Personality Disorders: Does Your Partner Have One?

Personality Disorders: Does Your Partner Have One?

Relationships, even those that may seem the most blissful, can take their toll on one or both partners. Should you discover that your partner suffers from a personality disorder, this may have a very negative impact on the relationship, and could be enough to lead to a complete and final breakup.

This need not be the case, stresses Megan Hosking, Psychiatric Intake Clinician at Akeso Clinics. “It is possible for someone with a personality disorder to be functioning well and managing their disorder appropriately, which means the possible negative impact would be far less, if any. In fact, breaking up with someone because they have a mental disorder is not necessary, however, it is important to look at the bigger picture and the effect their illness has on both or one of the partners, especially if it’s not sufficiently understood or managed,” she explains.

Understanding a personality disorder

She adds that there are many factors that need to be considered when choosing whether to remain in such a relationship, or to end it. Click here to find out more.

Managing conflict and offering support

  • “First and foremost it would be important to understand what personality disorders are, as well as their symptoms and signs.
  • It would also be important to know more about the treatment they are going through, any medication they’re on and the places to reach out to, should they require additional help.
  • Being aware of possible signs of relapse would be important to know as well.”

Understanding your own wellbeing

It is important that you know and understand your own mental health and wellbeing, as well as your own emotions and responses, Hosking advises. “If you find that the relationship is wearing you down, or you feel tired and drained from it, or you feel anxious and worried, these could all be signs that the relationship is not beneficial to you and may be causing unnecessary stress in your life.”


In his book, “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” Dr John Gottman, clinical psychologist and relationship researcher affiliated to the University of Wisconsin in the USA, identifies the “four horseman of the apocalypse” or factors of doom in relationships:

  • Contempt
  • Criticism
  • Sarcasm
  • Stonewalling

Over the past four decades, Gottman has studies thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what goes wrong in relationships, and conversely, what makes relationships work. Based on his observations o how couples interact with each other, he can tell within a minute whether or not a relationship will survive, Sandy Lewis, Head of Therapeutic Services at Akeso Clinics points out. She says: “Irrespective of whether or not there is a diagnosable personality disorder within one or both of the partners in a relationship, when the relationship style is characterized more often than not by any of the above factors, then the relationship has an extremely poor chance of survival without intensive intervention and a 100% commitment and willingness to change behavior.”

In view of the issues raised above, Lewis recommends the following to make the most of a relationship:

  • To take care of your health and to seek help if you think any aspect of your health is less than optimal (physical, psychological, spiritual)
  • To build a life for yourself that is full and satisfying separate from any other person so that you can maintain your identity and find value day to day irrespective of your relationship status.
  • To work continuously on loving and taking care of yourself. This is a daily practice.
  • To be in a relationship where the positive interactions outweigh the negative ones in a ratio of 5:1 (John Gottman).
  • To know your partner’s love language (as described by Dr Gary Chapman) or their love map (as described by Dr John Gottman) and use these to enhance fondness and admiration.
  • To turn towards each other rather than away – be vulnerable, but don’t disconnect from each other.
  • To share the problems that can be solved.
  • To create shared values and meaning in the relationship.
  • To let your partner influence you – don’t get stuck in a gridlocked power struggle for who prevails.
  • Above all, always be kind!

Want to know more? Here is how to renew love in a long-term relationship. 

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