, too. I can’t break up with myself and change my number. I can’t move away. Knowing I’m capable of hurting people I love is pretty heartbreaking, too. There’s my emotional, long-winded two cents.

  11. Erin 22. Oct, 2014 at 4:57 pm #

    Manipulation is usually defined as the skillful and intentional deception of another for personal gain. There is no way that a person experiencing emotional dysregulation has the cognitive wherewithall to accomplish skillful and intentional deception to gain something that would actually benefit them.

  12. Alex 18. Mar, 2015 at 7:02 am #

    My daughter was involved in a friendship with someone like this. She attached herself to our family by playing the victim repeatedly. Over time she began to imitate my daughter. If my daughter bought yellow running shoes she bought the same shoes, if she highlighted her hair, cut her hair, liked a boy, changed friends. Whatever my daughter liked or did this girl would try to take it over and in essence be my daughter. She tried to manipulate us with story after story of an abusive home. It has gotten to the point that my daughter has pushed her aside as much as possible. She won’t tell her who she likes among the boys, if she decides to change her hair she doesn’t tell her, she know eventually the girl will follow by imitating her but it has allowed my daughter to be independent of her and for others to see that this girl does everything she does. My daughter has knows that she doesn’t have to be mean to this girl to separate herself from her. She is not allowed to come over. This girls knows she is not allowed to hang out with my daughter. Most importantly my daughter has learned to be distant and not play into this girls emotions or manipulations. When she takes her sets at lunch (because it’s my daughter spot), my daughter goes and sits with other people and laughs and enjoys herself. It leads to this girl sulking and pouting but it has given my daughter a way around the manipulations of the manipulator.

  13. Jimbo 25. Mar, 2015 at 7:45 pm #


    People with BPD are not out of control 100% of the time. They blame others for how they feel, and fail to see how they self-sabotage. Someone with BPD can quite skillfully play on the fears of those that have bullied and blamed for years in an attempt to get something they THINK will benefit them.

  14. James 13. Apr, 2015 at 5:27 pm #

    I have to disagree with Erin.

    With all due respect, I think you are underestimating people with BPD. They are not out of control 100% of the time and they can often think logically.

    Unfortunately, because the BPD sufferer tends to blame others for what they’re feeling and lash out at them (I’m not talking about those who turn their anger inwards and self-harm or self-medicate), they see the person they abuse as an abuser and not a victim. Not seeing themselves at fault, and being unwilling to change, the BPD (not in treatment) can only focus on what they perceive is wrong with the other person, and they try to change that.

  15. Danielle 19. Apr, 2015 at 7:34 pm #

    I have BPD and mild schizophrenia. I can’t keep a single person in my life. I have saved relationships for others and give all I have to those I love. And yet through it all I get called abusive. manipulative, angry. I am treated like I want to hurt everyone in my life. I love unconditionally and want to help people and this article made me feel like I am a monster who wants to control everyone in my life to get what I want. I have never once thought of myself. And I understand that people should protect themselves from those trying to hurt them. But just cause we have a mental illness, that doesn’t mean you should condemn us to being alone and fending for ourselves in this world just cause you don’t understand how we feel or think. I fluctuate a lot in my moods but that doesn’t mean I’m manipulating anyone. I genuinely feel shocked and guilty everytime I’ve been called names. But I pick myself back up and try to love anyway. Please don’t treat us like we’re monsters just cause we can’t control how we are or who we are…

  16. JJ 01. May, 2015 at 10:09 pm #

    Thanks, Erin.

  17. Mimi 08. May, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

    I have BPD and I don’t really understand why everyone is so positive about this article or the comments… there are people saying that people with BPD should be abandoned?? That is literally the thing we’re most scared of in the world. I don’t know about others but it’s a real phobia for me.

    I’m sorry, it just makes me sad that wherever I go to read about BPD, about how to cope, the only things I found are people saying that BPDs are f*kn monsters and should be left alone to die or they will ruin your life.

  18. Sarah 11. Aug, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

    I have BPD and think the things in this article are wrong. Her account of borderline manipulation needs some work.

