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Friend With Borderline Personality Disorder Not Keeping Up The Friendship

Published: September 6, 2021 | By | 1 Reply Continue Reading

A woman’s close friend with borderline personality disorder is not keeping up her side of the friendship.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I have a very dear friend with borderline personality disorder whom I care about a lot. I have always tried to be as supportive as I can be. 

We became really close very quickly but now she has moved back to her country to get better therapeutic support. I try to stay in touch keeping up the connection. She has been making efforts to do that, too, in spite of her emotional problems. She said she is getting treated and at the moment, seems to be improving. 

The trouble is she doesn’t really communicate regularly. She keeps on saying she will call me but never does. I know it has something to do with her disorder and I have been trying to be patient. I would like her to talk more about her borderline personality disorder so I can better understand what is going on. I’ve read about it as well to educate myself.

Recently, I have asked her to stop telling me she will call because it is upsetting me. I tried to explain that the distance makes it hard to keep up the communication. I love her to pieces and I cherish our friendship and don’t want to lose it. She hasn’t replied. Do you have any advice to maintain our friendship and make it stronger? Thanks a lot.

Signed, Rosa

ANSWER

Hi Cindy,

It’s often disappointing when we begin to feel more distant (either psychologically or geographically) from a once-close friend.

It sounds like you have been (and continue to be) very supportive of your friend with a borderline personality disorder. It’s wonderful that you have taken the initiative to learn whatever you can about the disorder; I suspect that you have already discovered that individuals with these disorders commonly have difficulties maintaining stable relationships. 

If your friend had to return to her country for treatment, it’s evident that she really needed help. Although she has told you she is improving, treatment for this disorder is never a quick fix. It’s likely that your friend may still be having problems that interfere with her ability to maintain her relationship with you and others.

In terms of expecting her to talk about her disorder, it may be uncomfortable, as well as counterproductive, for her to do so. You can only be a friend, not a therapist.

You have no choice but to step back a bit from this friendship so it is less stressful and painful—for you. Geographical distance poses challenges to the best of friendships; in this case, this friendship is made even more complicated because of your friend’s disorder. 

Of course, continue to maintain some contact with her if you feel so inclined. This may be a more distant relationship than you had in the past.

However, don’t limit your friendships to this relationship alone; try to nurture other friendships closer to home. In addition, lower your expectations that this friend should be communicating with you regularly as she did in the past. You really have no sense of what else is going on in her life so try not to take the psychological distance between you personally. 

I hope this is helpful.

Best, Irene


Previously on The Friendship Blog: My Friend Has A Borderline Personality Disorder

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Category: KEEPING FRIENDS

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  1. Manna Hart says:

    I agree with the counsellor’s points.
    As someone suffering from depression now, my impulse is to withdraw from friendships because I find I’m over-reacting if a friend tries to advise me, lecture me, critique me or jolly me with ridiculous ideas or extravagant praise, trying to create impossible hopes etc. Sounds like a no win, doesn’t it? I find the only thing that works for me is genuine empathy – not formulaic paraphrasing. If someone has had depression and knows exactly what it feels like to be stuck in that quagmire, they can empathise. They know how it changes the brain chemistry and the way the body functions. They know how there is no joy, not even in a cup of tea. For most, there are specific circumstances that create a wicked problem, something incredibly hard or impossible to find a way out of. In depression, the thinking becomes confused and distorted. If someone knows how to ask the right questions, they can sometimes help that person find the right solutions. But I think that requires skilled training, and a lot of knowledge of what options might be possible.
    I think, in your role as a friend, it depends what kind of depression your friend has. Is she bipolar? Is she stuck in a terrible situation? Was she severely traumatised in childhood? Do you suspect that she might be playing “poor me” to get attention? If this last, it’s best to distance because listening would only encourage a dysfunctional behaviour.
    The most important thing is that if you feel drained by the friendship, then you need to take care of yourself by gently and diplomatically backing away and then backing out of the relationship.
    Even if that were to trigger a crisis for her, sometimes it is reaching rock bottom which triggers a person to seek the help they need.
    Ultimately, no one can rescue another from anything inside the head. We each need to be responsible for our own needs.
    I hope this didn’t sound too much like advice.
    Wishing you all the best, Manna

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