do you have a supportive partner? what does that support look like for you?

sidptitala

Confident
I'm having some relationship problems. I met my current partner after I had developed ptsd from my personal life, but after I had healed a little from the worst of it too. I experienced subsequent traumatic events during the relationship (but not caused by it). I think my response to these events was to double down in the relationship and become my partner's codependent little helper. I stopped looking for emotional support and tried to give it instead.

Now, I am in the position where we are in a long term relationship but I don't feel emotionally safe enough to share what I'm going through with her (and I also want to protect her from it) although she knows that I have finally gotten diagnosed, was hospitalised etc this year. Her expectations for emotional support are a lot for me, and she doesn't return that care. I'm struggling in particular with behaviours that really trigger me- when I've asked her before not to do them, she does them more (so I have avoided telling her what triggers me to get her to stop using that stuff to punish me if we argue). She says she doesn't do any of this on purpose and I believe her (I think this behaviour is unconscious). But it really, really makes my ptsd worse. I'm realising I have been able to heal to the extent that I have because we are long distance and some of my own problems, feelings etc have come back into the centre of my life because hers are further away.

I'm curious if anyone has had a relationship like this before. I've tried searching online but I keep finding articles titled things like 'How to support your partner with PTSD' and frankly, there is no way I can ask her to do any of these things for me, because she feels I owe her for the care I haven't been able to provide this year. I haven't found any articles about 'How to support your non PTSD partner when you have PTSD'.

Im wondering how other people here navigate relationships. Have you managed to have mutually supportive relationships? Have you been able to ask your partners to support you and what does that look like?
 
1. Relationships are partnerships. Everything is given, nothing is owed. Support can be physical, mental, whatever but it is given - not taken - not made - not owed.

2. You don't use your partners vulnerabilities against them ever ever ever. (unless they have ticklish knees....) That is simply abusive and a "power and control" move. Narcissism at its basest level.

3. When they need you you drop everything to help them and vice versa. End of question.

4 Emotional support can be going out of your way to help when your partner needs help. Stand beside them, in front of them, give them a hug, whatever you can to let them know you are there for them. Ask to help when they are having a hard time. Do things they have problems doing. Make their life easier. It's being selfless in helping them. No score card, no that's your problem, its our problem.

5 Don't fight. Stop - walk away - cool off. When you cool off - define the problem, define the solution. Never be to proud to say you screwed up, take ownership of your mistakes.

6 Last but most important - never ever speak badly of your partner. Ever. Even as a joke. What you think and say becomes what you believe about that person.

Just passed out 36th anniversary this month. I have had ptsd since before I met her. She is the most wonderful, helpful, and supportive person. I am fortunate to have her as my wife.
 
I think relationships have phases. some wonderful, some more difficult. and it's about how you navigate those and what you think is worth compromising on and what feels like too much of a sacrifice and whether that sacrifice is going on for too long.

Just celebrated 19 years together this week. I would say I feel very supported by her (just talking to her just now about my therapy session today and my feelings about my therapist and how I am upset with my therapist: for a partner to hear and understand their partner's feelings about another person is pretty impressive support in my view). I would also say we have had our ups and downs and at times I have wondered if that was the end of the road (e.g when she was made redundant and we had a really difficult few months etc). Nothing stays the same, and that includes relationships. So perhaps view this time in your relationship as a phase, something that can change and evolve depending on what you both do.

in terms of behaviours you have asked her to stop and she continues, i would say two things. It's really hard to stop behaviours, so it's not necessarily a sign of bad care but how hard it is to change how people are. And secondly, our triggers are ours to manage and asking people to stop doing something (I;m not sure what the behaviour is but it might be quite 'normal' for her) so that we can manage our triggers is going to be challenging and create resentment when they aren't consistent with that. You might be better off managing your triggers and putting in a strategy for how you cope, rather than her changing.
when you say she uses that stuff to punish you, what does that mean? Is that emotionally abusive?

So, what does support look like to you?

i would agree mostly with @Freddyt 's list, the only caveat i would have is the "when they need you , drop everything". As that may not always be possible. And sometimes it might be about what you're able to give them in the moment, when another time you may be able to drop everything to attend to them. If you're both going through something, you can't always give 100% and you have to keep something for yourself.
 
As that may not always be possible. And sometimes it might be about what you're able to give them in the moment, when another time you may be able to drop everything to attend to them. If you're both going through something, you can't always give 100% and you have to keep something for yourself.

......it was meant to indicate a level of honesty and unselfishness. "Need you" is really need you, not "want" you or to manipulate you, like the boy who cried wolf. While you can't always give 100% you can give what you got to give.
 
with my 43rd anniversary just past, i have been with my current partner for 62% of my life. our relationship is exponentially more complex than either one of our lives, individually. some days it's great, some days it's a nightmare, most days it's a mix between the extremes. in our case, a supportive relationship looks like doing what we can, when we can and trusting each other on the days where we each need to lean on our personal networks.

love is a mystery. the less i worry about understanding ^it^, the more energy i seem to have to just love, flaws and all.
 
My husband does not really understand PTSD, he had never heard of it until I explained it to him and he did some research. He is not from the UK and comes from a country where generally there is significantly less mental health awareness and understanding. Despite that he supports me by empathising, being patient, listening and giving me space when I need it. Sometimes when people don't fully get something they may make a comment that seems insensitive or can add to the feeling of not being seen which is particularly difficult when feeling dissociative or overwhelmed mentally. So for me, the way it works is that I know I have my closest two friends who I can turn to who actually really do get because they have had similar experiences themselves and I accept and understand that my husband is there for me and loves, cares and respects me as I do him, but that there are times when I need to check in with someone who really gets it to help me if I am feeling immobilised or overwhelmed.
 