  19. Travis 16. Aug, 2015 at 8:51 am #

    Thanks for this article I was recently invovled with a woman whose displayed all the traits of BPD. I feel very manipulated and hurt and disgusted. Total fool. I was seduced and I’m in the just putting everything together stage. It really hurts to see someone with BPD just destroying themselves

  20. Andrew 27. Aug, 2015 at 3:56 pm #

    I believe it is at the top of the list because its the most frequently searched by people like me who have identified it as manipulation , whether the bpd realize it or not

  21. Aunti Laura 07. Sep, 2015 at 8:14 am #

    People with BPD ruin lives on a regular schedule.

    When they can control those symptoms or when they are in the magical positivity
    Stage, they are lovely. But it doesn’t last. Yes, it’s a mental illness. One that never goes away. Medications don’t help. Dbt helps in the moment, IF, and that’s a big if, the person with bpd
    DOES it.

    Nope. I don’t want to ever do this again.

  22. Bob B. 26. Sep, 2015 at 1:51 am #

    Kyle said: “Unlike other types of psychological disorders (e.g., anxiety, depression) the interesting thing about personality disorders is that they often cause as much – if not more – distress to others as they do to the individuals who have them. It is the same with antisocial PD, narcissistic, etc.”

    Thanks for that….at times I felt that I was going insane and became massively depressed when interacting with my ex with BPD. I eventually have to implement absolute “no contact” to protect me from the abuse and manipulation. It was survival for me, straight up.

  23. Sally Archer 04. Oct, 2015 at 7:34 am #

    It would be great to see those individuals with BPD posting here admit that their behavior (whatever label we put on it) causes those in relationship with them to suffer. Just as alcoholics have to admit their shortcomings and the harm they’ve caused others to get better in their 12-step programs, BPD individuals stay victimizers when they focus on their own suffering and not the suffering they’re causing others.
    There are two BPD family members in my life, one male, one female. Both are devastating to anybody around them who cannot set boundaries, take care of themselves and see the BPD manipulation and emotional immaturity for what it is. If you love somebody with BPD, although there aren’t yet support groups for families and friends in any international systematic way, the principles of Al-Anon Family Groups have been a big help for me to detach with love and let BPD individuals hit their own bottoms the same way an active alcoholic or drug addict has to in order to face themselves and see the havoc created in others’ lives by their behaviors.
    Frankly, I’m sick and tired of BPD individuals playing the “suffering” card on blogs like this so as to elicit more sympathy for their outrageous behavioral manipulations while they pretend to love everybody so unconditionally. Seriously, BPD folks. Grow up. Don’t call what you do “love.” Get help for your BPD selves. I for one am no longer enabling any of you to act badly toward others.

  24. Chorra 06. Oct, 2015 at 9:49 pm #

    Are you sure you’re not getting BPD mixed up with Narcissistic Personality Disorder? I’ve been BPD my while life, and whenever I need support, it’s because I actually need support and not because I want to manipulate them for attention. If I went up to someone for support and they turned me away by telling me no and to go somewhere else, it would hurt even worse because obviously that person doesn’t care about my feelings. At least, they presented it that way. People with BPD always assume the worst when others hurt them. They hurt me–they don’t love me–depression. There is no grey area of “oh must be a bad mood” and it’s unconscious black and white thinking too.

  25. Rose 11. Oct, 2015 at 4:39 pm #

    I have BPD. I definitely agree with using boundaries with people with BPD and my psychologist does as well. If anyone doesn’t use boundaries they need to be aware that those missing lines are not only bad for themselves, it also confuses a person with BPD as often, they struggle with understanding boundaries themselves (that includes me) even though they are trying to. I appreciate boundaries greatly and am learning and practicing these more and more as I go through DBT therapy.

    I resent the use of the word “manipulation” in this article because of the fact that BPD do not manipulate intentionally, as others have commented. I am at a place in my therapy where i am realizing that i do tend to behave in ways that could be seen as manipulative when i am emotional, yet find myself lost as to what to do instead of those practiced methods. That is one of the skills i will be learning.

    Before beginning DBT skills about 10 months ago, i had only a vague and hazy awareness about the effects of my behaviors on other people because i was so lost in emotional pain and turmoil. I am so very grateful for the therapy i have received and the knowledge and wisdom I’ve gained. I wish I would have known these things sooner.

