My life has been nothing short of a series of roller-coasters.
From twists to turns, from loops to defying moments, much of my survival on this planet has felt like whiplash of situations that have pushed me beyond my limits.
This recurrent exposure to trauma deeply impacted my social interaction skills.
As a teenager, I had little ability to form meaningful relationships because everything was tainted by trauma. Yet, I was always the one who protected others at school.
Despite the impact of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms in my younger years and all the self-healing work I had to do, I was a very happy young mother in my early 20’s, with few inhibitions, living and loving life freely.
My life wasn’t perfect, but at least it was mine. I was a good provider for my child, but by all means not the mother I wish I could’ve been. I also had no real understanding of what a healthy relationship was. I was young.
Then, I met a man who seemed to have all the answers and, according to him, I was broken and I believed him.
So, my journey to find the person I was told I should be started by exploring a variety of therapeutic approaches a couple of times a month for several years. It was draining but eventually I felt fully ‘analyzed.’
It was quite the experience.
What did I learn? Well, I discovered many wonderful things. I realized some PTSD symptoms can actually be helpful in life.
I also learned that I had the ability to create my own construct about what constituted a healthy, loving, balanced relationship, and how anyone could create it, even those touched by PTSD.
It was a valuable lesson that took many years for me to learn.
Having a relationship with a person with PTSD who has unmanaged symptoms can be difficult, especially if the non-PTSD partner is not willing to adjust to the changes, if they’re not respectful of your trauma, and if they are controlling. It can be dangerous.
Being that person with PTSD in a relationship can be exhausting and can affect your sense of identity. People with PTSD have self-esteem problems and pairing with a controlling partner will trump your journey of self-discovery to find out who you are after trauma.
You don’t want to become what someone else thinks you should be. Your recovery needs to be an expedition of rediscovery where you are in charge of the direction that you want to take your life.
I have learned that for a relationship touched by PTSD to work, both people involved need to understand that the basics of a relationship are different and be willing to change their views and expectation levels, not impose their own.
Here are some things that can help keep balance.
Be Responsible for Your Own Emotions
If you want a healthy and balanced relationship, you must take responsibility for your own feelings and emotions. There is no other way.
Trying to make your partner feel responsible for your own happiness, self-worth, and emotional safety is not a good recipe for creating a healthy relationship.
Most people don’t understand the concept that, as adults, our emotional safety, happiness, and self-worth is rooted in how we treat ourselves and others, rather than how others treat us.
If you choose to abandon yourself rather than fully loving and valuing yourself, then you will always feel empty, unhappy, emotionally unbalanced, and will most likely have serious self-esteem issues.
Assigning responsibility for our feelings and emotions on our partner only serves to create an unbalanced and unhealthy relationship that won’t allow either partner to grow and move forward.
For a relationship to flourish, each partner must ensure responsibility for their own feelings and emotions. Ignoring feelings rather than addressing them in the present, or making others feel responsible for them doesn’t work. Emotional responsibility is vital to creating healthy relationships, especially PTSD relationships.
Learn from the Hurdles
Healthy relationships have a system of resolving and learning from conflict. In a PTSD relationship, conflict resolution must be done in a way that works for both partners.
During a problem, it might be difficult for the PTSD partner to listen attentively without getting stuck or feeling unsafe. Here, the non-PTSD partner can pitch in with patience.
A healthy relationship is one that evolves, and this is particularly true for those relationships that manage to learn valuable lessons from their conflicts. In a PTSD relationship, conflict can be an invaluable tool for learning what works and what doesn’t.
It’s important for both partners to work on setting a foundation of love and respect, so in times of conflict, the intent is to love and take personal emotional responsibility.
Trust & PTSD
Healthy relationships are those where there is trust. Each partner has confidence that their significant other will not consciously hurt them. When there is trust, partners can support each other, and the knowledge that your loved one is there brings happiness and produces happiness.
But when one partner has PTSD, trust can be a fragile thing and the road to recovering trust can be a bumpy one. PTSD robs its sufferers from many things, the ability to trust and be safe is one of the cornerstones of the disorder.
So, in the context of intimacy and PTSD, having confidence that your partner is there to support you, to love you, and to genuinely enjoy your happiness can be the catalyst for change in their ability to trust.
Healthy relationships are, generally, those where both people practice self-care, take responsibility for their own feelings and emotions, and look forward to sharing their happiness with their partner who reciprocates. When you practice self-care and love yourself, you will be able to provide true affection, be genuinely connected, and feel and give intimate warmth and love.
Romantic relationships thrive when partners can be accepting, kind, and compassionate. For a PTSD relationship to thrive, all partners need to also be empathetic.
Thankfully, most of these behaviors occur naturally if the person has learned to behave this way. But when the person has experience trauma, such as child abuse and neglect from an early age, being accepting, kind, compassionate, and empathetic becomes a huge challenge.
Don’t abandon yourself because you are currently impacted by the symptoms of PTSD. By the same token, don’t stop self-care because you are consumed taking care of your PTSD partner.
Positive behavior towards others starts with your being good to yourself. When you are kind to yourself you will enjoy being together with your partner because their well-being is not dependent on the time you spend together.
Whether you are the kind of couple who loves doing everything together or have separate interests, a healthy relationship is rooted in each person’s ability to be emotionally responsible and individually happy.