11 Things to Mention When You Tell Your Partner About Your Borderline Personality Disorder

Amanda Gail
photo of couple on bench in san francisco looking out over bay with bridge in distance. A dog is sitting between them.

I have borderline personality disorder (BPD). It sounds scary. In a lot of ways, it is.

Before you try to navigate through the confusing and often contradictory cluster of information online, here is a list of the things I think you should know about me and our potential relationship.

1. When I sound fully competent and self-aware as I explain that I have borderline personality disorder, it doesn’t mean I don’t have BPD. I am not always in the middle of an episode.

2. When I explain how bad I can get during an episode, I am not looking for sympathy and reassurance. I am not putting myself down so you will validate me. I am trying to be honest about what is to come so we can both be prepared. Please listen to me.

3. We should probably set important boundaries before we start any sort of relationship. I will not have trouble respecting boundaries if our relationship is built on them. It is harder for me to respect boundaries established later in a relationship. For that, I am sorry.

Related:Let's Talk About Borderline Rage

4. My enthusiasm and passion are not fake just because a few people on the internet say it is. If we bond over something, and I am excited, my happiness is genuine. We are sharing a real connection.

5. I am not just mirroring everything you do. I have my own interests and hobbies that do not change. Just because some of my identity is in flux doesn’t mean all of it is. If I become interested in something you like, that is because it is a normal part of forming bonds with others. I’m not faking my interest in your interests.

6. If I go fully silent in the middle of an episode, it is not because I am giving you the silent treatment. I am dissociating and trying to prevent myself from escalating the situation and, consequently, doing and saying something I will regret. Please give me some time to let my emotions return to normal, and recognize I am not trying to punish you.

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7. If I discuss suicide, I am not doing it to make you feel guilty. Suicidal thoughts are such a significant part of my daily thought process that I genuinely forget that most people are alarmed by casual suicidal discussion. If you let me know you are uncomfortable, I will work hard to stop mentioning it around you. I don’t want to make you feel responsible for my thoughts, and I will always remind you that it’s not your fault.

8. If I am having a breakdown that has nothing to do with you, the best thing to do is to distract me from the negative emotions. I just might not be able to ask for that in the moment because I am not thinking clearly, which is why I need to change the emotions before doing anything else. If you don’t know how to distract me, we can have a separate discussion about those methods.

Related:Why BPD Makes Me Struggle to Recognize My Own Reflection

9. Please do not make empty promises. If you don’t think you are capable of something, do not tell me you are. I understand wanting to make me happy in the moment, but I am absolutely crushed by empty promises, canceled plans, and so on. I have to work hard to manage my expectations. Please do not promise me something when you know you can’t give it to me.

10. If you want to end the relationship, please do so. Do not lie to me about how you’re feeling and stay with me just because you don’t want to hurt me. Do not cheat on me because you’re afraid of dumping me. That betrayal makes it worse. I know it will be hard, but if I am begging you not to break up with me, block me. Refuse to engage. It will hurt me so much that I will try to do anything to stop the pain, but I ultimately recognize it is bad for both of us if I do that. It is easier for me to say that now than in the middle of an episode.

11. My love for you is real. I will not destroy your life. I have empathy for you. I care about you. My brain is a little bit broken, and I have to fight it. Sometimes it’s too broken, and it’s too hard for you. I understand if you need to leave. Just don’t listen to people who tell you I do not have the capacity to love, care, and empathize. I do.

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