    If anyone has BPD I highly recommend DBT. I went to years of CBT before and had only a small minimal amount of improvement. Nothing compared to DBT. You may feel like you’re way too smart for the skills at first, as it seems so natural and simple…but stick to it, you won’t regret it.

    God bless.

  26. Anon 26. Oct, 2015 at 7:16 am #

    To those of you with BPD who are upset about this article, sorry but you are not the intended beneficiaries of this article. It’s for those who have to suffer the second hand consequences of other peoples’ BPD, or those of us who have to help support them, and to that end, it’s brilliant.

  27. Melissa 28. Oct, 2015 at 2:34 am #

    I just want to say that I applaud you for writing an article that honestly addresses this. My mother has BPD and, owing to the fact that I am an only child and that she doesn’t speak to anyone else in our family (her parents have passed), I am the only person who is there for her. She telephones me at least sixteen times a day, and her mood varies from one call to the next. She can be perfectly lovely, telling me how proud she is of me, and then I’ll unwittingly say something that triggers her and she’ll be yelling, crying, and telling me I’m trying to make her look like an idiot. She’ll then hang up on me, and when I call her back (after I’ve given her time to cool down – I’ve learned never to call back straight away) – she tells me she’s taken a bottle of pills and that she doesn’t care anymore. When I go to see her, she admits she hasn’t taken a whole bottle of pills, but that she needed to say that to make me understand. Want to know what triggers her? She calls me to tell me interesting things from the news, which is fine, but if I happen to say “Really?’ or ‘Wow,’ she assumes I don’t believe her or am making fun of her. She also controls me to the point of telling me what to watch, what to cook, what to like/dislike, and how to raise my son. I say and do anything to please her the majority of the time, sometimes to the detriment of my relationship with my son, (whom she resents), and to my own self-esteem, particularly when we go out for coffee with her friends and she treats me like a child. I’m 43 years old and she is 72, and I honestly feel like my life is not my own. I’m morbidly depressed much of the time, but there is absolutely nobody I can turn to because my friends don’t understand and I cannot afford therapy. I can’t cut her out of my life because I do love her and I’m all she has, but I also know that if I don’t, I will lose myself completely. I have only just gotten off the phone with her now, and am so depressed I can’t even be in the same room as my son, because I know I will bring his mood down and he doesn’t need that. I feel trapped and alone and there is absolutely no escape from it. I even find myself praying that she will go in her sleep, which is horrible. Children of BPD parents are suffering terribly but, at least here in Australia, there is next to no support for us (unless you count those hotlines that offer nothing but someone referring you to counselling). I am at the end of my rope and can not deal with this anymore. The pamphlets and community service commercials and ‘government initiatives’ are all crap; all the coping strategies in the world aren’t going to take away from the fact that there is nobody for her to turn to but me, and I’m damn fed up. Sorry for being negative, but honesty is something I’m not allowed to show in real life.

  28. Jody 09. Nov, 2015 at 11:24 pm #

    I’m blown away by Jonathan’s account of BPD behavior. In fact, anyone diagnosed with BPD would do well to read it. On the surface, it might seem critical but it’s an excellent and accurate explanation of how things unfold when dealing with someone with BPD.

    I’m also struck by Rose’s comment because she’s clearly trying to understand her disorder and recognizes that, while she doesn’t do anything intentionally, she’s aware of how it’s perceived by others. I wish you well on your journey and I think you’ll succeed!

    The thing I see over and over again on websites is people with BPD getting angry and defensive at characterizations of their behavior.

    Part of deciding to heal is recognizing the unpleasant truth of something you might not have caused but are certainly responsible for as far as behaviors go, just as we all are. There is no one in our lives who is responsible for our behavior but ourselves.

    BPDs often ask to be given a break. I can completely understand. However, no one in any situation who experiences the same destructive behaviors over and over and over again could possibly be expected to simply lie back and take it, however unintentional the behavior might be.

    Nons exist in a world where there are commonly held beliefs about certain things. Very little in this life is fact based. But some things are. There are just certain normal rules of behavior, such as, if I close my door to get some quiet time so I can work, most people wouldn’t consider that a rejection. So later, when I least expect it, I get blindsided by some kind of attack, unrelated to the closed door (or so it’s presented).

