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When Brina and Paul began to date, he was magnetic and charming. They had a connection from the first moment together having a drink. People at work had complained about Paul, saying he was aggressive and difficult. Brina never witnessed that side of him until about 6 months into their relationship, after Paul had too much to drink at a party. Not long after, Paul was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, after having been together almost 4 years and they had just gotten engaged.

Brina knows every side of him, so when he begins to act in unexpected or scary ways, she is able to see the hurting child within, who just wants to be loved. Often, his emotions and expressions don’t match. He might be feeling happy, but he displays anger, because he breaks things. If he’s feeling angry, he displays deep sadness, sobbing. With the help of therapists, Brina has learned how to help him communicate his emotions and needs and to accept and honor her needs as well.  She has learned to communicate clearly with him what her plans and boundaries are, so that he feels less abandoned when she needs to do something “without him”.

I asked Brina if she ever feels guilty for triggering a mental health episode in Paul’s life. She explained to me how she understands that she is not responsible for the emotional response Paul might have to a choice that she has made. However, if she knows that something is likely to trigger him, she feels that she does have a responsibility, to at least prepare to make that choice, in the safest way possible. If Paul ever feels that Brina has knowingly hurt him, or vice versa, together, they choose a time when they can both calmly have a conversation about what happened.

Brina shared with me how much Paul has given to her and changed her life for the better. He is fun, energetic, and brilliant. When Brina comes up with  a hair-brained idea, he takes it as an intellectual challenge and figures out how to make it happen. Paul is able to draw her out of her shell, in ways she never thought possible. Without him, she might never have felt comfortable being on a podcast like this! Despite all the challenges, Paul has given her confidence and permission to dream of her own success.

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Connect with Brina:





“People that live with Borderline don’t have to be alone.” @MatanaJacobs #HopetoRecharge

“Never go to the same therapist as your partner… they have this bias going into my treatment based on how they had treated him.” @BrinaMcNally @MatanaJacobs #HopetoRecharge

“Give yourself grace. Not every moment am I going to be madly in love with him. Not every moment am I going to have the most compassion for him, and not every moment am I going to keep my temper and my cool with him.”  @BrinaMcNally @MatanaJacobs #HopetoRecharge

“Abandonment is a huge issue for people with Borderline. Any time there’s a perceived abandonment — it doesn’t even have to be an actual abandonment. It could just be you’re getting up to go to the next room, and they’re like, “Wait! Where are you going??”” @BrinaMcNally @MatanaJacobs #HopetoRecharge


Topics Discussed:

  • How Brina came to be in a relationship with someone who has BPD
  • Seeing loved ones as people who are hurting and struggling to communicate
  • The misconceptions people have about those with BPD
  • How to lovingly support someone with BPD and still take care of yourself


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