Unless you’re a psychiatrist by profession, the only way you’ll probably ever discover if your sub has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is if he tells you. It’s difficult to diagnose, even for professionals, and it’s often mixed with other mental health issues. If you’d like to read more about the diagnostic criteria, have a look at our introductory article here.
As a Dom, a BPD sub comes with additional considerations, but not only does it not have to be a game-changer, we think it comes with some fairly attractive side benefits. Be aware of, and learn to deal with, some specific BPD behaviours, and enjoy everything that your sub brings into your life.
KNOWLEDGE IS STRENGTH
• The DSM IV lists nine diagnostic criteria. Your sub may not (and probably won’t) exhibit all of them. boydenon, for example, rarely has problems with anger impulse within the relationship. You need to understand everything you can about your sub. Quiz them if you have to. Try this free downloadable Owner’s Manual if you need help structuring questions, or set up a fun interrogation scene if that’s the way you play. You need to break down any barriers that hide information that’s important to you. his trust in confiding everything about his history and feelings to you is an important step towards a successful and healthy relationship.
• Find out about other’s experiences. Your sub may not experience BPD in the same way as anyone else, but there are many experiences that tend to be common. FetLife has a Partners of BPD group, but even better if you can find local discussion and support groups.
• You need to be a strong, calm presence. There will be storms, and to weather them you’ll need a deep sense of yourself, what you believe in and your place in the world (and their world). Like a tree, you need to have strong roots. BPD often manifests in extremes. One day you are a God, then something happens and you’re the Devil himself. History gets rewritten. All the good moments seem never to have existed and he remembers the time you did this terrible thing or said that hurtful thing. Things that you’d forgotten or thought were irrelevant get dredged up and your whole relationship is painted with new dark colours. It’s at these times that you need to:
– understand that he is not being manipulative, it feels very real to him and this is how his brain is firing at that moment
– reach deep down inside yourself and find that strong core and belief
– listen to what they’re saying and try to keep it directed and on-path
– deal with the trigger
UNDERSTANDING AND CARING FOR YOUR BPD SUBMISSIVE
• There’s no doubt that your Dominant/submissive or Master/slave relationship will be an extremely important, possibly central, part of your sub’s life. They tend to be 100%-all-in passionate people. They will over-prioritise it sometimes and you will need to gently dial it back, making sure they understand that it’s not because you think the relationship is unimportant, but because it works best for you when there is balance.
• BPD often stems from early childhood issues, such as parental or peer abuse. Like its close cousin PTSD, these issues often seem to go away until they are triggered. They can be hard to talk about, but it’s important that they are out in the open so that you are aware of them and can provide the support.
• There is a very real danger of the BPD submissive losing themselves within the relationship. They will go to great lengths to keep you happy, including letting themselves get totally absorbed in the power dynamic and losing their personal identity in the process. That places a great responsibility on you as a Dominant to not only be worthy of the trust and adoration you receive, but to keep the relationship on real, achievable, practical grounds. You need to consciously keep control and keep your sub from being totally consumed within the D/s relationship, by reminding them of who they are and what makes them special.
• My experience with boydenon is that BPD relationships are not only passionate, but can quickly morph and move under your feet. This could be something to do with the DSM IV recognised “markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self”, but I think it is more that those with BPD are continual and enthusiastic explorers of identity. Roles, sense of self, and even physical desires (kinks and fetishes), can evolve quickly, so the structure of your relationship must be flexible enough to accommodate changes easily.
• Impulsive and self damaging behaviour is another DSM IV marker, and I’ll bundle this up with one more – suicidal thoughts and self-mutilating behaviour. These happen, and they’re going to be different for every BPD sub. They might range from compulsive spending, impulsive anonymous sex and binge eating, to substance abuse, to self-injury behaviours like cutting. It’s important to understand that the behaviour is outside of the control of the sub at the time, and it’s not that they are deliberately trying to damage the relationship or themselves. It is also not uncommon for this behaviour to come to light later, and possibly by accident rather than through honesty. Impulsive, compulsive and self-damaging behaviours feel personal and embarrassing. Your sub probably feels ashamed of their behaviour and would like it to disappear. For them to talk to you openly about it is a great sign of trust and intimacy, and that should always be respected. Shaming him is not going to get you anywhere, but it may drive a wedge between you. Instead, it can be the catalyst for deepening the power dynamic. The solution may be to step in to control the situation that the problem is manifesting in, such as approving credit card transactions or requiring access to online cruising profiles. If the behaviour is self injury then it may be about setting clear rules and protocols, and if it can’t be controlled seeking professional advice.
• Be very aware and wary of the BPD fear of abandonment. It’s probably the strongest and most common symptom of BPD and it’s very real. There are many ways you may need to incorporate this in your power exchange:
– Any time you relax or loosen direct control or protocol, it can be interpreted as “withdrawing your Dominance” and trigger fear. Be clear about what you are doing and why you are doing it, and monitor afterwards.
– In many ways, the more direct control you exert the more attention the sub can perceive that he is getting, so negotiation of what level of control you are willing to give can be tricky. BPD subs can want you to be involved in their lives to a greater extent than you wish to be, and in some circumstances may manipulate events to try to make that happen.
– In most D/s relationships, some amount of behavioural modification using reward/punishment is likely to play a part. Withdrawal of affection is a powerful tool, but be vary wary with BPD subs as it can easily trigger abandonment issues.
– Aftercare is important in play in any relationship, but it’s extremely important with BPD subs. Play leaves emotions raw and open, and even going to the next room to put on the kettle can trigger strong feelings.
– The concept of aftercare can be extended even further. After any small bumps in communication in the relationship, whether it’s a miscommunication in timing for meeting at a restaurant or a full-blown argument, be empathetic and ready to communicate. Small things can easily blow out of proportion. As a responsible Dom, own your mistakes and encourage your BPD sub to view you as a real person and not an infallible God.