    In my complete astonishment, I try to defend myself or understand what’s with the attack. I’m completely confused because I see no triggering event. I ask, I explain, I defend. And in doing so, the BPD (who won’t admit they’re BPD) is changing the subject and won’t talk about what triggered this and is now convincing me I’m the asshole and later, the whole incident never really happened. It’ll never be discussed. I’m now walking on eggshells because that scenario repeats over and over and I’m going crazy because I know that “objectively” I haven’t done anything wrong.

    Does the borderline ever say, “It’s not you, it’s me”?

    Now, let’s say that person knows they’re borderline, they’re beginning to understand their disorder and its possible sources, and they’re understanding the impact on people around them. That made-up scenario I described is still an intense challenge to deal with for the Non, multiplied by playing that scene out over and over for years and years. Let’s say the borderline is able to later really apologize and say, “I realize that you closing the door is not abandonment and I need to work on that.”

    That still sucks for the Non. But I assure you that 9 out of 10 cases do not include a diagnosed borderline, much less one who has advanced to the point where they can see that the people around them aren’t out to destroy them and don’t need to be punished daily for perceived slights.

    Nons become severely damaged, confused, scared, doubting their sanity. But is the borderline to blame? No, not really. The non has to do what they need to to take care of themselves, which means setting boundaries to lessen the impact.

    If the BPD doesn’t want to be blamed, then surely the BPD can understand that it’s better for a Non to take care of themselves rather than blame the BPD, right?

  29. Mikki 13. Nov, 2015 at 5:10 am #

    As somebody who suffers from BPD, I can understand the feeling of being targeted by this article, but I think it’s brilliant. I know that I can often attention seek and over-dramatise or outright lie about problems in my life to get the attention I crave. And I know that afterwards, I feel extremely guilty. For me, having people around that have clear boundaries makes things easier. It’s harder for me to lose myself to my paranoia and fear of abandonment when confronted with hard truth. My sister and brother-in-law have learned to be very clear about things. “I’m coming into exam period, so I need my space for the next two weeks. I’ll message once a day to let you know I still love you, but I won’t answer calls and I won’t answer every text you send the moment you send it” is a perfect example of how we interact. She gets that the separation will be difficult for me, but she’s not going to let that influence her life in a negative way. Instead, we set out clear rules, so that I don’t panic and I also don’t pull her down.

    THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP OF MY RECOVERY WAS ADMITTING THAT I DO “BAD” THINGS. I don’t do them deliberately, but I do them nonetheless. I have a mental illness. It’s difficult to live with. But it is *my* illness and not anyone else’s responsibility. They need to take care of themself first, and I need to learn to live without using it as a crutch. MENTAL ILLNESS IS A REASON, NOT AN EXCUSE.

  30. Kimberly 13. Nov, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

    This article was extremely helpful,as I just found out what BPD is and it describes my sister’s behavior to a t.I used to describe interactions with her, as if you’re caught in a twister…like a storm.You could not say a word and she’d tell you what you are thinking.I could go on.. But I just want to thank you…also thanks to you Jonathan I learned alot from you as well.

  31. Gwen 25. Nov, 2015 at 6:49 pm #

    I can tell you first hand how difficult it is to deal with a BPD Mother-in-law 17 years into my marriage. It is horrible. My father-in-law passed a few years back and we now have to look out after her. My Mother is a psychologist, so I am well versed in mental illness. I cannot tell you how much pain she has inflicted on all of us, especially my husband. My husband does not stand up to her and place boundaries. I have had to put up boundaries for myself and my children.

