BPD

The Truth About BPD and Cheating

Plenty of mentally-healthy people cheat — an estimated 40%, in fact — but the general consensus around BPD and cheating is that it is us, the unstable, toxic borderlines, who are the 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 at the slightest inconvenience, renowned for being impulsive, flighty and — let’s face it — promiscuous.

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.

Borderline personality disorder is an incredibly misunderstood mental illness with an unhealthy amount of negative stigma attached to it. We are crazy, manipulative, attention-seeking and unlovable, demonised by our exes and, of course, all of their friends and family. But are we really the sociopathic serial cheaters of your nightmares?

Why People With BPD Might Cheat


First things first, there is absolutely no scientific evidence to suggest that borderlines are more likely to be unfaithful than anyone else. However, it can’t be denied that some BPD symptoms are consistent with the personality traits of serial cheaters, and they are definitely worth exploring.

These symptoms, particularly if the person with BPD is low-functioning or in a toxic relationship, may influence their likelihood of cheating — both emotionally and physically.

Here are some symptoms that may influence the likelihood of both emotional and physical cheating.

Impulsive Behaviour

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. In theory, this could also mean that people with BPD are more likely to engage in impulsive infidelity, especially in response to emotional trauma or triggers.

Promiscuity

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.

Read: BPD and Long-Distance Relationships – Can They Work?

Commitment Issues

Some people with BPD are so terrified of their romantic co-dependency that they force themselves into casual promiscuity. While I never quite went to those extremes, in my early twenties I definitely avoided intimacy because I was scared of my intense feelings.

The fear of abandonment can also cause borderlines to stray, influenced by a ‘I’ll cheat on them before they can cheat on me’ mentality.

Low Self-Esteem and Identity Issues

People with BPD 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 us to sabotage relationships through cheating, believing that we are undeserving of love.

Also, there are people with BPD who crave validation to the point where their entire self-identity is based off how sexually desirable they are to others. They may feel incomplete without sexual validation and seek it from multiple sources.

This Doesn’t Mean That All Borderlines Are Cheaters


So, all of the above favours the narrative of borderlines as bed-hopping homewreckers who can’t be trusted — but it is far from the whole picture.

It’s important to remember that BPD affects each individual differently. Many people with BPD suffer from symptoms that significantly lower their potential to cheat. Here are some reasons why the infidelity narrative is unjust.

Are people with borderline personality disorder more likely to cheat?

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 people with BPD 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 people with BPD 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. 

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 just as much as we are the perpetrators (if not more).

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.

People with BPD who lack emotional regulation or self-awareness skills can become cripplingly paranoid in relationships. This is intensified if we’ve been cheated on before — and we tend to find ourselves 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. These behaviours can cause a our romantic partners to feel trapped and resentful — all common motivators for both physical and emotional infidelity.

And remember, a whopping 40% of mentally and emotionally healthy people cheat on their partners.

For me, cheating is absolutely unfathomable and the thought makes me want to cry — but that’s probably because I know first-hand that cheating hurts like a bitch. What do you think the truth is about BPD and cheating? Are people with BPD innately cheaters or is this a stereotype born from stigma? 

Let me know in the comments down below – and check out this post about the positive side to BPD!

I am a mental health blogger sharing my experiences with BPD, depression and anxiety. I have created this space of understanding and healing in order to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. I also offer lots of self-care tips to help you live your best life! Any advice I give is based off my personal experiences and should not be substituted for medical advice. You can read my full disclaimer by clicking the link in the footer.

9 Comments

  • Lloyd

    Hi there my wife as bpd and I am really struggling because I have absolutely no one to turn to I just got married last September ! She got diagnosed 3 years ago or so ! I feel like I’m walking on egg shells all the time she making me feel as if she quite possibly cheating on me but I have no real hard evedience to back this up she is a really attractive woman and part of her illness is attention seeking ! Like changing her fb profile to just her etc and her what’s app profile to ! She as money issues to and she constantly kicking me out of the house throwing my clothes out ! We have a son together he is 4 ! I also took her on with 3 children and they just want to be happy they no what there mum can be like she gets really angry and can be really aggressive to like slamming doors etc swearing telling me she hates me ! She hates my parents etc my parents no longer have nothing to do with us because every time something happened I tried to go there for support but I always end up going back to my wife coz I love her plus we have child together ! But I feel like the next time she tells me to go will be the last time because I’m at my witts end but I’m scared because I know I’ll have to sleep in the van then I’ll have to fight for what is rightfully mine ie the house and also to be able to see my son ! When she kicks me out or tells me not to come back she then accuses me of having an affair and that is the last thing on my mind as I’m not interested at all ! I’ve looked up bpd that many times trying to look for light at end of tunnel I just don’t seem to be getting anywhere ! All the accusations are tarnishing me coz she puts everything on social media and people only get side of events ! She also as thyroid disease and panishanema and autoimmune disease she recently had her bloods done for her hormones she as had pertuarty scan to and it showing something but we no better of knowing can you please please help me

