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Are you pissed off at someone with BPD?

BPD can be frustrating

UPDATE 10/2008:  This post is quite old… but it still applies. However, if you want to know HOW to do some of the things I mention here, I have recently published the I-AM-MAD communication skill, which distills one of the main skills that I present in my book, When Hope is Not Enough.

Hi all. I have been monitoring the “non” email lists and have found a common idea that I believe is a misconception about borderlines.

A taste of this idea can be seen in this paraphrased comment: “When will my BP be willing to take responsibility for his/her actions? When will he/she try and fix the harm he/she has done to me and the kids? When will they finally admit they are WRONG?”

This attitude is common among “nons.” What it represents is anger and sadness on the part of the non and a desire for the borderline to behave in a “normal” way.

Unfortunately, the borderline will not behave in a “normal” way until the source of the behaviors are either accepted or changed. This site (and many others about Borderline Personality Disorder) posits that borderlines behave in the way that they do because they are in pain. This pain is deep and emotional and is characterized by shame. They do not feel guilty for what they do. No, they feel shameful about who they are. They believe that they are bad/wrong people. Why do so many kill themselves? To stop the pain.

The anger that the “non” expresses comes off to the borderline as judgment of their feelings. One of the key “causes” of BPD is an invalidating environment. If they are acting in a way the “non” feels is “wrong” the expression of that feeling on the part of the non is a judgment of the BPD’s feelings. In other words, they have internalized that it is wrong to feel that way. The problem is: they feel that way anyway, whether the non believes it is wrong or not. They behave in such as way to stop the painful emotions (mainly shame) and the judgments that come from the invalidating environment.

People in the “non” support groups don’t want to hear this. Why? Because they too are in pain. They are angry and want to be told that none of this is their fault. The disorder is not their fault, but the continuation of the “invalidating environment” is. A quote from an article of DBT Family Skills Training:

Facilitated by DBT’s nonjudgmental framework, DBT-FST offers the possibility of significant emotional and behavioral improvements in the whole family system as well as for the individuals in that system. This is accomplished through:1) presenting the biosocial model to patients and family members in a non-blaming manner similar to the approach employed in psychoeducation models;2) offering support and education to family members in the form of teaching DBT skills; and3) reinforcing skillful behaviors (in particular using rehearsal and feedback) through increasing the levels of empathy and validation in the family.

(emphasis mine)

Note the “non-blaming” manner. This illustrates a new environment that the family members can help create that supports the BPD and eliminates blaming (or judging). The second two points are the ways in which things will change -teaching skills that can be used instead of the old maladaptive behaviors like cutting or starving or raging.

While many nons might be angry at me for pointing out that they need to change also, I feel that these skills provide a sense of control over the situation. The non-judgmental approach applies to the nons too – meaning, we can’t “judge” the actions of the non are “wrong”. Instead, we can see the actions of the non can be painful to the borderline.

That said – many nons don’t want to hear that they have being acting toward their borderlines in painful ways. They too don’t want the blame. But I am not saying these things to “assign blame.” No, I am saying these things to try and help empower the non with skills that help the borderline with his or her feelings. In that way, life can get better for all involved.

Learn about this and how to do it in “When Hope is Not Enough”:



  • inginp

    I wanted to check with you about two things:

    I suspect my husband from whom i am separated from the past 6 month has BPD. Were together for over 5 years.

    1. I always felt like i have a knife stabbed in my back as i kept and keep discovering the way he has potrayed me to his friends and family. but once or twice when i confronted him he has told me i am crazy or imagine too much. Is it true that they potray you as the problem and tell varying degrees of lies to different people about you just because they dont want to take responsibility.

    2. Can they really invoke reactions out of you by knowing what hurts you and what makes you react and what buttons to push.

    I had come to a point where i was being looked at differently by all and i felt like something was really wrong with me.

    Any help would be appreciated.