  32. Brittany 08. Dec, 2015 at 11:06 pm #

    Well, after reading the article..which I read for 30 seconds. I spent the next 15 minutes going through every comment after. I love how the majority of these people think that somebody would truly want to intentionally do this to ones they love and that somebody would want to be alone. This actually disgusts me being I suffer from BPD, and i have isolated myself and dealt with life by getting to know many people but keeping it so they don’t get too close. Sad how people can be so uneducated about something they don’t go through, something based on a case by case basis. Honestly, I am negative about every little thing in my life, because of all the shut down’s, the mothers telling their kids when I was growing up to not hang around me. Being bullied, feeling absolutely MISERABLE and having my therapist recently tell me I enjoy living in the misery. Its what I’ve grown accustomed too. Its the only way I am seen as fitting. My own mother and brother dont even understand. The guy I’m seeing whom I am being completely honest with and upfront about everything still it feels like I am doomed. I considered having an exorcism done because this has been with me since I can remember. I never asked for this and to wake up every morning feeling like what’s the point? Or to unintentionally burn bridges, we can’t process things socially the way NONs do, because I know me personally I did not have any good influences around me, I came from an alcoholic family, and on top of it all nobody wants to stick around because I just didn’t know how to deal with taking a joke, and not taking everything so seriously. I just want to be able to come to the day when this disabling disease stops controlling my life. I have so much to offer to this world but when I think everybody is out to get me alot that nobody can trust me it makes it hard to not just be like I think I’ll go and do whatever it takes to get me out of my mind. Anything to just not feel this way. I even had a bunch of ECT done, because I loved the feeling it gave me. I had a reason this time and it was calming.

  33. Karen 09. Dec, 2015 at 6:39 pm #

    All cases of people with bpd are not all the same. Some have narcissistic traits, are abusive as of anger as of being told no. Some to not grasp really life to reallity. Some are manipulating.. Some can not admit there wrongs as of pride. Some are selfish. Some love with passion and some love with manipulation for there own self needs. I had been with my sons father for 8 years and have witnessed this myself.

  34. Nat 12. Dec, 2015 at 10:39 pm #

    Dear Lord. Where to begin? My sister two years my senior just died of cancer. We spent 40 + years as “best friends” (when it suited her) but became estranged probably after I stopped drinking and realized that something was off in our relationship. There was always some drama that prompted a perfectly good visit to end in tears and an abrupt exit. Nothing I did was good enough, but she was always the victim and never apologized for her part in our blow ups. If I was upset about something she would write me a check or try and turn it around to be my fault. I started avoiding her and felt better until we would have another heated exchange. She eventually started manipulating other family members to get me to be her ‘best friend’ again, but the truth was, she was never my best friend. She was an obligation and a burden and she held me back my whole life so as not to outshine her. After she started verbally abusing me, I went NC. Then she got cancer. She wanted me to show her the right kind of support and love, but after years of dealing with her inconsistencies and drama, I had nothing left. Evidently neither did her son, or our mother or our other sister. Here is the crazy part of it. She has all of these amazing friends that she used to unload to about me on Facebook, and make me look like the Devil. That is the infuriating thing about BPD. Only the people that get close to them know what assholes they are. They can put on a cutesy act for strangers and minor acquaintances, but they have no idea who they are really dealing with. And of course, I’m not about to tell them, especially now that she’s died of cancer. For all everyone outside of our family knows, she was an angel. And I am the Devil. If they only knew…

  35. Alisha 19. Feb, 2016 at 8:20 pm #

    Just enough with this painting BPD sufferers as “manipulative” by nature. Because that isn’t true. I am BPD and never do I manipulate people intentionally to get my way. This furthers the stigma against us. You said it yourself that people like myself are going to need help, we need quality professional help. Stigma as this DOES effect the way others understand this illness. And yes I do know what it’s like also around other bpds. I used to have this same disgusting attitude against her, at a point I even hated my own mother. I have come to learn why she does the things she does. BPD sufferers are in a very real very tremendous amount of emotional pain that we deal with every day. It is taxing. It is hell. But to say that by JUST being bpd that you MUST be a manipulator , that you’re someone to steer clear as if we are smallpox is just a very deeply hurtful thing, it hurts because it furthurs stigma (and even now in the professional feild there is a lot of prejudice doctors against this, I being victim of several ) and it helps NO ONE. How would you feel to constantly be told that you’re essentially a monster, unlovable and someone who deserves no human interaction . it hurts as a non to be alone, it hurts as a bpd to be alone. People manipulate others bpd or not. There will be bad people with this illness and there will be good, but you must realize that despite the shitty things some do, its because they hurt. It’s up to the individual then after to decide if they are going to be open to help, or just not give a damn and use diagnosis as an excuse to hurt others. We are not all terrible and my heart hurts for the borderlines some of you tell of because all you did was be scared. It’s not manipulation if you tell someone the bad things in your life, because again, why is it only manipulation from the bpd? Most often it is a cry for support and help, not pitty. I don’t know about other borderlines but despite my tornado emotions I try my hardest to be kind, I love everyone in my life unconditionally . borderline may be an emotional hell but my own abandonment issues mean I have never left a soul , the only people who left my life did so out of their own choice. We are not all bad people with the intentions to drag everyone else down with us, and please don’t just assume that bpd inherently make the sufferer a terrible person. What they choose to do after with themselves and their attitude is. And in the end they are still sick and suffering something you cannot imagine. Don’t be that guy who does their best to be an ass, be the bigger, healthier person and cut the bpd problem person out and don’t prolong their negative feelings it will only hurt each involved.

