Marriage is complex, but add Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) into the mix and it's a whole new ballgame.
This article delves into 63 crucial signs and challenges that define a BPD marriage, categorized under four key areas:
- Emotional and Cognitive
- Relational and Communication
- Behavioral and Impulsive
- Identity and Self-Perception
Whether you're a therapist, someone with BPD, or a spouse, this guide offers practical examples and actionable advice to navigate the labyrinth of emotions and interactions that characterize such unions.
As always, all graphics are 100% free to share under the CC BY-NC-SA license.
Emotional and Cognitive
Definition: Compartmentalization is a cognitive process commonly associated with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). It involves separating different aspects of the self and struggling to merge the positive and negative aspects of their self-concept, which can lead to extreme shifts in mood and self-esteem.
Impact on Marriage: In a marital relationship, compartmentalization can introduce significant unpredictability and tension. Events that trigger negative self-aspects in individuals with BPD can lead to severe emotional reactions, disrupting the stability and harmony of the relationship.
Example: Consider a spouse surprising their BPD partner with a party. While some might see this as a loving gesture, a person with BPD might react negatively, associating the surprise with past traumas or perceived negative self-attributes. 
Definition: Splitting is a defense mechanism frequently observed in BPD patients. It denotes a failure to harmonize the positive and negative attributes of oneself and others.
Impact on Marriage: Within the bounds of matrimony, splitting can lead to alternating idealization and devaluation of the spouse. One moment the partner may be seen as flawless, and the next as entirely negative. This black-and-white view disrupts consistent communication, trust, and stability in the relationship.
Example: A minor disagreement might cause a BPD individual to suddenly view their spouse as uncaring or selfish, only to revert to viewing them as loving and considerate once the issue is resolved. 
3. Multidimensional Dichotomous Thinking
Definition: Multidimensional Dichotomous Thinking is a cognitive pattern where individuals perceive situations or behaviors in extreme terms, often disregarding the complexities and shades that exist in between.
Impact on Marriage: Such an extreme perception can lead individuals with BPD to react disproportionately to perceived slights or misunderstandings, introducing volatility into the marital dynamic.
Example: If a spouse comes home late from work, a person with BPD might jump to the conclusion that they don't care or are being intentionally hurtful, overlooking other potential explanations. 
4. Maladaptive Cognitions
Definition: Individuals with BPD often grapple with negative personality attributions, leading them to make negative assumptions about the motivations behind others' actions, especially in situations hinting at rejection or abandonment.
Impact on Marriage: When these negative cognitions activate, they can warp views of oneself and one's partner. This might result in unjust suspicions, distrust, or perceived harm, making the relationship environment tense and reactive. Such inconsistent trust issues can shake the relationship's foundation, obstructing open and trusting dialogue. [2, 3, 4]
Example: If a spouse arrives late without notifying their BPD partner, the latter might assume deliberate neglect or deceit, intensifying feelings of abandonment or betrayal.
Definition: A hallmark of BPD is impulsive behavior, which can manifest as sudden, unplanned actions or decisions without consideration of the consequences.
Impact on Marriage: Impulsiveness can bring about unpredictable scenarios, heightened conflicts, and emotional upheavals, undermining the trust and stability necessary for a thriving marital relationship.
Example: A BPD individual might decide to spend a large portion of their shared savings on an unplanned vacation, causing financial strain and feelings of betrayal in the relationship. 
6. Fear of Abandonment
Definition: A prevailing symptom among BPD individuals is the profound fear of abandonment, often manifesting as extreme clinginess or the contrary—pushing loved ones away to pre-empt perceived rejection.
Impact on Marriage: Such behavior results in emotional distress and instability, making it hard to cultivate stable, fulfilling, long-term bonds in marital relations.
Example: A spouse might spend an evening out with friends, causing the BPD individual to feel rejected or abandoned, leading to either excessive reassurance-seeking or avoidant behaviors. 
7. Intense Emotional Reactions
Definition: Individuals with BPD are prone to interpret common relationship disagreements as complete signals of abandonment or rejection, amplifying the emotional intensity of their responses.
Impact on Marriage: Such heightened emotional reactions can escalate even minor disputes, making routine disagreements in marriages turn into major emotional episodes.
Example: A simple disagreement over household chores might lead a BPD individual to perceive it as a profound relationship betrayal. 
8. Affective Instability
Definition: A defining characteristic of BPD marriages is affective instability, marked by intense, swift emotional changes.
Impact on Marriage: This emotional unpredictability can make it challenging for spouses to comprehend or predict these mood shifts, potentially leading to miscommunication and feelings of walking on eggshells.
Example: A BPD individual might be joyful and affectionate one moment and then rapidly shift to feeling irate or despondent, leaving their partner perplexed and concerned. 