  • Bon Dobbs


    Your questions and comments are indicative of something difficult that has happened in your life and a difficult relationship. I don’t know if I can answer your questions as they are phrased, because, while the behavior that you speak of does exist, the motivation for it is not what you’ve assumed that it is. People with BPD do not “portray you to other people” to avoid responsibility. They might do that or lie to others for other. more basic, emotional and self-image reasons. If you do some research about what BPD really is, how it works and what are the core issues involved in BPD, you will find that your questions do not accurately represent the dynamics of BPD. However, I can certain see how you’ve been hurt and continue to hurt because of the chaotic emotional world of BPD.


  • homeontherange

    To inginp:

    I sympathize with what you’re going through. I was embroiled in a BPD-related breakup situation about 2 years ago and it still pains me; however, things have improved and they continue to improve.

    And, I don’t think your questions represent anything other than your inclination, as a human being, to try to rationalize what is difficult to emotionally process.

    I’ve been struggling internally everyday for the last two years, grappling with how and why things disintegrated in the way they did between me and my ex-fiancé. When I got into the relationship, I knew literally nothing of BPD, except a disregarded memory of her intimating that once somebody had commented she exhibited “borderline traits”… I blithely took it in stride – “what’s that?” I probably thought to myself, and quickly forgot about it.

    I hadn’t remembered this until after everything had completely blown apart: in an unfortunate combination of circumstances, addictions, actions, lies, truths, associations, reactions, distortions and decisions, leading to an all-out fatwa on my character and personhood after the fact, I went searching for answers because the sheer illogic of it all was too much for my ADD addled brain to bear. I can’t believe I’ve gotten to the point where I can actually laugh about it, because it definitely wasn’t funny when it was real!

    I found myself with a tremendous amount of frustration and anger at what had happened, compounded by a sub-nominal supply of self-esteem, and I had to go back into therapy. I am lucky to have an ‘old-school’ psychiatrist who believes in the value of talking things out – and thank god. This led me on a journey wherein I did a lot of reading (and journal writing), searching for insight into the peculiarities of the human psyche and the eternal “why?” of it all…

    Anyway, in my opinion, bad behavior is bad behavior – hurtful, deceitful, damaging choices cannot be excused by a mental condition such as BPD. Whether or not at the core of Borderline Logic is simply a desire to allay pain, this doesn’t contradict the palliative effects of projective identification, character assassination, lying, or direct/indirect sadism. These things and other bad behaviors are what they are; they provide an apparent benefit on the giving end. In one way or another, they feel good, if only temporarily.

    The genuinely heartbreaking thing about BPD, at least in the case of my ex-fiance, is that she rationally “knew” what was hurtful as she acted out, but her impulsivity had absolute reign – and at its peak it seemed to spiral into “fix” seeking; even with the prospect of feeling disproportionately awful later, when the opportunity to relieve herself struck – the dangling promise of euphoria overtook all other concerns. Meanwhile, I made myself an easy scapegoat for her behavior in that I was drinking heavily and disengaging through the use of marijuana and long sessions on the internet. I suppose a pointed “distortion campaign” must feel temporarily satisfying for those evading their own self-introspection. But for non-sociopathic BPD sufferers, I have to imagine that such a thing would feel pretty pointless in the long run.

    If nothing else, going through the pain of being “stabbed in the back” repeatedly really put into question a lot of things about life, and at least now I think I have a greater appreciation for it; although I won’t lie – I still feel tortured by some of the things that happened, and it remains a daily struggle. I have decided to let whatever emotions or thoughts, obsessions, etc, that need to run their course, run their course. And, every day I am reminded that the one thing I am given control of in this life is myself – so therefore I will focus on what I can do here and now.

