Today we respond to another reader with questions about the breakup of a relationship with a partner with Borderline Personality Disorder. The questions come from Justin.

Justin writes:

To whom it may concern,

I have been left by my BPD ex, she cheated on me and is already seeing someone else. Her spot in our bed isn’t even cold and she’s already with someone else. As many people have said our relationship had ups and downs. At times she would rip me a new one with her words and I would just take it cause I was raised not to yell at a woman.

My questions I would like answered:

  1. If I want her back, is my best bet to act like I don’t?
  2. Are all BPD’s the same? She left her ex for me……Am I just next in line?
  3. Can you ever talk them back or is that it?

And our response:


First of all, it is classic Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) for her to already be seeing someone else. People with BPD have not yet developed a solid core identity. So they rely on others to provide that. Therefore, being alone is terrifying for them. So people with BPD will commonly line up their next attachment before leaving a previous one. And they will move on to the next person very quickly. So quickly that it is shocking to the Non – the partner in the relationship who does not have BPD.

It sounds like there are elements of your upbringing that led you to be vulnerable to tolerating the type of unacceptable behavior that a BPD partner will sometimes level at you. So it may be worth it for you to investigate those past experiences and work on them in your own healing process.

To answer your questions.

  1. In terms of getting her back, there are no guarantees. People with BPD are quite unpredictable and chaotic. So it may be that nothing you do will get her back. And it may be that she will come back again almost regardless of what you do.

    Usually, though, when someone with BPD leaves a relationship it is because they are in the stage where they are feeling “engulfed.” In other words, they are feeling too enmeshed and close and wanting space. They run to another relationship that is in a different exciting stage. Often, once that relationship becomes enmeshing, they may run from that one in the same way. So, given that she most likely left due to feeling engulfed, if you want her to come back I think your best bet is to let her know you’re available if she wants to talk and then give her her space. Anything more will most likely just raise the feeling of engulfment and close her off further.

    Of course, I must add what you probably already know. Even if you do get her back, if she isn’t in serious committed treatment for her disorder, the pattern is likely to just play out again. This is known as “recycling.” So you might want to think long and hard about what you would require of her to consider having a relationship with her again because without her taking certain committed steps, it may just turn out even more painful later.

  1. All people with Borderline Personality Disorder are the same in certain core elements. For example, I believe they all (or, if not, then almost all) have some underlying trauma that generated the defense mechanisms we see in BPD. Obviously, in order to all fall under the same label as having the same disorder, they must all have some things in common. However, there are 9 symptoms of BPD listed in the DSM-IV and a person only needs to have 5 of those to qualify for diagnosis. That means that people with BPD can have quite a lot of different combinations of symptoms in comparison with each other. So the answer is yes and no. They are all the same in some ways and quite different from each other in others. (You can read about the different styles of BPD, for example, in this book.)

    However, the push/pull dynamic in relationships is one of those elements that I think is almost universal with people with BPD. So yes I do think it’s likely that what she did with her ex is what she has done with you and what she may do with the person after. That’s not a guarantee. But it is likely. And even if she does break the pattern and actually stay with someone, there is likely push/pull within the interaction in some way and you can bet that, if she is untreated, the relationship will be highly intense and dramatic.

  2. People with BPD have a very unstable sense of self. Their very identity can seem to shift from one time to another. So when you ask whether you can talk them back, the answer is that you never know for sure. It depends on what part of their identity they are connected with at any given moment, what other attachments they have going on at the time you communicate, and what exactly you say. It requires a perfect storm to come together to get the outcome you want. But then, even if you do, soon the sands can simply shift beneath your feet. One of the few consistent things with someone with BPD, until they get treatment, is inconsistency itself.

    Your best bet for talking her back will be when she is alone again or is feeling trapped in her next relationship and looking for exits. But you have to ask yourself, if someone is coming back to you just because their latest relationship is feeling stifling, just as yours once did, do you really want them back under those conditions?

As always, I hope this helps. And if you’d like more direct and personal attention, just contact us and we can discuss whether you’d benefit from some coaching sessions.

If you want to know how to fix a marriage, it often helps to know what’s not working. That is not as easy a question as it seems.

You see, there are symptoms and there are sources of symptoms. Most people focus on the symptoms.

So, for example, let’s say that you and your spouse are fighting a lot. If we ask what is not working in your marriage, you might say “We fight too much.” But fighting is a symptom. The question is “Why are you fighting?”