9. High Negative Affect
Definition: Individuals with BPD frequently experience elevated negative emotions, encompassing feelings like depression, dysphoria, anger, irritability, and anxiety.
Impact on Marriage: This persistent state of negative affect can contribute to a strained atmosphere within the relationship, causing tensions and misunderstandings between partners.
10. Reactivity to Interpersonal Stressors
Definition: Those with BPD exhibit heightened reactions to interpersonal stressors, which might manifest as episodes of intense anger, panic, or despair when feeling unattended or undervalued by their partner.
Impact on Marriage: Such extreme responses can inhibit open communication, and the spouse may become apprehensive about initiating discussions, fearing potential overreactions.
11. Association between Perceived Rejection and Rage
Definition: In BPD marriages, feelings of perceived rejection often directly correlate with episodes of intense anger.
Impact on Marriage: This association can lead to explosive confrontations and further widen the emotional distance between spouses.
12. Symptom Reduction with Returned Attention
Definition: BPD symptoms may diminish when the individual perceives that their partner is providing them with renewed attention.
Impact on Marriage: This reliance on attention for emotional balance introduces an added layer of intricacy to the relationship dynamics, making it challenging to maintain consistent emotional equilibrium.
Example: After a disagreement, if a partner initiates reconciliation or shows care, the BPD individual's distress might reduce, reflecting their dependency on their partner's acknowledgment. 
Read about other disorders: Family, Relationships & Life With Down Syndrome [Data & Statistics]
13. Brief Duration of Intense Mood Shifts
Definition: The extreme mood shifts characteristic of BPD typically persist for a short duration, often cycling within hours.
Impact on Marriage: Such rapid mood oscillations result in unpredictable emotional patterns, posing a challenge in maintaining stability in the relationship.
14. Negative Interpretation
Definition: In BPD marriages, positive daily romantic relationship experiences (DREs) initiated by partners are often perceived negatively by individuals with BPD traits. This tendency highlights a deeper mistrust in the authenticity of their partner's positive actions, possibly stemming from fears of rejection and doubts about their partner's genuine love. While they might trust their own positive actions, individuals with BPD traits often interpret both positive and negative DREs — whether initiated by them or their partners — in a negative manner.
Impact on Marriage: Such consistent negative interpretation can amplify interpersonal stress and conflict. Even positive relationship events might be perceived as sources of stress, adding complexity to the dynamics of BPD marriages.
Example: A partner might buy flowers as a loving gesture, but the individual with BPD traits might interpret this as a cover-up for some wrongdoing or a manipulative act. 
15. Depression and Isolation
Definition: A significant proportion of BPD individuals, ranging from 41-83%, concurrently suffer from major depressive disorder, manifesting as persistent low moods and tendencies towards withdrawal.
Impact on Marriage: A pervasive depressive state can hinder essential aspects of a healthy marital relationship, such as open communication, understanding, and emotional intimacy, making it challenging to maintain a close bond.
Example: An individual with BPD might choose to isolate themselves during a depressive episode, making it difficult for their partner to connect or offer support. 
16. Paranoia under Stress
Definition: In stressful situations, people with BPD might develop unwarranted suspicions about their partners or others close to them.
Impact on Marriage: Such paranoia can breed mistrust, leading to baseless accusations and further strain in the relationship.
Example: When feeling insecure, a BPD individual might irrationally accuse their partner of having an affair, even in the absence of any evidence.
17. Frequent Emotional Rollercoaster
Definition: The constant ebb and flow of emotional states experienced by individuals with BPD.
Impact on Relationship: Partners may find it exhausting to keep up with the rapid emotional shifts, making it hard to foster a calm, consistent relationship dynamic.
Example: A BPD individual might shower their partner with affection one moment, only to withdraw and appear distant shortly after, leaving their partner confused and unsettled.
18. Emotional Mirroring
Definition: A phenomenon where the partner of a BPD individual starts to mirror or emulate their emotional states and behaviors, even if they don't have BPD themselves.
Impact on Relationship: This can blur boundaries and intensify the emotional volatility within the relationship, as both partners may begin to feed off each other's heightened emotional states.
Example: After prolonged exposure to their BPD partner's extreme emotional shifts, the other partner might also start displaying drastic mood changes, oscillating between heightened affection and severe resentment.
Relational and Communication
19. Negative Self-evaluation
Definition: Negative self-evaluation refers to the propensity of individuals with BPD to predominantly perceive themselves in a negative light, often overlooking or undermining their positive traits and accomplishments.
Impact on Marriage: Within a marriage, a skewed self-concept can lead to an excessive reliance on the spouse for validation, heightened feelings of jealousy, and an intensified fear of abandonment. Moreover, projecting this negative self-perception onto the partner can spark frequent misunderstandings and conflicts.
