{June 5, 2012}   Article: BPD Relationships and Sex

I hit a bump in the road with relations, this one really hurt because I could not explain my actions, and I could not show why or how I did the thing that I did, and could only stand there and be wrong. The community that would understand this is you because no one else knows what happens when the pressure and claustrophobia sets in. I guess it broke my heart because I know I am not that person but how do you explain the pressure, that I couldn’t control, that the guilt tore it open and I just could not say no. I tried to control the environment and I tried hard to follow the DBT script and its process but the history hit me over the head and I could not hold on to the logic when the triggers overwhelmed, do what a logical person would do. 

Since, I’ve been in a depression, and part of making myself know that I am not an amoral person has been to read the literature and write, to know that this is not me, its a disease I fight and at times fail, and I failed big this time. I need to find it in me to know and believe in myself and continuing progress. That support will come from many places and does not need to be from a relationship because I understand its hard to see us and understand us, that we do things that are incomprehensible that we regret and want to bury, that loved ones cannot separate their hurt from the disease. It pains when they shut us out and I am trying to swallow the rejection which is now onto the abandonment and my depression. But support can come from this blog, from the mental health community, from my doctors that know me. But, here is one of the articles that helped me a little, some of you may have read it already and I think I have too, but it was good to re-read.

Why Are BPD Relationships So Complicated?

Some features of borderline personality disorder strike at the heart of what makes us able to have good interpersonal relationships. Some of these features are:

Low emotional intelligence

There’s more than one way to be smart. In addition to the kind of intelligence you can measure on an IQ test, there’s emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is about monitoring emotions—both your own and those of the people around you—and then using this knowledge to guide your thinking and actions. Many people think BPs don’t have empathy. They do—it’s just that their own emotions are so intense they can be oblivious to the emotions of those around them. They’re like a drowning person who grabs on to a would-be rescuer and pulls them both down.

Impulsive aggression

Impulsive aggression is what happens when the other shoe drops, when the eggshells break, and the emotional roller coaster takes a 180-degree turn. It can be triggered by immediate threats of rejection or abandonment paired with frustration. The aggression can be turned inward (self-injury, suicide) or turned outward.

Impulsive aggression is associated with a biological “tug-of-war” between the logical and emotional aspects of the brain, in which the logical side loses.

Think of impulsive aggression as a “border-lion,” a ferocious beast that is uncaged when BPs’ emotions are so strong and overwhelming they can no longer be contained. It is not exclusive to BPD, but a component of several impulse control disorders such as intermittent explosive disorder.

Whether the border-lion is turned inward or outward, it is one of the top barriers keeping BPs and those who love them from developing the close, trusting relationship each partner yearns for.

It’s going to be tough, but try to hold fast to the notion that your family member and the border-lion are not one and the same.

Rejection sensitivity

In addition to fearing abandonment, people with BPD are overly sensitive to rejection. They anxiously await it, see it when it isn’t there, and overreact to it whether it’s there or not. This is why small slights—or perceived small slights—can cause major messes.

Child-Like Characteristics

People with BPD may seem as mature as any other adult in social or professional situations. But when it comes to coping with strong emotions, they can be stuck at a child’s developmental level.

Starting a Romantic Relationship with Someone With BPD

Given all the difficulties that exist in BPD relationships, why would anyone start a relationship with someone with BPD? First, it is important to remember that despite these intense and disruptive symptoms, people with BPD are frequently good, kind, and caring individuals. Often they have many positive qualities that can make them great romantic partners some of the time.

In addition, many people who have been in a romantic relationship with someone with BPD talk about how fun, exciting, and passionate a BPD partner can be. Many people are drawn to a BPD partner precisely because people with BPD have intense emotions and strong desire for intimacy.

BPD Relationships and Sex

Impulsive sexuality is one of the symptoms of BPD, and many people with BPD struggle with issues of sexuality. In addition, a large percentage of people with BPD experienced childhood sexual abuse, which can make sex very complicated.

Research has shown that women with BPD have more negative attitudes about sex, are more likely to feel pressured into having sex by their partner, and are more ambivalent about sex, than women without BPD. Unfortunately no research has been done on sexuality in men with BPD.

The key to maintaining a relationship with someone with BPD is to find ways to cope with these cycles (and to encourage your BPD partner to get professional help to reduce these cycles). Sometimes partners in a BPD relationships are helped by couples therapy.

BPD and Romantic Relationships: Breaking Up

Many issues arise when a BPD relationship is ending. Because people with BPD have an intense fear of abandonment, a break up can leave them feeling absolutely desperate and devastated. Even if a relationship is unhealthy, a person with BPD can often have trouble letting the relationship go. This will particularly true of long-term partnerships or marriages.

Relationships are always hard!

Sasha says:

This article has actually helped me a lot and explained some things. Thank you for posting it. :]

This is so true. I identify with almost the entire article. Thank you so much for making me feel I am not alone, and also, not a bad person – it is not me, it is my disorder. Take Care. x

you’re welcome, it did me good to read this again as well. we’re not awful people, we have challenges, and it’s hard for people to see that our actions dont beget the person. hugs.

Dr. Brad Higgens says:

My wife never cheated on me, but she was always threatening me with a divorce. She was unhappy, and every little thing set her off. She was unhappy and depressed in our relationship. She was diagnosed with BPD and everything I was reading told me that they cannot be in successful long term relationships. Things were getting bad, and I was running out of options so we saw the best expert on the subject, a national recognized licensed physiatrist that specialized on the subject. He said that people with BPD cannot be in long term relationship without sexual freedom. He suggested that my wife sleep with other people when she felt an episode coming on or she was getting emotional (no, he did not sleep with my wife). I thought is was weird, but I gave it a try. I was not allowed to sleep with other people because of her extreme jealousy. So I got the short end of the stick. But it worked perfectly. She got the additional attention she needed, she stopped being jealous of other girls, it made her thankful for what she had, it spiced up our sex, it gave her the adventure that she craved, it allowed her to have control, it killed her jealousy, it provided her an escape… and most important it gave us stability. We have been happily married for 20 years. We keep her sexual adventures a secret, so people don’t think we are weird. But we love each other and I am very thankful.

Dr. Jeff says:

You are right. people with BPD cannot be in a relationship long term unless they are given sexual freedom. If you have BPD and want to be marreid then you need to find someone that confident enough to allow you to be in a open relationship. This will settle them down and give them the power and the attention they need. However, your supporting partner must be faithful or it will kill your relationship. If it sounds one sided… It is. but after seeing hundreds of couples fail, this is the only way that creates stability. best of luck

I believe I’m speaking on a panel in March on BPD, relationships and sex! This article will be helpful as I am at a loss for how to explain my experience.

P.S. People with BPD ARE CAPABLE of being in long-term, monogamous relationships (it’s so demonizing, stigmatizing and discriminatory to believe otherwise). I would say what prevents that from happening is not getting help to deal with emotion regulation and distress tolerance as well as not having good interpersonal skills to communicate needs. Some people with BPD may prefer open relationships regardless and that’s fine if all parties agree. I know that when I was sleeping with others when I was in a relationship it had nothing to do with ‘sexual freedom” and everything to do with my pain, views on sex and what I thought my relationship with my current partner was like. As I have improved in my emotion regulation, coping and communication I have cheated less. This horrible stereotype also places much of the blame on the BPD individual. Many partners are at fault as well for the ending a relationship and to only blame the BPD person is destructive and demonstrates an inability to take responsibility for ones own actions.

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Life after Borderline Personality Disorder; making a life worth living through love, laughter, positivity and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

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