  • Renaissance

    I found quite a bit of comfort in reading the above. I have just come out of a BP relationship which lasted almost a year. In the beginning things were seriously too good to be true and after 2 months and almost to the day every 2 months after, my partner subjected me to emotional and psychological confusion which defies explanation. She doesn’t know that she has BP but I suspect her parents do but have chosen not to disclose it to her in fear that she may not understand and become even more depressed with herself.
    I am attempting to reconcile with her at present but fear the damage is done because it was until about the 2 week mark that I realized that I had to take a special approach with regards to explaining how I feel, validating her own feelings etc. Up until that point I used conventional methods which may well have made things worse. Needless to say, during the one personal interaction I’ve had with her since the breakup, I found that skills like DEAR MAN, GIVE and FAST really go a long way to being able to hold down a normal conversation with someone who is in a BP “episode”. I use the term episode because when she’s not feeling hurt or ashamed, I can communicate with her on a relatively normal basis, providing there is no criticism. Unfortunately she felt that I was ignoring her for most of our relationship, in spite of piling on the attention and spending almost every waking moment with her. It wasn’t until after the breakup that I discovered that people with BP have special emotional requirements. I badly wish I could turn back the clock and approach the relationship again with the right things in mind. I am a very patient person and I feel that if I’d had the chance, I could have easily navigated at least some of the hurdles. At the moment I am “bad” (or mostly bad) in her eyes, but I can feel the needle moving in the other direction, so here’s hoping.

  • Bon Dobbs


    Hi. Yes, DBT methods are quite effective when someone is dysregulated or headed in that direction. Yet, if you use those methods (or the similar ones I explain in my book) and practice them, they become the “new normal”. It is not “giving in” to learn to communicate effectively with other people, BPD or not. I wish you the best and good luck with your loved one.


  • josh

    Maladaptive behaviors like cutting or starving or raging are one thing if a NON is to stay and remain as a support member. But infidelity and serial lying breaks trust that is not easily restored. Though it is not part of the DSM criteria (yet), it is 90% in my family BPD group meetings that I have attended and also on online forums and groups that I participate in.

    “Infidelity” deserves an honorable mention as the listed maldaptive behaviors listed do not include a hardship for the NON that is unbearable.

  • Trying

    Yes! I’m not diagnosed but the fact my therapist has been doing DBT on me and I relate to all of it I’m sure I am bpd. I just want to be loved. I try to do the right thing, do volunteer work, I’m never good enough. I’m jealous of people with who are still loved even when they are selfish. How does that work? Why is it so exhausting to try and please everyone, when will I have done enough to be worth something? Other people don’t appear to even have to try and people love them. I end up resenting those I give up my life for. My husband has been cheating for years and refuses to leave me. The therapist says treatment is not working because of this. Even a normal person couldn’t cope with this.

  • Trying

    Also it’s easy to find what bpd is (which all sounds normal to me, if enough people say you are crap then surely the obvious conclusion is that you are) but if this is the wrong way to feel what is the right way? What is normal? How can I aspire to be normal when I don’t know what that is?

  • Marg Patterson

    Reply to Trying

    Your writing made me feel how difficult it is to be a human being. We want to be loved, we try and do the right things to please other people and be worth something in both our own and their eyes. We try to be “normal”. But what the hell is “normal”? We are all made individually, so different from each other in so many ways.. Can we then try to all be the same? To me you seem to be doing a tremendous job to be a caring and loving human being. Can you care for your own wonderful, individual human self as much. Your sure deserve to. You are worth so much. You are unique. Is there a right way to feel or is there your very own way to feel that no one else will ever do so brilliantly. Instead of Trying you can be BEING.

  • Moe

    Two wrongs don’t make a right but I now sleep better at night

    I got mad at a BPD friend of the opposite sex (female)and downed some beers and went to work. I called her up near midnight on here phone and expressed myself about our deteriorating relationship. I went off and than hung up. I then woke up and e-mailed a break up and move on letter. She then called and we broke up some more.

    She’s been BPD-married for a few years and her hubby was on the other side of the bed. She has much baggage from past relationships and marriages and I think I just added more to her story. She will smother it all out and say he’s gone and how bad he was and the like. Fine. But with BPD people, it’s only good until the next incident occurs. I was just pissed off and had enough. Sorry.

