You’ve heard it before: breaking up is hard to do. And if you are in a relationship with someone diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), you may find breaking up with them to be even more of a challenge.
If you’re in a relationship with someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder, you already know their emotions can run a full gamut. And you probably already know that one of the underlying symptoms of BPD is a crippling fear of abandonment. Their quickly changing moods and swirling emotions can cause irreparable damage to a relationship, which could result in you wanting out of the relationship.
There’s never an easy way to break up with somebody you’re in a relationship with, and how it happens is going to vary wildly depending on the people and the situation. However, there are a couple of common scenarios people find themselves in when breaking up with someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder.
The Fight Response
People who opt for the fight response when ending a relationship will directly confront the person with Borderline Personality Disorder and tell them why they want to end the relationship. This is typically the healthier – and more mature – way to end the relationship because it’s honest and lets you say everything you need to say.
However, the person you are breaking up with might not see it that way. They may get severely depressed or lash out if they know you are breaking up with them. Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder may also engage in self-harm and other destructive behaviors.
If you do opt for this method, make sure to carefully choose which words you are going to use, try to not be too confrontational, and try to engage in a rational conversation instead of being accusatory.
The Flight Response
People who opt for the flight response when ending a relationship will try to slip away quietly by completely cutting off contact with their partner with Borderline Personality Disorder. While this might seem like the safer option, it’s also the more damaging and more dangerous one.
Many people with BPD have a crushing fear of abandonment, and it doesn’t take much to trigger this fear. This can result in the person with BPD engaging in destructive behaviors that can hurt themselves, their livelihoods, and you as well.
Fleeing a relationship instead of discussing a break up with your partner can lead to a lot more questions than answers, and will likely be harmful to both parties.
The DBT Method
So what should you do if you want to end a relationship with someone with Borderline Personality Disorder? Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) offers the following interpersonal effectiveness skills for relationships that can be applied to break ups:
- Gentle: Don’t attack, threaten, or lay guilt trips.
- (Act) Interested: Listen to what your partner has to say, don’t interrupt them, and be sensitive to what they are feeling.
- Validate: Be non-judgmental and validate their feelings and problems.
- Easy Manner: Try to be lighthearted and ease your partner along.
Having a gentle demeanor and an easy manner will likely keep the conversation as balanced as possible, and if you validate your own feelings as well as your partner’s, it will likely make the discussion much easier.
Breaking up is never easy, but with care, compassion and discussion, it is hoped that your break up with someone diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder is as smooth as possible.