Navigating relationships with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is often like walking a tightrope full of ups and downs, uncertainties, and complexities.
But what does the data say about the average duration of these relationships and marriages?
In this comprehensive analysis, we delve into the numbers, unravel the contributing factors, and explore the intricacies that define relationships involving BPD. From marriage rates to attachment styles and from communication barriers to the impact of substance use, we offer an accurate look into what makes these relationships tick—and sometimes tock.
Whether you're a therapist, diagnosed with BPD, or involved with someone who is, this guide sheds crucial light on the long-term prospects and hurdles you might encounter.
As always, all graphics are 100% free to share under the CC BY-NC-SA license.
Average Length of BPD Relationships and Marriages
Average BPD Married or Cohabiting Length
Couples with BPD who are married or in committed living arrangements tend to stay together for an average of 7.3 years. This duration can deviate by approximately ±4.8 years. For comparison, that is 11% less than the average duration for U.S. marriages, which is 8.2 years. [1, 2]
Average BPD Casual Dating Length
Here, the data reveals a stark contrast.
While a significant number (20%-30%) of individuals with BPD are engaged in some form of romantic relationship, almost 68% of BPD relationships that are not cohabiting dissolve within the first 6 months, and an additional 28.6% don't make it past 18 months. [3, 4, 5]
BPD Marriage Rates
While 52% of women with BPD have married, only 29% of their male counterparts have done the same, making BPD women nearly twice as likely to marry. In stark contrast, 90.9% of non-BPD women and 89.2% of non-BPD men have married, making them 1.75 and 3 times more likely to get married than individuals with BPD.
BPD Divorce Rates
Among those with BPD who have married, 33% end up divorcing. Interestingly, this is slightly lower than the divorce rates for non-BPD women and men, which stand at 37.3% and 35.7%, respectively.
BPD Remarriage Rates
Only 10% of BPD individuals choose to remarry post-divorce, precisely half of the 20% remarriage rate in those without BPD. In essence, non-BPD individuals are twice as likely to take a second walk down the aisle.
BPD Parenthood Rates
When starting a family, 25% of BPD women and 15% of BPD men have children. This means that BPD women are 1.67 times more likely to become mothers than their male counterparts are to become fathers. For context, the parenthood rates for non-BPD individuals are considerably higher, with 84.3% of women and 76.5% of men becoming parents. That makes non-BPD women and men over three and five times more likely to have children than those with BPD.
Read BPD Marriage, Divorce & Parenthood Statistics to uncover all BPD relationship statistics and the complete list of sources (example pictured below).
Relationship Outcomes in Recovered BPD Individuals
Recovery markedly improves relationship stability and family life among those with BPD. Surprisingly, the diagnosis endures in only 25% of individuals 15 years into one study and drops to 8% after 27 years. This remission corresponds with significant improvements in relationship metrics:
- Marriage/Cohabitation: 78.7% of recovered individuals engage in marriage or long-term cohabitation, almost doubling the 39.3% rate among those not in recovery.
- Relationship Stability: Only 42.4% of recovered individuals end significant relationships, compared to 74.6% among non-recovered individuals. The latter are 1.7 times more prone to relationship breakdowns.
- Parenthood: Nearly half (49.3%) of those recovered have children, a substantial increase from the 30.7% parenthood rate among non-recovered counterparts, marking a 61% improvement in propensity to parent.
- Child Custody: A minimal 6.8% of recovered individuals lose custody of their children, a rate 7.5 times lower than the alarming 51.2% among those not in recovery.
To fully explain how BPD recovery and age are factors in this improvement, read: BPD Marriage, Divorce & Parenthood Statistics.
Explanation and Causes for Length of BPD Relationship
What factors contribute to the rapid dissolution of some BPD relationships while others surprisingly endure as long as typical unions?
1. The Paradox of Attachment Satisfaction
Contrary to popular belief, 51% of women and 60% of men report satisfaction in marriages involving a partner with BPD. A significant contributor to this paradox is the high frequency of insecure attachment styles found in 68.6% of such relationships. While insecure attachment generally hampers relationship stability, in some BPD relationships, these styles sync up dysfunctionally, leading to a fragile form of satisfaction and calmness. 
2. Aggressive Communication as a Barrier
People with BPD frequently resort to passive-aggressive modes of expression. This communication style complicates straightforward conflict resolution, serving as a persistent obstacle to relational stability. 
3. Cognitive Distortions and Relationship Perception
Another complicating factor is the propensity of individuals with BPD to misread neutral or even positive relationship events as unfavorable. This recurring misinterpretation amplifies tensions and misunderstandings, further destabilizing the relationship. 