  36. Almost Related 01. Mar, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

    I read this and appreciate the validation that sometimes you just have to say no. My boyfriend’s 30 year old granddaughter is now living with him (he is a vital 70 years young) as no one else in the family can deal with her anymore. She has had 10+ years of BPD therapy and we fear now knows how to manipulate the Drs. and therapists…and everyone else to a “T”.

    Manipulation by her is being done frequently: If she doesn’t get to go skiing or to a concert or borrow the car (none of which can she pay for)…..prepare for an episode of huge proportions and a night without sleep.

    I am now on the outs with her as I have stayed calm during the screaming and actually speak softly as she ramps up. I have been called every vile name in the book and only respond with SET replies I was an ER Tech for years and have training with “SET” communication (it helps with ALL types of hysteria in the ER).

    This woman has lost her 3 children, her home, her car, almost all belongings….Grandpa is the last hope. She has him checking on her 2-4 times a night “to make sure I’m still breathing”. She has taken pills to OD but always when/where she will be saved. Her Grandfather is afraid to leave his house now…as she might try suicide when he isn’t there to save her.

    She also manipulates him by trying to get him to “remember” that he tried to choke her while she was crying. (He didn’t, I was in the room entire time…he did raise his hand at one point to block a blow from her as she attempted to hit him….which she vehemently denied doing.)

    I’d like to see her try DBT but we live in a very small town….and can’t seem to find a source for it. She has been here for only 15 days so far.

    So sorry, I have veered from the original post quite a bit. I do sincerely thank you for letting me get this off my chest.

  37. Sean 05. Mar, 2016 at 5:31 pm #

    I notice a 100% consistency in all the comments made here. “Nons” comment about the manipulation done by “BPDs”, and BPDs talk about how they are not manipulative on purpose (or that not just BPDs are manipulators). Given that the title of this article is “How to avoid being manipulated by someone with BPD”, clearly the majority of people reading this are looking for help given the extremely difficult and damaging nature of being in that exact situation. My main idea I want to get across here, is that from the perspective of a NON, simply trying to protect themselves and loved ones, it does not matter if the manipulation is intentional or not. It is happening and it is terribly damaging and you need to protect yourself from this in every way possible, (if you value your own mental and emotion health and wellness) and in most cases yes, you must extricate yourself from that person (and that applies to ANYONE who is relentlessly abusive in any way, and of course there are endless forms that comes in, and most are NOT BPD). Believe me, in my dealings with people with BPD, it tis clear as day that they are suffering unfathomable pain on a daily basis. And giving compassion to those people, and recognizing they did not ask for this condition, is a SEPARATE ISSUE. And yeah it is a very sad issue because they need support, but the very issue they suffer from causes them to behave in a way all but guarantees total isolation from close human relationships. To those with BPD that take issue with NONS talking about the manipulative component here, I ask this: Don’t ALL people deserve to thoroughly protect themselves from outright mental and emotional (and also physical abuse)?

  38. margo 06. Mar, 2016 at 11:00 pm #

    I am a daughter, 57, with an 83 year old BPD father. Living with him was always difficult, there was always a new rule in the house that you were punished for before you knew the rule. I remember him coming home from work after 10PM, and him wanting to wake me and my sister up and give us spankings for leaving a glass in the kitchen sink. My room was at the top of the stairs and I heard him yelling at my Mother that she was “Lying!” and “Trying to protect them!” when she said SHE had left the glass in the sink. Yes, we walked on eggshells in that house and I knew I NEVER wanted to be uncomfortable in my own home EVER AGAIN in life, and the only way to GUARANTEE THAT was to vow to never ever consider getting married.

