Trauma From Dating Someone With BPD

Estimated reading time: 28 minute(s)

Dating someone with borderline personality disorder or BPD can be a challenging and potentially traumatic experience with long-term consequences. [1] Unfortunately, most of these effects go unnoticed and continue to negatively affect lives. For someone dating a person with BPD, understanding the disorder, its impact on their emotional well-being, and when and where to seek help while practicing self-care is imperative. Remember that BPD can cause a person to experience difficulties, such as poor emotional regulation, distortion of self-image, and impulsivity which may not be favorable for a relationship. Hence, efforts need to be put in from both sides to make a relationship work safely and healthily for each party.

Defining Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder or BPD is one of the most common personality disorders caused by trauma. It is a complex mental health condition affecting nearly 1.6 percent of adults in the U.S. The condition is commonly caught in early childhood and more commonly affects women. While the exact causes triggering it remain unknown, experts believe that a combination of biological, environmental, and genetic factors contribute to its development.

Biologically, research shows that people with BPD often have abnormalities in certain neural areas that regulate impulse control and emotions. These abnormalities possibly contribute to emotional dysregulation and impulsivity that accompany this disorder. Additionally, environmental factors like neglect, unstable family environment, and childhood trauma further increase the risk of developing borderline personality disorder. Traumatic experiences, particularly in childhood, greatly shape the way a person perceives themselves and others, setting the course for BPD.

Five Signs You Are Dating Someone with BPD

When it comes to understanding the effects of dating someone with BPD, awareness is the key. Even if there is self-disclosure, it is still important to understand how the symptoms may show up and affect a relationship. Following are some signs you are in a relationship with a person who struggles with BPD.

Emotional Instability

Many people dating a person with PTSD describe themselves as being on a roller-coaster ride at all times due to emotional instability caused by this mental disorder. Some examples of this instability include the following:

  • Your partner may feel elated over small achievements only to spiral into deep despair following a trivial setback.
  • They may show severe depression or anxiety out of the blue, making you feel like you are walking on eggshells.
  • You may expect different twists and turns in conversations with your partner as they turn aggressive to any comments they perceive as unacceptable.
  • A casual date may turn into a completely dramatic exchange oscillating between emotional distance and affection.

The issues mentioned above may make relationships with a BPD individual unstable. [2]

Frantic Efforts to Avoid Abandonment

The fear of abandonment may show up in different ways, such as the following:

  • A partner may become demanding or clingy, constantly asking for validation of commitment.
  • Minor miscommunication, such as delayed responses to a text message, may make them accuse you of neglect.
  • They may become upset when you spend time with your friends or engage in other activities that do not involve them.
  • The partner may require constant assurance about your commitments to them.

Black and White Thinking

Also known as splitting, this phenomenon may present in a BPD partner through the following:

  • A partner may start idolizing you or treating you as the love of their life at one point followed by devaluing you over a minor agreement.
  • Their reactions to failures or mistakes may be extreme, viewing minor setbacks as catastrophic failures.
  • The partner may have difficulty understanding that they can have mixed feelings about someone or something. They either hate it or love it.

Impulsive Behaviors

Following are some examples of impulsive behaviors in a BPD partner:

  • They may make rash decisions, such as booking a last-minute trip or quitting their job without thinking about the consequences.
  • They may engage in compulsive behaviors, such as binge eating, excessive drinking, and substance abuse.
  • They may engage in risky behaviors, such as casual sexual encounters, cheating, or reckless driving.

Self-Destructive Actions

Following self-destructive actions may cause PTSD from BPD relationship:

  • A partner may frequently express thoughts about not wanting to live, suicide, or death. This behavior is a cry for help and must be dealt with urgently through professional help.
  • They may impulsively attempt suicide or threaten others in response to their fear of abandonment.
  • They may try self-harm, such as burning or cutting themselves, as a way to deal with emotional pain.
  • They may show a disregard for their safety by engaging in dangerous activities.

Trauma From BPD Relationship: How Dating Someone with BPD Affects You

The trauma from dating someone with BPD can have a profound impact on a person’s emotional well-being. They must recognize this trauma and the effects arising from this experience so that they can be dealt with in time.