My husband and I just celebrated our 46th anniversary. He had no idea what a nut job he was getting when he married me! He has been a prince through all of my PTSD "episodes", my horrible breakdown and hospitalizations, my dysfunctional family, and my resulting physical health problems. In the process we raised four incredible children who are now successful adults who have gifted us with 11 equally incredible grandkids (so far). I credit my awesome husband with a huge role role in my healing and the wonderful (although sometimes still painful) life I live today. He has been patient, unselfish, loving, humorous when necessary, stable, helpful, and always compassionate. I got a winner. 💜
 
Thank you all for your replies to this. It has given me a lot to think about. I have been feeling overwhelmed about this whole thing and almost trying to avoid engaging with the fact that it's happening. It could be one of those rocky phases where we each have to try and assemble support outside of the relationship, and it could be the end of the relationship. But it isn't sustainable as it is anymore.

I think that our dynamic can be summed up like this: she struggles to talk about her feelings and tries to ignore them as much as possible. Since we've known each other she has been addicted to work. Part of this comes from a history of depression, which was stopped pharmaceutically rather than through therapy- and the fear that if she stops working she'll become depressed again. She says she's worried that if she lets in any emotion, emotion will take over. I have sometimes perceived this as a kind of emotional arrested development- she can quite regularly express emotion but doesn't want to or know how to talk about it. For example, she might shout at me about how I never want to help her with xy or z, and will deny that she is shouting because she's overwhelmed. It's simply and only because I've done or not done something which is objectively bad.

For me, I grew up with abuse and specifically I grew up being physically hurt because my parent was overwhelmed or upset about something. In my teenage years I learned to anticipate violence from my parent and would try to avoid this outcome by trying to explain to him that he was only hurting both of us, that I could understand him better if he just told me how he felt (which met contempt and laughter and him saying that feelings were gay) and i ploughed all the energy I didn't have into being a better child for him to avoid violence (which didn't work). When these efforts failed, I went limp.

Even though my partner isn't violent with me, I still respond to her like I did to the abusive parent- by trying to empathize and help her figure out her feelings. But she doesn't really want to understand her feelings, and if shouting at me or telling me to leave the house in the night helps her discipline me without having those conversations, it's great as far as she is concerned.

But it's not great for me. If you don't want me to do or say something, shouting at me is a great strategy. I will internalise and never forget the things which were shouted, I will try and 'behave well' to prevent this from happening. I'm only truly realising now how much this still affects me.

I know these dynamics are making my ptsd worse and preventing me from healing from it. But I'm struggling to know what I can do to avoid doing exactly what I did as a victim of abuse- being on hyperalert, frantically explaining myself, empathising too much, and simply going limp and accepting what's happening, then using it to hate myself later.

What does support look like to me? I suppose it looks like the commitment to learn how to help each other heal by having respectful conversations about how we feel. Like not expecting me to read her mind, anticipate her moods, or suffer her shouting or blame.

I suppose what I can do is try to know myself and my good qualities better so that when she says something about me, I can try to evaluate whether it's true instead of assuming that if someone said it, it must be.
 
I meant to come back here as I had read something interesting: a woman said she thought of herself as kind, patient and generous (and humble too lol) until she got married. She realized it was a lot different to be kind, patient and generous on her own terms, when she chose to be. And then she said she could return to the solitude of her home, which was her safe space. It was exponentially harder to do those things when she didn't feel like it or the situation called for her to choose between truly focusing on her partner or her own needs/ wishes, and that she no longer had the escape to retreat to afterwards.

I think that's the difference of knowing a tomato is a fruit (knowledge) but not putting it in a fruit salad (wisdom)!

I know these dynamics are making my ptsd worse and preventing me from healing from it. But I'm struggling to know what I can do to avoid doing exactly what I did as a victim of abuse- being on hyperalert, frantically explaining myself, empathising too much, and simply going limp and accepting what's happening, then using it to hate myself later.

What does support look like to me? I suppose it looks like the commitment to learn how to help each other heal by having respectful conversations about how we feel. Like not expecting me to read her mind, anticipate her moods, or suffer her shouting or blame.

I suppose what I can do is try to know myself and my good qualities better so that when she says something about me, I can try to evaluate whether it's true instead of assuming that if someone said it, it must be.
Unfortunately I get this. Boundaries are a must, but if you're able so is agency.

I think (for myself) now maybe all the insults are true, but what does it matter. Though I have zero expectation that such a supportive partner exists in reality.

If you have a choice in the matter I would really look hard at whether she will discuss this, or is unwilling or incapable (or undesirous) to do so:

Even though my partner isn't violent with me, I still respond to her like I did to the abusive parent- by trying to empathize and help her figure out her feelings. But she doesn't really want to understand her feelings, and if shouting at me or telling me to leave the house in the night helps her discipline me without having those conversations, it's great as far as she is concerned.

But it's not great for me. If you don't want me to do or say something, shouting at me is a great strategy. I will internalise and never forget the things which were shouted, I will try and 'behave well' to prevent this from happening. I'm only truly realising now how much this still affects me.

She is also not your parent. And you are equals.

I am sorry it is so difficult for you.
 
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