But even that might not give us the answer. Imagine I ask “Why are you fighting?” and you respond “Because he/she isn’t doing things he/she promised to do.” I could then ask “Why isn’t he/she doing things he/she promised to do?” and so on.

In fact, a good policy is to do just this. Ask “Why?” several times. There is even a technique based on this procedure called the “5 Whys” technique. Children naturally do this. They are rarely satisfied with the first answer about something. Once you explain it, they just ask “Why?” again. This might annoy you, but it’s actually a great way to get to the root of problems.

If you keep asking “Why?” enough times, you’re likely to learn some things, such as:

You don’t actually know the source of the problems

In this case, you will need to do more investigation into yourself and your partner. This might involve reading some books or seeing a counselor to help figure out the underlying source.

The source is actually something far in the past

Very commonly, the source of present problems is past wounding. A person who was neglected as a kid may lash out now when they perceive their partner is distancing. A person who was violated as a kid may lash out if not given enough space.

The source has to do with symbols

Why do couples so often have major problems over issues that, on the surface, seem minor, even trivial? The reason is that these small issues are symbolic of larger issues. It may not be a big deal that your spouse fails to clean up after themselves perfectly. But that may be symbolic of a larger pattern of irresponsibility. If that pattern of irresponsibility was something that bothered you with other people in your past, as well, the symbol can be even more potent.

We focused in on this difference between dealing with symptoms and dealing with sources in a previous piece called “Comparing the Two Fundamental Categories of Breakup Advice” in which we contrasted “symptom-focused” and “origin-focused” breakup advice. As you can tell, if you really want to know how to fix a marriage, we believe it’s important, in most cases, to take an origin-focused approach. There are ways to fix a marriage, in some cases, without knowing the sources. But in many cases it will be more effective if you do.

So what do you do once you’ve identified the source? At that point what is going to determine whether you can fix your marriage is how you and your spouse view the purpose of relationships. If you think the purpose is to stay who you each think you are and not change, then you will be committed to maintaining the source of the problem as it is, considering it a part of who you are. But if you think the purpose is to grow and develop, then you will be willing to work on transforming the source together.

Remember that, quite often, you are drawn to someone because your core wounds are complementary. You push each other’s buttons to bring those wounds to each other’s attention so you can help each other heal them.

So this is, in general, how to fix a marriage:

  1. Identify the source of the problems
  2. Become conscious about the origins of those sources
  3. Determine if you are willing to grow and develop together
  4. Work to heal each other’s wounded sources of suffering as a team

As always, a good therapist can be a huge ally in this journey of fixing a marriage, a journey which could be the most fulfilling of your life.

Here are some interesting quotes about breakups that we’ve seen on different websites and pulled together conveniently for you here.

Some of them put breakups into context. Some are quotes about moving on.

Each of the breakup quotes is linked to the page where we found it so that you can explore further to find more related quotes.

“I don’t miss him, I miss who I thought he was.” – Unknown

– from LovesAGame’s 10 Positive Break Up Quotes And What We Can Learn From Them

“Breakups aren’t always meant for makeups. Sometimes, they’re meant for wakeups.”

– from Christi Hampton’s Break ups Pinterest page

“The worst feeling is not being lonely. It’s being forgotten by someone you could not forget.”

– from LoveQuotes1’s Tumblr

“Nothing hurts more than realizing they meant everything to you, but you meant nothing to them.” – Unknown

– from Sad Break Up Quotes’ Top 50 Breakup Quotes of All Time

“Passion is always a mystery and unaccountable, and unfortunately there is no doubt that life does not spare its purest children; often it is just the most deserving people who cannot help loving those that destroy them.” – Gertrude by Herman Hesse

– from Flavorwire’s 30 Literary Breakup Quotes

“I don’t hate you. I’m just disappointed you turned into everything you said you’d never be.”

– from Caley Horan’s BreakUp Quotes Pinterest page

“Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”

– Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet

“Time is only a healer if you use the time to heal.” – Marina Pearson

– from Five Break Up Quotes To Get You Through A Relationship Breakdown on the Huffington Post

“If you are going through hell keep going.” – Winston Churchill

– from Five Break Up Quotes To Get You Through A Relationship Breakdown on the Huffington Post

“Some people think that it’s holding on that makes one strong; sometimes it’s letting go.”

– from Best Breakup Quotes and Sayings

“Good judgment comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgment.” – Rita Mae Brown

– from’s Breakup Quotes

If you like these, you might also like Quotes on Relationships or Some of the Best Marriage Advice Quotes from Around the Web.

Do you know of any great quotes about breakups? Let us know about them in the comments. What are your favorites?

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