Other Relationships

A Guide to Favorite Person Relationships (for BPD)

All You Need to Know About a ‘BPD Favorite Person’

People with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) often struggle to form and maintain meaningful relationships. In many cases, they may develop an intense attachment to one person in particular, known as a favorite person (or FP). This is a complex relationship that can be incredibly rewarding and yet full of difficulty for both the BPD individual and their favorite person.

In this blog post, we will explore what it means to have a favorite person relationship for those living with BPD and their loved ones. We’ll look at signs of splitting on a favorite person, how to manage challenging behaviors in these relationships, and tips for developing healthier coping strategies when dealing with difficult emotions connected to your favorite person as well as tips for the person with BPD’s loved ones. By understanding the unique dynamics of favorite person relationships, you can work together towards creating a more secure connection built on trust and respect.

BPD individuals can find a considerable degree of comfort and security from the relationship they have with their favorite person, but they can also find gut wrenching misery and fear whenever their fear of abandonment is triggered. For the favorite person, being held high on a pedestal can quickly become overwhelming and suffocating. On the flip side, being knocked off when the person with BPD has been triggered can be confusing and disheartening. Ultimately, the relationship between a person with BPD and their favorite person can quickly become unstable and high conflict if it’s not dealt with from a place of healing.

Intense feelings and their fear of abandonment can often lead to “BPD splitting”, which is a fancy term for describing the tendency to (when triggered) switch between idealizing someone or something, to devaluing them. Splitting can be confusing for both parties involved, which is why it’s important for those living with BPD and their favorite person to have an open dialogue.

FP Meaning in the BPD Community

So what is a favorite person? It’s the one person that stands out the most to the person living with BPD. They admire this person, they look up to them, they love them passionately and generally think the world of them. Some might obsess over or fantasize about them, others might go to their favorite person whenever they’re in need of mentorship or reassurance.

Here’s how a couple of people with BPD have described their favorite person relationship…

“My favorite person (FP) is like my oxygen. It’s tough. I’d put obsessed on the list. It’s the most wonderful thing, the most exhausting thing, and the most dangerous (for me) thing all at once. Therapy and age have helped so much but ya……”

— woman with BPD

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“From what I’ve experienced, a FP relationship doesn’t have to be romantic or sexual. A favorite person is someone that fulfills an emotional need that we’re missing (usually an unmet need from childhood). Whenever we (subconsciously) feel that need has been fulfilled by their words or actions, we associate them with good feelings and idealize them. The association becomes so strong and intense that we see the favorite person as some kind of savior when they provide those good feelings, but we’re so crushed and afraid of abandonment that we devalue them (split black) when they can’t fulfill that emotional need.”

— man with BPD

Signs of a BPD FP / Favorite Person

1. Experiencing intense admiration and idealization from the person with BPD

2. Being held to a higher standard than others

3. Feeling like they are being put on a pedestal

4. Receiving an excessive amount of attention or affection

5. Noticing that the individual may become overly dependent on them for emotional support or reassurance

6. Finding themselves in frequent arguments, especially if their actions trigger feelings of abandonment from the other person

7. Seeing drastic changes in behavior where one moment they might be adored and appreciated, then suddenly devalued and criticized the next 

8. Discovering an obsession-like attachment to them that could feel suffocating at times 

9. Witnessing extreme jealousy when around other people or things  

10. Feeling pressure to constantly reassure the individual about their worth
(Read ‘What Happens During a BPD Episode’)

BPD Splitting on the Favorite Person

Splitting is a term used to describe how people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can switch quickly between loving someone and hating them. This happens when they’re feeling very strong emotions and their fear of being abandoned is triggered. BPD splitting makes the person with BPD quickly go from seeing the favorite person in a perfect, angelic light to seeing them in a negative, devilish light.

The person living with BPD thinking their favorite person is perfect one moment and then terrible the next causes a lot of mixed signals and confusion; it can be vastly overwhelming for both parties.

(Read ‘What a Devaluing Split Looks Like for Borderline Personality Disorder‘)

Splitting is how a brain with BPD naturally operates and defends against abandonment. It’s not something in the person with BPD’s control (they may be able to learn to better manage it, however, with proper treatment but this takes time, self-motivation and hard work). If the person with BPD is untreated or in the early stages of treatment, controlling splitting feels damn near impossible and that’s if they can even detect they’re splitting in the first place.

BPD splitting is not easy for someone without borderline personality disorder to understand (it’s even hard for some people with BPD to understand), but it’s a very real BPD symptom that can have debilitating effects on all aspects of a person’s life and relationships.

Examples of BPD Splitting Thoughts

To give you, the BPD favorite person or person without BPD, an idea of how splitting affects a person living with BPD’s thought processes…here are some examples of BPD splitting thoughts.

“No one cares.”

“Everything’s perfect now that I have them.”

“Nothing ever works.”

