Guest Post: Living with Someone with a Personality Disorder

Living with Someone with a Personality Disorder
Photo: justin-follis-450674.jpg from Unsplash 182 Archive

Thank you, Millie Jane, for this guest post. Millie shows compassion for her boyfriend who lives with a personality disorder. Too often those with personality disorders are vilified by family, friends, and even mental health professionals.
Millie is UK-based. I’m curious as to how the UK and the US differ in treating personality disorders.

Under US law, insurers don’t have to offer those with personality disorders parity (equal coverage) for their mental health care. California’s parity law covers these serious mental illnesses (SMI) and severe emotional disturbances (SED) of a child: schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorders, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, pervasive developmental disorder or autism, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia nervosa. People living with personality disorders do not get parity treatment, which is an unjust travesty leading to unnecessary harm.

Living with Someone with a Personality Disorder

Author: Millie Jane
Does having a personality disorder ruin your chances of having a long, happy relationship? The answer is no, you just have to be in a relationship with the right person. I’m writing from the position of that other person. My boyfriend has both Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), but that doesn’t mean I’m not the happiest I’ve ever been in a relationship. Sure, it has more challenges than perhaps the “ordinary” (note the quotation marks – there’s no such thing as an ordinary relationship), but I’ve always been the sort of person who can tough out a challenge, which means I get to reap the rewards. His personality disorders are a part of my boyfriend, but not all of him. And the good times definitely outweigh the difficult ones.
Disclosure: I am not a qualified mental health specialist by any means; I simply wish to share my own experiences and advice in the hope that I may be able to help someone in a similar position.

Manifestations of Personality Disorders

A fantastic thing to do when you’re in contact with somebody who has a personality disorder is to do your research. I’m sure if you’re reading this, you’re most likely already doing exactly that. There are many aspects to personality disorders and of course each case is unique, so for the purpose of this post I’ve chosen a select few features of BPD and ASPD that I feel are the big players when it comes to relationships, and some of my experiences with these.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Abandonment Issues

When someone is afraid that you’re going to leave them, it makes it difficult to have confidence in a relationship. I think it’s easy for people to get ‘put-off’ by this kind of insecure behaviour (especially early on), and the requirement of almost-constant reassurance can be tiring. This fear of abandonment can also surface in the form of the person suffering with the personality disorder threatening to leave you over what you perceive to be small things. How can you feel secure in a relationship if this keeps arising? The answer is just persistence and understanding. These ’threats’ are just a form of fear expression, to prevent you from leaving first – which is what BPD sufferers see as inevitable at some point down the line.


This is a touchy subject and the hardest to navigate. It’s incredibly difficult to see someone you love hurt themselves, and a lot of people can’t handle this. If you search online for what to do in this kind of situation, it’s most likely going to tell you to call an ambulance or the police so that the person can be detained in some way to prevent them causing further harm. People suffering from personality disorders find the intervention of strangers exceedingly stressful and, through experience, I’ve found that this isn’t always the best course of action. Don’t get me wrong, if you do not feel equipped to deal with these situations by yourself, you must seek outside help, especially if you feel in danger. There have been times when I’ve resorted to calling an ambulance, as I was unable to calm my boyfriend down and the cuts to his wrists were too severe for me to patch up and required medical attention.

The ability to foresee self-harm is key. If you see an episode arising, being able to hide dangerous objects and helping them take their emotions out another way can prevent self-harm. The most important thing is to remain calm. People with BPD take out emotions on themselves, and they will likely worsen if they have to deal with your emotions as well. Assess the situation. Is the item they are using to do damage going to hurt you if you intervene? If it’s an object such as a knife, do not put yourself in danger by attempting to take this off them. Try to resist from threatening to leave, as the abandonment issues will enhance an episode. Talking in a firm but caring voice, such as that of a parent, can help. Be understanding, don’t tell them what they’re feeling is wrong, highlight positive things and comfort them. I’ve had times when my boyfriend has broken down and ended up laying on the bathroom floor, and I’ve taken a pillow and blanket to him and laid down holding him until he was ready to get up and have me bandage his wounds. Every situation is different, but just knowing to remain calm and supportive is the most important thing. Every day I rub his scars with bio oil, and this kind of acknowledgement and acceptance really helps build trust so that he’s more likely to listen to me during an episode. After an episode, the person usually regrets it and feels ashamed, and so it’s important not to emphasise how it affected you and make them feel worse.

Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD)


You may have heard the saying that all anger stems from fear. I feel as though this is a good phrase to remember in heated situations with someone who has a personality disorder. Often, they may get angry over things you wouldn’t expect them to. Try to ask yourself what the anger could stem from, what are they afraid of? For example, fear of abandonment often surfaces in anger. If you remain calm, speak in a soothing voice, and do not mirror the anger, you can often dissect the issue together and overcome it.

