3. Extreme Sensitivity And Rage
Because of the lack of object constancy, you may find that your action is often being read as if there were no prior context and that your intentions are being defined solely by how you last interacted with them. You may feel that whatever you say seems to trigger an intense rage, or that you are constantly being misinterpreted for what you say. They are also extremely sensitive to criticism.
However, when loving someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, it is important to not blame every conflict or misunderstanding on their difficulties regulating emotions. Your loved one might be very intuitive. In fact, they may pick up your feelings or intentions before you are aware of them. Acknowledging how you may have contributed to the conflict can defuse the rage and maybe the most constructive response.
If you suspect you are loving someone with BPD, it is often not helpful to directly confront him or her with the label. However, you can let them know about your concerns, provide links to relevant resources, and let them know that effective treatments are available when they are ready to reach out for help.
Dealing With Heated Conflicts When Loving Someone With BPD
BPD has its positive aspects. These are not often discussed and many people with BPD feel they are pushed to the margin of society. The intensity, creativity, and the profound capacity to love are what makes someone with BPD lovable, yet when you are with them, you may feel you don’t know which person you are going to get— one moment you get someone loving and warm, the next moment you get someone sad or aggressive. This is what makes loving someone with BPD such a wild ride.
Being with someone with BPD is like riding a roller coaster, but that does not mean you should give up on the relationship. Here are some pointers that might help, especially when you are in the middle of a heated conflict.
1. As Much As Possible, Be Attentive
People with BPD are exceptionally sensitive to any signs of rejection or abandonment. (The concept of Object Permanence can explain why this is) Even if you don’t have the intention to walk away, they can easily feel emotionally abandoned if you shut down or just act a little distant. They are also highly perceptive and intuitive, if you nod your head and say yes, without truly listening, they will feel it.
It is a tall order to always be attentive, especially when you are with an intense and fast-moving person. You don’t need to always have the answer, or be 100% patient, but if you can have the intention to stay and listen as much as you can; they will be able to feel your love and that you care for them.
Even if you cannot express your love in words, they will be calmed by your quiet presence.
2. Validate Their Feelings Even When You Disagree
From your rational perspective, your loved one may be thinking and acting unreasonably. When they are triggered and have an episode or melt-down, it can be very hard to get on the same side with them.
However, you do not need to agree with them to validate their feelings.
When it comes to human emotions, there is no right or wrong. In a way, all feelings are ‘logical’ because there are stories and reasons behind them. If someone never had a consistent experience of being loved, if their life experience has taught them that affection would always be taken away, or was even a sign of danger, it makes sense that they react the way they do.
Your judgment does not change their emotional reality. In your eyes, they are over-reacting. But what does not make sense to you makes sense to them.
The good news is just because you disagree does not mean you are their enemy— you can validate the feelings behind their actions or perspectives. Loving someone with BPD does not mean you always agree with them, and you can show you are on their side whilst owning your voice.
In practice, you may try to paraphrase what they express: ’I understand that you feel ____,’ ‘I understand, from what you are saying, that right now you are feeling____ and thinking ___.’ This way, you are not lying or bending your own beliefs. You are merely empathizing with their reality.
3. See Their Inner Child
Most people with BPD have suffered complex and prolonged trauma in their early lives. Inside of them still lives a wounded child that is hoping to be heard, to be loved, and to be told they are wanted. Sometimes, we forget that. We see someone who is generally high-functioning, creative, and perhaps capable in other areas of their life, so we don’t assume they are walking around with an open wound. Loving someone with BPD means you learn to see and love this inner child.
You may be surprised when, during a heated argument, they suddenly regress into a child-like state. During these times, you are not dealing with the healthiest part of them, but the most hurt and lost part.