Interpersonal Effectiveness (DBT): Why I Don't Have Friends (BPD)

In an effort to improve my Interpersonal Effectiveness skills and, ultimately, work toward continuing to "create a life worth living" - the motto of DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy),  I have taken the risk of reach out to a few people to see if they want to get together.  It was terrifying. 

The mere thought of the rejection and their assumption that I'm the "same old Debbie" made me anxious and apprehensive. But... are they right?

I received a request from a reader (who asked to remain anonymous) to write a post about how to start with Interpersonal Effectiveness if you are very afraid of getting into relationships again.

The truth is, this is still part of the journey for me.  I have basically pushed away any "friends" that I had. I put friends in quotation marks because I now understand that friendship needs to be a two-way street. In the past, I didn't have this perception. I took all I could. I talked about my drama and problems and sought support all of the time. I didn't have the insight or emotional strength to BE a friend and to give those things in return.

I'm always offended when people say that those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder tend to "lack empathy," because I so often become so emotionally moved by others' emotions, that I can't imagine being thought of as not being empathetic. But maybe this is where the need to grow in empathy is showing up. (?)

Some shame comes up as I acknowledge this, and I notice that. I also shift into Wise Mind and have compassion for the me back then - the me who didn't have the skills, didn't know she Borderline Personality Disorder - the me who's daily subconscious routine was to survive.

I've blogged in the past about two relationships that were important to me that went sour. There was Maria,who stood by me for years, one crisis after another, and when she really needed me to be there for her, in my past typical fashion, I flaked. She was capable of forgiving and forgetting over and over, but that was her last straw. It's been over a year, and I've tried on a few occasions to get her to sit down and talk with me. She's refused.  I lost her.

Then there was Jenny. I worked for her Dad and really enjoyed her company. She is a bright, funny person, and I pushed her away, evidently permanently, as well.

So, when I recently reached out again to two other people I haven't made contact with in a while (and a coworker), I worried that they might think I am reaching out to "use" them because my boyfriend is away (and, honestly - am I?).  My worst fear, though, was that I'd get no response.

With one person, that was the result. I think she's another one who probably reached her breaking point in dealing with my onesided-ness. 

Another got back to me. We're going to a French cafe this weekend to have coffee and pastry and catch up. I'm excited and extremely nervous at the same time. You can imagine the reasons, insecurities, and concerns.

I also made plans this weekend with one of my coworkers. I am so nervous about this. She actually reached out to me and has on several occasions. I've always turned her down.  I had to tell her that I "have anxiety" and to please not take it personally. Yes, I do have anxiety, but more truer than that is that I'm afraid of my ability level to be good company and to reciprocate all of the things that you do when you're with someone, getting to know them, or in a relationship.

I guess it's good that I reached out to expand my circle, even if all of the motivations weren't totally pure (i.e., I'm lonely while my boyfriend is away and want company).  I hope, though, that I can use my DBT skills to practice being more effective in my relationship with others.

I hope that the goodness of my personality can shine through, and, more importantly, that I don't make it ALL about me.  I plan to listen to my company, ask questions, be interested, and to refrain from the temptation to get into what's "wrong" with my life.  It's just a couple of hours. I'm sure I can do it.

Thanks for reading. 
More Soon.


  1. I hope it goes well for you, you certainly have the tools and skills. I will be rooting for you. I'm no where near the friend keeping and acquiring level. I appear "normal" but I just can't, I'm less comfortable around people now than I ever have been and a friendship feels like a lost cause right now. I'm really glad you are at a place where you are able to take a step toward having a friendship that is awesome.

    1. Thank you so much, as always, for your kind words and encouragement. I will be sure to update on how it goes. To be honest, I don't feel entirely ready, but I'm going to give it a try.

  2. Thank you for posting this, your coworker sounds like she really does want to get to know you better, I hope that goes well for you.

  3. I just wanted to let you know that I found your website yesterday. I am dealing with BPD and the same problems with friendship. Is it really, really nice to know that someone is out there, using her skills, accepting her past, and moving on to try her best to be better. I am inspired by you. Keep writing, and thank you.

  4. I am so inspired by your blog, Debbie. You have immense courage to not only work constantly at healing through this great God-send of DBT, but also to share your experience, strength, and hope (to borrow an Al-Anon phrase) with everyone. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing this.

    Since you post here about relationships, I am also curious about one thing. In the past 6 years of using DBT treatment, I have only met one person with bpd (that i know of) who is in a committed relationship, such as you are with your boyfriend. I have been struggling so painfully with my 15-year marriage, and as you know there are so many stories of partners of bpd-strugglers who just cannot take the pain any more. Do you have any posts where you deal with what it's like to stay in a committed partnership? I would like to speak to someone with bpd and find out how they manage to maintain their relationship. Thank you so much

    1. Wow, thank you so much Mrs. H.

      You know, I haven't really covered this, and it's something a LOT of people ask about. I do have a guest post by a very supportive partner of someone who has BPD. He talks about how he copes with the stress of it all. I don't think I can link in comments, but if you go to my archives tab and click on the post from December 21, 2012, you may find this helpful. Let me know! (Post is called "A Couple Shares: Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)")

  5. You are like living my life seriously. I thank you so much for your candor and expressing how it feels. I have a very hard time asking friends out. Now that I am older I too realized I have pushed many people away that I cared about or some that honestly weren't good for me either. I am like what you would call those whom I shouldn't attach to I do and those who deserve my fixation I hurt by my fears and anxieties and desire to please everyone. I have a hard time asking friends to go out due to major rejections issues. I honestly thought I was just being a diva when really it was my fear and anxiety. I tend to have a ton of aqauntence and some close friendships I had were so close but devastating when I leave or they leave that it makes it incredibly challenging to want close friendships. I don't handle criticism at all and I have just opened my eyes to this world of BPD.
    Any advice on not talking about my "problems" I feel very uninteresting at times. I usually am the one that asks a million questions of others but when they ask questions about me (if they do I don't always find people that curious) I hardly have answers. I am getting better at learning about myself but after 30 plus years its sad I don't know more of myself. Its a process so I'll go easy on myself.

    PS again thank you for everything and love the new iPaper newspaper and your videos and you. Good luck with Grad School!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comments and well wishes. I appreciate knowing that my willingness to "go there" helps you and others. Thank you for also sharing your own personal struggles that you are facing. As far as not talking about your problems, I have that same anxiety. I've recently decided to take on more things in my life that keep me busy. A plus of this is having some answers, other than problems, when that question, "So, what's been going on with you?" comes up. Huge hugs! ♥



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