What To Expect From A Relationship With Someone Who Has A Personality Disorder

relationship with someone who has a personality disorder

What Is The Schizoid Love Pattern?

My schizoid clients are all afraid of intimacy. As small children, they were abused, neglected, or intruded upon by their caregivers. They were treated like things, not humans. By age 7 most of them had already decided that other people were untrustworthy and potentially dangerous.

To survive without becoming dominated and enslaved by other people, they had to find a way to leave home as soon as possible, become financially independent, and stay a safe distance away from other people—both emotionally and physically.

My more functional schizoid clients find a compromise that allows them to have a taste of intimacy and human connection without feeling trapped by the relationship. A common solution is to have partial relationships with people.

Here are some examples:

  • They may date people who live so far away that they only can get together a few times per year.
  • They may fall in love with someone who is married and unwilling to leave their mate.
  • They may have vivid elaborate fantasies of someone they have only said “hello” to on the street.
  • They may have one-night stands with people they never expect to see again.
  • They may go in and out of the same relationship repeatedly. Starting the relationship when they feel attracted and safe, and dissociating emotionally or physically leaving when they start to feel unsafe or trapped.

Related: 12 Traits Of People With Schizoid Personality

Here is an abbreviated version of what the going in and out pattern looks like:

Year 1

Betty and my schizoid client Bill meet and fall madly in love. They see each other day and night for two weeks. They make plans for a vacation together. Suddenly, Bill gets scared and dissociates, and grows cold towards Betty. He finds some excuse to blame her and leaves the relationship. Betty is devastated. Bill is relieved.

Year 2

Bill works on the situation in therapy and realizes that he really cares about Betty. He decides to see if she is willing to try again. He persuades her to give him another chance by telling her that he is in therapy and realizes that their problems were probably all his fault. But, after a month of bliss, the same thing happens again. Bill leaves again.

Year 3

As soon as Bill is out of the relationship, he starts to miss Betty again. He sends flowers, gifts, apologies. Betty’s mother and her girlfriends are all tired of this guy and warn her not to fall for it a third time. She does. It ends the same way.

By year four, Betty is in psychotherapy and on anti-depressants. Her friends and family hate Bill and refuse to hear her mention his name. They are over him, but she is not. Bill did not mean to ruin her life and crush her dreams. He was only trying to protect himself.

Want to know more about schizoid personality disorder? Check this video out below!


Each of the three main types of personality disorders—borderline, narcissistic, and schizoid—has its own definition of love and its own set of relationship issues. If you are in love with someone with a personality disorder, it is best to assume that when they say “I love you,” they mean something different than you do.

Check out Dr. Elinor Greenberg’s book, Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid Adaptations: The Pursuit of Love, Admiration, or Safety.

Written By Dr. Elinor Greenberg  
Originally Appeared On Psychology Today  
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What To Expect From A Relationship With Someone Who Has A Personality Disorder
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Dr. Elinor Greenberg PhD, CGP

Elinor Greenberg, Ph.D., CGP, is an internationally renowned Gestalt therapy trainer who specializes in teaching the diagnosis and treatment of Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid adaptations in a lively and practical way. She has trained psychotherapists in her approach in the US, Norway, Sweden, Wales, England, Russia, and Mexico. Dr. Greenberg is the author of the book: Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid Adaptations: The Pursuit of Love, Admiration and Safety.View Author posts