Well first of all I will admit this is a difficult subject to tackle, but I was asked by a non-BP if I could advise them how to do this (being a BP myself). This person needs to terminate a toxic friendship to protect themselves; but while they cannot be friends with the BP any longer they still care about the BP and recognise the potential for triggering a crisis that ending the friendship could cause.
So, I said I would try to provide some suggestions that may help minimise the possible damage to both parties that still allow the non-BP to break away safe in the knowledge they did what they could not to harm the BP whilst ensuring they did what was best for themselves, this post is the result of my work trying to answer this question…
Before I start with the suggestions this introductory section covers a few important details about the post and who it is aimed at… If you want to skip straight to the suggestions scroll down to the next section, but I suggest you do read this bit first!
Disclaimer: The suggestions given here are only my personal opinion based on my own experiences and understanding of living with BPD and I take no responsibility for any outcomes of using this information I am not an expert in either BPD or relationships, anything you do is your own responsibility, I am just sharing ideas which I hope will be helpful but they have no guarantees of being useful.
First I just want to give some definitions of terms used in this post:
BPD – Borderline Personality Disorder
BP – person with BPD
Non-BP – person without BPD
Bad BP – A person with BPD who either is not aware of their condition, in denial, refuses to get help for their condition or chooses to use it as an excuse to behave badly.
Good BP – A person with BPD who accepts their condition and wants to and is trying to get help to manage their condition.
If you have BPD and are reading this, please remember I have BPD too and that I am not writing this to offend or make those with BPD look bad in anyway, the kind of BP likely to be on the receiving end of someone cutting off a friendship is more likely to be the ‘bad BP’ and I think most (if not all) of my BPD readers would fall into the ‘Good BP’ category, so this is unlikely to be relevant to you and your friendships, however I encourage you to read anyway as you may have some additional helpful tips to share! J
I also want to apologise for the length of this post, it is probably the longest single post I have written but I don’t think it is suitable to split it into separate posts so you may want to just read it in sections and come back to the next section later!
There is a lot information out there, online, about ending relationships with BPDs but most of it is quite mean i.e. toss them aside, forget them, don’t deal with their BS anymore etc written by people who are bitter and hurting themselves as a result of the relationship they had with a BP. They do not really understand or empathise with the condition, usually blaming the BP for being a ‘bad, evil person’ not recognising that in most cases (there are exceptions, as with everything in life, a minority of BPs will exploit and ‘use’ their condition as an excuse to behave badly – which gets the rest of us a bad reputation :/ ) the childlike inability to control emotional reactions that is a key element of BPD is the issue and that the BP needs help not treating like a discardable piece of trash (although I acknowledge that some BP’s can and do treat others this way)
See I told you this was going to be tough! already we are seeing that the ways ‘not’ to end a friendship/relationship with a BP may be exactly the way they treat others, either intentionally (the bad BP’s) or unintentionally (most other BP’s, like myself, the ‘good BP’s’).
Even though there is a strong chance you are more likely to be dealing with a bad BP if you need to break off a friendship I’m going to try not to keep distinguishing between good and bad BP’s as it will only make things more complicated to answer this, so for now I am lumping us all in a kind of ‘middle’ ground so I can explain the ‘possible’ actions and reactions the BP may have without keeping repeating that the ‘good’ ones are less likely to do these things while the ‘bad’ ones may do even worse things, just to try and simplify things a little…
Also before I go any further, the suggestions I make in this post are mainly aimed at friendships or relationships which do not have additional complications such as living arrangements or children because obviously there will be a need to seek protection for damage to these factors where they are part of your situation and that is just something I will not be covering in this post, I will only be considering you (the non-BP) and your borderline friend.
How to break off a friendship with a person with Borderline Personality Disorder
Breaking of a friendship is never easy, and even when BPD is not an issue there are times in our life when being friends with a certain person is no longer healthy for us and we have to draw a line under it and move on, heck I’ve been there myself and been on the receiving end. Sometimes this is just a natural part of growing up and moving in a different direction to your former friends, but when it reaches a point where being friends with a person is just always draining and harmful to you you may be left with no choice but to walk away. It can be hard enough to do this without the added complication of BPD after all humans are emotional creatures and it is going to be painful to at least one of you, more likely both, no matter how hard you try to ease the pain…
The thing is there is no easy way to do this, and while they are harsh and written by people who are angry and bitter the general idea behind what others writing about ending friendships/relationships with BP’s is actually pretty spot on. It has to be blunt and final, with a ‘no contact’ rule firmly imposed and stuck to – you want to end this, so any show of weakness now will only mean you end up backing out of it and remaining trapped in a relationship that is damaging you! Sorry if this is not want you want to hear, but you sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind and after thinking about it deeply I think that you just have to remember you are trying to save yourself, at the end of the day regardless of BPD the other persons reactions are not your responsibility and you have no control over them!
