Life in a Bind – BPD and me

Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and my therapy journey. Listed in Top Ten Resources for BPD in 2016 by goodtherapy.org. I write for welldoing.org under the name Clara Bridges.

BPD, sexual orientation and relationship choice

10 Comments

A little while ago I found this paper published in 2008 in the Journal of Personality Disorders, and have been meaning to share it ever since:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3203737/

For me, it was both a fascinating read, but also affirmation of a part of my ‘world-view’ that I think I’d assumed, probably naively and incorrectly, reflected the way ‘most other people’ thought as well.

I think of myself as a heterosexual female and am fortunate, therefore, that I have never had to deal with any kind of prejudice on account of my sexual orientation. And yet it has always seemed self-evident to me that romantic love, including its physical aspects, is all about a person, rather than their gender. Though I have never been in a same-sex relationship, I have had a small number of same-sex experiences and I would say that around half of my ‘obsessions’ with people, have been obsessions with women (though two of those, granted, have been therapists). I can honestly say that this aspect of myself has never really felt confusing, perhaps because it seemed so obvious to me that these feelings should be based around a person’s character and not the precise form of their body. I know that I am very fortunate in this, as a large number of people struggle greatly with trying to understand their sexuality. On the face of it, given that I know my family would not have been accepting of my views, I might have expected to feel some internal conflict over this, and I find its absence rather odd. Maybe it’s just very easy to feel ‘comfortable’ while I still think of myself a heterosexual female, and have never had to face the family opposition that would have come from any attempt at a same-sex relationship; maybe it’s just an indication of a massive lack of insight and self-awareness on this issue. Whatever the reason, this attitude enabled me to find the paper intriguing and rather comforting (in showing that I am in ‘good company’) rather than unsettling; though I do realise that for some readers, this may not be the case.

In summary, the paper shows that in this particular study, conducted over ten years, patients with BPD were significantly more likely than those with other personality disorders, to report homosexual or bisexual orientation, and intimate same-sex relationships. But the most interesting part of the paper for me, was the finding that those with BPD were also significantly more likely to change the gender of their intimate partners, but not their sexual orientation. To quote from a couple of different places within the paper: “for borderline patients, the choice of an intimate partner may be more partner-specific than gender-specific” and “.…this suggests that for borderline patients, changes in sexual orientation and gender of intimate partners are not a unitary process. For subjects with BPD, choice of gender of intimate partners appears to be more fluid than for comparison subjects. This is consistent with the notion that patients with BPD may choose intimate partners more on the basis of individual factors aside from gender.

How do other people, I wonder, feel about the factors that drive choice of partner? I thought I’d end with the following response from the singer Sia (diagnosed with Bipolar II) when she was asked about her sexuality, with which I have a great deal of sympathy, and which, according to the paper, may also reflect the views of a substantial minority of individuals with BPD: “I don’t care what gender you are, it’s about people“.

 

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10 thoughts on “BPD, sexual orientation and relationship choice

  1. I’m not a fan of labels, but I’m fine with people using either bi or pansexual to describe me, because yes, it’s much more about the person for me than anything else. I see sexuality as being fluid.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I know what you mean about labels, though interestingly having a BPD ‘label’ is important to me because it helps me in trying to understand what’s going on for me, but it doesn’t feel important to me to precisely label my sexuality. I think a lot of people would agree with your comment about sexuality being fluid, even if they wouldn’t openly acknowledge it for fear of prejudice…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have BPD and I’ve always been aware I’m attracted to people, not their gender, which now I know is considered pansexuality. I had a committed relationship with another woman only once and it was kept in secret, to avoid conflicts with my family, etc.

    I think us being sexually fluid, aware and open about it is an amazing trait, plus being able to love people, regardless of gender. Very few “normal” people are honest about it, or aren’t bold enough to go through with it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for your comment – this is really really interesting. I hadn’t really thought about pansexuality, I guess because I haven’t really thought enough about gender not necessarily being binary. And so when thinking about myself and my experiences and who I’ve known, it seemed to be a case of ‘falling in love’ with women as well as men but I guess I thought about this more in terms of possible bi-sexuality than pansexuality. But maybe that’s because (as far as I know) I know very very few individuals whose gender may not fit neatly into our categorised ‘boxes’, and so this wasn’t a question I had really thought about. Thank you very much for raising this and for the very very interesting food for thought!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve always been slightly offended with the talk of people with BPD ‘choosing’ their sexual orientation or ‘changing it’; I think that perpetuates homophobia/biphobia – as if someone decides what gender to be sexually attracted to. As a person diagnosed with BPD and not identified as hetero, I can say my sexual orientation came before the BPD symptoms. Thank you so much for bringing a fresh perspective on this topic!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your comment! Yes, I think talk of choice or change is very very difficult indeed, and I think it’s important that the willingness to change gender of partners, irrespective of how one thinks of one’s orientation, isn’t taken as an indication that someone can simply change this aspect of themselves at will. I’m glad you found the paper interesting and thank you again for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Very interesting indeed!
    I’ve long said of my sexuality precisely “It’s about the person, not the gender” and have accepted myself as bi-sexual as a result. I’ve never thought about my sexuality being linked or related to my BPD though.
    Despite having faced some prejudice on the subject it is not something I’ve really ever been ashamed of, though it can be hard to express my orientation to others because saying you’re bi-sexual has its own set of stigma attached to it.
    I suppose if my sexual fluidity *IS* linked to BPD then I am grateful of that, because being so open to love from a person not a bodily form is something I like about myself! 🙂
    Thanks for sharing! xx

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    • Hi, good to hear from you! I have occasionally wondered about my sexuality, and whether I should redefine how I think about myself – I suppose in some ways, it just doesn’t feel important for me to be able to label it. Which is interesting as ‘labels’ are important to me in other areas e.g. it was important to me to have a diagnosis and to have a ‘label’ of a particular condition, because it helps me to understand and define what I’m dealing with. I guess I think of myself as heterosexual because the vast majority of people I have been attracted to in the past have been men. So hypothetically, if I was unattached and walked into a room feeling flirtatious I would seek out men to flirt with. But how much of that is due to the fact that they are more likely, statistically, to be interested in me? If it was the case that the women in the room were equally as likely to be interested (or not!) would that affect my reaction and who I was interested in and who I tried to engage?
      I’m sorry you’ve had to face some prejudice but I’m glad that you can be self-accepting despite that. And I love your penultimate sentence – it is indeed a wonderful thing to love about oneself 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Very interesting (and enlightening) indeed! I’ve also always hated labels regarding my sexuality… I actually cringe when people use them. For me it’s also about the person… I fall in love with a person. Not a body. Although who doesn’t love a great body? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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