Lots of mentally-healthy people cheat – an estimated 40%! – but the general consensus around BPD and cheating is that it is us, the unstable, toxic borderlines, who are persistent offenders.
After all, we are the ones who blow hot and cold, idealising you one minute and hating you the next. We are the ones who push you away, the ones known to be impulsive and reckless.
Just do a quick Google search and you will see ‘engaging in risky sex or promiscuity’ on every list of symptoms. If that isn’t damming enough, you can stray onto sites like Reddit and read first-hand accounts of people who’ve had their hearts broken by manipulative, cheating borderlines like me.
Hell, I even found a support group!
Basically, we have a pretty shit reputation when it comes to infidelity (and let’s be honest, we are notoriously difficult to love) – but are we really sociopathic serial cheaters?
Why People With BPD Might Cheat
Despite there being no scientific evidence to suggest that borderlines are more likely to be unfaithful than anyone else, I don’t think you can deny that there’s a relationship between BPD and cheating – and it isn’t always in our favour.
Borderlines exhibit several behaviours that are consistent with serial cheaters. Here are some symptoms of BPD that might influence a borderline to cheat:
Our vulnerability to intense emotions can make us impulsive and reckless, especially when under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Impulsive borderlines are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviours like casual one-night stands, but not all borderlines (especially diagnosed borderlines) are affected by or succumb to impulsive behaviours.
And then there’s the big one – promiscuity – which is less about acting on impulse and more to do with feeling the need to have multiple sexual partners. Promiscuity when you have BPD often arises as a by-product of other symptoms, such as chronic emptiness, unworthiness, self-hatred and unstable self-identity issues.
Some borderlines are so terrified of forming toxic attachments that they force themselves into casual promiscuity, while others crave validation and attention to the point where their entire self-identity is based off how sexually desirable they are to others.
Low Self-Esteem and Identity Issues
Borderlines struggle with a very unstable sense of self which often leads to extremely low self-esteem. As well as fickle desires, this wavering self-image can cause a borderline to sabotage their relationship through cheating, believing that they are undeserving of love.
This Doesn’t Mean That All Borderlines Are Cheaters
So, all of the above favours the narrative of borderlines as bed-hopping homewreckers but it is far from the whole picture.
It’s important to remember that BPD affects each individual differently. Many borderlines suffer from symptoms that significantly lower their potential to cheat. Here are some reasons why the infidelity narrative is unjust.
Many Borderlines Suffer From Sexual Phobias, Anxieties and Insecurities
Over on The Mighty, the BPD community were asked how their condition affects their sexual views and behaviours. Rather than an abundance of cheating or promiscuity confessions, many admitted to feeling afraid, disgusted, insecure or uncomfortable with sex.
The fact that many borderlines are childhood abuse survivors probably has something to do with this. Unresolved childhood trauma can result in negative and distrustful attitudes towards sex, making the concept of infidelity unfathomable.
The stigmatisation of BPD fails to recognise this fact and in doing so undermines a very serious aspect of the condition.
Codependency and Intense Attachments
Childhood trauma can be linked to other hallmark symptoms of BPD: co-dependency and intense attachments.
Many borderlines express an inability to engage in casual relationships or promiscuous behaviours because of the fierce attachment that they form with their romantic partner. While this attachment may be unstable for some, for many it is unwavering, all-consuming and makes infidelity highly unlikely.
In my post The Worst Things About Living With BPD, I spoke about how love sometimes feels horribly wrong. The attachment you feel towards your favourite person is overwhelming to the point where you can become devoid of all emotion, identity and will to live in their absence. It is absolutely terrifying to experience because you become incredibly co-dependent and paranoid.
Which moves us onto the next subject –
BPD and Cheating Paranoia
I want to touch on BPD and cheating paranoia because I think society’s vilification of deviant, hypersexual borderlines masks the possibility that we are victims of infidelity more than we are the perpetrators.
Fear of abandonment is one of the most common, intense and emotionally-taxing symptoms of BPD. When we form dependent romantic attachments, something as small as an unanswered text or unenthusiastic reply can leave us in a state of blind panic.
It can be triggered by sexual situations too, such as if a partner shows a lack of sexual interest or is unable to orgasm during sex.
Borderlines who lack emotional regulation or awareness skills can become cripplingly paranoid in relationships. This is intensified if we’ve been cheated on before – and borderlines tend to find themselves in the type of toxic relationships that breed infidelity.
BPD paranoia can erupt into accusations of cheating as well as a host of other self-destructive behaviours like splitting, mood swings, explosive anger, manipulation and threats of self-harm. Not only can these behaviours cause a borderline’s partner to fall out of love, but it can make them feel trapped and resentful – all common motivators for both physical and emotional infidelity
I think it’s incredibly likely that borderlines repeatedly fall victim to infidelity – but what do you think the truth is about BPD and cheating? Let me know in the comments down below – and check out this post about the positive side to BPD!