General Psychology

Borderline Personality Disorder and Marital Conflict


How Does Borderline Personality Disorder Contribute to Marital Conflict?

The text is careful to outline the importance of the evaluation period in all types of therapy, including couples therapy strategies (Barlow, 2014). Dr Enright’s forgiveness practice is fairly flawless, giving the patients the opportunity to acknowledge multiple facets of their relationship, individual pasts, and resolutions.  Beginning with a coat of favorable memories allows the patients the chance to start on common, happy grounds.  Having each patient reveal their own expectations of forgiveness and also understand the forgiveness exchange within the therapy model allows the patients a clear roadmap for recovery.  These expectations will vary between the individual afflicted with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and the other partner (Miller, 2015). 

Breaking the couple down individually allows the therapist to give each patient in the relationship a chance to express their grievances. It is critical that both patients are ready to forgive the other and focus on healing, while also ensuring no further damage is caused. If both patients are ready to commit to therapy long-term, together, then the efficacy of the therapy will be significantly more likely (Owen et al., 2019).  While the therapy model is largely focused on the unit, the individual with BPD may end up with more homework.

One of the most important aspects of Dr. Enright’s treatment plan is helping the couple arrive at the decision to want to do no more harm in the relationship (American Psychological Association, 2016).  This commitment will help stop the bleeding from persisting, as well as prevent further wounds from occurring.  Ultimately, it is reasonable to suggest that maintaining a healthy relationship is just as important a goal as achieving general healing or the initial resolutions of the problems within the relationship.  Dr. Enright also highlights the importance of leaving a positive legacy for their children, particularly one created out of love (2016).  Leaving the couple with homework which entails each partner considering the wounded histories the other individual in the relationship has experienced will help bolster empathy during all parts of the relationship, even when conflict ensues. Of course, this technique will be more difficult depending upon the level of independent and couple-based trauma the relationship has suffered (Schnurr, 2012).  And there is almost always likely trauma within the relationship when one partner is suffering from BPD (Miller, 2015).


American Psychological Association I (2016). Couples Forgiveness Therapy for Marital Conflict. APA PsycTherapy.

American Psychological Association II (2015). Dialectical Behavior Therapy With a Female Military Veteran. APA PsycTherapy.

Barlow, D. H. (2014). Clinical handbook of psychological disorders, 5th ed. New York, NY: The Guilford Press. ISBN: 9781462513260.

Miller, J. (2015). Borderline personality disorder symptoms and newlyweds’ observed communication, partner characteristics, and longitudinal marital outcomes. Journal of Abnormal Psychology., 124(4), 975–981.

Owen, J., Rhoades, G. K., Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J., & Allen, E. S. (2019). Treatment-as-Usual for Couples: Trajectories Before and After Beginning Couple Therapy. Family Process, 58(2), 273–286. Schnurr, P. (2012). Effect of Cognitive-Behavioral Couple Therapy for PTSD. JAMA : the Journal of the American Medical Association., 308(7).

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