“She’s / He’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“He / She doesn’t actually care about me. Why would they?”

“I always screw things up.”

“They’re my everything. They’re the only thing keeping me alive.”

“If only that would happen, things would be perfect.”

“I’d rather die than be left behind.”

“That would ruin everything.”

“I wouldn’t be me without them.”

“I’m amazing at my job, and my team is amazing. We work amazingly together!”

“My boss and coworkers must think the worst of me. Why do I need to suck so much?”

“That would fix everything.”

“Of course it didn’t work. It wasn’t even worth trying.”

“I know without a doubt that he / she loves me, and always will.”

“They never loved me. No one loves me. I’m completely worthless.”

You can quickly notice that the thoughts are in all or nothing terms. That’s splitting in a nutshell. If you’re reflective and empathetic enough, you can start to imagine how difficult navigating relationships and everyday life can be when you’re continuously—with little to no control, going back and forth between various opposing extremes in this way.

Now top those uncontrollable thoughts with a gut wrenching shame that you can’t simply shake off, and you have a glimpse borderline personality disorder.

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

How to De-Escalate Things When the Person with BPD Splits Black

When a person with BPD splits their favorite person “black”—they may be irritable (short responses, passive aggression or tense body language), downright mean (verbal lash-outs, abuse or manipulation), sullen or suddenly distant. For those with “Quiet BPD” (a subtype of borderline personality disorder, also called Discouraged BPD, that manifests more subtly than other subtypes), you might not know they’re splitting at all. It ultimately depends on the person.

If your loved one with BPD isn’t as expressive about their intense emotions as others with BPD, encourage them to communicate openly with you when they’re feeling triggered—so you can be better equipped to support them when the time arises.

If you’re close enough and comfortable with them, consider asking your loved one with BPD if they’ve been triggered. You could word this more discreetly and less offensively by saying something along the lines of…

“You seem upset. Are you okay? Feel free to open up. I care about you, and I want to support you if something’s wrong.”

“Did something I do offend you? I hope you know you can always come to me. If I’ve upset you, I’d like to know so we can work it out together. I love you so much.”

“I feel like you’ve been a bit distant today. Is everything alright? I want you to feel comfortable telling me how you’re feeling—I promise to be patient and nonjudgemental. I’m not going anywhere.”

When you say something to someone living with BPD, really mean it. Don’t try and avoid hurting their feelings unless it’s dangerous for you to be up front (in case of people with BPD who are not self aware or in treatment and are abusive). Don’t give your loved one with BPD words of affirmation or praise that you don’t mean or make promises if you don’t intend to back them up with action.

When the favorite person is up front about their own feelings, support capabilities and boundaries—it can help the person living with BPD feel more comfortable to disclose the disordered side of their thoughts or emotions, which can ultimately make for a stronger, more stable & more transparent relationship.

(scroll down for even more tips on managing ‘BPD Splitting’)

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Here are some tips for managing BPD splitting as a favorite person:

1. Listen and acknowledge the feelings of the person with BPD.

2. Make sure to maintain safety for all parties involved.

3. Stay calm and offer understanding, not judgement.

4. Offer reassurance when possible, remind them that you care about them or provide truthful positive feedback.

5. Ask if there is anything they need during difficult times, such as a hug or space to be alone.

6. Avoid getting defensive in response to their behavior.

7. Reassure them of your commitment to the relationship and remind them that it won’t always feel like this.

8. Suggest self-care activities or do an activity they enjoy with them.

9. Remind yourself that what you are experiencing is an effect of their illness; try not to take things personally.

10. When the need comes up, take breaks from engaging. Let them know if you plan to be away for longer than usual, and give them a timeline for when you’ll be ready to talk again or check in every few days to let them know you haven’t forgotten them. Be sure not to string them along.

By taking the steps above, you can provide comfort and support to the person with BPD while they’re in the midst of splitting. Remember, this is a difficult BPD symptom and one that may require professional help in order to manage effectively. Be patient, kind and understanding; it will go a long way for your relationship.

The Difficulties of Being a BPD FP

Being a favorite person of someone with BPD can be incredibly challenging, but it’s also an opportunity to provide real comfort and support to someone who likely loves you very passionately, will be immensely loyal to you and will go out of their way to be there for you when you need them. By listening without judgement and offering reassurance during their BPD episodes, you can help the person living with BPD better manage their own symptoms.

It’s important to remember that it isn’t your responsibility to fix the BPD or do all of the work for them – individual professional help for both of you might be necessary in order for them to properly manage their condition and for you to be able to process it and help support them on their recovery journey. Be patient, kind, understanding and open-minded as this will go a long way towards strengthening your relationship. With time and effort from both parties involved, managing BDP and the BPD FP relationship may become easier over time.

Start a Discussion

Are you a favorite person? Do you have BPD and struggle with a FP relationship? Share your experience in the comments!

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