AITA? Got vulnerable with my partner and feeling hurt about his response to my request

inthisguise

New Here
Just found this site and this is my first post here.

Without going into too much detail, I recently entered EMDR therapy for CPTSD. My partner is a practicing therapist who is typically very good about not treating me like a patient, and he's also been through CPT for his own CPTSD.

Last night, he broached a conversation about ways he's observed me disassociating over the last few days. To be clear, it wasn't just a conversation about what he's observed; it was also him expressing how he is feeling shut out and hurt by my behavior.

I've been practicing several techniques my therapist has taught me to self-regulate better so while he was talking I was breathing and counting backward in my head because I felt myself becoming defensive. I really tried and was able to empathize with what he is experiencing, but it was really, really hard to do because of my automatic defensiveness.

Since that conversation and into this morning, I was rolling the whole thing around in my head. I realized that my defensiveness comes from fear; that when someone is critical of me, I get incredibly fearful that it means I've finally gone and ruined everything and they are going to leave. My gut reaction is to defend myself as a way, I suppose, of convincing them that all is not what it seems, that I'm not at fault as a way, I guess, of convincing them to stay. I know it doesn't make logical sense, really, but it's the best description I can string together of what it feels like.

So, I had a conversation with him this morning (after a long time of screwing up the courage to do so) and I told him all of this. With lessons from our couples counseling, I was careful to speak in "I" statements and ask for what I wanted. I told him that I value when he is able to point out to me when I'm numbing out/disassociating, that I know it's vital to my healing, and I asked him to do one thing for me - I asked if he would please also reassure me that he's not leaving when he starts these conversations with me. I think that if I heard that - at least for right now, in the very early stages of trauma recovery and just learning coping techniques and how to control my default reactions - it would be very helpful to quiet the fear spiral and help me to better hear what he is saying, so it doesn't feel like there is a war going on in my head.

He replied that he needed to think about it because he wasn't sure it was the most healthy thing for me.

Now I'm even more upset. I'm feeling so raw because I made myself be vulnerable with him and asked for what I think will help, and he responded with what sounds to me like, "I'll be the judge of what's best for you," which just makes me angry on so many levels. I expressed this to him and he said that if he didn't feel it was healthy for me, he'd be hurting himself.

So, for the last several hours I've just been questioning the whole thing and I feel like I'm spinning out of control. I keep trying to tell myself that he loves me and that is why he responded that way, but I also just want him to trust that I know what will best help me and that I don't want him as therapist determining the healthiness of something I ask for. I want a partner who respects my request for something I think will help while I'm learning to navigate all of this, and I'm pissed that having been through some intense treatment himself, he doesn't get that. From my understanding, CPT is very different from EMDR and while I'm not questioning the efficacy of CPT, I don't think he can take assumptions from that form of therapy and apply them to my situation. And, yes, I realize exposure to things that trigger my automatic reactions is necessary, but I'm trying to find ways to help me stick with this and through all of this painful process of healing.

I am sitting here wondering if I am indeed the asshole in this situation and I just don't see it because of where I am emotionally at the moment. Any insight from those who've encountered similar situations is much appreciated.
 

inthisguise

New Here
I've heard of "CBT" but what's "CPT"?

Do you have a therapist at the moment?
Yes, I have a therapist and I'm in the process of EMDR treatment.

CPT is Cognitive Processing Therapy and is specifically indicated for PTSD and CPTSD treatment. My husband had fantastic results in his treatment, but I don't think it would be as effective for me as I've blocked some of my traumatic experiences, and 2 others occurred when I was drugged (so I only remember snippets). With CPT you are working toward changing your thoughts about the experiences and yourself and, not remembering some of mine, I don't believe it would be as effective.

With EMDR you are working on the feelings that arise when you are triggered or experience flashbacks and, in a sense, reprogramming your how your body responds. EMDR emulates REM sleep which is the repair phase of sleep.
 

Freddyt

MyPTSD Pro
I just went through this subject with my T this morning.

My brain with PTSD has it's alarm switch tripped. That means all my input goes through the fight flight freeze part of my brain first.

In a normal brain that input goes through complex scrutiny by the brain and can be funny, sad, angry, etc.

My PTSD brain can only assign input a level of fear or anxiety. That's all it understands.

No matter what is said to me my brain assigns it a level of anxiety. Even when my wife talks to me it happens. Not only that, PTSD gave us all a little executive dysfunction that adds dysphoria to the conversation.