Example: If a spouse compliments or praises someone else in the presence of their BPD partner, the individual with BPD might interpret this as a sign that they themselves are lacking or inferior, leading to feelings of resentment or insecurity. 
20. Negative Communication Patterns
Definition: Negative Communication Patterns manifest as detrimental behaviors, such as blame, withdrawal, or hostility, especially during crucial conversations intended for problem-solving or mutual support.
Impact on Marriage: In marriages with a BPD partner, these negative communication styles can hinder resolution processes, escalate conflicts, and erode the mutual trust and understanding essential for a healthy relationship.
21. Attachment Issues
Definition: Those with BPD often exhibit heightened attachment anxiety compared to attachment avoidance. While both pose challenges, individuals with BPD showing higher levels of avoidant attachment can find marriages especially taxing.
Impact on Marriage: The intimate nature of marriage can activate their attachment systems, amplifying their interpersonal issues. This intensification can make navigating the relationship even more challenging, especially in situations demanding closeness or vulnerability.
22. Heightened Dysfunction in Intimate Relationships
Definition: Among those with BPD, dysfunction in relationships typically intensifies with increasing levels of intimacy. Thus, deeply personal connections, like marriage, are often more problematic than other relationship types.
Impact on Marriage: The heightened dysfunction can cause recurring issues, leading to constant strife and undermining the foundation of trust, understanding, and emotional connection that marital relationships require.
Example: While a BPD individual might maintain stable friendships, they might find the emotional demands of marriage overwhelming, leading to frequent breakdowns in communication or understanding. 
23. Distrust and Suspicion
Definition: Distrust and suspicion are commonly exhibited by those with BPD, making them often wary of the motives and intentions of others.
Impact on Marriage: Such persistent doubt and skepticism can destabilize a marriage, as trust is a cornerstone of any partnership. This mindset can pave the way for misunderstandings, increased conflicts, and emotional detachment.
Example: A partner might interpret a spouse's innocent friendship with a coworker as a potential threat to their relationship, leading to unnecessary tension. 
24. Communication and Conflict Resolution Challenges
Definition: Due to the intense emotional responses BPD individuals have to disagreements, it can deter partners from initiating open dialogues about significant issues.
Impact on Marriage: This hampers effective communication and conflict resolution, as crucial topics might be sidestepped entirely. Avoiding essential dialogues prevents a healthy, constructive exchange within the relationship, limiting mutual understanding and problem resolution.
Example: A partner might avoid discussing financial concerns with their BPD spouse out of fear it might lead to an emotional outburst. 
25. Future Planning Challenges
Definition: BPD individuals might struggle with envisioning a long-term future with their partners, stemming from deep-seated mistrust in the relationship's longevity.
Impact on Marriage: This hesitancy can sow seeds of doubt and instability within the marriage, making it hard to create a collective vision for the future or engage in long-term commitments and planning.
Example: Discussions about purchasing a home or starting a family might be met with reluctance or avoidance by a BPD partner due to uncertainties about the relationship's future. 
26. Romantic Involvement with BPD Partners
Definition: Research shows that almost half (44.1%) of men romantically involved with BPD women are diagnosed with a personality disorder, a proportion that notably surpasses the 9% to 14% prevalence expected in the general populace. This suggests a heightened propensity for individuals with BPD to engage in relationships with partners also grappling with personality disorders.
Impact on Marriage: The presence of dual personality disorders in a marital relationship can amplify complexities and challenges, intensifying relationship dynamics and potential conflicts.
Example: A disagreement might escalate more quickly in such a relationship, as both partners could react more intensely due to their respective disorders. 
27. Unrealistic Expectations
Definition: BPD individuals often harbor unrealistic expectations about their partners. Initial idealization during the relationship's honeymoon phase may transition to devaluation as the relationship matures.
Impact on Marriage: This fluctuating perception can infuse the relationship with instability, as partners oscillate between being placed on pedestals and being undervalued.
Example: A BPD individual might expect their spouse to consistently meet high standards, becoming disappointed and frustrated when these standards aren't met, even if they are unreasonable. 
28. Impulsive Relationships
Definition: The intense fear of rejection or abandonment, characteristic of BPD, can drive individuals to quickly plunge into relationships, seeking validation and acceptance.
Impact on Marriage: Such impulsivity can lay shaky foundations for a marriage, where the rapid progression might not allow for deep understanding and mutual growth.
Example: A BPD individual might rush into marriage within months of meeting someone, driven by the desire to feel secured and wanted. 
29. False Stability
Definition: "False stability" refers to a deceptive sense of calm and steadiness in a relationship where one partner has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). While on the outside the relationship may seem unproblematic, beneath the surface lie significant emotional disturbances and uncertainties.
