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BPD Monkey Branching: Know The Signs and Why It Happens

Monkey branching is disorienting.

One day you’re in a relationship with your partner, and the next, they’ve dumped you and moved on to someone else.

How could this happen? Did you do something wrong? Was the entire relationship a lie?

In the case of untreated BPD, monkey branching is very common. We’ll discuss BPD monkey branching, why it happens, and the signs to look out for.

What is BPD Monkey Branching?

BPD monkey branching is when a person with BPD starts considering other options while they’re still in a relationship. 

As we just mentioned, monkey branching is very common for people with untreated BPD especially. 

It usually starts out as emotional cheating and flirting with the intent to monkey branch as soon as the BPD person sours on their current relationship, which can happen suddenly. 

Once the BPD partner decides they no longer want to be in the relationship, they will “leap” to the new partner they’ve been cultivating behind the scenes. 

There typically won’t be closure in the primary relationship. The BPD monkey brancher will simply cut off or ghost their current partner and rapidly move into a relationship with someone else. 

A man sits on a bench with his arms around his partner while extending his hand to another woman, signifying BPD monkey branching
BPD Monkey Branching

Understanding BPD Monkey Branching and Disorganized Attachment Styles

People with BPD do not ever feel safe or secure in a relationship. According to mental health and recovery coach A.J. Mahari, this is because many people with BPD suffer from a disorganized attachment style. 

Disorganized attachment, also referred to as fearful-avoidant attachment, is a type of insecure attachment that is often characterized by fear, mistrust, and inner conflict. This usually stems from childhood trauma

People with disorganized attachment styles have an intense desire to be loved but, at the same time, are very fearful and distrustful of others, so they put up walls to protect themselves. They might find intimate relationships really confusing and swing between emotional extremes of loving their partners and devaluing them – a classic behavioral pattern of untreated BPD.

This is why many people with BPD struggle to take in another person’s love. So the BPD relationship cycle will swing back and forth between extremes.

They will start in the idealization, or BPD love bombing phase, where the BPD partner thinks you are the best thing in the world. And then there will be a sudden shift to devaluation, where you can do nothing right in their eyes. 

Sometimes it’s one devaluation split that ends the relationship, usually with the BPD person ghosting their partner. But other times, it looks more like monkey branching. 

Many people with BPD are not attached to the relationship and always have one foot out the door. The reason they’re not invested usually has nothing to do with their partner. It’s just that they can’t be. 

Never fully attaching yourself to another person is a defense mechanism, one that BPD people employ regularly. It happens with men and women equally. 

For more from A.J. Mahari on this topic, I recommend this video:

BPD Monkey Branching Shows A Lack Of Respect

People with untreated BPD really struggle with feelings of low self-worth. They don’t have respect for themselves or others. They don’t know who they are.

Because they are constantly terrified of rejection and prone to splitting, they swing from idealization into devaluation suddenly. 

Even in the love bombing phase, they don’t fully trust the connection and will keep their options open. 

Monkey branching can signify questionable moral standards and personal ethics. When combined with a low sense of self-worth and insecurity, you get these really harmful relationship patterns. 

Why People With BPD Monkey Branch:

  • They have low self-esteem and feelings of low self-worth.
  • They don’t attach fully to their partners.
  • They have a fear of abandonment but also a fear of intimacy that creates self-sabotaging behavior.
  • They suffer from dichotomous thinking, which makes them see their partners in very black-and-white terms.
  • An over-dependence on others for emotional support and validation
  • Constantly seeking external sources of happiness.
  • Expecting partners to solve their deeply rooted, internal problems. 
  • An inability to accept another person’s love.
  • Not trusting themselves or others.
  • Being hyper-focused on their fears and insecurities.

When people are not getting treatment for their BPD, these problems grow and intensify.

For many people with BPD, this looks like acting impulsively and cycling through extreme emotional swings. And this can lead to very regrettable behavior, like ghosting one relationship in favor of a new one. 

The irony is that many people with BPD exhibit behaviors they are terrified of experiencing from other people.

BPD Emotional Dysregulation

Emotional dysregulation is when someone struggles to manage their emotions in a healthy way.

It can occur in response to various internal or external triggers and manifest in a range of emotional responses, such as intense anger, anxiety, depression, irritability, or mood swings.

Because people with BPD don’t know how to manage what they’re feeling when they get emotionally dysregulated, they externalize everything. That means they place the blame for their frenzied internal state onto external factors like their partners. 

In relationships, that looks like a BPD person believing their partner is at fault for causing all these feelings and internal chaos.

It’s not true, but that’s the story they tell themselves.

And then what naturally happens next is they think, “Well, I’ll just be with this other person, and all of these feelings will go away. Things will be better with someone else.”

Signs Your BPD Partner Might Be Monkey Branching

These signs don’t 100% guarantee your borderline partner is monkey branching, but they are things you should pay attention to. 

  • They are on their phone a lot. If you notice their cell phone habits change, they’re texting more or being more secretive about their screens, this is a red flag of monkey branching. 
  • They are vague about where they go. If your partner is unusually vague or cryptic about where they are or where they have been, it could mean they are starting to meet with somebody don’t want you to know about, like a future partner. This could be a sign that a digital relationship is being taken offline. 
  • They go out more than usual. If your BPD partner’s social life starts changing and they’re going out more without you, that could be a sign of monkey branching. You’ll sense that they are lying about where they’re going, and it will feel very suspicious. 
  • They’re very secretive. If your partner has quiet BPD, this can be harder to ascertain because they are already inclined towards withdrawing internally and withholding. For this sign, you’re looking for changes in behavior. If your partner has not typically been secretive but starts behaving that way, something is probably up. 

Do BPD monkey branchers come back?

It’s not unusual for BPD monkey branchers to return to their original partner and try to lure them back into a relationship. This is known as hoovering. 

Sometimes the partners don’t even know their BPD ex monkey branched. Maybe they were ghosted, and their ex shows back up with their tail between their legs, desperate for a second chance. 

This becomes an awful cycle because people with untreated BPD will almost always find their new, monkey-branched relationship unfulfilling. And if an ex struggles with codependency issues, they will be more inclined to take that BPD partner back.

And round and round we go. The cycle repeats. 

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What To Do If Your BPD Partner Monkey Branches:

If your BPD partner monkey branches, please know it is not your fault, and you don’t deserve what happened. 

Monkey branching is a cowardly way to move on to a new relationship. If you’re on the receiving end, you know just how painful and disorienting it can be. 

The first thing you should do is talk to your support network about what happened and lean on them. Let them lift you up. 

Take time for yourself, and don’t be afraid to talk to a counselor if you struggle to process what happened. Many people struggle to move on from the trauma of dating someone with BPD and need extra support.

Sometimes we also have our issues to work through. If you feel like you have a codependent or trauma-bonded relationship with your ex, this is a great opportunity to work through that with a trained professional. 

Lastly, cut all ties with your ex.

It is very likely they will try to come back, but it won’t be the fairy tale reunion you envision. This cycle will repeat, especially if your partner is not actively seeking counseling to treat their BPD.

Even if they do start counseling, it will take time for them to make progress. You should not get back into a relationship during this process. 

This is a hard thing to go through, but you will be able to move on and trust again. Not every relationship is like this, and you deserve happiness. 

For more on BPD and difficult relationships, check out these resources:

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