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Guide: The BPD / Favorite Person Relationship Dynamic

Many individuals will commonly use the term “favorite person” to describe someone they are fond of. This can be a family member or close friend who holds an individual’s admiration and affection. However, when an individual with Borderline Personality Disorder refers to someone as their favorite person, the term has quite a different meaning.

Borderline Personality Disorder is a personality disorder characterized by a variety of symptoms including a difficulty or inability to create and maintain successful social and intimate relationships. Individuals with low-functioning BPD typically have more difficulty establishing social relationships than those with high-functioning BPD.

When someone with BPD uses the term “favorite person” to describe someone else, they are typically insinuating that this is a person they cannot survive without. For BPD sufferers, the favorite person is the person who is a source of emotional support and dependence. This individual has the ability to truly impact the BPD sufferer’s day in either a positive or negative manner. The favorite person to someone with BPD holds a critical role in their lives by holding the power to ‘make or break’ the successful navigation of daily tasks and struggles.

Individuals with BPD will describe the term favorite person in a variety of ways, from establishing that it is a form of love that is not romantic but holds a very high place in their life to explain the struggles of the deep-seeded affection when the slightest word or behavior is perceived. In some cases, the favorite person will be the one who has the power to affect the BPD individual in many, many ways.

Their approval and reciprocated affection provide ample opportunity for over apologetic behavior by the BPD individual which is rooted both in the fear of abandonment and their own insecurities. Additionally, this person may experience bouts of mood-swings from the BPD individual more frequently than others. this can be derived from the notion that every action, word, and tone of voice has such sway over the individual with BPD that they may experience an extreme high from a compliment or hug and then feel suicidal with the slightest perceived rejection or ignorance from their favorite person.

Problematic Behaviors in the BPD/Favorite Person Relationship

The BPD individuals emotional dependence coupled with the characteristics and emotional issues which are associated with the disorder make the relationship between them and their favorite person difficult. There are a number of issues and problematic behaviors that can arise within this relationship. Some of these behaviors include:

  • The BPD individual experiencing extreme jealousy when the favorite person engages with others.
  • The BPD individual experiencing separation anxiety when their favorite person is at work or other events.
  • The BPD individual changing their interests, clothing, habits, or behavior to mirror that of their favorite person’s.
  • The BPD individual moving between ideation and devaluation of the favorite person based on his or her behavior and responsiveness.
  • The BPD individual needing a constant and consistent stream of attention from the favorite person.
  • The BPD individual experiencing ‘withdrawal’ symptoms when their favorite person is unavailable.
  • The BPD individual exhibiting tantrum-like behaviors when their favorite person withdrawals or attempts to establish distance or boundaries.
  • The BPD individual engaging in ‘smothering’ behavior when their favorite person is perceived to be pulling away.
  • The BPD individual being overly apologetic at all times as a means to ensure the continued relationships with their favorite person.

For individuals with BPD, these issues can be very present in their minds. Like many personality disorders, some individuals are aware of their actions and the effects that they have on others. For those with high-functioning BPD, being aware of strategies and steps to help manage the relationship with a favorite person can be one method of coping.

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Tips for the BPD/Favorite Person Relationship

For both the individual with BPD and the labeled favorite person, it is important to take steps to help manage the expectations in the relationship. Some tips to consider for these relationships include:

Evaluate the mutual cost and benefits of the relationship – As with any relationship, a key to success is a balance. While this is difficult to manage alone for individuals with BPD, it is important that there is a conversation in which the cost and benefits or the give and take in the relationship are discussed. Both individuals should assess their contributions to the relationships and if they are asking too much or expecting too much.

Establish Boundaries – For individuals with BPD, their favorite person holds a similar position as a mother to a toddler. The BPD individual has a deep need to take all available time and attention from their favorite person. However, it is important to establish boundaries in order to manage the expectations of the relationship for the person with BPD. Failure to establish comfortable boundaries can provide triggers for the BPD individual to experience rage or even suicidal thoughts due to a fear of abandonment issue that is common with the disorder.

Recognize Assumptions – For the BPD individual, it is important to be aware of assumptions that are being made. Many times individuals with BPD will assume that their favorite person is pulling away or distancing themselves when in reality, this is not the case. Being aware of the assumptions that are occurring in the relationship can be a way to mitigate the dangerous negative feelings of fear of abandonment.

Create Other Social Relationships – For individuals with BPD, the need for support and emotional reassurance is often met by the favorite person. However, as with any relationship, it is nearly impossible for one person to be your only social connecti0n and support system. Creating relationships with others helps to alleviate the need to spend every possible moment with the favorite person and offers them the option to engage with others as well.

Participate in Appropriate Treatment Programs – Treatment options for individuals with BPD can include medications, therapy, or a combination of both. Seeking appropriate treatment to manage symptoms improves the sustainability of any relationship. Particularly those with the favorite person as it helps decrease the intensity of negative behaviors and symptoms associated with the disorder.

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Angela Sartain, PhD Psychology
Angela Sartain, PhD Psychology

Angela is currently finishing up her doctoral degree program in General Psychology. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and crafting crochet dolls for her small business.

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