Updated on July 27, 2023
8 min read

Dating Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder

What is BPD?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health diagnosis. Someone with BPD finds it challenging to regulate their mood. They might be impulsive or experience feelings of emptiness.

BPD symptoms include:

  • Intense, frequent, and shifting emotions
  • Emotional instability
  • Intense emotions
  • Angry outbursts and/or intense aggression
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Co-occurring disorders, including substance use disorders
  • Depersonalization or dissociation in response to abandonment
  • Avoidance of rejection
  • Acting inappropriately in response to or to avoid losing significant relationships
  • Rapid changes in self-image and identity
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • A desire for intense relationships
  • Craving inappropriate levels of attention in relationships
  • Lack of self-understanding
  • Heightened risk of suicidal thoughts or self-harm behavior

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Is It Difficult to Date Someone with BPD?

Yes. Relationships with people with BPD are challenging. People with this diagnosis tend to be emotionally unstable and contribute to patterns of conflict in interpersonal relationships. 

People in relationships with those who have BPD tend to feel confused and frustrated. These relationships take a toll on those involved. They only last when both parties are committed to dealing with the problem.

Being in a relationship with someone with BPD causes feelings of:

  • Emotional pain
  • Fear
  • Uncertainty
  • “Walking on eggshells” or “waiting for the next shoe to drop”
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Self-blame

One of the greatest challenges of loving someone with BPD is dealing with the change in the relationship. 

Like most relationships, there is a honeymoon period in the beginning where things are great. In healthy relationships, this period gives way to stability and consistent, possibly less intense feelings.

In BPD, the euphoria of a new relationship is more intense than usual. This means there's a greater disparity when it wears off. Once your BPD partner realizes you aren’t perfect, they devalue you and make the mistake of thinking you’re a terrible person.

Can People with BPD Have Lasting Relationships?

Yes, but only if the disorder is addressed.

BPD damages relationships, especially romantic ones. Constantly feeling like you’re walking on eggshells and expecting problems can wear on someone. Many symptoms of BPD also transfer to the other person in the relationship. 

For instance, the intimacy, trust, and self-worth issues experienced by people with BPD are also eventually experienced by the other partner.

The key to a lasting relationship with someone with BPD is finding ways to cope with their cycles. You should encourage your partner to get professional support, and you should do the same. 

It’s possible to reduce or eliminate problematic thought patterns that lead to harmful behavior. However, it takes practice and in most cases, professional guidance.

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15 Tips for Dating Someone with BPD

1. Learn about BPD

Perhaps the best thing you can do if you intend to stay in a romantic relationship with someone with BPD is to learn about the disorder. The more you understand, the better equipped you’ll be to deal with the challenges.

2. Put Yourself in Your Partner’s Shoes

It’s difficult to understand your partner’s actions and emotions when you have a different perspective. Remember, your perception of a situation affects how you react. If that perception is wrong, your reaction will be inappropriate.

People with BPD fear being rejected by their once “perfect partner.” They have difficulty trusting, and even small mistakes cause massive turmoil. Understanding these views and expectations can help you deal more effectively with your partner.

3. Know that BPD Triggers Cycles

BPD tends to cause dysfunctional patterns or cycles. Recognizing and anticipating these cycles can help you manage the relationship better. 

Initially, things are great, and your partner places you on a pedestal. But once you grow closer, they experience disappointment and lose respect for you and devalue you. During this phase, they might withdraw or act out against you.

It’s important to note that this cycle doesn’t happen only once. It can go on throughout the relationship with honeymoon phases and devaluation phases.

4. Understand that It Might Not Be Just BPD

In many cases, people with BPD have co-occurring disorders. 

In addition to the extreme mood swings, fear of abandonment, and other symptoms of BPD, your partner might also exhibit symptoms of depression, anxiety, or substance abuse.

