Borderline Personality Disorder
Families and Friends
Families, you may not like this particular article as instead of
providing emotional support, I hope to assist you in looking at some
issues that may help you in your recovery. Sometimes these issues are
hard to look at. You must remember though, that these are my thoughts.
It is a well-known fact that people with the borderline personality
disorder (BPD)hurt those they love. Let's not dodge around that. You and I
both know that is true. This is part of the nature of the disorder.
To those of you who are hurting due to loved ones having the bipolar
disorder (BP), we are looking at the same issue I think but from a
Families of both hurt. If I stayed full blown manic for very long, I
can honestly say that I would not have a marriage to come home to. In
fact, I probably wouldn't have any objects in my house that weren't
broken. Mania and depression hurts those that love us. Borderline rage
and splitting hurts those that love us.
Are people with BPD and BP "bad people" for that? No, they are
medically ill. Are they responsible for their behavior? Yes.
Sometimes what I hear families doing without realizing it perhaps is "borderline splitting." By that, I mean, you are painting
your partners black and yourselves white. Some of you are codependent
and some of you are not. It is very easy and very tempting when you
have been hurt by someone you love to say that the "only problem
in my marriage is my wife (husband) because she/he rages like hell,
Here is something I learned while in therapy and it was extremely hard
for me to swallow. I was working full time as a social worker at that
time. My problem was only my horrible, sick boyfriends who were making
me crazy. Ok?
How can a well-educated person in the field of mental health be ill? I
was on the "other side of the fence" helping others. The
boyfriends however were bad and of course I was good. I was healthy
emotionally and they were not.
At work, I had the social work lingo down. I knew how to talk
"mental health talk." In fact I knew much more about people
in a short period of time just by putting their family history
together in my head. I think I mentioned before that my boyfriends
always said I "talked circles around them."
I was an excellent communicator and an excellent social worker. But I
never did understand why I was attracted to these men who
couldn't make a commitment, who were drug addicted, emotionally
That was when my counselor told me that the kind of people that I
attracted into my life was a mirror of my own level of mental health.
I said "Do you mean to tell me that I am just as ill as these men
are?" "Yep!" he said.
In the "olden days" we had what was known as the
"identified patient." A mother would come in and tell the
counselor "We are fine as a family. It is just Jr. He is getting
bad grades, wetting his bed, screams at his father, etc." Back
then he was the "identified patient" and only he was seen in
Today, the whole concept has changed. Now when a mother comes in to
say the same thing about Jr., we say that the whole family is ill, or
out of kilter and the whole family is asked to come in for therapy.
Jr. is displaying symptoms of problems within the family system. The
family system needs to be worked on.
Now how would this apply to you, the family member of someone with BPD? Well, the mania or rage may not be directly caused by
the family system but due to their medical illness, BUT remember what
I said earlier. This is where you need to ask yourself this question:
What is it about me that attracted me to my mate?
Remember, the people we attract into our lives are at
the same level mental health wise as we are. Tough pill to swallow
isn't it? You are not alone. It was hard for me too.
So, when you discuss your recovery, you need to also focus on
yourself, not only on your mate. You need to discover what it is about
you that needs work. In fact, many of you need to get your mind off of
your mate and on to you finally and work on yourself.
Many times families ask the same question, but in different ways.
"How can I get my partner to get help?" The answer: You
Your partner has to want to get help for themselves. If they do not
want help, there is absolutely nothing you can do except to work on
yourself and ask yourself the question of whether or not you want to
continue to live in your current situation. Case closed.
If you are struggling with codependency, you will have trouble with
this. You may still believe that you can control your partner. Let me
ask you this. Have you ever been able to control your partner in the
past? Of course not. Nor will you ever. You must remember at all times
that you are powerless to control others.
If you are heavily involved with blaming your partner and coloring
them black, this will not assist your own recovery. You cannot help
your partner if they do not want help but you can get help for
I have received letters from true and devoted codependents who vow to
stay with their partner, though their partner has kicked them out of
the house and is now living with someone else. Their reason? They say
their spouse cannot help their behavior due to their illness and that
their spouse needs them.
What is really going on here besides very unhealthy thinking and
behavior? Could be lots of things: relationship addiction, etc.
Just because your partner has an illness and thus acts ill, does not
in any way mean that you should continue to live with rages, mood
swings, etc. The BPD and the BP can be treated if the person wants
They are not powerless over their lives and
believe me when I say, they do not need anyone to come along and
"save them." They are people just like everyone else
who make choices and decisions about their lives. They can live in
denial and not get help or they can decide they want better lives and
get some help. However it is important for families to know that that
choice is up to your partner.
Other Today Websites
Mental Health Matters for information
and articles. Get
help to find
a therapist or list
your practice; and Psych
Forums for message boards on a variety of MH topics.
Copyright © Patty Fleener, M.S.W. All