You’re fighting for the nth time this week, over something so small you’d laugh if it weren’t so sad. You may be exhausted and on the verge of giving up on this person you love so much. Or maybe you’re just looking for a way to make your relationship with your borderline loved one a little stronger. You want to learn how to say no to someone with BPD, whether it’s a relative or a friend or a romantic partner. Perhaps you’re also looking for help resolving conflict with someone who has borderline personality disorder. This article will help you learn how.
What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?
What It’s Like to Have Borderline Personality Disorder
Someone who has BPD may have any or all of the following symptoms:
- Extreme mood swings. They may be very happy one moment and very sad the next. Some of the intense emotions can last for a long time, too, like days. They may find it very difficult to control a particular emotion, like anger. Also, cycling back and forth between different emotions is very frightening for the person.
- Fear of being abandoned. They may always be worried that you are going to cut off your relationship with them. They may also do extreme things to stop this from happening.
- Making impulsive decisions. This can be harmful in itself, like if they spend a lot on an unnecessary purchase. But it’s even worse when your loved one does things that may be harmful for them.
- Being paranoid.
- Self-harming or suicidal thoughts.
- A lack of a sense of self. Your loved one may not have a strong sense of who they are. This sense may change depending on who they are with.
- Feeling empty often.
A Note of Caution
Remember, reading up about borderline personality disorder with articles like this, or with books, can help you be more supportive of your loved one who has BPD. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you understand all of what they are going through. If you have struggled with your mental health, it can help you be more compassionate, yes. But even two people with the same disorder may not have the same experiences. It cannot be overstated: you won’t ever fully understand, but you still need to try.
This is very important to remember as you try to maintain ties with your loved one who has BPD. A healthy respect for their struggles will take you a long way. You could try reading up on Tthe experiences of those who have BPD, for example.
Of course, all this understanding and empathy does not mean that your loved one with BPD can walk all over you. Boundaries are always needed in a healthy relationship. One way to establish boundaries is by saying no to someone who has borderline personality disorder.
How to Have Healthy Conflict
Conflict in itself is not necessarily bad. It is a natural part of having a relationship with anyone. It can help your relationship grow if you and your loved one handle it well. Here are some things that can help you with resolving conflict with someone who has borderline personality disorder:
This may sound too simple. Or maybe it sounds too hard because you think your loved one should be listening more. But all experts agree that listening carefully, sincerely and compassionately to someone with BPD is the best way to calm them down and make them feel safe. Focus on their feelings and not their words. Their words may be hard to hear, but the feelings that cause them will help you feel for them.
2. Don’t Lose Your Compassion.
Someone who suffers from borderline personality disorder may seem to you like an out-of-control child at times. In some ways, that’s not far from the truth. Internally, your loved one is in pain and struggling to hold on. Try and remember that when their behaviour wears on you.
3. Set Boundaries.
Another practice that helps with resolving conflict with someone who has borderline personality disorder: be firm but kind about boundaries. Essentially, you don’t need to indulge all their desires, especially if they are unfair to you. Here’s an example of what you can say. “I would like to make you happy, and I can do ______ for you, but I cannot do ______.” The next section will address boundaries further.
Tips For Saying No to Someone with BPD
1. Be clear.
What are you saying? Is it a “no, never” or a “not now”? If it’s “not now,” schedule a different time. This will help them not to feel rejected. And if it’s a “no, never,” try to come up with something else that makes you both happy. If you can.
When you’re saying no, it helps for your loved with to know the reasons. Someone with borderline personality disorder prone to worrying that you don’t want them or spend time with them, and so on. If you give your real reasons, it can help reassure them.
Tell them (maybe for the hundredth time) that you love them, care about them, and that your ‘no’ has nothing to do with them personally. It may seem unnecessary or strange to you. But to them, it can be wonderfully soothing to hear.
4. Listen, again.
If your loved one is getting upset over your ‘no,’ ask them how they’re feeling. Once again, try to keep your cool. Don’t take what they say personally. Try to understand what they’re feeling and express that understanding.
5. Stick To Your Decision.
Once you’ve said no, make sure you don’t change your mind. To do this, you need to be sure about your no before you say it. Being consistent helps your loved one. Saying no and maintaining boundaries is also good for your relationship. It will take patience and strength on your part. Keep at it.
6. Be Patient.
It needs to be said again! You will need patience to make your relationship with your loved one work. You may have to follow these and other tips over and over. You’re doing great! So keep going. And kudos to you for trying. We hope these tips help you in your relationship with your loved one who has BPD, especially in how to say no. We also hope that they help you in resolving conflict with someone who has borderline personality disorder. If you’d like to know more about boundaries, you can look up our article Trouble Saying No – Respect Your Boundaries. You can also check out some of our courses that help with conflict in relationships, such as DBT For Anger.