    He has gotten worse over the years, I started to feel he was mentally ill….it is only in this last year that I discovered the BPD personality type. Jonathan, thank you for your post. It clearly outlines my situation and confirms my gut feel that I need to let him burn himself out, without me trying to fix things. He lies about doctor appointments, then at the last hour, I get calls from the hospital where they need the next-of-kin present for upcoming surgery. I am certain in his BPD mind he feels he is being either “protective of me” or that “she doesn’t care about me”. The fact that I call him weekly to find out his doctor appointments is never mentioned or considered. BPDs create their own reality.

    The BPDs who post here all share the same cries of “nobody loves me”, “nobody cares as much for me as I do for them”, “nobody ever loved me”, “nobody understands me”, “nobody is as unselfish as I”.

    BPDs never see themselves. My BPD father rages at me one minute, then tells me I am his lifesaver the next minute. No one likes being bounced around emotionally. You can’t erase the impact of verbal abuse with a smile. So, the way I choose to survive him is to let him be. I do not confront lies – I accept that he is probably lying. When the truth comes, I just roll with it, no confrontation. I just don’t care to change him or “make him see his ways”. Because I am out. I love you, but you can’t see it and I’m not fighting to make you see it. Because I finally realize I do not have to prove it to YOU. That is a losing game and I’ve stopped playing. And even more, it is who HE is. He is and will always be an emotional drain. When he is at full-on antagonism, I cease talking. Can’t give him any ammunition or the conversation will be longer and the rage will escalate. But they are good to argue with, if you (the non-BPD) can argue dispassionately. I admit I sometimes wind Dad up on purpose, on a topic, it could be about anything…keys, whether it’s a leap year……but….. I do sense when to drop things because BPD irrational anger is looming near. BPDs get real stupid when their pride and anger are in control. So, you have to accept that there is no mutual exchange of ideas with a BPD. Which means there is no relationship growth or deepening. Which makes them very bad spouses.

    I do fear being like him. I have some of his unhealthy and self-destructive habits, and I see frightening parallels between his life and mine – even having ONE parallel is unsettling, and I have more than one. I wonder how much of this behavior is “learned” or “inherited”.

  39. Bonnie 20. Mar, 2016 at 9:49 pm #

    This was a good article. I think people are getting stuck on the word, manipulative. The result of the behavior is that the person with BPD is moving things/people around to make sure their needs get met to avoid feelings of abandonment. Do they mean to do it? no. It is part of the disorder, it is a behavior.

    This is a symptom of BPD….the either, or syndrome. “Feel empathy for the person with BPD. No, feel sorry for the person who has to cope with the person with BPD. It’s not an either/or
    DBT stresses: both and… Empathize and Establish healthy boundaries for yourself. Distance if you’ve tried other approaches and they didn’t work.

    The person does not most times see that what they are doing is manipulating, and yet the behavior actually is- manipulation. Maybe we can come up with a different word, but I don’t know of one. It’s difficult for others to deal with feeling manipulated. And the object of rage/mistrust, etc..


    If you are a person who is being treated in ways that are emotionally abusive, you need to distance yourself. If you are a person who feels that they are being emotionally abused, but in reality you are projecting this behavior onto someone else, then you would benefit from seeking help for your difficulties with differentiating thoughts, feelings, behaviors, sensations, and events. (i.e. Borderline personality disorder).
    I do agree that there is stigma, particularly with BPD, because the behaviors are difficult to handle for the person with the disorder and family members/ friends, etc..

    In the words of REM, “Everybody Hurts”.

    and all people have a right to distance themselves from negative behavior, and set good healthy boundaries for themselves.

  40. Stef 28. Mar, 2016 at 5:14 pm #

    Imagine if those, like me with BPD, went around calling Nons weak? or passive or uninspired or boring?

    That would be most uncharitable wouldn’t it.

