The BPD Relationship Cycle & How To Break It (2024)

If you’ve been in a relationship with someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD), you probably know how emotional and intense things can become.

BPD Relationship Cycle
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A BPD relationship cycle often consists of emotional highs and lows that can leave you confused and frustrated.

Learn more about the borderline personality disorder relationship cycle and how to break it.

Let’s dive in.

1. Symptoms Of Borderline Personality Disorder

These are some of the general borderline personality disorder symptoms:

  • Starts with an intense fear of abandonment
  • Stress related paranoia
  • Suicidal threats
  • Wide mood swings
  • Finally intense anger

2. Denial Stage

Many healing journeys begin with denial that nothing is wrong. This is natural as many people don’t want to look at their own issues. Usually, people deflect to others outside of themselves.

Justifying many of the toxic relationships of their past and other life choices is common. It can be very uncomfortable being presented with the fact that your past behavior has actually been quite harmful to those around you.

3. Confusion Stage

After spending so long living with a dysfunctional pattern of behavior and becoming aware of these same patterns, they can feel confused about why other people don’t seem as conflicted as they are.

This could lead them to question if something is actually going on with themselves. At this point they can be introduced to the idea of borderline personality disorder.

However, it won’t fully be understood yet and they’ll require time to let the idea digest.

4. Resistance Stage

As the BPD partner learns more about their condition and the nature of gaps in their memory caused by dissociation, they go through the phase of resistance.

They’re being asked to accept responsibility for a condition, which is rooted in high-risk behavior and other uncomfortable patterns. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone must take responsibility for any of their own actions.

For the person with borderline personality disorder, this can be extremely triggering and cause them to enter into a state of trauma and possibly leading to dissociation as a way of coping, considering that’s their pattern.

5. Anger Stage

Once it reaches the point where the diagnosis can no longer be resisted, it can lead to emotional outbursts.

At this stage, episodes of anger are common. As with dissociation, it can be a coping mechanism because it’s a safe and known behavior, even though it’s dysfunctional. It’s familiar and therefore represents safety to them.

However, these outbursts can lead to increased isolation from their support system, which can also activate their ingrained abandonment wounding.

6. Depression Stage

This can then lead to the stage where ‘soul searching,’ and deep introspection can occur.

The emotional outbursts of anger have potentially led to further isolation, which can result in a profound sense of sadness over the difficulty maintaining their relationships and the missed opportunities in their life.

It can also lead to suicidal thoughts. How long this period lasts will depend on the intensity of the personality disorder and the individual’s capacity to move through enough of the self-forgiveness process to get to a place of acceptance.

7. Acceptance Stage

By this point, the person with BPD is now becoming more aware of the overall picture of their condition and can hold what it means for them in their mind without experiencing as much dissociation or anger.

The diagnosis of the condition no longer feels like a burden, affliction on their self image, or an attack on their character, instead it comes as a relief.

It now appears as the answer to their problems and offers a way for them to go through their healing process and become a whole new better version of themselves.

8. Therapy Stage

In some ways, everything to this point has been part of the preliminary stage of healing. 

Once the BPD individual enters into a therapeutic setting, they can now begin the process of learning effective coping strategies to help reduce the frequency and intensity with which they feel stress in their lives.

They can also learn of the impact their condition has had on the lives of those around them, so they can make better life choices in the future.

The hope is that from here they can make a full recovery, or at the least become someone with high functioning borderline personality disorder in the short term while they continue the journey towards making a full recovery.

Are There Cycles With Borderline Personality?

Emotional episodes or cycles are what’s referred to as a BPD relationship cycle, which is often a reality for people living with borderline personality disorder. 

Borderline Personality
Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

Some of the mechanisms to overcome if your loved one is suffering from BPD are as follows:

1. Set Boundaries

When you’re both comfortable and at the same emotional level, approach the idea of setting boundaries to your partner with grace.