Confusion and Emotional Turmoil

One of the primary challenges associated with PTSD from BPD relationship is the emotional turmoil and confusion it may bring. People with this disorder have problems regulating their emotions and may suffer from unpredictable mood swings. Consequently, their partners constantly find themselves in a whirlwind of emotions with no surety of what’s about to happen next.

A Cycle of Idealization and Devaluation

Another common problem that causes trauma in a BPD relationship is the cycle of idealization and devaluation. In the initial stages of such relationships, a BPD partner may idealize a person, making them feel cherished and loved. However, this idealization may quickly convert into devaluation where the BPD partners invalidate and criticize them, making the experience damaging and exhausting for the latter.

Manipulation and Gaslighting

BPD individuals often have a fear of abandonment and may frequently engage in behaviors to test their partner’s commitment and love. These habits give rise to a toxic dynamic where the partner feels like they are constantly being controlled and do not know their emotions and perceptions.

Poor Self-Esteem

Trauma from BPD relationship can have a detrimental effect on a person’s self-worth and self-esteem. The impulsive behaviors exhibited by BPD individuals, such as substance abuse, cheating, and self-harm, force their partners to question their desirability and value.

Social Isolation

Being in a relationship with a person with BPD can lead to social isolation. People with this disorder often struggle with maintaining stable relationships and depend on their partners to seek emotional support. This burden can isolate the partners from their social circles, making it difficult to seek support from loved ones.

Overall, the impact of dating a person with BPD can be traumatic and lead to various mental health side effects. Therefore, they need to recognize the toll they can take on their mental health and seek timely support from a therapist to navigate trauma.

Minimizing PTSD from BPD Relationship

Following are the five key areas to focus on to minimize trauma from BPD relationships and promote health.


Because of the high volatility and impulsivity of the BPD relationship, patience goes a long way. Remind yourself that your partner is not acting intentionally and has no aim to hurt you. The way they present themselves is to fulfill their needs secondary to their constant internal emotional struggle.


Communication lies at the base of every healthy relationship. An honest and open communication channel is particularly important for someone dating a BPD individual. Creating a safe space where both parties can express their feelings and thoughts about fear of judgment can establish mutual understanding and create a place where they can resolve issues more constructively.

Boundary Setting

Violation of boundaries can be a big issue when dating a person with BPD. Such people are likely to be clingy and dependent which causes a severe fear of abandonment. To avoid this fear from violating you, try setting firm but fair boundaries during the initial phases of a relationship.

Seeking Treatment

While treatment should not be the first option to consider when you start dating someone with BPD, it can be essential in long-term relationships to maintain and sustain them. Without therapy, long-term relationships where one partner has BPD may soon reach a point where having a positive, constructive conversation becomes impossible. In such circumstances, therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) can help.


Self-care becomes crucial when dating someone with BPD. The key is to take time out for things that make you happy and relaxed, such as interacting with loved ones, going to a spa, taking a stroll in the neighborhood, or a warm bath at night. Remember that you can only make a relationship work when you are at mental and physical peace and self-care plays a critical role in ensuring it.


How can BPD impact relationships?

Contrary to popular belief, BPD relationships do not always involve chaos. Such relationships usually oscillate between periods of idealization and devaluation. The tempo of these relationships is determined by the temperament and mood of the borderline partner. Consider it a pendulum that keeps swinging back and forth within two states. For instance, one day, a BPD partner may feel like they are on the top of the world whereas the very next day, you may see them embroiled in a deep existential crisis, questioning why they are alive. Such a dynamic can put the non-BPD partner in a state of persistent reactivity as they constantly try to appease their partner. Consequently, the relationship becomes unbalanced where the focus is on people-pleasing instead of love and affection.

What is the connection between BPD and trauma bonding?

BPD often leads to trauma bonding as the partner starts feeling comfortable in the relationship and unconsciously gravitates to such relationships out of fear of abandonment. Such people are willing to stick even when the relationship is visibly damaging to them.


1 Chapman J, Jamil RT, Fleisher C. Borderline personality disorder.

2 Videler AC, Hutsebaut J, Schulkens JE, Sobczak S, Van Alphen SP. A life span perspective on borderline personality disorder. Current psychiatry reports. 2019 Jul;21:1-8.

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