In short - when you feel like a conversation is negative, is it your PTSD that is coloring what you hear? I know for me, my PTSD lies to me. All the time - it lies to me. It tells me fear and anxiety where there should be none. Everyone near me knows I may stop them and ask for clairity because my PTSD affects what I hear.
 

FauxLiz

Sponsor
He replied that he needed to think about it because he wasn't sure it was the most healthy thing for me.
@inthisguise I am not a therapist and I can't speak for your partner but, I am working through CPT with my therapist and have attempted EMDR so I am familiar with both therapy modalities, however with my experience in CPT I am not sure why you think his response is some how related to that modality. Yes, it does have the individual challenge their "stuck points" or cognitive distortions but what you requested which was asking that he reassure you that he was not leaving you before he started conversations with you that were triggering does not challenge your stuck point but is meant to help you with your healing.

I agree with @somerandomguy that partners are free to accept or deny requests but I can't agree that how your partner chose to say what he did was not detrimental to you in that moment. You mentioned that you are in couples counseling, I think that this situation needs to be brought up there, as a partner, your partner needs to remember to take off their therapist hat when they have interactions with you otherwise there is a power differential in the relationship similar to what exists in the therapy room.
 

HealingMama

Sponsor
So, the therapy world likes to say that reassurance seeking from anxiety should not be placated because then you learn to keep pushing the button for the reward instead of learning to self soothe. Many of us who are anxiety prone seek other people to help us regulate our emotions. Ultimately we need to learn to rely more on ourselves (just as avoidant inclined people would need to learn to rely on others more, following the same model of "what ideal coping looks like"). I assume that is why he said what he said, but I could be wrong.

But, you are at the early stage of trauma recovery and made a request to help mitigate what is probably a very big trigger (since it is for most people that have it at all). I think that's a totally fair ask.

You are right to want your requests respected, and to want to be able to own the space for what feels helpful to you. While he may or may not do it, it's perfectly reasonable to want him to treat you like a partner and not be paternalistic.

He isn't doing anything wrong by not agreeing to do what you want, but I think it's fair to be irritated that he's thinking of you in a client type of way vs a partner which for most of us is more like a peer than an authority. Him approaching it that way introduces a weird power differential that turns it into something more than just one person asking a partner to support them. He may think he knows better than you what you need, but he may be wrong and that's presumptuous and invalidating if it is the position he holds.

I see nothing wrong with him refusing but understand why you're upset about the motivation behind it.
 

inthisguise

New Here
So, the therapy world likes to say that reassurance seeking from anxiety should not be placated because then you learn to keep pushing the button for the reward instead of learning to self soothe. Many of us who are anxiety prone seek other people to help us regulate our emotions. Ultimately we need to learn to rely more on ourselves (just as avoidant inclined people would need to learn to rely on others more, following the same model of "what ideal coping looks like"). I assume that is why he said what he said, but I could be wrong.

But, you are at the early stage of trauma recovery and made a request to help mitigate what is probably a very big trigger (since it is for most people that have it at all). I think that's a totally fair ask.

You are right to want your requests respected, and to want to be able to own the space for what feels helpful to you. While he may or may not do it, it's perfectly reasonable to want him to treat you like a partner and not be paternalistic.

He isn't doing anything wrong by not agreeing to do what you want, but I think it's fair to be irritated that he's thinking of you in a client type of way vs a partner which for most of us is more like a peer than an authority. Him approaching it that way introduces a weird power differential that turns it into something more than just one person asking a partner to support them. He may think he knows better than you what you need, but he may be wrong and that's presumptuous and invalidating if it is the position he holds.

I see nothing wrong with him refusing but understand why you're upset about the motivation behind it.
That is it exactly. I'm not saying he can't refuse me - I respect his autonomy. I'm saying his stated reasons for doing so make it feel like he doesn't trust and respect me as a partner, when my understanding from my therapist is that I can and SHOULD ask for reasonable accommodations while I'm in these very early stages of the healing process. I'm in a place where I'm just learning more adaptive coping mechanisms. My ask was to help me really hear what he's saying without my auto-pilot default mechanisms kicking in as they still often send me into freeze where I can't really hear or process anything. I was clear that I'm not asking him to do this forever, just for now.

I'm headed to my therapist today. He and I talked more last night and it's clear he doesn't get how paternalistic it's coming off, and I need to check my assumptions with her to make sure I've not misunderstood. I guess it's what you summed up in the first paragraph except I AM more avoidant than anxiety prone so it was a BIG thing for me to get vulnerable enough to ask in the first place, and his refusal on those particular grounds felt like a slap in the face.
 
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