Also, listen closely to your partner’s feelings during this time, as going too fast can trigger their borderline personality disorder. 

2. Explain The Perspective

It’s always important to stay calm and give some context to your partner. Explaining ‘why’ can keep a healthy relationship

3. Follow Your Boundaries

If your partner, diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, tries to test the limits of your boundaries, and you allow them to be crossed, then you’re conveying it’s okay to cross the boundaries and they’re not important enough. 

4. Ensure Boundaries Are Respected

If your BPD partner doesn’t follow the limits you set and you start witnessing abusive behavior from the BPD partner, there should be consequences for such an act. A person suffering from BPD does not have a pass to abuse or disrespect others. 

Related: 20 Ways Saying No To Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder

When Does BPD End A Relationship?

As the relationship begins, the BPD relationship cycle refers to when the BPD partner might tend to idealize you and everything you do. They may focus all their attention on you, the non BPD partner, singing your praises, and demanding your attention.

As the relationship progresses, however, rather than seeing only the positives, their idealization may decrease and give room to devaluation.

Your partner may suddenly feel as though you’re not participating in the relationship, don’t care enough, or aren’t meeting them halfway. Their focus may change to the negative aspects or having a hard time feeling safe in the relationship.

The BPD sufferer may just end the relationship themselves. Then the BPD relationship cycles can begin again. However, borderlines will usually end relationships as a form of seeking validation from their partner.

The general pattern of BPD behavior after a break-up sees them waiting for their partner to reach out to them to have their emotional needs met. When this happens, it puts the borderline in control of the relational dynamic and able to set the terms of the reconnection.

This doesn’t mean everyone with borderline personality disorder acts in the same ways or repeats the same patterns. However, there’s a possibility that some of these behaviors and attitudes are present in a BPD relationship.

How Do I Break My BPD Cycle?

BPD relationships are challenging to deal with, especially if it’s with a friend, partner, or family member. However, there are many ways to improve and overcome your relationship. 

Here are some of the mechanisms to overcome borderline personality disorder as follows:

1. Search For A Support System

Make sure that there are enough people in your life to support you. If you require additional support, contact a therapist or seek guidance from a professional to help you overcome a borderline personality disorder relationship cycle.

2. Use Music As A Tool

Music can be used to overcome your tumultuous feelings and emotions. For instance, if you’re feeling sad, play fast, upbeat music to change your mood, and if you are feeling restless, play slower music. This way, music can be healing. 

3. Activities To Redirect Your Mind

Participating in an activity can help distract you from negative emotions. An activity can just be a walk, talk, or do something involving more coordination.

4. Calm Yourself With Gratitude Meditations

Deep breathing exercises or meditation practices can slow down the nervous system, relax your body and help you become aware of thoughts that don’t serve your highest good.

BPD Relationship Pattern

A BPD relationship pattern is a repeating, continuous series of highs and lows in a relationship with someone with borderline personality disorder.

First, everything feels good, uplifting, and safe—they might think of you as their favorite person. 

In the blink of an eye, you witness anger or extreme rage, chaos, and escalating negative emotions.

This kind of pattern can be a shock to your mental health, however, it’s common when you have a romantic or platonic relationship with someone diagnosed with BPD.

People with BPD are often extremely scared that others will abandon them. Although, they can also shift to a fear of closeness and intimacy. The result is a back-and-forth or a push-and-pull between demanding attention and withdrawing from others.

BPD Love Hate Cycle

BPD cycles in romantic relationships often feel dysfunctional. However, it’s important to remember that people with BPD can be nurturing and compassionate.

Their positive qualities can be overshadowed by their intense insecurities and fears that can be difficult to navigate, especially in new dating relationships.

People with BPD often experience strong fears and anxiety about their partner abandoning them, so unrelated cues can be seen by them as “signs” that their partner has become uninterested.

They will often immediately pull back or even end the relationship themselves, starting a cycle of back-and-forth that can become obsessive.