Disregard toward Others

This is probably the biggest issue when it comes to being in a relationship with somebody who has a personality disorder. The important thing to remember is that disregard toward your feelings does not mean they don’t care about you, it’s just an intrinsic part of their disorder. When you’ve been awake all night because of an episode, and then have to work all day and get home to a filthy kitchen, it can be tough. When you try to talk about how you’re feeling, they may emphasise their own issues and value them above yours. This can often seem selfish and be frustrating, but it doesn’t mean they don’t want the best for you, their disorder is just causing them to overlook how you might be feeling. I’ve found the key to this is to step away and take a moment for yourself. Do yoga, have a bubble bath, read a book in a different room. When you feel the moment is right, you have to calmly and maturely talk through what is going on and help the other person see what you’re feeling. Communication is key, and letting the other person know that you understand and don’t blame them can help improve things between you.

Psychiatric Help

Being aware of the manifestations of personality disorders can greatly improve your relationship, but the person suffering still needs to get the right medical help. Unfortunately, too many of us know the struggle of dealing with mental health services. The funding simply isn’t there, and people with mental health problems are largely overlooked as these issues aren’t visible. As if it weren’t difficult enough to seek help in the first place, not receiving the care you need can be incredibly discouraging and cause feelings of hopelessness. If you’re trying to help someone facing this, you need to encourage them to be persistent and not give up. Help is out there, it’s just not always easy to find.
Getting the right diagnosis is the first step, but the aftercare is also key. My boyfriend spent years of being passed back and forth between various mental health services, to no avail. None of the NHS services would prescribe him the medication he’s on now (anti-psychotics) as they felt they were too severe. After many different cycles of the wrong medication, he finally forked out to see a very expensive and distinguished psychiatrist, who after just one hour changed his medication, which has in turn changed his life. Not everyone can afford this, I understand, but there are many specialists out there with fair rates, and it’s worth the spending in exchange for a full life. Many psychiatrists will allow a free session if you’re looking around to find the ‘right fit’, as it’s important the person with the disorder has a doctor they feel comfortable with. Also, if you spend more for a psychiatrist to get that initial correct diagnosis and prescription, you can then change to a less expensive psychologist or counsellor for regular sessions.
Personality disorders are often misunderstood, and people (even some doctors) avoid them because they don’t want to take on the ‘hassle’ of it. The disorder does not define the person and with the right help, compassion and understanding, these people can live a full life with love and success.
Author: Millie Jane


34 responses to “Guest Post: Living with Someone with a Personality Disorder”

  1. Thank you, Millie, for your thoughtful response. Loving someone who has bipolar disorder is not always easy. Knowledge and compassion go a long way. Your partner is blessed to have you.

    My husband has been very supportive and loving toward me. For example, when I’m hypomanic, he will gently point out that I’m talking too quickly.

  2. Millie Jane Avatar
    Millie Jane

    Hi everyone,

    I wanted to post an update on this, a few years on. My partner and I have now been together almost 4 years.

    He has been completely sober for over a year now, has an incredibly successful business, has gained 20kg in weight and is healthy in body and mind. We are happier than ever.

    We have still had some difficulties throughout. Whilst it is easy for me to forget about his disorders when he is doing so well, I sometimes have to remember that they are still there underneath it all, and adjust my responses to small arguments and his feelings accordingly.

    However, I wanted to show that with the right medication and a compassionate supportive partner, it is absolutely possible for someone living with personality disorders to live a full, successful, healthy and happy life.

    So anyone out there who feels hopeless – please keep fighting.

    Much love to you all,


  3. You are lucky to receive appropriate and compassionate treatment.

  4. I have BPD too, only my psychiatrist refers to it as ‘Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder’ now. Not that I’m too keen on the label, in the North West of England, the care I am receiving for this condition while as an inpatient on a psychiatric ward is second to none. I truly have faith in my consultant and I only wish that all BPD sufferers could receive the same treatment. It feels like a lottery. Keep fighting to everyone that suffers or who loves those who suffer. Xx

  5. I’m a child of alcoholics. It’s tough loving an alcoholic. The most important lesson I learned is that I could not control their drinking — not until they both had dementia. Now they live in a memory care community and do not have access to alcohol. Take care of yourself. Do not sacrifice your own well-being in caring for your boyfriend.

  6. Millie, sorry that your boyfriend suffered from abuse as a child. He’s lucky to have you and to be receiving effective treatment.

  7. Millie Jane Avatar
    Millie Jane

    Thank you for your thoughts. It is a huge struggle when it comes to treatment, and this is why I am glad I can share my experiences to hopefully raise awareness!

  8. Millie Jane Avatar
    Millie Jane

    Thank you, Mark. I do believe that building trust over time really is the answer to a successful relationship with someone suffering from mental health issues. I am glad you enjoyed my post.

