The Power of Managing Boundaries with Borderline PD

October 3, 2023 Karen Mae Vister

It's important to manage boundaries in borderline personality disorder. I'm someone living with borderline personality disorder (BPD), and I've got a tendency to enmesh with my loved ones. Enmeshment in relationships refers to a dysfunctional pattern of relating where boundaries between individuals are unclear, and personal identities become blurred or fused together. In enmeshed relationships, individuals may have difficulty distinguishing their own thoughts, feelings, and needs from those of their partner or family member. In my case, my BPD causes me to fear rejection the closer I get to someone. The temptation to blend in and go with the flow just to secure acceptance is real. But here's where managing boundaries in BPD swoops in to save the day.

Setting Boundaries in Borderline with DEAR MAN 

Setting boundaries is not about playing the bossy director in someone else's movie. Setting boundaries means communicating the subtle outline or map of your desires and deal breakers. One tool I've learned in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is DEAR MAN. DEAR MAN is an acronym to help individuals effectively communicate their needs, wants, and boundaries while maintaining healthy relationships and assertiveness. 

Each letter in DEAR MAN represents a specific component of this communication strategy:1

D -- Describe: Start by describing the situation or the facts related to what you want to communicate. Stick to the observable and non-judgmental details to provide a clear picture of the issue. 

E -- Express: Express your feelings and thoughts about the situation. Share your emotions honestly and openly, using "I" statements to take ownership of your feelings.

A -- Assert: Assert yourself by stating what you want or need. Be clear and specific about your request, avoiding vague or indirect language.

R -- Reinforce: Reinforce your position by explaining the positive consequences or benefits of your request being met. Highlight how it can be a win-win situation for both parties involved. 

M -- Mindful: Be mindful of the other person's perspectives and emotions. Consider their feelings and potential objections, and try to validate their viewpoint, even if you disagree.

A -- Appear confident: Maintain a confident and composed demeanor while communicating. Use assertive body language and tone to convey your message effectively. 

N -- Negotiate: Be open to negotiation and compromise. Show a willingness to work together to find a solution that meets both your needs.

Boundary Management with Borderline Personality Disorder

It's been years since I completed DBT, and I still use DEAR MAN to this day. I've learned it's better to embrace the discomfort of setting boundaries than weather the emotional whiplash and pent-up resentment that come with pretending I'm okay. This tool is like a lighthouse, guiding my ship safely through the rocky waters of enmeshment. These days, I prefer steering clear of the drama and keeping my ship sailing smoothly. These days, I manage my boundaries even with BPD.


  1. Myhr G. Book Review: Changing Behavior in DBT: Problem Solving in Action. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Published online October 25, 2016. doi:10.1177/0706743716676753

APA Reference
Mae, K. (2023, October 3). The Power of Managing Boundaries with Borderline PD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Author: Karen Mae Vister

Karen Mae Vister, author of her blog, Over the Borderline, dedicates her work to providing valuable content and support for individuals on the path to recovery from borderline personality disorder. Find Karen Mae on Instagram and her blog.

Leave a reply