Emotionally unstable personality disorder is a label that can evoke a negative response. As a result, revealing your diagnosis to a partner can be anxiety-inducing, and sometimes exacerbate the traits you live with. This is why it’s important to better understand yourself, to help forge stronger relationships
As the name suggests, emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD) involves a lot of intense fluctuations in moods and emotions. Unsurprisingly, this can often lead to difficulties forming and maintaining relationships, as you can be seen as harmful or destructive. People with EUPD’s view of the world can also be very black and white, thus creating a finality to their perspective – for example, you’ve done a bad thing, ergo you’re a bad person.
Given the complexity of the disorder, alongside a general lack of knowledge in the public eye, EUPD has been demonised. Consequently, those who learn of a potential partner’s disorder may be cautious to form a relationship; they fear running foul of these ‘toxic traits’. Although relationships with someone with EUPD can be challenging, this isn’t to say they can’t be successful and long-lasting. The key to navigating the turbulence of this disorder is to better understand what you need from yourself, and from your partner. Here are some things to keep in mind as you navigate a new relationship.
Your feelings are valid
As counsellor Jean Watson sees it, validation is a key coping mechanism: “It’s important in helping achieve a deeper understanding of your emotions. This then allows you to explore a more appropriate level of response and affect change.”
Validating your emotions is one of the most important ways of helping you reconnect with what’s going on around you. It can be easy for people with EUPD to invalidate themselves, believing that their emotions aren’t worthy, eventually leading to withdrawal and dissociation. This can then create more friction in the relationship. When you listen to those feelings instead of ignoring them, it enables you to work through them more effectively.
Live in the moment
Due to the intensity of emotions felt, people with EUPD can sometimes be quick to act without consideration – you may run on autopilot instead of listening to how you feel. This is where living in the moment comes into play. By recognising how you’re feeling, you can be mindful of how that affects you. For example, if you’re angry, does your body become tense, do you feel hot, are you shaking?
Choosing to concentrate on yourself, rather than succumbing to your urges, means that you can better learn what your true emotions are. However, this process needs to be done in a non-judgemental way; remove personal judgements and be gentle with yourself. Remember to observe and be aware, rather than react.
Understand your primary and secondary emotions
Related to living in the moment, it’s important to recognise which emotions you’re experiencing. For example, is your angry outburst due to rage, or are you upset as well? By asking yourself this, you can better understand what your primary and secondary emotions are.
Primary emotions, as the name suggests, are instant reactions, whereas secondary emotions are our reactions to our primary emotions. So, if you’re upset by a difficult situation, you might get angry about it rather than reveal that you’re upset. The issue for many people with EUPD is that your secondary emotions can override your primary ones, thus creating that autopilot of unpredictable behaviour. If you validate your primary emotion instead of bypassing it, you can start to form an appropriate response created through reflection instead of reaction.
Create a crisis plan
Despite trying to be more self-aware, moments of crisis can happen. To ensure both you and your partner are better equipped to deal with this, it’s vital to create a crisis plan. This is so you both know the signs to look out for, as well as aiding you in dealing with them in a safe way.
“Only when these are in place and working for the client in keeping them safe, will it be possible to begin to work on the symptoms their EUPD causes,” says Jean. Building on this notion of creating a solid foundation with which to work, a crisis plan also facilitates better communication between you and your partner, because it allows you to openly express your struggles, thus better enabling them to help you.
If you need further support, visit counselling directory or speak to a qualified counsellor.