4. Violence and Gender Dynamics
A notable 37% of partners involved with individuals diagnosed with BPD encounter physical or psychological violence within 4 months, undermining the relationship's stability. This is further intensified by gender-based disparities: 50% of females with BPD have a history of physical or sexual assault, contrasting with 26% of males. Additionally, among females arrested for domestic violence, 27% fulfill the diagnostic criteria for BPD, introducing a greater likelihood of violent behavior and the real threat of legal repercussions that can sever or damage the relationship. [8, 9, 10]
5. The Six Stages of the BPD Relationship
The cycle of six key stages of relationships with BPD partners makes long-term stability difficult. 1) Initial Idealization, where the BPD individual rapidly commits emotionally; 2) Acute Sensitivity, marked by hyper-awareness of minor actions of the partner; 3) Manipulative Validation, where emotional tactics like jealousy provocation are employed to test commitment; 4) Partner Devaluation, featuring intentional distancing; 5) Separation, where emotional exhaustion leads to withdrawal; and 6) The Fallout, involving emotional crises and sometimes a renewed but short-lived honeymoon phase. This loop of breaking up and making up makes sustained relationships elusive. 
6. Childhood Trauma's Pervasive Impact
Individuals with BPD are 13 times more likely to have experienced childhood maltreatment, affecting their adult relationships in complex ways. Within this demographic, 48.9% reported physical neglect, 42.5% emotional abuse, 36.4% physical abuse, 32.1% sexual abuse, and 25.3% emotional neglect. These early-life traumas often echo into adulthood, as individuals with BPD are prone to recreating or ''mirroring'' these violent experiences in their intimate relationships, contributing to a cycle of instability. [12, 13]
7. Male Partners with Antisocial Traits and Comorbid Disorders
In relationships where women have BPD, 52.9% of their male partners meet the criteria for antisocial personality disorder, often signaled by conduct disorder symptoms before age 15. This increases the likelihood of aggressive behavior within the relationship. Complicating matters further, 44% of these male partners are diagnosed with another personality disorder, a rate markedly higher than the 9%-14% observed in the general population, adding multiple layers of instability to the relationship. [3, 14]
8. Substance Use Disorders Amplify Challenges
A substantial segment of individuals with BPD—over 50% at the treatment stage and 75% at some point in their lives—struggle with substance use disorders. This includes 24% grappling with alcohol issues and 13% with drug problems at the treatment phase, ballooning to 36% across their lifetime. This comorbidity amplifies the emotional volatility and conflict potential in marital relationships. For instance, reliance on alcohol as a coping mechanism can escalate tensions, disagreements, and neglect of responsibilities, further destabilizing the marriage dynamic. 
Read 63 Signs, Challenges and Examples of a BPD Marriage for a more comprehensive list of challenges in BPD relationships.
In summary, BPD relationships are marked by complexity and volatility but offer room for improvement with recovery. While cohabiting couples last about 7.3 years, most non-cohabiting relationships break up within 18 months. Factors like poor communication and substance use make these relationships challenging yet uniquely intriguing. Recovery significantly improves the likelihood of stability and family life.
 “Attachment, Borderline Personality, and Romantic Relationship Dysfunction | Journal of Personality Disorders.” Journal of Personality Disorders, 2023, guilfordjournals.com/doi/10.1521/pedi.2011.25.6.789. Accessed 16 Sept. 2023.
 US Census Bureau. “Number, Timing, and Duration of Marriages and Divorces: 2016.” Census.gov, 3 May 2021, www.census.gov/library/publications/2021/demo/p70-167.html. Accessed 16 Sept. 2023.
 Bouchard, Sébastien, et al. “Relationship Quality and Stability in Couples When One Partner Suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder.” Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, vol. 35, no. 4, Wiley-Blackwell, Oct. 2009, pp. 446–55, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1752-0606.2009.00151.x. Accessed 16 Sept. 2023.
 Clarkin, J. F., Levy, K. N., Lenzenweger, M. F., & Kernberg, O. F. (2007). Evaluating three treatments of borderline personality disorder: A multiwave study. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 164, 922–928.
 Giesen-Bloo, J., van Dyck, R., Spinhoven, P., van Tilburg, W., Dirksen, C., van Asselt, T., et al. (2007). Outpatient psychotherapy for borderline personality disorder: Randomized trial of schema-focused therapy vs. transference-focused psychotherapy. Archives of General Psychiatry, 63, 649–658.
 Lieb, K., Zanarini, M. C., Schmahl, C., Linehan, M. M., & Bohus, M. (2004). Borderline personality disorder. Lancet (London, England), 364(9432), 453–461. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(04)16770-6
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