Question from a Reader:
Can someone with Borderline Personality Disorder only have unstable relationships if they are intimate/romantic relationships and not platonic relationships?
While intimate and romantic relationships are often the most unstable for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, it is very likely that any relationship will be affected. That doesn’t mean all relationships will be affected, though it is certainly likely, but it is definitely not limited to only romantic or intimate relationships.
Growing up my romantic relationships were always short lived and very turbulent. These were almost tame compared to the instability I had with my own family though. My brother and I fought constantly, my sister was actually afraid of me, and my parents and I probably woke the neighbors every night with the magnitude of the screaming matches we would have. Discipline didn’t work with me. I would always find a way around it. Things got so bad at one point that my father actually gave me an ultimatum; start paying rent or get out. I immediately went to my room, packed a bag and tossed it out my window. When I went back downstairs to leave my father asked where I was going. I told him I need to go to the bank if he wanted rent. He let me go. I didn’t come home for 4 days. I only came back because I thought my parents were at work and I needed more clothes. While I was getting my things my mom came home though. She’d been paging me incessantly for days. When she saw me she hugged me so hard and dissolved into tears. I remember my heart breaking for her while at the same time being pissed off that she caught me. I couldn’t leave again. Not after that. My parents never tried threatening me with things like that again. I was much too unpredictable.
They never gave up on me though. I know how rebellious, how vicious, how destructive I was. And they still loved me, even though I made them beyond angry. They never gave up on me. Something I am incredibly grateful for. I know how hard I was to deal with.
So, no, BPD doesn’t just affect romantic relationships. I would say it affects those relationships that are most intimate in the sense of closeness though. Family, friends, lovers… no one is immune if they are very close to us emotionally.
Roommate is one of my best friends. She sees me more than almost anyone and we are actually very close. She’s seen me melt down, she’s seen blood dripping from my arms, she’s held me as I dissolve in a puddle of despair. She’s seen this. But I’ve never, not ever, have I taken out my anger or aggression or hurt on her. I know I worry her sometimes, but I’ve never acted out against her. I’m not sure it’s possible to always hide the symptoms of BPD from someone close to you, but it is possible for us to have relatively stable, healthy relationships where we do not take out our emotions on other people. Of course, she’s never given me any reason to hurt. She doesn’t place pressure on me, I’ve never felt that she needed me to be something other than I am, she’s always supported me and been very understanding when I did need an ear. She’s an exceptional person and I’d venture to say, more understanding than most.
I also have many ‘friends’ that I am not close to, that would never guess I had a mental disorder at all. This goes for my coworkers as well. They see me every day and I’m able to maintain my professional masks. They’re not emotionally close to me though. They don’t know the real me.
I think what triggers unstable behavior in relationships is the magnitude of intimacy. The closer the relationship, the more invested we are, the more frightening the possibility of it ending becomes. Funny, that this is almost always a self-fulfilling prophecy. We become frightened something will happen, we act in ways to push people away, to distance ourselves from them, before they can hurt us, and this very act is what starts the downward spiral into the destruction of the relationship. It sounds clean cut when you look at it like that, but it never is.
The pushing away is gradual. Often we don’t even recognize the things we do that manifest as pushing people away. Our thoughts and actions seem quite rational to our traumatized mind. No one sees it coming, not even us most of the time.