- Trust Issues: Many individuals with BPD struggle with trust, often doubting the genuineness of their partner's intentions or actions. This skepticism can be a constant source of tension, even if it's not always openly discussed.
- Comorbid Mental Disorders: BPD rarely exists in isolation. Many individuals with this disorder also grapple with other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or PTSD. These can compound the relationship's complexities and intensify its hidden instabilities.
- Insecure Attachment: People with BPD often display signs of insecure attachment. They may become overly reliant on their partners for emotional validation, constantly seeking reassurance and approval. This can make the relationship appear steady, as the BPD individual might go to great lengths to prevent perceived abandonment, even if they're internally tormented by doubts and fears.
Impact on Relationship: Externally, the relationship can seem harmonious, with few visible conflicts or issues. Friends and family might even admire the bond. However, internally, the relationship is characterized by a constant emotional tug-of-war. The non-BPD partner might be walking on eggshells, while the BPD individual may be in perpetual fear of abandonment or rejection.
Example: A couple where one partner has BPD might rarely argue in public or amongst friends. They might be seen as the "perfect couple" by many. However, at home, the BPD partner might frequently seek validation, ask for constant reassurances, or react intensely to minor issues, creating a persistent undercurrent of tension. [21, 23, 24, 25]
30. Distinct Communication Patterns
Definition: Marriages involving BPD individuals often exhibit unique communication patterns. Instead of mutual dialogue, there's a tendency for the female partner to withdraw, while the male partner becomes demanding. This diverges from standard communication patterns seen in distressed couples.
Impact on Marriage: This altered communication dynamic can hinder effective problem resolution, with one partner avoiding confrontation while the other becomes increasingly demanding.
31. Multiple Romantic Relationships
Definition: Individuals with BPD tend to engage in a higher number of romantic relationships than their counterparts without the disorder.
Impact on Marriage: This tendency can imply challenges in maintaining long-term commitment, fostering stability, and cultivating mutual growth in a marital relationship.
Example: A person with BPD might move quickly from one relationship to another, seeking the emotional security and validation they crave. 
32. Heightened Conflict
Definition: Marriages involving an individual with BPD are characterized by elevated levels of conflict.
Impact on Marriage: This continual conflict can erode trust, hinder effective communication, and reduce overall marital satisfaction.
Example: Small disagreements, which might be quickly resolved in other marriages, could escalate into significant disputes in BPD marriages. 
33. Reduced Romantic Satisfaction
Definition: BPD individuals typically report lower levels of satisfaction in their romantic relationships.
Impact on Marriage: Decreased satisfaction can stifle mutual growth, compromise emotional connection, and hinder the development of a deeper bond between spouses.
Example: A BPD individual might often feel unfulfilled or disillusioned with the relationship, even if their partner is making genuine efforts to nurture the bond. 
34. Insecure Attachment Styles in BPD Marriages
Definition: Within relationships involving women with BPD, attachment styles can offer insights into relationship dynamics. A significant portion of women with BPD (37.1%) display an anxious attachment style, marked by relationship preoccupation and constant concern about their partner's reciprocated love. A majority (60.5%) exhibit an ambivalent attachment style, characterized by doubts about their partner's reliability and a craving for closeness, paired with fears of unreciprocated emotions.
Impact on Marriage: Both these attachment styles are variants of insecure attachment. They introduce a realm of mistrust, anxiety, and emotional volatility, making it difficult to sustain a steady, nurturing marital bond.
Example: A woman with BPD might constantly seek reassurance from her partner about their feelings for her, indicative of her anxious attachment style, and might simultaneously push them away due to her ambivalent attachment, fearing they won't truly reciprocate her feelings. 
35. Reduced Intimate Communication
Definition: Within BPD marriages, there's often a notable reduction in intimate communication, defined as the articulation of personal feelings and emotions.
Impact on Marriage: The limitation in emotional expression can hinder the emotional bond and mutual understanding between partners, potentially leading to feelings of isolation and distance.
Example: Even during personal or vulnerable moments, a partner with BPD might withhold their feelings or avoid sharing deep-seated emotions, making it challenging for their spouse to truly understand or support them. [29, 30]
36. Passive Communication Style
Definition: Individuals with BPD might adopt a passive communication approach in romantic relationships, prioritizing their partner's needs and desires above their own, often to bypass potential conflicts.
Impact on Marriage: This communication style might make it difficult for their partner to discern their true feelings or desires, potentially leading to misunderstandings or feelings of dissatisfaction.
37. Aggressive Communication Style
Definition: Some individuals with BPD, contrary to adopting a passive style, might employ an aggressive approach in communicating, focusing predominantly on their personal sentiments and needs, potentially neglecting or diminishing their partner's feelings.
Impact on Marriage: This style might foster conflict and resentment, making it difficult to establish a harmonious, mutual understanding in the relationship.
