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.
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.
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 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.
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!