5. Protect Your Mental Health

As the partner of someone with BPD, you already know how challenging unstable relationships are. Despite this knowledge, many people still let the situation damage their mental health. Your challenge is avoiding resentful and angry behaviors to protect your mental health.

Ask yourself the following:

  • Am I abusing alcohol or drugs?
  • Am I isolating myself from friends and family?
  • Have I neglected my physical or mental health?
  • Am I engaging in self-harm or self-destructive behavior?

If you answer yes to any of the questions or you feel like you’ve changed for the worse during your relationship, make sure you:

  • Seek therapy
  • Practice stress management
  • Cultivate and nurture relationships in addition to the one with your significant other
  • Take care of your physical health

6. Set Boundaries with Your Partner

Boundaries are one of the best ways to protect yourself in a BPD relationship. Boundaries aren’t meant to control or change your partner. Instead, boundaries preserve your mental health and teach your partner how to treat you. You’ll show them what is acceptable and what is not.

7. Practice Effective Communication

Communication is important in any relationship. It’s especially important when dealing with someone with BPD. They tend to distort messages, which creates misunderstandings. 

Actively listen to your partner and validate their feelings. Try adjusting your communication style if they struggle to understand your message. And always make sure you’re being honest with what you say.

8. Detach, but Do So Lovingly

Detaching from your partner might be your healthiest option. But you shouldn’t do this with anger or resentment. 

Instead, distance yourself from them without judging them and with love. This gives both of you space to examine where you are and what must be done to improve the relationship.

Remember, you didn’t cause the problem, can’t cure it, and can’t control it.

9. Offer Support

One of the best things you can do is be a supportive and sympathetic partner. You can’t fix the problem, but you can offer a stable, loving, and supportive environment. This gives your partner the best chance at recovering. 

People with BPD do better with partners who can express their emotions and aren’t insensitive.

10. Validate Positive Behavior

As challenging as your relationship might be, it’s important to acknowledge your partner’s strength. If your partner expresses a desire to get help, support them. Remember, BPD partners can learn to regulate their emotions, but it takes work.

11. Encourage Accountability

In addition to validating your partner’s positive behavior, you’ll also want to encourage them to be accountable for their actions. Be gentle but firm. 

People with BPD don’t always realize their missteps, so it’s important to help them identify their behavior so they can make changes.

12. Be Reassuring

Remember, you love this person. You have a right to respect and to set boundaries, but this doesn’t mean you don’t care. Be compassionate and understand their actions don’t make them bad people. 

Remember, people with BPD fear abandonment, so offer reassurance that you love them and want to be with them.

13. Be Patient

Treatment takes time. Your partner won’t be cured overnight. Turn to your support system when you’re frustrated, and accept that your relationship can be healthy with time and work.

14. Be an Advocate for Treatment

Encourage your partner to get support from a mental health professional. Treatment approaches that help with BPD include:

  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT): This approach is a cognitive behavioral therapy that relates a person's thinking to their behavior, including managing interpersonal skills.
  • Mentalization-based therapy (MBT): This approach focuses on helping someone make sense of their thoughts and the thoughts of others.
  • Medications: There are currently no medications specifically approved to treat BPD, but there are medications that help with depression, anger, and impulsivity.
  • Schema-focused therapy: This approach helps people change how they see themselves and turns negative views into more positive ones.
  • Systems Training for Emotional Predictability and Problem Solving, or STEPPS: This approach trains people to use tools to manage their reactions to certain situations.

15. Know When to Walk Away

As much as you love someone, there might come a time that you need to end the relationship. If you reach this point, turn to your support system. If you haven’t already done so, this is also a great time to seek professional help.


BPD is a mental health diagnosis given to people who struggle to regulate their moods and manage their emotions. Relationships with people with BPD are challenging. 

However, it’s possible to have a healthy relationship with someone with BPD with work from both partners. Understanding what you can do to help your partner is important in improving your relationship.

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Updated on July 27, 2023

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