38. Frequent Conflicts
Definition: A proclivity for engaging in regular disagreements not just with the spouse but with others as well.
Impact on Marriage: Continual conflicts can strain the relationship and create a hostile environment, making peaceful coexistence difficult.
Example: A BPD individual might instigate arguments at family gatherings, straining relationships with in-laws and extended family.
39. Attachment Panic
Definition: Intense anxiety experienced by those with BPD when they feel their partner is not prioritizing them.
Impact on Marriage: This panic can compel constant reassurance, leading to an emotionally taxing relationship and possibly resulting in the partner feeling overwhelmed.
Example: If a partner chooses to spend a weekend on a work trip or with friends, the BPD individual might react with extreme distress, fearing abandonment.
40. Walking on Eggshells
Definition: The constant vigilance required by partners of those with BPD to avoid triggering emotional reactions.
Impact on Relationship: Such a state can hinder genuine communication and may cause the partner to suppress their feelings to prevent conflicts, leading to resentment over time.
Example: A partner might avoid discussing a topic they deem sensitive, like finances or relationships with others, fearing it might set off an emotional outburst.
41. Being Tested Constantly
Definition: Due to their underlying fears, BPD individuals might consistently challenge their partners to prove their loyalty and love.
Impact on Relationship: Constant testing can lead to frustration and exhaustion as the non-BPD partner feels they can never truly reassure or satisfy their BPD partner's needs and fears.
Example: A BPD individual might deliberately act distant to see if their partner reaches out, and if the partner doesn't respond as expected, it might be construed as a sign of waning interest or commitment.
42. Empathizing Means Experiencing the Same
Definition: The intense emotional experiences of individuals with BPD might be expressed in ways that compel their partners to feel the same depth of emotion.
Impact on Relationship: This can cause emotional exhaustion for the partner, as they may feel they are consistently drawn into the emotional maelstrom, making it challenging to maintain their emotional equilibrium.
Example: A person with BPD may be so distraught that they communicate their anguish primarily through their actions and behaviors, leading their partner to feel a mirrored sense of distress.
43. Distressing over Frequent Acting Outs
Definition: The frequent external manifestation of internal emotional turmoil experienced by individuals with BPD, resulting in behaviors that might be challenging to understand or predict.
Impact on Relationship: The partner may often find themselves on high alert, bracing for the next episode and feeling at a loss on how to support or respond.
Example: A sudden emotional breakdown or an unexpected outburst over a minor issue can leave the partner scrambling to comprehend the underlying cause and feeling helpless in providing comfort.
Behavioral and Impulsive
44. Substance Use Disorders
Definition: A significant portion of BPD patients grapple with substance use disorders. More than half have such challenges when receiving mental health treatment, with about 75% confronting them at some stage in their life. These issues encompass both alcohol, with around 24% being affected, and other drugs, with about 13% having issues at the treatment stage and over 36% across their lifetime. 
Impact on Marriage: The dual challenge of BPD and substance use disorders adds another layer of complexity to marital relationships, exacerbating emotional volatility and the potential for conflict.
Example: A BPD individual might turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism, leading to increased tensions, disagreements, and potential neglect of responsibilities within the marriage.
45. Unplanned Pregnancies
Definition: Women with BPD have a higher prevalence of experiencing unplanned pregnancies.
Impact on Marriage: Such unexpected events can introduce additional stress, challenge the relationship's stability, and complicate long-term planning.
Example: An unplanned pregnancy might exacerbate existing tensions, especially if the couple is already dealing with relationship challenges. 
46. Increased Risk of Abuse
Definition: Individuals with BPD are more likely to face abuse in romantic relationships.
Impact on Marriage: This heightened risk can introduce severe emotional and physical trauma, making the establishment of a safe and nurturing environment challenging.
Example: A BPD individual's intense emotional reactions might trigger confrontations, potentially escalating to harmful situations. 
47. Suicidal Threats
Definition: In intense emotional states, individuals with BPD might use threats of self-harm or suicide as manipulation tactics, trying to control or sway their partner's actions.
Impact on Marriage: Such threats create a highly stressful environment, introducing significant strain on the relationship and potentially causing feelings of guilt, anxiety, and powerlessness in the partner.
Example: In a heated argument, a BPD individual might threaten self-harm if their partner doesn't comply with their wishes, creating a traumatic experience for both.
48. Extreme Control
Definition: Excessive control, marked by behaviors like unwarranted jealousy or invasive behaviors, is a trait sometimes seen in individuals with BPD within their romantic relationships.
Impact on Marriage: Such controlling behaviors can undermine trust, creating an atmosphere of suspicion and discomfort between partners.