With that said, and the knowledge that you cannot prevent triggers or crisis’s that may arise as result of what you do here are some things that may help with the aspects you can control – the delivery, support and reactions to watch out for…
The first thing you need to consider is communication, how you communicate with the BP is going to be vital to making sure they understand what you are doing, why are doing it and the expectations and consequences of the friendship being terminated.
You can read some help on how to communicate with someone with BPD in my earlier post on the topic here - http://showard76.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/how-to-communicate-with-someone-with-bpd/ if you read that post please take the time to look at the comments following it too as there is more information there that may be helpful!
One of the key things to consider is that while you may be dealing with a very intelligent person you are at the same time likely to be dealing with a person who is childlike to the point of being like a toddler when it comes to their emotional ability – but of course, treating them like a child is not going to help your situation. Getting the balance right of addressing the toddlers emotional responses while dealing with the intelligent adult is going to be tough, hopefully some of the communication tips in my previous post will help you gauge how to deal with this element of ending the relationship.
Where and how to tell them
This may sound a bit harsh or unfair but I think most importantly you should avoid doing it in private, alone with just your BPD friend, especially if they have a history of violent and angry outbursts. This is about safety and being in a safe environment can help reduce the triggers and reactions as well as make you feel more comfortable.
Either tell the BP in a public place or another safe environment where other people are around, but avoid this being a group of other friends who may interfere in any way, either defensively or accusingly, you don’t want to make the BP feel ‘ganged up on’ or to create a situation where you or the BP bring others in to ‘back up’ your views – this is not the time place for such conflict.
If you think a face-to-face situation is likely to erupt then you should consider sending a text, email or writing a letter instead – again this may seem unfair, but safety is the priority. Of course this adds the risk that the BP may ‘pretend’ they have not received your communication as a way to try and force continuing the friendship, so make sure you have some way to confirm they got the message without this being a way of re-opening communication itself. If they do insist on continuing to contact you claiming not to have had your message, do not respond in any way other than to repeat your message. They cannot keep saying they didn’t get your message. Of course, if they are pretending not to have got your message they won’t actually mention it but instead just contact you as if nothing had happened – this is why you should not respond with a ‘didn’t you get my message’ but instead just resend the same message again, then not respond further.
Be assertive and specific
Having prepared to communicate with the BP and where/how you are going to do it you need to sort out what you are going to say, ensuring that it is clear, specific and assertive, don’t waffle! It may be helpful to write down what you are doing, why, and what you expect to happen even if this is just for your own clarification – sharing all the details with the BP is not likely to be helpful as it may just give them things to ‘argue’ against or ‘promise’ to change, but you are likely to have already given this person numerous chances to ‘change’ if you have reached this point so now is not the time to allow room for compromise and negotiation again – you are here to END this, that is what you have chosen, so stick to it!!
Do not allow room for the BP to blame, manipulate, persecute or rescue and try not to do these things yourself. In other words choose your words carefully avoid saying things like ‘I’m sorry…’ - this gives the BP room to rescue or persecute. Don’t use words like ‘always’, ‘maybe’ or ‘never’.
State the situation factually and focussed on yourself not the BP. It may look/sound quite harsh or blunt but something like this leaves out ‘emotion’ and focuses on you -
“I have decided I don’t want contact with you anymore, please do not contact me by text, email, phone or in person, do not come to my house. If you do I will not read, listen to or respond to any contact.”
Do not feel you have to explain yourself, only explain if you can do it without opening up conversation which may get out of hand, because explaining often leads to blaming type wording, arguments and trying to justify your actions, all of which make things complicated and extend the situation. If you must explain again keep it clear, simple and factual.
“I am doing this because I need to take care of myself”
Don’t let the BP to try talk you out of it, argue or reason with you – as soon as you have told them you are ending the relationship they won’t be able to be logical or reasonable no matter what they may proclaim – the emotional BPD reaction will be in control and any discussions will be futile and full of triggers, risks, conflict and heightened emotions.
