Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can have a huge effect on your personal relationships. As the partner of someone with PTSD there are many things you can do to lessen the effects of this disorder in your relationship.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD is an anxiety-related disorder that develops after a person experiences (or witnesses first-hand) a traumatic event. Untreated, it can render an individual unable to cope with everyday life. Note: not everyone who experiences or witnesses a traumatic event will develop PTSD.
PTSD has very significant symptoms and must be diagnosed by a doctor or mental health professional.
Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Reliving the event in the form of nightmares or flash backs. Your partner may experience “triggers” (i.e., sights, smells, situations, or sounds that cause the flashback to occur).
- Avoiding situations that resemble traumatic events. Your partner may avoid crowds, driving, being alone with another person, or other activities of daily living.
- Experiencing undesirable changes in beliefs or feelings. Where your partner was once optimistic and upbeat, they might now be cynical and angry. They might feel perpetually unsafe and view the world as an evil, dangerous place.
- Feeling anxious or wound up. Your partner might have difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, might be easily startled, or might not want people standing behind them.
How PTSD Can Affect A Relationship
People with PTSD often experience difficulty with closeness, trust, communication, and problem-solving. You might notice that your partner has become less affectionate, that they withdraw suddenly and for no apparent reason, that they refuse to open up about things that are bothering them, or that they are increasingly angry. These can take a toll on your relationship and can have you feeling left out and helpless.
Tips On Helping A Partner With PTSD
Here are a few things you can do to support yourself, your partner, and your relationship:
- Take care of yourself. This is the most important thing you can do to help your relationship. Find ways to relieve your stress and frustration. Take time to unwind and do things that make you happy. This will help you be stronger for your partner when friction occurs.
- Get educated about PTSD. Learning as much as you can about what your partner is experiencing can help you develop empathy for their disorder.
- Be patient. It can take a long time for things to get to a place that seems to feel okay. Learning to deal with one thing at a time and realizing that things will not always go smoothly can help both you and your partner through tough times.
- Try to keep things as normal as possible. Do the things that used to make you happy as a couple.
- Don’t force your partner to talk about it. Often times, talking about the traumatic event can bring forward feelings of humiliation, disgust, fear, or despair. Give your partner the space they need to recover.
- Let your partner drive the bus! Instead of forcing or steering your partner into doing things you think will make them feel better, let them take charge. Your partner knows exactly what it is that makes them feel safe and secure. Let them guide.
- Accept and love them. There will be times you have feelings that you would never want to admit. Just know it is normal and it doesn’t mean you don’t love your partner, you just don’t love what has happened.