Example: An individual with BPD might incessantly check their partner's phone, monitor their interactions, or restrict their associations, leading to feelings of confinement in the spouse.
49. Childlike Dependency
Definition: Within some BPD marriages, one might observe an exaggerated dependent behavior, where the individual with BPD leans excessively on their spouse for tasks, decisions, or responsibilities they could manage independently.
Impact on Marriage: This heightened dependency might cause an imbalance in responsibilities and power dynamics, potentially leading to feelings of burden or resentment in the partner.
Example: An individual with BPD might insist on their partner managing all aspects of their shared finances, refusing to engage or educate themselves on the matter, placing undue pressure on the spouse.
50. Impulsive Behaviors
Definition: BPD can manifest as impulsive actions, including rash decisions in financial matters, excessive consumption of substances, or uncontrolled eating habits, especially during heightened emotional states.
Impact on Marriage: Such behaviors can lead to strains in the relationship due to financial instability or health concerns. It might also create feelings of unpredictability or unreliability towards the partner with BPD.
Example: An individual with BPD might go on an unexpected shopping spree after an argument, leading to financial stress and further conflict in the relationship.
51. Dealing with Impulsive Behaviors
Definition: BPD individuals often have impulsive tendencies, acting on the spur of the moment without considering the long-term consequences.
Impact on Relationship: The unpredictable nature of such actions can strain the relationship, with the partner often caught off guard or left to deal with the repercussions.
Example: A BPD individual might spontaneously spend a large portion of shared savings on a luxury item without discussing it with their partner, leading to financial stress and mistrust within the relationship.
52. Isolation from Social Circle
Definition: BPD can sometimes drive individuals to sever ties with friends or family over perceived slights or misunderstandings.
Impact on Marriage: The shrinking social circle might leave the couple feeling isolated, placing an additional burden on the marriage for emotional and social support.
Example: A BPD individual might cut off contact with a long-time friend who unintentionally missed a social gathering, reducing their social interactions and networks.
53. Making Numerous Enemies
Definition: A pattern of regularly initiating conflicts and holding onto grudges, leading to a reputation of being combative and decreasing friendly associations.
Impact on Marriage: Constantly being in disagreements can cause stress and further reduce the couple's social circle, amplifying feelings of isolation.
Example: A person with BPD might escalate minor disagreements at community events, making it challenging for the couple to engage socially without apprehension.
54. Avoidance of Public Places
Definition: Post an emotional episode in public, an individual with BPD might feel embarrassed and choose to avoid the location entirely.
Impact on Marriage: Such avoidance can limit the couple's social and recreational activities, adding constraints to their routine.
Example: After a public disagreement in a popular restaurant, the BPD individual might insist on never returning there, limiting the couple's dining options.
55. Insecurity and Self-Sabotage
Definition: Driven by deep-rooted insecurities and fears of abandonment, individuals with BPD might behave in ways that undermine their own relationships.
Impact on Marriage: The unpredictable behavior, combined with the cyclical nature of drawing in and pushing away the partner, can make maintaining a steady relationship arduous.
Example: A BPD individual, fearing eventual rejection, might start unnecessary conflicts or break up with their partner preemptively to avoid perceived forthcoming heartbreak.
Identity and Self-Perception
56. Identity Changes
Definition: Regular shifts in self-perception, which can lead to changes in significant life choices, values, affiliations, or relationships.
Impact on Marriage: Constant change can create a sense of instability and unpredictability in the marriage, as the non-BPD partner may find it challenging to keep pace with the alterations.
Example: Over a short span, an individual with BPD might switch between multiple religious affiliations, causing potential value-based conflicts in the marriage.
57. Idealization and Devaluation of Partner
Definition: Individuals with BPD might initially place their partners on a pedestal, seeing them as perfect, but over time, even minor flaws are intensely magnified, leading to devaluation.
Impact on Marriage: This cycle can lead to feelings of confusion and emotional turmoil for the partner, making it difficult to establish a secure attachment or trust.
Example: In the initial months of the relationship, the partner might be seen as the ideal mate, but a few months down the line, the same qualities might be viewed critically.
58. Holding Grudges
Definition: Individuals with BPD might retain resentment for long durations and may seek retribution for perceived wrongs.
Impact on Marriage: This long-standing bitterness can hinder effective conflict resolution and create a toxic environment in the relationship, as old issues are frequently resurrected.
Example: During a new disagreement, the BPD individual might reference mistakes or arguments from years ago, escalating the current conflict.
59. Lack of Empathy
Definition: People with BPD might occasionally struggle to understand or appreciate their partner's emotions or viewpoints, particularly during emotionally charged times.
Impact on Marriage: This lack of empathy can lead to feelings of loneliness or neglect for the non-BPD partner, making it challenging to find mutual understanding and support.
