Healthy Boundaries: How to support, but not enable, your BPD friend – Guest Post by Leslie


I often get messages from people asking how to manage their friendship with a person with BPD so when Leslie offered this guest post about just that issue I was very keen to share it with you all, hope you find it helpful! Many thanks to Leslie for writing it!

Living with Borderline Personality Disorder is difficult. It’s not like a seasonal cold where you can take medicine and feel better the next day; it takes a lot of hard work, therapy, and medication to cope with this unpredictable disorder. Although BPD is rare in our society, you may know a person that is living with this plaguing diagnosis, believe it or not. Oftentimes, you don’t even have to confirm if a person is diagnosed with BPD; it can be obvious just from your interaction and familiarity with their lifestyle, personality, and emotional well-being.

It’s difficult to form and maintain relationships with people that have BPD, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. People with BPD shouldn’t be ostracized simply because of their trials and tribulations; in fact, they need friends and family by their side in order to successfully cope. If you know someone with BPD, here are three tips for maintaining a healthy relationship with them.

Limit your visitations with them

BPD individuals have a tendency of developing codependent relationships with people, and it’s not healthy for any party involved. Although a BPD person might want to see you on a regular, consistent basis, you need to be careful about how much time you spend with your BPD friend. You want to encourage them to pursue other friendships and develop a sense of self-confidence and independence in their alone time. By spending too much time with them, you’re enabling your BPD friend to become codependent, which could inhibit their progress towards emotional stability. Even though you might want to see your friend all the time, do your best to spend no more than one or two days a week with them. In doing this, you’ll likely prevent any chance of codependency developing between the two of you.

Listen to their problems, but don’t dwell on them

We all encounter problems from time to time, but the only way we can achieve a prolonged state of happiness is not to dwell on those problems. Emotional progress is dependent upon one’s ability to move forward, and BPD individuals sometimes have trouble understanding that. In order to help your BPD friend stay stable, you need to support their emotional progression, not digression. If your friend starts to talk about their problems, listen intently and give quick feedback. Normally, I allow my best friend – who has been diagnosed with BPD – five minutes to tell me about her complaints, then I say what I think and change the subject.  In allowing her the space to tell me how she feels, I’m providing her support, but my changing the subject after five minutes indicates to her that I’m not going to dwell on her problems. As long as you keep the focus on healthy progression, your friend will start to understand that you’re not going to be a person that is going to join them in pity parties.

Make sure your friendship is full of fun and change

BPD isn’t a death sentence. People living with this disorder may struggle from time to time, but with the right therapy and medication, they can make progressive strides. Furthermore, one of the best ways to grow in a friendship with a BPD person is to embrace change and excitement on a consistent basis. Whenever things get too complacent for a BPD person, that’s when boredom and complacency can sneak in and take over. I find one of the greatest ways I can support my BPD best friend is to constantly try out new things in our friendship that challenge her. While other people go to the movies or go to bars, I suggest we go on hikes, train for half-marathons, take cooking classes, learn new skills, etc. In embracing a sense of excitement and adventure in your friendship, both you and your BPD friend can build self-confidence together. It’s a win-win scenario.

Borderline Personality Disorder is a difficult disorder to live with, but that doesn’t mean that a person’s life has to be put on hold if they have it. Should you have a friend with BPD, help them out by supporting them, not enabling them, in their struggles. See if these three tips can help you.

Leslie Johnson is an avid health, nutrition, and lifestyle blogger or If you have any questions for Leslie, feel free to leave them here.


8 comments on “Healthy Boundaries: How to support, but not enable, your BPD friend – Guest Post by Leslie

  1. Interesting post and I think these tips could be useful, but I have to say, it seems quite dismissive to say “listen to them for 5 minutes, offer your thoughts and then move the topic on”. I feel very dismissed when someone is clearly moving the topic on while I’m talking about something that’s important to me. It doesn’t mean I’m having a pity party, or that you’re enabling me to allow me to talk about something for a decent amount of time.

    I understand that sometimes these thigns are necessary and that everyone’s different, but sometimes this sort of list of tips does more damage than good — I think absolutely crucial is *know* your friend and base this on what you know about your friend. 🙂

    • Thanks Chrysalis, I guess that if it has been pre-agreed as a boundary issue the 5 minutes may not feel so bad, but the BPD needs to be aware that this is the ‘rule’ so they don’t feel dismissed as you say.

      But more importantly, you are very right ‘knowing’ your friend is the key to setting and maintaining successful boundaries for a stable friendship!

  2. I disagree strongly with Brian. I believe people with borderline personality disorder DO get treatment. However, how many begin treatment for depression or other issues, not even realizing that they have serious issues from very dysfunctional families that may mean they display behaviors that may make a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder an accurate one? And yes, they and their behavior(s) may become infuriating to their mental health therapist and other providers–and to them as well. Especially as they learn to trust themselves and other people healthily, learn appropriate boundaries, and learn how to modulate their roller coaster emotions and responses to events. Also, I don’t believe it’s easy to be a person who lives with borderline personality disorder. However, they deserve respect as people. And informed friends, family, and colleagues as they sometimes blunder their way back to health.

    • Thank you silver, I have ‘blundered’ my way back to health myself and do think that people with BPD often get a hard time from people who see them as using it as an excuse to misbehave (although of course there are also those with BPD who will deliberately do this)…

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