Being supportive of a loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is one thing. Enabling their behaviors is another.
Of course you want to help those who are struggling with BPD symptoms, but sometimes that assistance can cross over the boundary and qualify as enabling. You may not realize that your actions are enabling the destructive behaviors of someone with BPD. You may simply believe you are doing what you can to help them during their time of need.
But enabling may encourage their destructive behaviors, and make the road to recovery even harder. Through your actions, your loved one with BPD may get the feeling that you approve of their behavior, and make them less inclined to seek BPD treatment.
Ways to Stop Enabling
If you are concerned that you are enabling your loved one, here are some actions you can take to stop your enabling behaviors and hopefully motivate your loved one to enter BPD treatment:
- Stop providing financial support: If you are providing money to your loved one whenever they ask for it, you may be enabling their behaviors. Don’t offer any financial help to your loved one unless you know exactly what it is going to be used for. Even then, you may want to withhold financial support if you feel as though giving your loved one money for things like rent or car payments is preventing them from wanting to enter BPD treatment.
- Don’t avoid confrontation: You may have never called your loved one out on their behaviors because you’re worried you’ll hurt their feelings or that you will experience backlash. But if your loved one’s behaviors are harmful to you, you should talk to them about it. Let them know how hurt you are by their unpredictable behavior and how much harm they are doing to themselves and those around them. You don’t have to do this in a confrontational manner — use validation techniques to engage in a productive conversation. By not telling your loved one how their behaviors are impacting you, you are enabling their behaviors.
- Don’t cover for them: If your loved one with Borderline Personality Disorder doesn’t turn up for work, don’t cover for them. And don’t lie for them. Their life is their responsibility, and you don’t have to save them every time. Until they realize they have to take responsibility for their actions, your loved one may not make any effort toward getting BPD treatment.
- Focus your attention elsewhere: If enabling someone’s behaviors is a way for you to show your love or gain acceptance from them, then you need to stop — for their benefit. No matter how much you care about your loved one, you need to focus your attention on other things and people so that you aren’t constantly trying to please your loved one. By refocusing your attention, you may naturally stop engaging in a lot of your enabling behaviors.
- Don’t help quite as much: You may have gotten into a pattern of running errands for your loved one, taking their kids to school, or driving them to their appointments. While it’s always nice to be helpful, this may not provide any motivation for your loved one to enter BPD treatment. Stop being quite as helpful and set boundaries until they make the decision to get BPD treatment. When they do, you can reward them by helping them take care of things they may not be able to while in treatment.
- Don’t get used to their behavior: There comes a point when the people close to someone with Borderline Personality Disorder may just start tolerating their behaviors and only complain instead of doing anything about them. They may tolerate mood swings, compulsive lying, and even abuse. However, this is not only going to make your life miserable, but will make their problem worse. Even if your attempts to encourage them to get BPD treatment fail, you should never tolerate their bad behaviors.
It can be hard to show tough love to someone close to you, but this is often the only way to help someone with Borderline Personality Disorder realize the severity of their problem and the impact it is having on those around them. The less you do to enable their behaviors, the more likely they are to enter BPD treatment and learn to better manage their BPD symptoms.