I planned this post yesterday but need to step away, clear my head and get my emotions in check as I knew there was no way I could talk about this appalling discrimination otherwise. I will put up a trigger warning since I know I had a reaction to this so everyone, please be safe.
I read a blog post that included an article about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and why it can be difficult to have a relationship with them. I didn’t disagree with anything in the article. I know that my inability to emotionally regulate make relationships hard. I know that my need to not be alone and avoid being alone causes chaos. What really got me was two comments left by men who had “Dr.” in their name.
The first commenter shared about his wife (diagnosed BPD). She was unhappy in their relationship and would often threaten divorce. Everything he was reading about BPD said that individuals with this diagnosis could not be in long-term relationships so he went to speak with an “expert” on the topic. This “expert” told this man that the only way his wife could be in a long-term relationship with him was if she had “sexual freedom”. Sexual freedom, according to this “expert”, meant that this man should allow his wife to sleep with whoever she pleases because it will give her power, lessen her jealously and make her happy. This is how this couple now lives in their relationship (he is not allowed to sleep with anyone though, power to them if this is working for them).
The second commenter echoed the first and said that people with BPD cannot be in long-term relationships unless it is an open relationship.
I am horrified at these statements. These are my thoughts:
1. BPD individuals do often display sexual impulsivity and have many sexual partners. It is a stereotype though to think that it is because of this that they are incapable of living happily in a monogamous long-term relationship! It is simply untrue and I have experienced that in my own life.
2. The idea that sexual freedom means allowing your partner to cheat is disgusting. Sexual freedom, at least to me, does mean being able to sleep with who you want, yes, but not willy-nilly, as a way to cope with emotional chaos. Sexual freedom means expressing yourself, being safe from STI’s, having protection from pregnancy, having sex free from discrimination, and exploring what turns you on. Cheating on your spouse IS NOT sexual freedom!
3. This stupid theory of needing to cheat in order to be in a long-term relationship DOES NOT come close to addressing the underlying emotional issues often associated with the sexual behaviour. Sex can be a way of coping, a way of hurting yourself and if you have a history of sexual violence it is a whole other complicated and sensitive matter. To follow this theory is to believe that there is no pain behind what is sometimes extremely impulsive behaviour.
4. This idiotic theory uses BPD as a scapegoat. If you are in a bad relationship and one person in it experiences BPD then it must be their fault and they need to be fixed (I have been there, done that and it blows!). Chalking up unhappiness in your partner who experiences BPD as needing to sleep with other people absolves you from actually supporting your partner and looking at your role in the relationship. You blame them when maybe you are doing something wrong that makes them feel they need to look outside of their relationship with you.
5. It hurts me down to my core that this is “expert” advice. I can’t imagine how many lives this type of inaccurate information destroys, who many people desperately want help and do not receive it because of garbage “science” and stereotypes.
6. Maybe for some couples and open relationship is what works for them. I am totally fine with that! I have known people who are very happy in an open relationship. But, to use it as a “treatment” is wrong. I find it especially wrong that it is not a two-way street, only one partner gets to sleep with others, which to me is not open at all.
When we look at the real facts about sexual behaviour and those experiencing BPD there are trends, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me. Women (there have been no studies a BPD men and sexual behaviour) who experience BPD generally have greater sexual impulsivity as indicated by:
- higher levels of sexual preoccupation
- earlier sexual exposure
- more casual sexual relationships
- a greater number of different sexual partners (although what is “greater” is not said)
- promiscuity (what that “scientifically” means….who picks this number?!?!)
- homosexual experiences (can you actually count that? Sexuality is fluid)
Women with BPD are also more likely to have been victims of sexual assault.
Please view the full review here. (This report was sent to me by a peer and social worker who I trust)
If there is one message I could pass on to you out of all of this it’s that THE HEALTHIER YOU ARE, THE HEALTHIER YOUR LIFE WILL BE!
From my own experience, certain impulsive behaviours (like the ones listed above) lessened the more I worked on my emotion regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal communication. It’s easier to be in long-term relationships when I felt safe, emotionally healthy and had supports. I hope no one ever listens to “advice” these “experts” give (no mental health professional I have worked with has ever suggested I enter an open relationship and I can tell you it would NOT have helped) and realize that unless an open relationship is something you truly want, you can find happiness by working on yourself and ensuring you are with a supportive partner.