  • Unspecified

    homeontherange is describing accurately how I have felt for the past 10 years. The reality is there are different manifestations of BPD and some are more narcissistic and aggressive. My Sons mother, who I dated on and off for 4 years, ending while she was pregnant, will always haunt my thoughts. I was cursed and blessed by having a child with her. I love my son and think he is my world, but can never remove myself from the twisted life of a woman I just seem to not be able to get over. I married a beautiful woman, thinking it would be enough to overcome the longing and lust I feel for my sons mother, but it was not. I divorced and of coarse was immediately sucked back into a relationship with my sons mother…….. for 5 weeks! I was selective in my memory of how crazy it is when someone can seemingly take the exact wrong decison, action, or attitude in any given situation. It is amazing how the BPD can actually create the very situation they fear most, abandonment. My sons mother fears it so fully that she pushes me away with the force of a bulldozer. What is so amazing is that I love her, even now, so much, that I would be a life long partner and provide everything she wants in life. The reality is that we will look at each other for another 14 years, blaming each other for not being able to be together. Strangely, though I think she loves differently of coarse, I think she feels the same. I twill always be the tragedy of my life, and a sad story about the damage of the condition. I am a dedicated father, would be a dedicated husband, and we love each other. She is never been in a truly successful relationship in all the time away from each other, so there is not even something competing with us. She just starts to panic when we are together, humiliating and putting me down. Once she has completely split me, the slope is very steep! I know when it happens and that it is only a matter of time before I am at fault for the results!

  • Jason

    “People in the “non” support groups don’t want to hear this. Why? Because they too are in pain. They are angry and want to be told that none of this is their fault. The disorder is not their fault, but the continuation of the “invalidating environment” is. A quote from an article of DBT Family Skills Training:…” this is so on point, it has taken me a while to understand the nuance of the ” continuation of the “invalidating environment”. I used to expect her to feel “bad” and understand… then I realized all this did was contribute to “invalidating” her feelings.. What we “nons” (hate that expression) need to remain focused on is NOT-BEING codependent.

  • mr

    But here’s the deal about invalidation. Sometimes you are invalidated because you actually are wrong and you need to accept that. In fact, because they tend to have a convoluted view of the world, people with BPD tend to be wrong more than most people.

  • Jim

    I think that while this approach may help the BPD individual, the burden is placed on the “normal” people to change – and almost tolerate the abuse. The BPD person causes the reactions – normal reactions to being abused and exploited.

    I believe the BPD person is totally aware that they have major issues. They can think well enough to hold a job so they can certainly think well enough to get help, if they truly wanted to change.

    Appeasing these people only gives them a feeling that they can get away with more abuse. And it results in “normal” people having to endure more mental/physical abuse.

    Asking people to not react normally in order to appease BPD behaviors is madness. If they truly make efforts to change then they will gradually get some credibility, and get less negative reactions.

  • anonymous

    You are absolutely right that invalidating feelings is wrong. I have every right to be angry. My soon-to-be-ex cheated on me, left our home and went to live with her new “partner”, blamed the whole thing on me, left our daughter solely under my care for a month when I was pretty much psychotic, refuses to start negotiations for the divorce that she wanted, has made it so I can only see my precious daughter half the time. You are darn right I’m angry! All I want to do is put this whole thing behind me, and she is keeping me attached to her by not ending our marriage. I know she is in pain too, but when she abandoned my daughter and me she stopped being my problem. If she attempts suicide, or whatever else, she has her family and her new partner to take care of her. I am done! I don’t give a rat’s ass what becomes of her now.

  • Cyan

    It’s all well and good to ask “When will they take responsibility?” or “When will they change?” Valid questions, however, also ask yourself “Am I willing to accept that they CAN change and acknowledge their efforts to do so?” and “Am I willing and able to forgive?” Without “YES” answers to those questions, both parties may as well move on. Both sides need to work together and support each other if things are to improve.

