Nurturing Relationships: A Guide to Enhancing Connections with BPD/Emotion Dysregulation

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Do you struggle in your relationships? Feeling like nobody truly understands you? Or are you dealing with a loved one who seems out of control emotionally? You’re not alone. Many individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or Emotion Dysregulation, as well as their friends, family, and partners, grapple with these challenges. The good news is that there are effective ways to enhance and strengthen your connections through Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and mindfulness.

Understanding the Challenges

Misunderstandings, disconnection, destructive conflicts, and invalidating responses can erode relationships rapidly. Building a foundation of understanding, validation, collaboration, and connection is crucial for fostering healthy relationships.

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Understanding Emotions, Priorities, and Goals

Start by understanding your own emotions and those of your loved one. Recognize the priorities and goals that shape your actions and reactions. Practice active listening to gain insight into each other’s perspectives and experiences.


Validation is a critical element in fostering connection. Acknowledge and validate each other’s emotions, even if you don’t necessarily agree with them. Validate the underlying experiences rather than dismiss or invalidate the emotions. Validation communicates to another person that their thoughts, feelings, and actions make sense and are understandable to you in a particular situation. Invalidation speaks (intentionally or not, through words or actions) that another person’s feelings, thoughts, and actions in a specific situation make no sense, are “manipulative,” “stupid,” or an “overreaction,” or not worthy of your time, interest, respect.

Validation improves relationships! It can deescalate conflict and intense emotions. Validation can show that we listen, understand, care, be non-judgmental, and disagree without a significant conflict.

What to validate:

Feelings, thoughts, and behaviors in ourselves or others

How to validate:

Make eye contact and stay focused. Be mindful of your own verbal and nonverbal reactions to avoid invalidation (e.g., rolling eyes; sucking teeth; heavy sighing, walking away, making light of serious things, or saying, for example, “That’s stupid,” “Don’t be sad,” “I don’t care what you say,” “Whatever!”). Observe what the other person is feeling at the moment. Look for a word that describes the feeling. Reflect on the feeling without judgment. The goal is to communicate that you understand how the other person feels. Such as, “It makes sense that you’re angry,” and “I understand that you are having a tough time right now”.

For self-validation:

“I have a right to feel sad.” AVOID “yes, but…” thinking. Instead, think about what your best friend, in a wise mind, would say to you. Show tolerance! Consider the feelings, thoughts, and actions that make sense, given the other’s (or your own) history and current situation, even if you don’t approve of the behaviors, emotions, or actions. 

Respond in a way that shows that you are taking the other person seriously (with or without words); for example, “That sounds awful.” If someone is crying, give a tissue or a hug. You may ask, “What do you need right now? For me to listen or to help you problem-solve?”  

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Love and Curiosity

Cultivate a mindset of love and curiosity. Approach each other with genuine interest and a desire to understand rather than criticize. Remember that love and curiosity can pave the way for deeper emotional connections.

Understand Emotions

In simple terms, emotions are our natural reactions to things happening around us. When we experience intense emotions, digging deeper and figuring out the main or “primary” emotion causing those feelings is helpful. Understanding this initial emotion helps us deal with problems more effectively.

There are primary emotions, which are our first spontaneous reactions to a situation. These are like our immediate emotional responses. Then, secondary emotions come a bit later, after we’ve had time to think about what happened. For some people, especially those with conditions like BPD or struggle with managing emotions, the secondary emotion can take over so quickly that they might not even realize the primary emotion. This can cause problems because the expression of the emotion might not accurately reflect what they truly feel. Thus, leading to misunderstandings and not feeling heard or understood.

Action Urges vs. Effectiveness

Identify and evaluate action urges in response to intense emotions. Consider the effectiveness of different responses. Strive for responses that align with long-term relationship goals rather than immediate emotional impulses. When knowing your Primary and Secondary Emotions, you will be able to identify your action urges associated with each emotion, therefore being able to act from the primary emotion, which communicates to the other person accurately what you are feeling, for example, sad, disappointed, or hurt, vs. maybe the secondary emotion of anger. The other person responds to the anger, creating invalidation as they don’t understand that you were really feeling the primary emotion.

Relationship Mindfulness

Relationship mindfulness helps us choose rather than be impulsive and make wise choices. Pay attention, on purpose, without judgment, to the other person; observe/notice something about the other right now. Let negative memories go; stay in the present. Remember what kind of relationship you want, let judgments go, mindfully describe, and know that there are causes & conditions for all behavior. Minimize interpretations (or none!), and stay with facts. Notice your love and caring (find it!), and remain mindful of connection and joy.

In Conclusion

Nurturing relationships with individuals experiencing BPD or emotional dysregulation requires dedication, empathy, and a commitment to learning and growing together. By incorporating the principles of DBT, EMDR for BPD, and mindfulness, you can build a foundation of understanding, validation, and connection, fostering healthier and more resilient relationships. Remember, you’re not alone on this journey; there is hope for building strong, loving connections.

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Ready to Begin Borderline Personality Disorder Therapy in Las Vegas, NV and Torrance, CA?

Discover the power of healing and connection with specialized Borderline Personality Disorder therapy. Unlock tools and insights to foster healthy relationships and enrich your connections with those you care about. Take the first step toward building meaningful, fulfilling connections—embrace therapy at DBT Center of the South Bay as a pathway to nurturing and strengthening your bonds. Follow these three simple steps to get started:

  1. Reach out to DBT Center by using the contact form.
  2. Meet with a skilled Borderline Personality Disorder therapist.
  3. Begin building meaningful relationships and fulfilling connections!

Other Services at DBT Center of South Bay

DBT Center of the South Bay has helped many people find the motivation to live fuller, more connected lives. In addition to providing Borderline Personality Disorder Therapy for those wanting to enhance their connections with relationships, I provide treatment options using DBT Therapy for adults to help with managing angersocial isolation, and loneliness. I also specialize in helping those experiencing suicidal thoughts and self-harm behaviors. My services also include EMDR therapy to help provide quick relief and healing so you can be free to live the life you want to live today. Located in Las Vegas, NV, and Torrance, CA, you can access my services from anywhere in the states of California and Nevada using online therapy.