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Borderline Personality Disorder: What’s Love Got to Do With it?

At what point in therapy should an experienced therapist tell a long-term client with a Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis, in an unsolicited manner, that they love them?

This is what my therapist said at the last session I had with her.  I do love you.

It was a major catalyst, amongst other things, for my decision to leave therapy back in April.  Our email relationship limped along for few months until I finally pulled the pin.  That occurred this morning.

The overwhelming sense of freedom, relief and empowerment is tinged with much sadness, grief, loss and longing.  I loved her dearly and she said she loved me, but only in the context of a therapy client within her four walls.  It was not a marriage proposal and we are not going to walk off into the sunset and live happily ever after in a house with a white picket fence.

I can live with that.  Finally.

I asked if we could have our photo taken together (with a camera on a timer) and she finally, after a long argument, conceded with much reluctance.  I have not looked at that photo since.  I believe I may have saved it to my hard drive before my laptop crashed, burned and died but I have not checked and have no inclination to do so.

I said my final goodbye this morning via email and told her that this last interaction was not the sum total of our relationship, but I knew it was never going to end prettily unless I made the final decision to break ties, move onwards, upwards and forward.

I could not have a last final session with rituals and a ceremonial ending worthy of a cheesy Hollywood movie, I just needed to keep a stiff upper lip and walk out.  Having a last session would be like having a wake for a living person and I could not do that.  Luckily, I did not know that would be our last session back in April, it just was.  For that I am truly grateful.

I could not have moved on, and she would not have let me, until I was completely satisfied with my current job in the mental health field.  My job and my new life has replaced my relationship with my therapist.  She is now surplus to requirements in the unfolding of my universe.  I will always remember her with a smile on my face and she will always occupy a place in my heart.  I have many fond memories of the past 15 years, and the not so fond ones have receded below my memory line.

So that is what I am leaving therapy with, a feeling that it was messy and difficult at times, rather like childbirth and parenting, but incredibly rewarding and ultimately healing.  It was not linear or chronological and there were times I told her I was quitting therapy to find a different therapist because I could not handle the intense feelings I had for her.  It’s as though a chapter of my life has ended and now I have the rest of the book to complete.

It’s a united sense of self that I am left with, rather than the split fragmented one I arrived with.  I have integrated all my intense feelings, all the good, the bad and the downright ugly, into the context of my life.

She told me she loved me because she felt it was safe to do so.  That I was healed enough to accept it without regressing.  She was right.  And she was wrong.

It was not perfect therapy – it is what Donald Winnicott would call, “good enough.”



Borderline Personality Disorder: What’s Love Got to Do With it?

Sonia Neale

Sonia Neale was recently awarded the Inaugural Barbara Hocking SANE Australia Fellowship to study and research Borderline Personality Disorder overseas in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland. Her previous Psych Central blog was called Therapy Unplugged. She is the author of two books, The Bad Mother’s Revenge and Death by Teenager, both published by ABC Books/Harper Collins. She lives in Western Australia, is married with three adult children, has studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has a Certificate IV in Mental Health and is studying for a Psychology/Counselling degree. She currently works as a peer support worker in the mental health field.

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APA Reference
Neale, S. (2011). Borderline Personality Disorder: What’s Love Got to Do With it?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Nov 2011
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