    So why is it ok for Non’s to call people with a mental health disorder brought about by childhood abuse, manipulative eh? It’s not….if you can’t separate the bad behavior from the person you claim to love, then stroll on, you are not cut out for this!

    It’s a lot like dealing with a massive toddler…yes it’s tough, but we can be reprogrammed, so stop throwing unhelpful terms like manipulation around because you have trouble standing your ground or walking away…..jog on non!

  41. Hannah 02. Apr, 2016 at 9:09 pm #

    Over 30 years of living with someone with BPD, I have given everything I have physically, emotionally and financially. I cannot continue watching the deterioration of my whole family and run the risk (hopefully it’s not too late) that my children, especially the youngest, will be forever scarred by a horrible disorder that is not hers. You can only help someone who will help themselves. There is help out there. I truly hope at some point he accepts it.

    Reading all the comments is truly heart-breaking. It’s not just the one affected with the disorder who suffers. My last option is to leave, but leave is what I now have to do. His denial of so much continues to be the biggest hurdle in any kind of help or improvement.

    Sadness and guilt are so strong, but self-preservation has finally won.

  42. Matthias 12. Apr, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

    I agree with Jonathan. You can’t do anything.

    Setting boundaries I’ve tried for 6 years and it didn’t work. It only made the rages even worse. The verbal abuse is impossible to count. I had to kick her out of the house after she attacked me physically again. I started counting the physical abuse by her at the second birthday of our daughter, but it started before when she was pregant. At number 35 (the total number in this relationship must be more like 60 to 80 times), I threw her out in a act of desperate self-preservation. Now our daughter is with the mother and our child has also been physically attacked by her. I can do nothing because as the father in court you have no chance.

    If I read the Borderliners painting themself as the poor victims what about me and my daughter who have done nothing wrong. A victim doesn’t make other people’s life hell on earth.

  43. Julie 24. Apr, 2016 at 6:21 am #

    Well, I am at my wit’s end. I have a loved one with this disorder and it has destroyed our relationship. Whether intentional or not, she threatens and manipulates to try and get her way. And acts like a spoiled two-year-old when it doesn’t happen.

    All those suffering with this need to understand that you are abusing people, whether intentional or not, and your disorder is not an excuse to do that. It does not matter that you “didn’t mean it.” That doesn’t undo anything.

    Now, what they would say is “oh you’re making me feel bad!” Which is just another form of manipulation to make somebody feel guilty.

    It’s heartbreaking for me because I am on the verge of walking out of her life completely. She does not want help. All she wants to do is have things her way.

    Conversation, being nice, bending over backwards, nothing fills this bottomless pit of self centeredness and entitlement because she’s a “victim.”

    I no longer know what to do. I love this person deeply, but feel helpless.

  44. Jessica 02. May, 2016 at 5:54 pm #

    BPD is a clinical, medical diagnosis that offers a VERY wide variety of symptoms, manipulation being one of them. ONE. Having read every comment here, I can say not one made mention of manipulation by default of diagnosis. This article, I believe anyhow, is intended to help those consistently exposed to someone who experiences

  45. Kathleen 02. May, 2016 at 7:08 pm #

    I believe my sister has BPD. It’s the only thing I can come up with (though her therapist also suggested this to her) to try to make sense of the insanely harmful behavior. Do I hope she seeks treatment? I really don’t care as long as she stays away from me. She has destroyed our family through outrageous manipulation – all in order to escape responsibility or criticism. I’m sure it’s no more intentional than a three year old figuring out how to play her parents off of each other to stay up late or get an extra cookie. Anyone on this board who is BPD or is in a relationship with someone with BPD needs to get this basic message: there is no justification for wrong behavior and without the BPD taking full responsibility there is no hope of resolution. And at the end of the day taking responsibility is what gets you out of the endless cycle of pain. Saying “I was wrong, I am sorry and what can I do to make it right?” And actually doing it. That is the solution. BPDs need 12 steps. Period.

  46. admin 04. May, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

    Hi. Sorry to hear you’re going through all of that. You can try reaching out the NEABPD Family Connections to see if they have any resources in your area:

  47. admin 04. May, 2016 at 9:46 pm #

    Sorry to hear you’re going through that. You may want to check with NEABPD Family Connections and see if they have any resources in your area:

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