The Problem With Calling Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande's Engagement 'So Borderline'
Sometimes the news isn’t as straightforward as it’s made to seem. Juliette Virzi, The Mighty’s associate mental health editor, explains what to keep in mind if you see this topic or similar stories in your newsfeed. This is The Mighty Takeaway.
On Monday, Us Weekly confirmed rumors that comedian Pete Davidson and singer Ariana Grande are now engaged after a month of dating. Because Davidson has spoken openly about his diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD), both folks with BPD and those without have taken to Twitter to weigh in on “how borderline” this quick engagement is.
Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson are engaged after only a month of dating and honestly that’s the most BPD thing I’ve ever heard
— Brenna Muncy (@brennamuncy) June 11, 2018
pete davidson getting a tattoo of ariana grande's initials and bunny ears and then asking her to marry him after only a few weeks of dating is peak bpd culture
— watch pose on fx (ares) (@gobeheroes) June 11, 2018
Not to shed any negative light but Pete Davidson suffers from borderline personality disorder and isn’t one of the manifestations impulsivity? They should really think about this one month engagement lol
— katya (@kattt_b) June 11, 2018
And while it’s true that impulsivity is one of the nine “classic” symptoms of BPD, we shouldn’t resort to “armchair diagnosing” (in fewer than 240 characters, no less!). It’s problematic to automatically assume the quick engagement is because Davidson has BPD. Here’s why.
1. Last time I checked, it takes two to get engaged.
First and foremost, it’s ludicrous to cite Davidson’s BPD as the “cause” of the engagement because it removes agency from Grande, an adult woman capable of making her own decisions about her love life. Being in a relationship with someone with BPD doesn’t mean you will just wake up one day and find yourself with an engagement ring on your finger with no absolutely no recollection of how it got there. It takes two to tango, folks.
2. Not everything a person with BPD does is “because of” BPD.
I see a lot of people saying, “stop making fun of Pete Davidson for this, he has BPD.”
Yes, people w/ BPD can be intense in relationships, but neurotypical people get impulsive tattoos too ????????♀️ Not everything we do is a symptom!! https://t.co/557TnOTzP2
— Isabella Rosario (@isabellacyt) June 3, 2018
Yes, it’s true folks with BPD can make impulsive decisions about relationships. But it’s also true that people without BPD can make impulsive decisions about relationships. Quick engagements happen — we’ve seen it in Hollywood again and again. Just because Davidson has a mental illness doesn’t mean everything he does is the direct cause of it. In the same vein, if this particular engagement ends, it would be unfair to assume the reason it ended was solely because of BPD.
3. “Armchair diagnosing” is not only unhelpful, it’s damaging.
pete davidson: *breathes*
ariana grande: *breathes*
self trained psychologist twitter: It’s Because He Has BPD
— ruth (@earthisquaking) June 12, 2018
Can we cool it with the armchair diagnosing? Even if you have a diagnosis of BPD and can perhaps relate to the symptom of impulsive behavior, spectators don’t have the authority to claim their engagement is a manifestation of Davidson’s BPD. Number one, we don’t know him personally. Number two, we are not trained mental health professionals who are treating him.
According to the American Psychiatric Association’s “Goldwater Rule,” it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion about an individual’s mental health unless he or she has examined the individual and has been given consent to make a statement about it. This is something that comes up frequently when psychiatrists try to “diagnose” President Trump in the media. If it’s unethical for a mental health professional to speculate about a public figure’s mental health, then how much more unqualified are we laypeople?
Trying to “explain away” or invalidate non-socially acceptable behavior by blaming mental illness is damaging to people with mental illness — in this case, folks with BPD. So when it comes to armchair diagnosing via Twitter, can we not?
4. People with BPD can have lasting and fulfilling relationships.
Honestly starting to get irritated that people on social media keep bringing up Pete Davidson’s BPD and how it effects his relationship with Arianna. Like stfu having BPD doesn’t make him unstable and not capable of relationships ????????
— leah (@leahnikolle) June 3, 2018
Though people with diagnosed BPD have commented on how this news aligns with their own experience of BPD symptoms, I fear the undercurrent of some of these responses comes from a harmful misconception that people with BPD can’t have lasting, fulfilling relationships — which is simply untrue.
This is a misconception Davidson responded to himself on May 24, when –after Ariana Grande left her “toxic” relationship with rapper Mac Miller — people assumed her new relationship with Davidson would be just as “toxic,” because he has borderline personality disorder.
“i been hearing a lot of ‘people with bpd can’t be in relationships’ talk. i just wanna let you know that’s not true,” the comedian wrote in an Instagram story. “just because someone has a mental illness does not mean they can’t be happy and in a relationship. it also doesn’t mean that person makes the relationship toxic.” (You can read his response in full in the below screenshots.)
Pete Davidson, thank you so much for continuing to be open about BPD, even when you are faced with the stigma of doing so. If folks continue to throw shade, I hope you know Twitter user @warbarabalters will valiantly defend your honor in hand-to-hand combat.
I will buy a sword off amazon to defend Pete Davidson from anyone who gives him shit for having bpd
— nick (@warbarabalters) June 3, 2018
It’s possible to be in a happy relationship if you live with BPD. If you want to read more, check out these pieces from members of our Mighty BPD community:
Photo via Ariana Grande Instagram