  9. Millie Jane Avatar
    Millie Jane

    Thank you, I am glad my post was of interest to you!

  10. Millie Jane Avatar
    Millie Jane

    Thank you, Viola. I really hope things improve for you and you get the help you deserve!

  11. Millie Jane Avatar
    Millie Jane

    Hi Cathy, thank you for your thoughts. It is rare, but not completely unheard of for someone to suffer from both. I can’t remember the exact percentage, but it’s something around 70% of males suffering with both BPD and ASPD commit suicide. My boyfriend grew up with an overly emotional mother and a clinically psychopathic father, and I believe these two sides probably had a big impact on his present day diagnosis. I see elements of both disorders everyday, but when he has episodes it usually goes one way or the other. The ASPD episodes are actually more difficult to deal with as they express harm outwards rather than inwards, and there have been times I’ve had to stop him from going and hurting someone else. Thankfully I’m also a force to be reckoned with (despite how ‘sweet’ I may seem from my post, ha) and can level up with him in these situations. After an ASPD episode, the BPD usually comes into play and he’ll be very ashamed and upset with himself. I can understand where your ‘cover’ theory comes from, but I do know him incredibly well and am by no means naive or easily manipulated, so I don’t believe this to be true in his case.

  12. Millie Jane Avatar
    Millie Jane

    Hi Cassandra, thank you for your thoughts. I just replied to a comment above about the self-medication if you’d like to take a look. They always claim they’re not addicted, but sadly this isn’t always the case. Something that can help deal with quitting smoking pot is a small dosage of something like diazepam or valium, although people with BPD will often turn this into another addiction to replace the previous one, so it needs to be monitored carefully and eventually reduced so they can come off it altogether. I wish you all the best, and hope things start to look up for you soon.

  13. Millie Jane Avatar
    Millie Jane

    Thank you for your thoughts, Faith. Unfortunately the NHS seem to avoid as much as possible when it comes to mental health until the patient becomes a significant financial burden on them (they sent my boyfriend back and forth a lot until he started costing them a lot of money due to his multiple hospital visits after self harm and suicide attempts). It’s really quite disgusting, but it’s sadly the reality that many people face. The self-medication is something that my boyfriend suffered from for a long time, and has been through repeated periods over the years of smoking pot, various narcotic and benzo abuse stages, and alcohol. Thankfully he stopped with the drugs over a year ago, but still drinks a fair amount, even though he realises he needs to get this under control. It’s a struggle as they don’t always listen when you tell them they need to stop, but I feel like being supportive of the reasons behind the substance abuse and encouraging them that you believe they have the power to overcome it really helps build trust between you and makes them think more about their own actions. With the alcohol, it’s really helped my boyfriend to have a solid structure to his day, waking up early and working (he works for himself from home) and getting to bed at a decent time. He also does martial arts classes twice a week and has a punchbag at home to work out on, and I believe the exercise really helps reduce the amount he drinks. I definitely think a private psychiatrist or psychologist could help (although I know they’re expensive), as they don’t judge the self-medication, and care more about the welfare of the person than of what the alcohol abuse might cost them in the future (as the NHS do). I wish your son all the best and hope things improve for him.

  14. Millie Jane Avatar
    Millie Jane

    Thanks for your thoughts, Gertie. I do believe my boyfriend’s BPD has come in part from an element of PTSD as he suffered from some abusive experiences as a child. Of course there are many aspects to BPD, however I just spoke of a few or else I’d have written a book rather than a blog post!

  15. I agree. The treatment needs differ. I wish you the best.

  16. Thanks for commenting. Wishing you the best in finding effective treatment to relieve the pain of BPD. Many find DBT helpful.

  17. I suffer from BPD myself, and everything she says is true. Sadly, the situation for those with BPD in Germany isn’t so good either. Therapists often refuse to take patients with BPD, it is even difficult to get a diagnosis of BPD. It is often labeled as depression or anxiety, but this leads to bad therapy.

  18. This is a wonderful post. I suffer from BPD myself, and everything she says is true. Sadly, the situation for those with personality disorders

  19. Of course, if we are raised by those with untreated and undiagnosed mental illness, the symptomatic behavior can harm us. Especially if those people (like my mom), never take ownership of their behavior (my mom never once apologized – ever).

  20. Genetics do play apart in it as well.

  21. Thank you, Gertie, for your input. You have lived with BPD and PTSD and overcome them. I do believe that there is some scientific evidence that BPD can also be due to a brain disorder unrelated to trauma. I’m no expert, but our understanding of BPD is changing as we learn more about the brain and how it is both affected by the environment (PTSD, abuse, neglect, abandonment) and by genetic and molecular risk factors.

