BPD Relationship Recovery 101

By Tami Green

Whether you have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or love someone who does, one of the enormous benefits we derive from recovery is improving our relationships.

In my coaching practice, I'd say difficulties with relationships are the number one reason why folks voluntarily seek counsel and guidance. When I see strained, chaotic interactions morph into calm, cooperative, and mutually supportive partnerships, well...it is one of the most joyous things I get to experience.

If it our desire to have meaningful, fulfilling relationships, you can have them. You can even repair mistakes you made before you knew better.

And there are also times when those you wish to be close to have other plans, and just aren't interested in you.

To be certain, the hardest relationships to rebuild are those where there is no longer any contact. But even in those circumstances, there are things you can do. Here are my top ten things to do to improve/win back/find the relationship you want:

  • 1. Learn to tolerate distress a little better. Some conflict and difficult circumstances and discussions are a part of a normal, healthy relationship. If you can keep that in perspective, and not blow them up further, then these occurrences will just come and go. They can also serve as a time to develop intimacy, problem solve, and to learn to trust and support one another more.
  • 2. Work on your sense of self worth. Other than learning how to tolerate distress, there is nothing that has improved my relationships more than this one. Why? Because now that I have a strong sense of who I am, I am not nearly as bothered that someone may be judging, leaving or criticizing me when they offer their perspective. I value (for the most part!) others input, can consider it, but it does not have to define me or my worth.
  • 3. Improve your validation skills. Validating is a communication skill where you non-judgmentally listen to someone and let them know that their experience is real and understandable. This does not mean you agree with their position. This skill is very helpful in de-escalating strong emotions in another, and in delivering an assertive request, or denial to a request.
  • 4. Ask yourself, "so what?" Is being right, or having things done perfectly really worth losing the relationship? Really? If it is, then go ahead and assert yourself. But the next time a task isn't done exactly right, ask yourself, "so what?" Is it really that important?
  • If it our desire to have meaningful, fulfilling relationships, you can have them.
  • 5. Learn how to skillfully ask for your own needs to be met. This requires skill in balancing your request with firmness and gentleness, being clear, and making it about you, not their deficiencies. Being able to clearly articulate the reward to them for granting your request is also very important.
  • 6. Practice saying "no." Actually, being able to say "no" without apology can help strengthen your relationship. You will feel stronger and more satisfied, and your partner will feel like they can count on you to do the right thing, no matter how much they push against you.
  • 7. Experience gratitude and show it. Make lists of the things you value and appreciate about those you love and express your gratitude to them for these specific things often. Very often.
  • 8. Learn how to be a giving person. This is very different than being a resentful door-mat. What I am talking about is being able to observe needs in others, and meet them without being asked, and without expecting something specific in return. And also be a vessel to receive love.
  • 9. Appreciate differences. We were made to be inter-dependent with others. Those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder really love being in relationships and are not usually made to be "an island unto ourselves." Celebrate this fact, and celebrate that we do really complete one another. Show this by liberally allowing others to make their own choices and be their own selves, and reap the rewards of the wonderful new things they bring to our lives.
  • 10. Practice compassion and take a non-judgmental stance with others. If you really have these two things down, then true recovery is yours.
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