Relationships can be demanding – emotionally and mentally for both the people involved. You add one person with borderline personality disorder, and it can quickly go from being a normal demanding relationship to an emotional roller coaster.
Do you have borderline personality disorder, or are you in a relationship with someone who has it? If yes, you know how tumultuous and chaotic relationships can be.
When one or both people are suffering from borderline personality disorder, the relationship can seem to be cyclical, including highs and lows. This can leave the other person confused and frustrated.
If you are in such a relationship, knowing the cycle and the stages that come with it can help you navigate it more smoothly. Dive right in to know all about this relationship cycle as well as how you can cope with it.
What is Borderline Personality Disorder Relationship Cycle?
The Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) relationship cycle is a continuous wave of high and low points of a relationship that keeps repeating. Initially, everything about the relationship is good, safe, and uplifting, but it can quickly turn into anger or rage, chaos, and negative emotions.
The cycle of quick mood changes can come as a shock to people with a romantic or even platonic relationship with someone who has BPD. Since there is a chance of conflict, romantic relationships with BPD can feel dysfunctional.
However, you must keep in mind that people who have the disorder can also be nurturing and compassionate. They possess many positive qualities, even though they have insecurities and fears that make relationships difficult.
People who suffer from BPD experience anxiety about their partners leaving them. They perceive unrelated things as signs of their partner becoming uninterested.
Whenever this happens, these people immediately try to pull themselves back or maybe even end their relationship, leading to a back-and-forth cycle that may even become obsessive. While it is possible to make a relationship with someone who has BPD long and fulfilling, it can take patience and time to understand their triggers and relationship cycles.
How Long Do BPD Cycles Last?
Many factors impact the length of any BPD cycle when it comes to a romantic relationship. It can vary depending on a range of factors, such as the severity of symptoms of BPD, level of daily functioning, and level of insight.
In general, BPD cycles appear and disappear very quickly. While the duration is just 2-4 years for many people, others have had long relationships lasting decades, but the average duration is around 7 years.
What Are The Stages Of The Relationship Cycle IN BPD?
A relationship that involves someone suffering from borderline personality disorder can often go in cycles. The person with BPD may be incredibly loving or caring in one moment but act out and push people in the next moment.
Here are the stages one may encounter in this relationship cycle:
Stage 1: Attraction
The first stage is the most pleasant stage of the entire relationship. People often consider it as the honeymoon phase.
During this stage, the partner with BPD may seem to have a lot of interest in the relationship and the other person. They may also display mannerisms similar to their partner to mirror them.
There will be a very strong attraction, and the qualities that the partner is most attracted to are the ones that mirror back at them. People may feel like they have found a soul mate connection, but the phase might only last from a few weeks to 6 months.
Stage 2: Obsessiveness
The second stage of the relationship cycle is where the tone begins to shift to dysfunctional tendencies. At this point, the person with BPD may become irritable or start nit-picking over any negative behavior they feel is aimed at them.
It will also lead to neediness and a strong fear of abandonment. If the other person fails to respond to texts or calls immediately, their low self-esteem might make them feel that they aren’t loved.
Stage 3: Withdrawing
During the third stage of their relationship, the partner with borderline personality disorder may start withdrawing as well as withholding. They use this tactic to make their partner invest more time and energy in their emotional needs as they aren’t up to their standards.
In such situations, these people also instigate arguments to make their partners fight for the relationship and for them. All of these efforts help the person suffering from BPD to feel more secure.
Stage 4: Distance
If the person fails to get the attention they desire, things may get worse. It can send them into panic mode since the lack of validation can trigger their abandonment issues.
Here fights may increase, both in terms of intensity and frequency. This can often push the person with BPD to devalue their partner, gaslight them, or even victimize themselves.
Stage 5: Ending
When things escalate to a point when there’s nothing else to do, they may either announce that they want to break up or leave without any intimation. This may come out of the blue and stems from their emotional needs being met by someone else, often a new person.
At this stage, they might even accuse the other person of having a disorder and showing dysfunctional behavior.
Stage 6: Spiral Down
Towards the sixth stage, there is a chance of reconciliation in case it is a new relationship. The partner with borderline personality disorder could return, while the other person wanting their partner back might take the blame and try to meet emotional needs.
There could be a chance of another honeymoon phase since behaviors and triggers might regulate for a brief before. However, it will fizzle out much more quickly than the initial phase of attraction.
Stage 7: Repeat
Ironically, the last stage marks the start of another new cycle. You must note that every BPD case is unique, and you cannot be certain how each will pan out.
The same fact also applies to BPD relationships. After the first breakup, there are chances of the situation becoming volatile in a few cases.
The person with BPD might initiate a new relationship that will follow the same cycle and stages. However, if the person learns about their triggers and how to manage them successfully, it can lead to a successful relationship.
Tips To Cope With Being In A Relationship Cycle Of BPD
There’s no denying that being in a relationship where one or both partners have borderline personality disorder can be challenging. Here is how both the people in such a relationship can try to cope:
1. For Someone With BPD
For someone who is suffering from BPD, there are a few coping mechanisms they can use. These tips can help them nurture a relationship to make it healthy and long-lasting.
The relationship coping mechanisms for someone with BPD are:
Find A Support System
The most important thing that can help you have healthy relationships is to have enough people around you that can offer you support. If not, you can also seek help from a therapist and benefit from a professional’s guidance.
Take Help Of Music
Music can be a great help in calming you. You can listen to music with a tempo that is in contrast to your feelings to help you level out.
When you feel sad, you can play fast and upbeat music, but if you’re restless, play some soothing and slow music.
When you are feeling anxious or triggered, you need to ground yourself. Try to practice meditation or other practices for mindfulness to slow down your mind, body, and nervous system to help relax you.
Redirect Your Mind
Another strategy that can help with behavioral activation is distracting yourself from negative feelings. It can be anything from as simple as going for a walk to indulging in your favorite activities.
2. For Someone In A Relationship With Someone Who Has BPD
For someone in a relationship with a person who is suffering from borderline personality disorder, you will require some mechanism to help you. Here are 4 coping tips for a BPD loved one:
Set Strict Boundaries
When you and your partner with BPD are on the same emotional level, you can initiate the discussion about setting healthier boundaries. You must go slow to avoid triggering them and also listen to their views and needs to ensure their comfort.
Explain Your Viewpoint
Make sure you stay calm, give context, and explain ‘why,’ or the reason behind your needs to ensure your relationship is healthy.
Follow The Boundaries
The boundaries you set should apply to both people in the relationship. If your partner with BPD is following the boundaries and you aren’t, it might worsen the situation and teach them to ignore the set limits as well.
Ensure They Respect The Boundaries
If you feel they aren’t respecting your boundaries and you are experiencing abusive behaviors, there should be some consequences. Your partner shouldn’t get a free pass to disrespect you.
You must seek support or end the relationship if you still experience abuse or toxicity from your partner.
Borderline personality disorder is a severe issue that impacts every aspect of life, including relationships. It can push one into a repetitive and toxic cycle that impacts not only them but also the other person.
Being able to identify the cycle and its stages and knowing how to cope with it can help both people maintain healthy relationships!
She is an experienced Clinical Psychologist and Mental Health Writer with a decade of expertise in psychology. Skilled in assessment, therapy, and patient care. Committed to helping individuals through clinical practice and mental health writing at Therapyjourney.co. Passionate about promoting mental well-being and awareness. Open to aligned opportunities.