What is borderline personality disorder?

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or BPD, is a serious personality disorder marked by difficulties in managing intense emotions. It’s not consistent across all relationships in someone’s life; sometimes, it affects just one close relationship, occasionally family members, and unfortunately, at times, all connections are impacted.

Typically, symptoms of BPD emerge during adolescence or early adulthood. Coping with a marriage involving someone with BPD is especially demanding for both partners.

Individuals with BPD often exhibit remarkable professional abilities but grapple with chaotic and conflict-ridden home lives. Mood swings, struggles with self-regulation, and difficulty managing thoughts and feelings are common. Impulsivity often leads to erratic relationships for those with BPD.

Causes of borderline personality disorder

The causes and risk factors behind Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) remain inconclusive in research. There’s a strong belief in a lasting genetic predisposition, yet scientists also emphasize the interplay between genetics and environmental influences.

Additionally, developmental trauma during childhood is seen as a significant contributor to BPD. Adverse experiences like emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, significant loss, neglect, or bullying can contribute to ongoing psychological struggles. The prevailing theory suggests that certain individuals may be more prone to developing BPD due to their biology or genetics. These genetic factors could be intensified by repeated adverse childhood experiences, heightening the likelihood of a BPD pattern emerging.

Borderline personality disorder is hard to treat

BPD presents a formidable challenge in treatment due to its frequent coexistence with other issues like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

To complicate matters further, alcoholism, drug addiction, and additional personality disorders or mental health conditions often accompany BPD, leading to its classification into various sub-types in clinical settings.

Navigating a marriage affected by borderline personality disorder poses persistent challenges on multiple fronts. Despite apparent symptoms, BPD can be overlooked, causing delays in diagnosis that significantly hinder the recovery process.

In some cases, Borderline Personality Disorder is mistaken for Bipolar Disorder, primarily because both conditions involve significant mood instability, making accurate diagnosis crucial.

Seasoned practitioners know that it is impossible to base a diagnosis strictly on how quickly mood changes. Both involve mood instability. Bipolar disorder may exhibits longer-lasting mood changes, spanning weeks or months, but mood can also shift in minutes, just as BPD can.

Extensive research over the years has led to evidence-based treatment approaches that are proving to be effective.

Interestingly, the term “Borderline Personality Disorder” might not entirely capture the essence of this syndrome, which could be more aptly termed an “Affect Regulation Disorder.”

The tumult caused by Borderline Personality Disorder in a marriage is profound. Is your relationship affected by BPD?


Gender dynamics in borderline personality disorder have undergone close scrutiny, but the conclusions have evolved. Early research made sweeping claims about BPD and gender, suggesting a higher prevalence among women. However, recent, more reliable studies have debunked this notion, revealing no significant gender-based differences in BPD occurrence.

Yet, distinctions emerge in how BPD manifests across genders. Men and women present with diverse symptoms and behaviors. Men with BPD often exhibit explosive temperaments, higher novelty seeking, and a higher likelihood of substance abuse issues. Conversely, women with BPD tend to showcase anxiety, mood disorders, eating disorders, and developmental trauma.

There’s a divergence in treatment approaches too. Men with BPD are more inclined toward antisocial personality disorder and have a history of substance abuse treatment. On the other hand, women typically receive talk therapy and psychotropic medication.

The connection between BPD in men and Gottman’s notion of post-divorce “Pitbulls” who fear abandonment intensely is an intriguing point for exploration. BPD’s impact on marriages remains damaging, regardless of the gender affected.

Borderline personality disorder: marriage and divorce trauma

Statistics around marriage and divorce among individuals with BPD present a distinct pattern. Surprisingly, despite the considerable impact of borderline personality disorder on marriages, individuals with BPD don’t exhibit higher divorce rates than the general population. By the age of around 40, approximately 35% of individuals with BPD experience divorce, no different than any other couple.

However, divorce for those with BPD represents a significant emotional upheaval, leading to trauma. Consequently, they are notably less inclined to remarry after a divorce. Around 10% of individuals with BPD remarry by the age of 40, which is nearly half the remarriage rate of the general population.

The reluctance to remarry among individuals with BPD might stem from intense abandonment fears. Studies indicate that these fears are deeply ingrained, persistently tormenting individuals with BPD and proving challenging to address in therapy. This fear of abandonment intertwines with the interpersonal challenges at the core of BPD, particularly within the context of marriage

Originally published November 11, 2016