Example: Even if a partner shares feelings of burnout from work, the BPD individual might dismiss those feelings and criticize them for not paying enough attention at home.
60. Intolerance of Being Alone
Definition: Individuals with BPD might find solitude extremely distressing, leading them to become overly reliant on their partners for emotional support.
Impact on Marriage: The excessive dependence can place undue stress on the partner and might lead to feelings of suffocation or entrapment in the relationship.
Example: If the partner wants a few hours alone or with friends, the BPD individual might become overly anxious or accusatory.
61. Fluctuating Opinions of Partner
Definition: Individuals with BPD might exhibit rapidly changing perceptions about their spouse, alternating between praising them during good times and disparaging them during conflicts.
Impact on Marriage: This fluctuating opinion can lead to confusion, emotional exhaustion, and difficulty in establishing trust and consistency in the relationship.
Example: After a minor disagreement, a person with BPD might claim their partner never does anything right, but later, when the mood improves, they might talk about how wonderful the partner is.
62. Attraction to Narcissistic Partners
Definition: BPD individuals often find themselves attracted to partners exhibiting narcissistic traits.
Impact on Marriage: The dynamic between BPD and narcissistic personalities can lead to a volatile relationship, with both partners feeding into each other's insecurities and desires for validation.
Example: A BPD individual might overly admire a narcissistic partner during the relationship's honeymoon phase, praising them excessively. Conversely, the narcissistic partner might relish the attention and validation, forming a cycle of mutual dependency.
63. Dysfunctional Dynamic with Narcissistic Partners
Definition: The combination of BPD and narcissistic traits can result in a heightened dysfunctional relationship dynamic, where mutual needs and vulnerabilities can amplify the other's issues.
Impact on Relationship: The volatility of such a pairing can make it difficult to maintain a stable, nurturing environment. Their interactions might shift from intense admiration to deep resentment.
Example: A BPD individual might seek constant validation from their narcissistic partner. In return, the narcissistic partner might exploit this need for their own ego, leading to a power imbalance.
In summary, being in a marriage with a person suffering from BPD can be an intensely draining and distressing experience. The dynamics often involve a shifting spectrum of blame and denial, constant emotional caretaking, unpredictability, and tension. These individuals may exhibit bouts of affection followed by intense anger over trivial issues, creating a pervasive sense of walking on eggshells. Their mood swings may seem so drastic that they appear as two different people, with denials of angry outbursts fostering confusion and self-doubt in their partners. Attempts to comfort or disagree with them may trigger more anger, leading to further emotional distress. This often isolating and traumatic environment may lead to loss of relationships, financial instability, and emotional distress unless there is intervention or separation.
 Vater, A., Schröder-Abé, M., Weißgerber, S., Roepke, S., & Schütz, A. (2015). Self-concept structure and borderline personality disorder: Evidence for negative compartmentalization. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 46, 50–58. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbtep.2014.08.003
 “Evaluations of Others by Borderline Patients : The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.” LWW, 2023, journals.lww.com/jonmd/Abstract/2001/08000/Evaluations_of_Others_by_Borderline_Patients.4.aspx. Accessed 6 Aug. 2023.
 Veen, Gerthe, and Arnoud Arntz. no. 1, Jan. 2000, pp. 23–45, https://doi.org/10.1023/a:1005498824175. Accessed 6 Aug. 2023.
 Miano A, Fertuck EA, Roepke S, Dziobek I. Romantic relationship dysfunction in borderline personality disorder-a naturalistic approach to trustworthiness perception. Personal Disord. 2017 Jul;8(3):281-286. doi: 10.1037/per0000196. Epub 2016 Jun 16. PMID: 27845530.
 “Borderline Personality Disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 2023, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/borderline-personality-disorder. Accessed 7 Aug. 2023.
 Zeigler-Hill, V., & Abraham, J. (2006). Borderline personality features: Instability of self-esteem and affect. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 25, 668–687. doi:10.1521/jscp.2006.25.6.668
 American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.).
 Gunderson, J. G. (1984). Borderline personality disorder. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.
 Gunderson, J. G., & Phillips, K. A. (1991). A current view of the interface between borderline personality disorder and depression. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 148, 967–975.
 Stiglmayr, C.E., Grathwol, T., Linehan, M.M., Ihorst, G., Fahrenberg, J. and Bohus, M. (2005), Aversive tension in patients with borderline personality disorder: a computer-based controlled field study. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 111: 372-379. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0447.2004.00466.x
 Berenson, K. R., Downey, G., Rafaeli, E., Coifman, K. G., & Paquin, N. L. (2011). The rejection–rage contingency in borderline personality disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 120(3), 681–690. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0023335
 Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
 Cowdry, R. W., Gardner, D. L., O’Leary, K. M., Leibenluft, E., & Rubi- now, D. R. (1991). Mood variability: A study of four groups. American Journal of Psychiatry, 148, 1505–1511.
