Dealing with someone suffering from borderline personality disorder isn’t easy. Saying no to them is the hardest part.
One of the most difficult fallouts of BPD is the disregard for personal boundaries. If you try to forcefully enforce boundaries, the results can be unpredictable and often disastrous. This can make life hell for those with BPD partners. They find themselves constantly walking on eggshells, expecting an eruption of rage or overwhelming fear of abandonment.
At the beginning of the relationship, you will overexert yourself to put them at ease and make life easier for your BPD partner. However, as days go by, it is natural for fatigue to set in. You feel as if you’re incapable of saying or doing anything right. You feel as if anything you do or say will tick them off.
All these can be emotionally taxing for you. You will feel exhausted all the time. You will be distraught and freaking out, a whisker away from calling it quits. When you come to think of it, things came to a head because you couldn’t say no to your BPD partner.
This article offers you tips and suggestions on how to say no to someone with borderline personality disorder. Before that, let’s try to understand BPD and those “episodes”.
Figuring out BPD and BPD episodes
Borderline personality disorder or BPD is hard to understand for a non-BPD person like you. The mood swings and temper tantrums of someone with borderline personality disorder may look like sulking and overreaction to you. You may feel as if your BPD partner is behaving like a spoiled child. If you don’t agree with them or say no to them, they are bound to react violently.
The behavior of a BPD partner may seem overly sensitive, over-dramatic, and overzealous. You cannot be blamed for suspecting that you are being controlled and manipulated by them. Or you may suspect that this is their true character and they’ve disrespectful and abusive personalities.
The reality is quite frightening. Your no or disagreement triggered their fear of abandonment. They feel as if you are rejecting them. This sets off a string of intense negative emotions such as extreme unhappiness and shame. The severity of these emotions is so harsh that they linger on. People with BPD find it impossible to get rid of it.
Someone with borderline personality disorder will try to avoid these extreme feelings and instead, will try to protect themselves from emotional distress. They will push your buttons or push you away. This is part of their self-sabotaging behavior.
Someone with BPD may find it hard to put into words how they feel during one of these episodes. That makes it all the more difficult for a non-BPD person to understand it well. Even if you are well-read on the topic, you may still fall short in your understanding of the mood swings and emotional trauma experienced by your BPD partner. It’s better for all concerned that you don’t pretend to understand them.
A panic attack is the nearest thing to a BPD episode. The fear starts welling up in the pit of the stomach and the chest will feel tighter. The heartbeat goes up and the confidence level drops to nil. Feelings of being unlovable, unworthy, and inadequate will flood the mind.
Even if the person with BPD wants to ignore these feelings and move past them, they seem frozen to the spot. They may experience physical symptoms like giddiness and nausea. They may have a surreal or dreamlike experience, with the thoughts getting garbled and delusional.
They feel trapped with no way to escape. This is the trigger for BPD rage. If your partner has quiet BPD, this may prompt them to crash completely, robbing them of their ability to feel, move, and communicate.
Words are inadequate to describe what a BPD person experiences. If you are a normal person with no history of mental health issues, it is better to avoid acting as if you understand what they are going through. Instead, let them know that you offer to help them in any way you can.
If you feel your help isn’t effective enough, you can get help from a counselor or therapist.
Common BPD triggers that you need to be aware of
In people with BPD, fear of abandonment and rejection is triggered by:
- Delaying your response
- Canceling the date
- Not calling them back
- Ignoring them
- Giving a backhanded compliment
- Going out alone without them
- Rejecting their ideas and suggestions
- Saying no when offering help
- Saying no when requesting help
- Digging up memories of past episodes
None of these may sound serious enough to a normal person. But that is how BPD affects the behavior of a person.
Being the partner of a BPD person, you must want to know how to deal with them. Should you appease them and avoid saying no to them? No, that isn’t healthy either. Every relationship, whether your partner suffers from BPD or not, should have boundaries. Doing away with these boundaries is not the right approach.
Instead, your BPD partner needs to accept those boundaries if they desire a relationship with you. On your part, you need to learn how to manage your fear and trepidation. Stop walking on eggshells. Instead, figure out how you can validate their emotions. Remember, this doesn’t mean you’re agreeing with them. Also, you need to find a way to say no to them without triggering undesirable reactions.
If your BPD partner is a willing participant, you will find the execution of this strategy easier.
Saying no to someone with borderline personality disorder
Saying no to anyone under any circumstances isn’t easy. This is especially tougher with a BPD partner. Naturally, you are worried about their reaction. They may start an argument or create a stressful situation.
Here are a few suggestions to make it easier to say no to someone with BPD. Just remember that each individual is different and what works for one may not work for another.
- Be clear and specific about what you mean by the no. Does it mean never ever? Or not now? Avoid ambiguity in your talk. Keep out words like maybe, possibly, and perhaps. Be clear and direct.
- Make your stand clear. Say what you want and why. Offering reasons will help your BPD partner in understanding you better. This can avoid them from overthinking and getting anxious about it.
- If you mean “not now”, offer alternate timeframes. This way you can avoid disappointing them.
- If you mean “never ever”, suggest other ideas or plans. Or else come up with attractive compromises. Ensure that the suggestions offered are practical. Don’t ever suggest something because you feel compelled to. That will only make matters worse.
- If they react aggressively, ask them about their feelings. Talking about their feelings can help in calming them down. It will also give you more time to think up other options. Avoid focusing on their actions and words, instead, focus on their feelings.
- Convince them that your no is not linked to them. And, it doesn’t change your love for them or your relationship. You may have already explained your reason for saying no. But reassuring them of your love and commitment can help avoid BPD episodes.
- Avoid retracting your promises or changing your plans. You need to remember that canceling and changing plans bring on anxiety in people with BPD. If this is unavoidable, you can manage the situation by giving sufficient notice.
- Be consistent and patient. This is important when enforcing boundaries. Consistently asserting your boundaries can make things easier for the BPD partner. If done right, this can eliminate the provocation altogether.
- Remain steadfast in your stand. Stick to your decision. Once you’ve said no, don’t change it because of their reaction. When you change your mind, it can be confusing for people with BPD. This will set a precedent and they will expect you to change your stance every time in the future.
- Keep yourself as your top priority. You may want to help your BPD partner. But unless you are healthy, you won’t be fit enough to help them. Always take good care of yourself and your needs.
Final thoughts on dealing with someone with BPD
Living with a BPD partner is no easy job. The right way to deal with someone with borderline personality disorder is to assert your needs and boundaries without triggering their anxiety. This is manageable if you know enough about BPD and how it affects your partner’s behavior.
Don’t ever consider being a “yes” person to keep the BPD partner happy and content. This may work but is short-lived. This will also worsen the situation. Don’t ignore your needs and well-being. Just remember that you can help your BPD partner only if you’re healthy and happy.