Be prepared for the reactions
I’m not going to list all the possible reactions as I’m sure we are all well aware of the emotional outbursts BP’s can have, from tears to tantrums, threats of self-harm or violence towards you. This news is likely to be triggering for the BP now matter how carefully and considerately you have delivered it.
One thing it may be worth doing is ensuring (if possible) that both you and the BP will have someone they can talk to after you have ended the friendship. It may not be helpful to have this person there when you break the news as it could inflame the situation, but knowing you have someone to go to after and that someone will be at hand for the BP to provide them support may help you deal with the guilt, sadness and fears you are likely to have both for yourself and (because you do care about the BP) the BP. You may be worried about them self-harming or attempting suicide after you have gone, but that is not your responsibility and you cannot allow them to use such things to manipulate you or make this harder than it already is.
The BP is likely to either react with desperate attempts to cling on and prevent you leaving them or become enraged. It is important that as hard as it may be to see them cry or being angry you must remain calm, stick to your guns and not back down. You may want to have a line ready to say such as ‘I can see this is upsetting for you but I am going now’ and walk away – again this may seem harsh but staying will just extend the pain for both of you.
The BP is not the only one likely to be emotional; while overall you may feel relief to have finally pulled the plug you may also feel guilty, worried or scared so have an action plan of how you are going to deal with your own emotions after the event, someone to talk to, a pampering/relaxing activity to indulge in, even therapy or counselling or whatever you think will help you. And remember you have a right to have happy, healthy relationships and friendships. You may even feel bereaved at the loss, so give yourself time to handle these feelings
Finally – don’t go back later! Do not make contact with the BP to check they are okay; it is no longer your responsibility or concern (and never was!). Yes, you may want to know they are okay and if you can find this out discretely through someone else for your own piece of mind then do so, but don’t do it in anyway that the BP could find out you are ‘checking up’ on them as they will likely see this as a route to ‘winning’ you back or reaching you to express their anger and frustration. Make sure you don’t have to get back things you may have leant to your friend before!
If the BP does start shame/blame or lies, false accusation and distortion campaigns against you after you have ended the relationship these are again an emotional reaction and depending on the nature and severity of these (which could be extremely damaging or just mildly upsetting) you need to deal with them without having contact with the BP. Either ignore them if possible, respond to other people with facts and truth without slipping into overly defensive or retaliative behaviour towards the BP, but remain calm, in control and accept you cannot control what other people say or think about you if the possible consequences are only minor it may be easier to just let it go. If they are worrying, threatening or dangerous then you may want to report them to the police or get legal advice – but hopefully it won’t be this bad!
As you can see this is not going to be easy for either party. There are no sure-fire ways to make it go well, but there are things that are certain to make it go badly, being careful of your words, tone, volume and body language are important as is being prepared for the likely responses and having support in place. Beyond these things there is probably not a lot you can do to make it go smoothly. In the end you just have to ensure you take responsibility or your actions and reactions and leave those of the BP to them as you cannot control them or fix them.
To those with BPD who read this – I know that like myself most of my readers are what would be classed (by the terms in this post) as ‘Good BP’s and I’m sorry if you find any of what I have said offensive as like myself you are unlikely to react in the most aggressive terms if someone was to end a friendship with you, you are also less likely to be in this situation anyway as we are all working so hard to combat our BPD that hopefully we are not treating our friends poorly enough that they would feel the need to do this to us!!
Do you have BPD, if so do you have any further suggestions about how to reduce the impact of terminating a friendship with someone with your condition?
- Hope for recovery from BPD (showard76.wordpress.com)
- Bad Press In Black & White (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- One way friends! (thecomplainerguy.wordpress.com)
- Cycle (sexyonthedarkside.wordpress.com)
- Two sides to every story? (dbtjourney.wordpress.com)
- Borderline Personality Disorder in comorbidity with the effects of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. (astoryoflight.wordpress.com)
- A Friend Is Some Who Looks Past Your Broken Down Gate and Admires Your Beautiful Garden (dianereedwiter.wordpress.com)
- Onwards & Upwards (acanvasoftheminds.wordpress.com)
- A Friendship Lost (thecurseofthesingleparent.com)
- Friend or Foe? (ndiadhiou.wordpress.com)