Tinder date: Soooo, I should let you know I have BPD.
You: What does that mean?
Tinder date: It just means I get a little emotional from time to time.
[Insert funny game show wrong answer sound effect here.]
What do you do? Is having BPD not a big deal? Or is it a red flag? As in, a “Run, Forrest, run!” kind of big deal red flag?
Be angry with me if you like, but having BPD (or any of the other Cluster B personality disorders) is a red flag in and of itself. Don’t listen to the misinformation on the Internet that’s become so prevalent over the last 15 years. Yes, there’s treatment for borderline personality disorder and it can be effective to a point. However, only if an accurate diagnosis is made and accepted by the BPD individual. And only if they somehow happen to find a therapist who isn’t a BPD enabler and apologist. Then the BPD person must fully commit to treatment that doesn’t require their partner or kids to practice either radical acceptance and/or co-regulation.
First, let’s address the statement: “It just means I get a little emotional from time to time.” This explanation is a gross minimization of what having borderline personality disorder means. There are other common gross mischaracterizations of this disordered personality. Such as, “People with BPD are empaths. I feel other people’s pain so strongly that I can’t control my emotions as a result.” Wrong.
First, an empath isn’t a thing. I don’t know where this term sprouted on the Internet, but it seems to have become code for borderline, histrionic and/or narcissist. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Emotional dysreuglation is the inability to control one’s emotions and how one behaves in relation to those feelings. Emotional dysregulation is one of the primary symptoms of borderline personality disorder and it has nothing to do with having an overabundance of empathy for others.
In fact, I’d argue that when a BPD is emotionally dysregulating there’s a profound absence of empathy for anyone but themselves. This is especially true when their lashing out a partner, their kids, friends or family. If they were capable of this supersized empathy so many of them claim to possess, this personality type wouldn’t be so strongly correlated to incidences of intimate partner violence. I believe false abuse allegations are a form of intimate partner violence, by the way.
If you encounter a he, she or they who admits they have BPD and you’re still considering dating them, ask them the following questions:
- Are you in treatment?
- What kind of treatment?
- What’s the frequency?
- Do you have any regrets about your behavior in past relationships?
- Have you ever filed a restraining order against an ex?
- If so, how many restraining orders and how many exes?
- Has an ex ever filed a restraining order on you?
Ideally, the answers should be:
2. DBT (dialectical behavior therapy). If they’re not in DBT, cut your losses and get out of harm’s way. DBT, thus far (i.e., until there’s new data indicating otherwise), seems to be the most effective treatment for BPD individuals. Nevertheless, DBT isn’t magic. It doesn’t cure borderline personality disorder (or any of the related Cluster B disorders). There’s no cure for any of these personality types; only symptom management.
The best you can hope for is that they learn some emotional regulation skills, impulse control and that their actions have consequences. Even so, I repeat, this doesn’t mean they’re cured. In my experience, many of my clients’ partners and exes aren’t able to function within these parameters unless there are meaningful consequences for not doing so. If you’re the person who ends up administering accountability and consequences, it’s only a matter of time until they accuse you of being an abuser and of narcissistic abuse.
3. They should be attending both weekly individual and group therapy. If they’re not attending therapy consistently, this also doesn’t bode well. Many BPD individuals only go to therapy sessions when they’re in emotional crisis. For example, when they’re experiencing consequences for their behavior such as divorce, losing a job or losing friends.
If they’re not fully committed to treatment, there will be little benefit. That is to say, beyond bamboozling a new person that they’re working on their issues by virtue of technically “being in therapy.” The devil is in the details!
4. This is a personal responsibility question. The “I’m a poor little victim” shtick is another red flag. A big one. Even if she was in a NPD-BPD coupling (or series of them), she undoubtedly gave as good as she got. If they’re unable to take personal responsibility for their past destructive behavior, again, it doesn’t bode well. No accountability, no dice.
5. This is a trick question. If the answer’s no, they could be lying. Why would they lie about this? To manipulate feelings of sympathy and protectiveness by playing damsel or dude in distress. All the Cluster B disorders have a high correlation to pathological lying. If the answer is yes, is she smug and self-satisfied about it? Is she or he bragging about how allegedly obsessed their ex(es) are with them? Or, can they prove actual physical violence and/or credible threat of physical violence?
6. This is another trick question. If it’s more than one restraining order, then GTFO (i.e., get the bleepity bleep out). Exit stage right. Check, please. It’s not you, it’s me. I’m moving to Timbuktu to join a monastary or nunnery. See ‘ya, wouldn’t wanna be ‘ya. Make like the Roadrunner and meep, meep! If the BPD, HPD or NPD woman has a history of filing restraining orders at the end of her relationships, this will happen to you, too. I don’t care if you won the Nobel Peace Prize in Being a Nice Guy — you’re making yourself a target if you proceed with the relationship.
7. This is yet another trick question. On the one hand, the borderline, narcissist or histrionic woman could lie and deny. Or, she could admit to it. Let’s give her a point for honesty. Is the admission free of blame shifting and victim-playing? Yes, men are frequently victims of false abuse allegations and meritless restraining orders. Now consider how incredibly difficult it is for a man to get a restraining order against a woman in the majority of courts.
So your Tinder date tells you she has BPD . . .
If any of Tinder date (or Bumble et al) BPD woman’s responses aren’t ideal per the above Q & A, it’s no good. Or, if she takes umbrage at being asked and starts victim-playing about BPD stigma, I have one more question — for you.
“You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky? ‘ Well, do ya, punk?” (Clint Eastwood, Dirty Harry, 1971).
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals with relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. For over a decade, she has specialized in helping men and women break free of abusive relationships, cope with the stress of ongoing abuse and heal from the trauma. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. If you’d like to work with Dr. Palmatier, please visit the Schedule a Session page or you can email her directly at email@example.com.
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