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Specialty tag(s): High-Conflict Divorce, Divorce

What Does Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Look Like in a Marriage, and How Does it Impact the Relationship?

Chandler Rice Winslow | May 26, 2023

woman looking into distance, husband is behind her looking frustrated

Maintaining a relationship with someone suffering from borderline personality disorder (BPD) can be complicated and exhausting. This is especially true of marriages involving a spouse with BPD. People with BPD have a tendency to view the world only in extremes, and to experience rapid mood changes and a difficulty regulating their emotions. This means that the marriage relationship may consist of the highest highs and the lowest lows, sometimes all on the same day, which can leave the other spouse feeling confused and frustrated. While in the thick of it, it can be hard to remember that BPD is not a decision: it is a mental health diagnosis. Learning about the challenges BPD can bring to a marriage can help you know what to expect and examine your ability to manage these challenges.

What Does BPD Look Like in a Marriage?

While not every person with BPD shows the same behaviors, patterns, or attitudes, it is common to go through six stages in a relationship, which repeat in a cycle.

Stage 1: Idealization

The partner with BPD starts by idealizing their romantic partner. During this time, they engage intensely with their partner, often seeking more time together and giving their partner a lot of attention.

Stage 2: Waning Infatuation

Over time, that idealization and infatuation begin to wane. The person living with BPD may start feeling anxiety and depression as a fear of rejection kicks in. They might be hypersensitive to actions they perceive as negative, such as not returning a message in a timely manner or having a different tone of voice than expected.

Stage 3: Suspicions

The person with BPD may begin to become suspicious that their partner plans to end the relationship, and this brings about a need to test their partner’s loyalty. Often, their partner has no idea that they’re being tested.

Stage 4: Insecurity

The person with BPD feels insecure about their relationship and may begin to push their partner away. They may also continually ask their partner to reassure them that the relationship is fine and their partner still loves and cares for them.

Stage 5: The Breakup

The person with BPD may announce that they’re breaking up with their partner or leave unannounced. To the other person, it may appear as if the break-up happened out of nowhere, even though the person with BPD has been increasingly anxious and insecure about the relationship for a while now. The partner with BPD may seek out a close friend to meet their emotional needs and/or begin to accuse their partner of being abusive or dysfunctional.

Stage 6: Returning to “Repair” the Relationship

After the breakup, there will likely be some sort of reconciliation. The person with BPD may return and ask for their partner back, take all of the blame, and promise to be better. During this phase, the relationship may seem similar to the initial infatuation stage, but it will be much shorter, and then, the cycle will continue once more.

How Does BPD Affect Marriage?

Those with borderline personality disorder often have difficulties in their marriage because of their fear of rejection or unrealistic expectations of their partner. Even simple arguments in a marriage with a person with BPD can become much larger, as they may see a disagreement as a sign that the relationship is doomed. People with BPD can also have difficulty planning for a future with their partner, as they tend to avoid making solid, long-range plans due to a lack of trust that they will still be together.

It can be very difficult to be married to a person who has borderline personality disorder, and sometimes, a divorce is the best solution. However, divorcing someone with BPD can be a high-conflict situation, so you’ll need a skilled attorney who can help you through this process with as little stress as possible. If you’re facing a high-conflict divorce, the compassionate lawyers at Goranson Bain Ausley can help. Call us today.

Learn More

Chandler Rice Winslow has been named D Magazine Best Lawyers Under 40 for 2022. She has experience in business and real estate law in addition to representing a wide variety of clients in family law, including working and non-working mothers. Chandler understands how to successfully navigate challenging divorce matters when high conflict personalities or mental health issues are involved. She is sought after for solving highly contested custody issues and reaching a resolution in high-conflict divorce.

To learn more about divorcing someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, please contact Chandler Winslow at our Dallas family law office.

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