It’s possible to have a long and fulfilling relationship with a partner with BPD, but it requires a lot of patience and time spent understanding their triggers and BPD cycles in general.

BPD Relationship Triggers

Usually, a trigger refers to an event that brings on a major onslaught of BPD symptoms. The event can be something that happens outside of yourself or something that happens in your mind, like a thought or memory.

BPD Relationship Triggers
Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

People with borderline personality disorder often experience: 

  • Intense fear
  • Anger
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Self-harm
  • Even suicidal thoughts

These feelings can be brought on in a relationship when they feel:

  • Rejected
  • Criticized
  • Abandoned (what’s known as abandonment or rejection sensitivity)

For example, you may feel triggered when you leave a message for a friend and don’t receive a call back.

After placing the call, maybe you wait a few hours and then begin to have thoughts such as, “She’s not calling back, she must be mad at me.”

These thoughts could spiral into thought patterns like, “She probably hates me,” or “I’ll never have a friend who sticks by my side.” With these spiraling thoughts come spiraling symptoms, such as intense emotions, anger, and urges to self harm.

Signs A BPD Loves You

For someone with borderline personality disorder, their favorite person turns into the most important person in their life.

The bpd relationship can be with anyone, however, it’s often romantic relationships, family members, good friends, or another person who has shown support, like a coach, therapist, or teacher.

This person may become the source of all happiness and validation (potentially leading to relationship burnout for the other partner).

The individual with BPD wants their favorite person’s attention as much as possible, and the quality of the relationship can undoubtedly shape their mood, confidence, and sense of security.

The bpd relationship may become tumultuous. Because the individual with borderline personality disorder relies so heavily on their favorite person for love and attention, any slight transgression can result in anger, fear, or a sense of instability.

It’s important to remember that personality disorders lie on a spectrum of mental health issues. It’s dangerous and unfair to pigeonhole someone into specific behaviors.

If you suspect you’re caught in a bpd relationship cycle, the following signs are what to look for:

  • Consistent need for reassurance
  • Intense declarations of their love or appreciation for you
  • Reaching out more frequently when you don’t respond
  • Fear that you will leave them or no longer love them
  • Appearing to be in crisis often and depending on you for advice or guidance
  • Exhibiting jealousy at your other relationships or activities

BPD Sabotaging Relationships

Borderlines can be very convincing that their partner is the problem, often even persuading a therapist their partner is to blame for not putting more effort into the relationship.

If the therapist doesn’t recognize this sabotage (or splitting), the once romantic relationship becomes stuck in blaming each other.

Here are some behaviors in BPD relationships to watch for:

  • The person with borderline personality disorder often uses splitting when the feelings are so overwhelming that the person reacts to get rid of them.

For example, sending abusive messages or breaking up in the heat of the moment. Often these splitting behaviors push the partner away.

  • Borderline splitting destroys the BPD relationship when a person accuses their partner of things because of how they feel, without examining the evidence.
  • The person with BPD can get so angry that they can lose a grip of themselves and their behavior, without being aware of how they’ve treated loved ones.
  • Often, the borderline sees themselves as the victim, who’s being mistreated. They may not see their actions as destructive.
  • The person with BPD who splits kills their relationship by blaming loved ones and accusing them of things they haven’t even done.
  • The person who is borderline can become insecure or paranoid in the BPD relationship cycle while reading into things that are not even there, or misinterpreting them.
  • The person with borderline personality disorder can take things the wrong way, often thinking their partner is putting them down when they’re offering feedback.
  • The BPD relationship is destroyed because the behavior can be impulsive or reckless in order to alleviate the pain. This often hurts loved ones in the process.
  • It can feel like everyone abandons or hurts the person with borderline personality disorder, leading them to look for evidence, and creating problems from nothing.
  • It’s hard for them to let go of that feeling, unless they do something reckless to unleash the anger, causing them to sabotage relationships.
  • Borderline splitting can burn bridges in relationships when they act in ways to make their partner pay for it or punish them, being spiteful when they perceive they’re being hurt or mistreated.
  • When they break up, they often forget the positive things about their partner, until the partner is gone.
  • Relationships fall apart as the borderline says things in the heat of the moment and regrets saying them afterward.
  • Often, because of their mood swings, the feelings are disproportionate to the actual situation.

