BPD and long-distance relationships are not the most, erm, compatible combination.
I happened to find this out the hard way, when a relatively stable, years-long relationship of mine went down in flames after merely ONE month of long-distance.
“But, all of your old relationships went down in flames,” I hear you accuse.
Touché. But this LDR actually became the catalyst for my BPD diagnosis.
Across blogs and forums, people with BPD communicate their struggle with long-distance relationships. Stina Marie describes it as ‘agony’. Laura Snelling says it is “extremely difficult and exhausting” – not only for herself, but for the person she’s with.
Why is BPD so destructive to long-distance relationships?
Unhealthy BPD Thoughts and Behaviours in Long Distance Relationships
BPD is notorious for wreaking havoc on relationships. Our intense fear of abandonment often initiates a host of other self-destructive symptoms, thoughts and behaviours, all of which can create unstable, toxic relationships.
Long-distance relationships are especially triggering. Here are some unhealthy thoughts and behaviours that make BPD and long-distance relationships a difficult combination.
Needing Constant Reassurance
We have a tendency to seek constant validation and reassurance because our self-loathing insecurities leave us wondering why on earth you want to be with us. Physical affection can be hugely validating, quietening the abandonment fears and reducing the need for verbal validation.
In long-distance relationships, the absence of this physical affection means that even though we really, really don’t want to, our brains make us ask you if you still love us. Over and over and over again.
Clinginess and Over-Texting
When you’re in a long-distance relationship it’s normal to want to text or call more than you usually would – but people with BPD can sometimes take this to the extreme.
We feel lost without you so we like to text you … a lot. It can be incredibly suffocating for our partners and has a habit of driving them away.
We’re jealous of the people who get to spend time with you every day. We’re jealous of the girl you take your lunch break with even if you tell us that nothing’s going on (I mean, that’s what they all say, right?) Most of all, we’re jealous of how easy it is for you to just carry on living your life while we are depressed, heartbroken wrecks who feel like half of our soul has been ripped out.
Paranoia and jealousy are extremely common for anyone in a LDR. In the case of BPD, this paranoia can lead to a self-destructive BPD-episode.
Controlling your emotions is exhausting when you have BPD, especially if you’re in a long-distance relationship. The loneliness, uncertainty and fear can take over in an instant, making you incredibly reactionary to any perceived abandonment.
It is often too much for BPD partners to handle – and the distance makes it easier for them to walk away.
Delusional Thinking and Overreacting
He says he’s going to call at 4 but doesn’t ring you until 6.
He mentions that he’s going to a party tonight and ‘won’t be on his phone much’.
He doesn’t say ‘I love you too’ with the same enthusiasm as usual.
When you have BPD, you constantly feel as though abandonment is imminent. Innocent behaviours like forgetting to call become glaring signals of your dying affection towards us – and it’s terrifying. Our reactions can be extreme and irrational, which only pushes you further away even though all we want is validation that you aren’t going off us.
Depression / Suicidal Thoughts
Love can be so painful when you have BPD. You grow so attached that it physically hurts to be without them, as though they are the very oxygen you breathe. It may sound like poetic, passionate mush – but in reality, it’s extremely distressing.
It is being unable to eat or sleep because we miss you so much. It is experiencing excruciating emptiness and suicidal thoughts because our self-identity is in tatters. You are our support system so we run to you for comfort – but distance can make our depression even harder for you to deal with.
Of course, long-distance relationships are no picnic for most people. Cosmopolitan cites jealousy, differing schedules and a non-existent sex life as just some of the reasons why long-distance relationships are so prone to breaking down.
However, it’s clear to see that people with BPD struggle with long-distance relationships to a dysfunctional and destructive degree. So, is it just a write-off?
BPD and Long-Distance Relationships – Can They Work?
Personally, I think they can!
Having survived my long-distance relationship post-diagnosis and beyond, I think with lots of support, self-awareness and communication, the relationship can actually see it through. In fact, distance may even be beneficial in the long run, encouraging independence and healthy boundaries.
Here are some of my tried-and-tested tips for making a long-distance relationship work.
Practise Daily Self-Awareness
I’ve found self-awareness to be one of the most effective tools for managing BPD. Once I understood my BPD and its symptoms, the irrational fears, delusional thoughts and intense emotions became easier to manage.
Activities like mindfulness, therapy and journaling can help you to identify and separate irrational BPD thoughts from ‘normal’ thoughts. This revelation makes these thoughts a lot less scary and helps to prevent a tirade of overemotional reactions and outbursts.
I’m definitely not perfect, but I think my ability to take a step back and observe my emotions before acting on them is what really helped me to maintain a stress-free long-distance relationship.
Have An Open Dialogue With Your Partner About Your BPD
Research shows that when both people in the relationship take the time to understand BPD, the relationship has a much better chance of being successful.
Long-distance relationships can worsen some BPD symptoms. Being open and honest about your triggers and symptoms encourages your partner’s support and understanding. A healthy dialogue can help to prevent some situations from escalating out of control – and even nip initial triggers in the bud.
Set Healthy Boundaries
Establishing boundaries can help to maintain a healthy long-distance relationship. For example, limiting communication to certain times of the day or agreeing to a communication break if an argument breaks out are good ways of dealing with co-dependency and intolerable behaviour.
Both parties should make their expectations clear and stick to them. People with BPD have a habit of testing boundaries, so if you’re the partner of someone with BPD, being firm and clear can help keep these boundaries in place.
Work on Establishing Your Own Separate Identity
I still struggle with finding an identity outside of my relationships, but it reached breaking point when I first tried long-distance. While he was out living and enjoying his life, I was glued to my phone because he was my life and he was the only thing that mattered.
As terrible as it sounds, I wanted him to be as lonely, lovesick and co-dependent as I was.
Throw yourself into something you’re passionate about. A hobby, a new skill, something you love that sparks a flame in your heart. Reconnect with an old friend or confide in friends that you trust. Go out and experience new things. Save up for something that you really want. Work on bettering yourself and create a narrative that is completely yours and yours alone.
Remember, long-distance relationships are naturally difficult and even emotionally-healthy people can struggle to make them work. While BPD and long-distance relationships may have a reputation for creating dysfunction and chaos, positive strategies like self-awareness, boundaries, communication and confidence can promote a low-stress long-distance relationship.
Do you have experience with BPD and long-distance relationships? Did your relationship break down or were you able to make it work? If you have any tips, please leave them in the comments down below! Also, please visit my resources page for my full disclaimer.