How to Keep a ‘Favorite Person’ Relationship Healthy With Borderline Personality Disorder
Editor’s note: Names have been changed in this piece to protect the identity of the individual.
I’ve had my borderline personality disorder (BPD) diagnosis for around three years now, but its only within the past few months that I’ve experienced one of the common challenges people with BPD face: developing a “favorite person.”
I’d never had a favorite person before I met John. I’d had close friends, even best friends. But none of these friendships have ever felt as intense and consuming as my friendship with John. We met around a year ago through mutual friends. I’d see him at social gathering and we’d have the occasional chat, but nothing of any real depth. We eventually became friends on social media and began to talk more. Then we started spending time together and the more time we spent together, the more I learned about him. The more I learned, the more comfortable I felt and we got to the point where I considered him my favorite person.
But before long, some of the challenges of having a FP appeared. I would get really distressed when John would cancel plans. I’d get jealous when he spent time with our other friend. And I’d constantly reread or play our conversations over in my mind, internally analyzing his responses, looking for signs of rejection. I became so scared he’d stop being my friend that I started changing who I was, what I liked and even how I looked to try and fit into his life better. It soon stopped being a fun friendship and became almost obsessive. It started to have a massive impact on my moods and eventually began to impact on my relationship with my fiancé.
It was at this point I realized I couldn’t carry on the way things were.
I didn’t want to lose this friendship completely but I also needed to find ways to control the impact it had on me. Like farmers cultivate their land in order to grow successful crops, I need to cultivate my friendship to keep it healthy.
With this in mind, I created my own ‘golden rules’ for keeping my FP friendship healthy:
1. Time Apart
Spending too much time with anyone isn’t healthy. When John wasn’t around, I would feel abandoned and convince myself I’d just never see him again and he hated me. However, I now use the time we spend apart to go out and do things instead of wallowing in my sadness. This way, I have things to tell him about when I do see him again. Having a clear plan of when we are going to spend time together helps me plan stuff to do to keep my mind busy when he isn’t around and make the most of the time we do spend together.
2. Include Others
Spending time together with other people has really helped my friendship with John for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I focus less intensely on him when there are others around. I spend more time trying to keep up with the conversation so I spend less time second-guessing what he says and does. Through this, we have found that my fiancé and John actually get on really well which is great because it means I can spend time with both at the same time. I’ve also been able to rebuild and strengthen friendships with our other friends that had been neglected in recent months.
3. Don’t Act Impulsively
Sometimes, I misjudge situations. I can make mountains out of molehills and cause storms in teacups with ease. I can get so caught up in how I feel in the moment I overlook the rational and head straight for impulsive reactions. However, if I walk away for a moment and actually think about it, I can rationalize things much better. I can de-escalate my instinct to start an argument, stop myself saying something I don’t mean and generally come back with a much more logical response. For example, sometimes John would make a joke I didn’t notice was meant in humor. I used to just fly off the handle without a second thought and it would almost always end up in an argument. However, now that I pause before I react, I can usually pick up on the fact he was joking and handle the situation much better.
I always expected John to be honest with me, but I wasn’t honest in return.
If I sensed he wasn’t OK, I would ask him what was going on and get pretty upset if he wouldn’t tell me because I immediately thought it was because of me. But when he would ask me if I was OK or what was wrong, I’d lie almost every time because I was scared he wouldn’t understand, or he’d judge me. But that wasn’t healthy for either of us. Being honest started with me explaining the whole “favorite person” concept and what that meant in terms of our friendship to him. It was a huge step for me and at the time felt like a massive risk. But, I had no need to worry because he’s been fantastic about it. We’re both much more honest about how we feel with each other because of that conversation and I feel like I can actually talk to him about things that happen.
This is the most important one to me for a simple reason: We are both human.
Neither of us gets it right all the time. There is no exact science to having a healthy FP friendship, just like there is no guidebook on how to be an FP. So, sometimes I forget my own rules and sometimes John does or says something that upsets me.
But instead of beating myself up or being angry with him, we talk about whatever has happened, draw a line under it, forgive and wipe the slate clean.
Having a favorite person isn’t always easy. It can be an incredibly stressful thing to understand and even harder to gain any control over. But, my friendship with John is now stronger and healthier than I ever thought possible. We are living proof that favorite person friendships can be rewarding and fun. It just takes a little time and work, but I promise, it’s worth it!
Photo by Seth Reese on Unsplash