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Can someone with BPD have a long-distance relationship?

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

Maintaining a long-distance relationship can be difficult for even the healthiest people, and for someone with Borderline personality disorder (BPD), it's even more of an uphill battle. The likelihood that a long-distance relationship with someone with BPD will succeed depends on the severity of their BPD symptoms, their ability to communicate with others, and their coping mechanisms.

In this article, we'll discuss how BPD affects a long-distance relationship and how to be able to maintain one.

BPD and a long-distance relationship

The main problems with long-distance relationships are bad communication and lack of physical intimacy. Bad communication can lead to confusion and misunderstanding, which results in unnecessary fights and arguments. Ultimately, when there is any kind of conflict in the relationship, it's hard for people with BPD to determine whether their partner still loves them. Due to their fear of being abandoned, they will start to panic and feel like leaving their partner before they are abandoned themselves. Push-pull behavior and impulsive decisions are displayed by the sufferer, and eventually, this behavior will destroy the relationship. Since there is no physical intimacy or contact, it is difficult to resolve conflict because all communication happens via text or phone, which only reinforces misunderstandings.

Many would argue that it is impossible to maintain or survive a long-distance relationship when you have BPD, and I can totally understand why. Due to their problems with interpersonal relationships, BPD is perhaps the worst mental disorder someone could have when trying to maintain a long-distance relationship. More specifically, they are dealing with a fear of abandonment and rejection, paranoid thinking, trust issues, low self-esteem, splitting, and impulsive behavior. The severity of these symptoms influences the success rate of the relationship.

How BPD affects a long-distance relationship

Everyone has that one person in their life that they like over everyone else, most often a significant other. For someone with BPD, that person is everything, an anchor they can't live without. Distance from their favorite person feels like pure agony, and there is no other way to describe it. They become too reliant on their favorite person for guidance, validation, and reassurance. It is their main source of happiness, and the slightest (imagined) shift in the relationship dynamic can trigger a BPD episode.

Someone with BPD can trigger intense heartbreak by imagining that their loved one doesn't love them anymore or is cheating on them, which is a form of paranoid thinking. For example, after not hearing anything from their partner for eight hours during the workday, they may imagine that the relationship is over. Thinking that their partner has found someone else or that they love their job more than them.

Their fear of abandonment is consuming at times. The need for concrete evidence of someone's love is crippling, and it is incredibly hard to deal with for both the partner and the sufferer. The individual with BPD may start arguments or fights to ultimately get reassurance. The person with BPD tends to lash out when their partner can't fully reassure them. This is frequently followed by self-hatred for getting into the relationship in the first place and for believing that someone could actually love them. And afterwards, the sufferer often feels incredible guilt for lashing out and feels upset for not understanding what is wrong with them. And even when their partner understands them and gives the needed reassurance, after a while, even that can feel like a lie. Which means that conflict is almost inevitable.

People with BPD tend to split on their partner, which means that their view of the significant other fluctuates between idealized and devalued, which is unsustainable for a relationship. They have a hard time feeling secure and stable because of their mood swings. One moment they can feel as if they are better than their partner, and there is no way their partner could leave them. And moments later, they have no self-worth and believe their partner is too good for them. Someone with BPD is constantly fighting with their identity while simultaneously trying to understand their partner's true intentions. Nothing ever feels stable. The relationship feels like a constant fight, and the long distance only increases all the fears and insecurities that someone with BPD has.

BPD How to survive a long-distance relationship?

A long-distance relationship for someone with BPD will be very difficult to maintain. It's going to take far more dedication than a relationship that is not long-distance. It requires a lot of patience, understanding, and communication.

Here are some tips to strengthen the relationship, which hopefully help you to survive the long distance:

  • Be open with each other about your fears, insecurities, and feelings of loneliness.

  • Don’t be vague about things you do or are going to do because details are important. You don’t want to leave any space for misinterpretation.

  • No matter what is going on in your life, always make time for your partner.

  • Even if it's going to take a long time, have a rough idea of when you'll see each other again. Make sure there is something to look forward to.

  • Make sure you both feel loved by giving frequent reassurance and acknowledging one another's feelings.

  • Don’t go to bed when you're upset with each other.

When you are experiencing a BPD episode because you think that your partner is not in love with you anymore or is cheating on you, write down all your worries and imagined thoughts that trigger the episode, and once you are done, try to write down the facts and real situation. When you start to feel anxious about the same issue later that day or the following week, force yourself to read again what you wrote. It could make you more aware of the fact that you're going through a temporary emotional episode.

Abandonment is the pinnacle of BPD. Try to realize that when you don't get a text back right away, it doesn't mean they've abandoned you for someone else. At the end of the day, the best thing you can do is keep fighting. Despite the distance, refuse to let your BPD destroy what is otherwise a wonderful, loving, and supportive relationship.

1 Comment

Digital Disorder
Digital Disorder
Nov 16, 2022

Well, I had one for 15 years, so it is very possible to have a long-distance relationship with BPD, although I must say I suffer from avoidant personality disorder too, which I think helps. That and that the other person had an avoidant attachment style, so in some way it was a very convenient match.

I can't even understand today what made us last such a long period of time, but I guess the answer is that we both had a lot of commitment issues, although it didn't look at all like that from the outside.

In my case I didn't even like him at all physically and I only felt disgust towards him near the end but I guess…

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