    • Kia

      Hi Lloyd, that sounds like such a stressful situation 😞 I really think you would both benefit from some professional help. Please check out my resources page and feel free to drop me an email any time x

  • Kyle

    Kia, Thank you for writing this blog post. I’ve been dating my girlfriend for almost 2 years in an almost impossible situation – we have a large age gap as well as a long distance relationship, and I have been slowly leaving my wife over the last year. Her BPD has shown me her vulnerability is in the form of abandonment, habitual cheating stemming from her earlier relationships in life, attention seeking, low self-esteem, and need for consistent validation. The pandemic has just exacerbated her feelings, and while I’ve seen her improve, we still struggle.

    I’ve learned that I love her deeply as a person, but her BPD, which is endemic to who she is, can make me into a person who I never thought I would be. I actually see a long-term future with her, and yet, I am hanging on by a thread. I see a therapist weekly; we have a couples therapist; and she sees her therapist occasionally. Nonetheless, I am so fearful of a future with her: her texting with other men to flirt and to get sexual gratification through their attention; her previous stepping out on me three times in the past year with another man when she felt slighted by me. The first two were moments of pure loneliness and abandonment. The last was during a period of time when we were trying to get back together and focus on each other and improving each others lives. I cannot tell where her lying and dishonesty ends; and where her PPD begins. How do I know that they are caused by the BPD? Or how do I know that it is simply her?

    Last but not least could you share the link to the support group online? That would really help me I think. Thank you again for a beautiful blog post that really has helped me feel a little bit better this morning

    • Kia

      Hi, Kyle, thank you for reaching out to me during what sounds like a really difficult time. BPD affects each person differently, but I know from my own experience that deep-seated insecurities/traumas, splitting and irrational fears of abandonment can result in impulsive cries for external validation. From what you’ve written, you’re girlfriend’s infidelity does seem to manifest from these kinds of issues.

      However, while BPD might be an explanation for her behaviour, it isn’t an excuse.

      I encourage her to seek DBT (if she hasn’t already) and urge you to get some individual therapy. Remember, YOUR mental health comes first and you don’t deserve to be treated badly or stick in a relationship that is making you unhappy ❤️

      If you head over to Reddit, you can find several subs that discuss BPD. Some are more helpful than others but it depends what you are looking for. The one that I mentioned was for survivors of BPD abuse and while I do think it is a helpful support group for some, it is also perpetuates lots of harmful stereotypes and stigma. I won’t share the link here because it can be triggering for some people with BPD, but if you head over to reddit and search BPD you’ll find it no problem 😊

      Look after yourself and thank you so much for reading my post!

    • Eric

      Lloyd, her issues aside, you clearly have some codependency issues on your own that you should address through counseling. I only know this because I have the same tendencies.

  • Lesha

    I just need help. Idk who I am or I don’t know my worth. It’s like one day I feel fucking amazing yano, and the next I’m just dragging along. I need a therapist or someone to help me understand myself. But Idk where to look. I’m a single 19 year old mom and I don’t wanna feel like a shattered image of my old self anymore. I wanna understand why I am the way that I am. I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD & ADHD and I bet there’s more to uncover. I get really irritated fast and easy if somethings been on my mind n stuff like I just have issues that I want answers to

    • Kia

      My heart feels for you so much, it can be so hard to get people to listen and understand us. Please know that you are not alone and my inbox is always open ❤️

  • Kayla

    Wow. Your reddit recommendation just gave me so much solace in feeling understood with other bpd loved ones. My boyfriend of 2 years was diagnosed about 5 months ago after I strongly encouraged him to get a psych eval. We moved to Alaska together, bought land in November and I come to find out about 2 weeks ago he has been cheating on me for about a year. Devastated to lose what I thought was my life partner I just hope he finds inner peace for himself and can learn to love himself. Now I get to focus on myself and healing and am grateful to see that I’m not alone. Thanks so much

    • Kia

      Hi Kayla, I’m really glad you’ve found healing. It is so, so important to surround yourself with support after ending a relationship in those circumstances. Wishing you all the best!

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