  • Colin

    I am so screwed up after losing my BPD. I don’t know if she ever really loved me as at times she really did display genuine love for me and at other times she treated me like dirt under her nails and made me feel as if she was just with me as a stop gap between other partners. She has left 3 times before and recently came back only to announce a few days later that she was pregnant by the man she was lying to me about the last time we were together. I know she only cheats to get validation no matter how often I tell her she is beautiful (and she is) and how much I love her. I offered to continue our engagement and raise the child as my own but she still could not stop the lying. I then made the mistake of providing evidence to my BPD of her lies just hours after she again promised not to lie. It is so painful when they have gone to sit and think “how or what could I have done better to help both of us”? Painful to sit here and imagine she is miserable and missing me. I have told her I am here for her if she agrees to get help and agreed to get help myself in dealing with the problem however she has told me to leave her alone. If I had seen this article months ago things may have been very different. In answer to Cyan’s question above “Am I willing to accept that they CAN change and acknowledge their efforts to do so?” and “Am I willing and able to forgive?” yes absolutely I am but without that commitment from her it is as another friend described it “you shouldn’t have to battle to help someone and helping her is like pushing water uphill with your hands”.

  • Jenny

    No matter what tone I said it in or how I worded it my ex refused to listen and take accountability. This is after being abused me in every way by him. He even denied the things he did to me, and said I did them to him. It is not our responsibility to absorb all of the disordered person’s crap. They do tremendous damage, and then move on like nothing happened. It’s wrong.

  • Colin

    As “Exes” how can we best help them? I understand walking away is best for us nons in the long run, but if we really care and the BPD ex is still in our lives for whatever reason, can we help them and if so how? My ex now has her own flat and is on benefits but does not understand budgeting and is not being helped by those who are paid to help her, they just give her advice however it is advice she is not mentally equipped to understand or act on. She puts on a happy face however I know once on her own she is miserable and lonely, her own fault maybe as she refuses to get help for her problems, but the fact is she needs support and I don;t know how best to be there for her. It may be the best I can do is stay away as much as I can as I may be a trigger however she may also see me as abandoning her which is something I would never do even as a friend. Its 2 months since we finally split as a couple and I still care about her and hate to see her in such pain.

  • Renee Lash

    As someone who has been in a friendship with a borderline person I think what is hardest for me to grasp is that she can cut me off, give me the silent treatment for weeks, months on end for some slight That Never Even Happened. Then she garners support from everyone around by telling them what a horrible friend I am.
    She has told me, in moments of clarity, that she knows that the way she behaves and reacts isn’t ‘normal’ yet continues to perpetuate the destruction of my reputation and work environment. Then when she feels I have paid enough for my ‘ sin’ she contacts me as if nothing has changed.
    I think my biggest issue with this post is that we’re the ones who are supposed to change to make things better and easier for them yet they rarely express any remorse for ripping us apart in public regularly. Its extremely one sided in my opinion.

  • Scott

    My BPD wife refuses to acknowledge she has borderline so there is no way she going to get any help. Isn’t this part of the disorder; not accepting that there is anything wrong with them? I was abused mentally and physically for years, staying in the marriage because of love, hope and to protect my kids. We agreed to split 10 months ago to “work on ourselves” but I found out 2 months ago that she had boyfriend the whole time. I asked her if she wanted to give it another try because I felt like I had figured out some techniques. Said said yes, and agreed to breakup with the boyfriend and focus on us 100%. Well two weeks ago I caught her sneaking her “ex-boyfriend” into her house in the dark of night for two hours of whatever in her bedroom. When I confronted her she said she didn’t do anything wrong! No remorse, but was mad at me for finding out. Crazy right! This was the final straw for me and now we are heading to divorce. Betrayal, adultery, deceit, lying, no more of it. I am hurting from the years of abuse and now again from a stake being put into my heart. We have 4 younger kids so will be around each other a lot, FOREVER! I just pray that I can get past all this, find someone who treats me “normal,” and get back my sanity. So yes I am pissed at someone with BPD. I am especially pissed at her parents for not acknowledging that she has issues, even though I know they know she is sick. They are willing to let this marriage fall apart and let me take the blame versus standing up to their daughter and telling her she needs help.

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