Related: Never Date Someone With BPD? 12 Reasons To Do It Anyway

Relationship with BPD Female

Dating someone with borderline personality disorder can be challenging. Your partner may have difficult strong emotions, drastic mood swings, chronic fear of abandonment, and impulsive behaviors.

Despite the challenges BPD can bring to a relationship, communication skills and self-care are important for both partners. Here are some other tips for partners dealing with BPD:

1. Seek Out Information

Learning as much as possible about BPD can increase empathy in a partnership. If you’re the partner affected by BPD, an explanation of the disorder helps you understand your feelings and behaviors, easing shame, which is good for mental health.

2. Get Help

Support from a mental health counselor or therapist, separately or as a couple, can help people affected by BPD gain insight, communicate more effectively, resolve conflict, and strengthen their relationships.

3. Healthy Communication

When you communicate, don’t say anything that could make the person with BPD feel slighted or uncared for. Actively listen in love and do your best to respond in a positive way. 

4. Not During A Severe Episode

Talking about a sensitive topic during a severe episode of BPD may lead your partner with BPD to make irrational decisions. He or she is also more likely to be defensive, pull away, or turn to self-harming behaviors when their symptoms are uncontrolled.

5. Offer Support

Partners should provide the person with BPD understanding and emotional support and encourage their treatment. 

6. Avoid Labeling Or Blaming

It’s important not to blame everything the person with BPD says or does on their mental health situation because it then becomes an insult or a put-down.

7. Take Threats Seriously

Threats of harm or suicide should never become a form of blackmail in the relationship. They must be taken seriously regardless of whether you believe the person plans to follow through. This is to protect you and your mental health too.

8. Prioritize Self Care

Being in a relationship with someone who has BPD can feel all-consuming, so it’s important to seek out a strong support network for your own emotional wellness and have a healthy outlet to deal with stress.

9. Normal Life 

Although many of the behaviors can be dangerous, and potentially life-threatening, many people with BPD are high-functioning individuals. You can lead a normal life.

Couples counseling can encourage you and your BPD partner to work together towards common relational goals and help to stabilize your relationship.

While improvement in the relationship can be attained, it merits true dedication from both parties.

Things BPD Say

For those who may not know, splitting is essentially part of the relationship cycle categorizing things (or people) as good or bad, your classic all-or-nothing situation.

Splitting is often a response to the fear of rejection, abandonment or any other potential emotional trauma.

Here are some things said in bpd relationship cycles that mean “I’m splitting”:

  • “I say hurtful things to get out my pain, then almost immediately apologize and beg them not to leave.” — M. G.
  • “I become vile to them. I say horrible things that will make them want to leave me. So that way I don’t have to muster up the courage to leave myself and I’d have someone to blame other than myself.” — K. L.
  • “Being a complete ass and then feeling way worse about it later when I realize I overreacted. Then I just dwell on it.” — M. R.

There are a number of effective treatment options for borderline personality disorder, such as dialectical behavioral therapy or mentalization-based therapy.

These can help people with this mental health condition learn to better regulate their strong emotions, reduce impulsive reactions, address troubled areas, have healthy relationships and more.

The BPD relationship cycle can be addressed and you can maintain successful relationships.

We invite you to share this article ✅ with friends so more people can be aware of this mental health condition.

About The Author

Bijan Kholghi is a certified life coach with the Milton Erickson Institute Heidelberg (Germany). He helps clients and couples reach breakthroughs in their lives by changing subconscious patterns. His solution-oriented approach is based on Systemic- and Hypnotherapy.