  22. I agree, Mihran. Millie’s post was informative and compassionate.

  23. As a mother of a teen son who suffers from migraines, social anxiety and depression, I feel your pain, Faith. I’ve taken my son to numerous specialists since he was four. He still is symptomatic and spends far too much time sleeping in bed. At this point in his life, a few months from his 18th birthday, he must start taking more responsibility for his behavior, for how his mental and physical health affect him. I can only do so much. I carry an almost 6′ young man to school. Like you, I’m frustrated and at my wit’s end. Sometimes no matter what we do, there are no easy answers. Some illnesses are chronic and don’t respond to treatment. No one’s fault.

  24. I love the fact that Millie won’t leave her boyfriend because of the challenges of living with someone with a personality disorder. I do feel that some important information was left out. BPD is just about abandonment issues and self harm. Research shows that nearly 95% of those with BPD has been diagnosed with PTSD. I don’t know enough about ASPD to discuss it but will look into it now.

  25. this is so classical, well detailed and organized post. You are bringing so important factor and its elements, this was such deep learning and to better understand….

  26. Thank you for sharing Millie Jane. My son has an undiagnosed mental disorder. I feel he has been totally let down by the NHS. At 15 he started suffering panic attacks which I worked out later was related to social situations.
    His doctor prescribed seroxat which had a devastating effect. The doctor would not listen to him when he said the tablets were making him worse. He just said he couldn’t do much to help him as he said he could not attend the group meetings he suggested. (His worse nightmare talking in front of a group strangers)
    So he self medicated first with pot, until he realised eventually that made him paranoid, then with alcohol.
    Now an alcoholic that is all the medics see, when he does get treatment he is treated for the effects of alcohol. As soon as he stops drinking the panic attacks return.
    I wish I could have read something like Millie Jane’s post years ago when I was dealing with the self harm and self hate destructive behaviour.
    Keep sharing Millie Jane and thank you

  27. BPD can be very painful to live with. For both the diagnosed and their loved ones.

  28. I was impressed by Millie’s thoughtful and compassionate post.

  29. Millie Jane, who wrote this piece, seems familiar with her boyfriend’s mental health issues. Sometimes diagnostic labels are not used properly and sometimes they are not understood properly, even by the mental health profession. For example, many psychiatrists believe that those with autism do not feel compassion, while that’s untrue.

  30. He truly is. She’s unusually compassionate and patient. I agree with everything you say. BPD is a painful illness. They need our compassion and effective treatment, not rejection and judgment.

  31. Oh, Millie, what a fabulous post. Thank you for bringing it to Kitt’s blog, and thank you, Kitt, for posting. My father has BPD and medicates his pain away with excessive pot use. He claims he’s not addicted, but his condition worsens every time he tries to quit. It’s all been very hard on my mother and him, but they persevere using some of these tips. I’ll have to link this post to my mom!

  32. A big journey for you both. I have only spent small amounts of time with someone who has Bi-Polar and like you have found that most of the time our relationship was fine. (She was a friend). It is in understanding them and their actions that make that communication much easier. I suppose like any relationship it takes time to get to know one another and the patience it teaches within it, especially under those circumstances.
    Great post, thank you for sharing on Kitt’s blog Millie, it was good to read a more in depth focus towards those relationships 😀

  33. Hmm…I have never heard of a true Antisocial PD having BPD at the same time. By definition it would be impossible. Borderlines feel too much. Way too much Overwhelming love, fear, hate, anger pain, etc. Antisocials on the other hand feel nothing. Absolutely nothing. No love, no hate, no fear, Mostly in total : No empathy . It does not exist by definition in antisocial personality disorder. Having both these issues as a diagnosis, one can see would be a very convenient “ cover “ for the behaviors of an aspd, garnering sympathy if not excuses for behaviors, Not that aspd actually needs or wants sympathy. What they want is the partners gullibility to further exploit him or her. Again they feel nothing so they don’t need sympathy, What may be happening here in this case to be fair, may be more of a mixed personality disorder instead of two distinct issues. As far as anyone who maybe in a relationship with a person who truly is an antisocial pd I’d have to say run for your life. However I think this is more of a mixed bag here. I don’t mean to sound harsh. But I hope you are with a person with a mixed personality disorder over simple aspd because if so, your very life means absolutely nothing to your partner. At least the other way, there would be a bit if hope, Best if luck to you!

  34. BPD is a condition that makes me glad I “only” have bipolar disorder. I can’t even imagine being in that kind of pain all the time, especially when even many psychiatrists don’t take it seriously. I’ve known people with BPD who couldn’t get admitted to a hospital because their symptoms were dismissed as being due to factitious disorder, that they were “making it up”. Just because the illness isn’t always something that can be “fixed” with medications doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve treatment.
    I’m happy that Millie Jane’s significant other has found treatment that works, and that he has her full support. He is blessed.

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