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RESOURCES FROM RESURFACE

Do's and Dont's of Loving Someone With a Personality Disorder



Relationship challenges affect every couple, but loving someone with a personality disorder can be particularly challenging. It's important to be aware of their symptoms and also be aware of your own needs and boundaries. Here are some of the best guidelines to consider in your relationship.


Do Educate Yourself About Their Condition

Personality disorders are chronic and persistent, and symptoms can ebb and flow based on specific circumstances. With that in mind, it's important to be aware of certain triggers and symptoms. Over time, you may start to recognize that your partner responds to specific types of people or events in familiar patterns.


For example, someone with borderline personality may be prone to mood swings or impulsive behaviors. Even in a healthy relationship, they may experience profound feelings of loneliness or fears of abandonment. Someone with more narcissistic tendencies might become passive-aggressive when faced with conflict. They might become hostile or engage in silent treatment to prove a point.


No matter how frustrating a set of symptoms are to you, it's important to remember that nobody chooses to have a personality disorder. However, your loved one is still responsible for their reactions and behaviors. Having a mental illness never warrants abuse or disrespect.


Do Focus On What You Can Control

Relationships often require a sense of patience, compromise, and mutual support. With that, it's crucial that you remember that you can't control how your partner behaves. You aren't in charge of trying to mitigate intense mood swings, self-harm behaviors, or fulfilling all their emotional needs.


You can, however, control your boundaries and responses. Here are some other important considerations that you can control:

  • how you lean on your own support system

  • your ability to remain calm despite emotional instability

  • practicing self-care

  • participating in your own treatment or individual therapy

  • focusing on making your home a comfortable and supportive environment

  • being a good listener to your partner

Do Encourage Treatment Compliance

People with personality disorders often have histories of complex and intergenerational trauma, and they also tend to have co-occurring mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, substance use disorders, eating disorders, and PTSD. Treatment can help improve certain symptoms and teach people with personality disorders how to effectively cope with stress and emotional regulation.


If your loved one is resistant to seeking professional help, listen to their concerns. What are they most worried about? Are they aware of the relevant resources available to them? Have they had a negative experience with psychiatry or therapy sessions in the past?

It's not your job to convince someone to participate in treatment. However, you might consider making it a non-negotiable requirement within the parameters of your relationship.


Don't Disregard Setting Healthy Boundaries

It's tempting to give people with personality disorders a "pass" for their behavior.

Remember that it's one thing to understand why someone might behave the way that they do. But it's another thing to enable problematic patterns and engage in codependent patterns.


People with personality disorders may have less incentive to change their behaviors if they are continuously reinforced for acting in their usual ways. Some healthy boundaries to consider setting include:

  • requiring that they seek treatment and comply with treatment suggestions

  • expectations that they will engage in healthy coping skills when they feel overwhelmed

  • no name-calling, insults, or empty threats

  • not enabling harmful behavior (i.e. reckless driving, suicidal threats)

Don't Expect Instant Treatment Results

Personality disorders are inherently complex, and it can take time for people to unlearn their default behaviors. Every unwanted behavior is a way people try to keep themselves safe, and it often feels initially destabilizing to change.


Patience is important here. Try to be mindful of your loved one's feelings and aim to be optimistic by celebrating small wins. When regressions happen, talk about them openly with your partner. They may be extremely sensitive and prone to mood swings, but you both need a collaborative system where you can work through these stressors together.


Do Reevaluate Your Relationship (If Necessary)

Love should always be respectful and compassionate. If you feel like you're constantly walking on eggshells to avoid triggering your partner's extreme mood swings, you're bound to become resentful, frustrated, or even hopeless.

Ultimately, you may need to accept that things might not change, especially if your partner isn't willing to actively work on their physical and emotional well-being. Remember that self-respect matters, and sometimes that means letting go of someone to better take care of yourself.


Building Your Support System With Resurface Group

At Resurface Group, we treat individuals and loved ones experiencing a range of mental health issues, including personality disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, psychotic disorders, substance use disorders, and more. We understand the underpinnings of self-destructive behavior, and we can help you and your partner develop healthy communication to preserve your emotional wellness.


Our virtual IOP, Resurface Connect, provides comprehensive support for people residing throughout California. We accept most insurance plans, and you'll have access to an integrative treatment team consisting of high-quality mental health professionals fully dedicated to your care. Contact us today to learn more.



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