How To Deal With A Heated Conflict
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.
Being with someone with BPD is indeed a rollercoaster ride, 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 start to ignore them. 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 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 having an episode of 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 all of them. If someone never had the consistent experience of being loved, if their life experience has taught them affection would always be taken away, or 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
For example, you may 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.
Want to understand your partner’s BPD better? Read What It Feels Like To Live With Border Line Personality Disorder
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 in their life, so we don’t assume they are walking around with an open wound.
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. This becomes clear if you can see beyond their hurtful words and volatile behaviors, and look at their body language— the screaming, the shrinking, the shaking. They may say things that they later regret, just like children might throw a tantrum when they do not get their way.