 Bhatia, V., Davila, J., Eubanks-Carter, C., & Burckell, L. A. (2013). Appraisals of daily romantic relationship experiences in individuals with borderline personality disorder features. Journal of Family Psychology, 27(3), 518–524. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0032870
 Lieb, K., Zanarini, M. C., Schmahl, C., Linehan, M. M., & Bohus, M. (2004). Borderline personality disorder. The Lancet, 364(9432), 453-461.
 Lavner, J. A., Lamkin, J., & Miller, J. D. (2015). Borderline personality disorder symptoms and newlyweds’ observed communication, partner characteristics, and longitudinal marital outcomes. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 124(4), 975–981. https://doi.org/10.1037/abn0000095
 de Montigny-Malenfant, B., Santerre, M., Bouchard, S., Sabourin, S., Lazaridès, A., & Bélanger, C. (2013). Couples’ negative interaction behaviors and borderline personality disorder. American Journal of Family Therapy, 41, 259 –271. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01926187.2012.688006
 Shorey, H. S., & Snyder, C. R. (2006). The Role of Adult Attachment Styles in Psychopathology and Psychotherapy Outcomes. Review of General Psychology, 10, 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1037/1089-26220.127.116.11
 Smith, M. N. K., & South, S. C. (2020). Romantic attachment style and borderline personality pathology: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 75, 101781. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2019.101781
 Kuhlken, K., Robertson, C. T., Benson, J., & Nelson-Gray, R. O. (2014). The interaction of borderline personality disorder symptoms and relationship satisfaction in predicting affect. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 5(1), 20–25. https://doi.org/10.1037/per0000013
 Gunderson, J. G., Stout, R. L., McGlashan, T. H., Shea, M. T., Morey, L. C., Grilo, C. M., Zanarini, M. C., Yen, S., Markowitz, J. C., Sanislow, C., Ansell, E., Pinto, A., & Skodol, A. E. (2011). Ten-year course of borderline personality disorder: psychopathology and function from the Collaborative Longitudinal Personality Disorders study. Archives of general psychiatry, 68(8), 827–837. https://doi.org/10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.37
 Charitat, H., and L. Schmitt. "Épidémiologie des troubles de la personnalité." Les troubles de la personnalité. Médecine-Sciences (2002): 123-134.
 Paris, J. (2015). Clinical implications of biological factors in personality disorders. Canadian Psychology / Psychologie canadienne, 56(2), 263–266. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037997
 Paris, J., & Zweig-Frank, H. (2001). A 27-year follow-up of patients with borderline personality disorder. Comprehensive psychiatry, 42(6), 482–487. https://doi.org/10.1053/comp.2001.26271
 Christensen, A., & Shenk, J. L. (1991). Communication, conflict, and psychological distance in non distressed, clinic, and divorcing couples. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 59(3), 458–463. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.59.3.458
 Bouchard, S., Sabourin, S., Lussier, Y. and Villeneuve, E. (2009), Relationship Quality and Stability in Couples When One Partner Suffers From Borderline Personality Disorder. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 35: 446-455. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1752-0606.2009.00151.x
 Daley, S. E., Burge, D., & Hammen, C. (2000). Borderline personality disorder symptoms as predictors of 4-year romantic relationship dysfunction in young women: addressing issues of specificity. Journal of abnormal psychology, 109(3), 451–460. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-843X.109.3.451
 Navarro-Gómez, S., Frías, Á., & Palma, C. (2017). Romantic Relationships of People with Borderline Personality: A Narrative Review. Psychopathology, 50(3), 175–187. https://doi.org/10.1159/000474950
 Holmbeck, G. N. (1997). Toward terminological, conceptual, and statistical clarity in the study of mediators and moderators: Examples from the child-clinical and pediatric psychology literatures. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65(4), 599–610. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.65.4.599
 Weinstein Y, Gleason ME, Oltmanns TF. Borderline but not antisocial personality disorder symptoms are related to self-reported partner aggression in late middle-age. J Abnorm Psychol. 2012 Aug;121(3):692-8. doi: 10.1037/a0028994. Epub 2012 Jun 25. PMID: 22732005; PMCID: PMC3419275.
 Grant BF, Chou SP, Goldstein RB, Huang B, Stinson FS, Saha TD, Smith SM, Dawson DA, Pulay AJ, Pickering RP, Ruan WJ. Prevalence, correlates, disability, and comorbidity of DSM-IV borderline personality disorder: results from the Wave 2 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. J Clin Psychiatry. 2008 Apr;69(4):533-45. doi: 10.4088/jcp.v69n0404. PMID: 18426259; PMCID: PMC2676679.