Relationship GF of 2.5 years has CPTSD and I triggered her

Hello,

My girlfriend and I have been together for about 2 and a half years now. She came from a toxic relationship of almost 15 years with an ex-husband who has NPD. They had three children together (ages 10, 8, and 6) and she left him 5 years ago. She was managing her CPTSD with therapy for quite a long time. But, about two months ago her therapist left the clinic she works at and then was in the process of starting a new practice and promised to get in touch with her to get her back on a schedule. I am unsure if that part has occurred as I have not heard anything about therapy sessions in probably about 2 months now.

I don't have PTSD myself, but I do have some depression issues as well as ADHD. I dealt with an physically and verbally abusive father and an emotionally manipulative mother. My ex-wife also physically abused (and when she was in the process of leaving me she also got physical a couple of times). I don't blame myself or have guilt for these experiences; but it has given me issues with anxiety, depression, and self-esteem from time-to-time. I do see a psychotherapist every two weeks for managing this; I also call the therapist during emergency situations that come up.

Anyways, for a bit of background info on my current relationship. My GF did tell me out of the gate that she had CPTSD and works on it and that there are things that may trigger her sometimes and that she just needs space so she can think over things and not have an emotional response. The first year we dated I wasn't allowed to meet her kids (which is a good thing, but was hard sometimes), she got triggered when I told her that I loved her and it took her about 3 days to work past that. After about a year when I started spending more time with her and the kids things were going pretty good. Once COVID started I started playing a big role in getting groceries dropped off at her door and taking on other responsibilities. The first month of COVID she was afraid to let me in the house, and I was patient with her. She shut down during this time and at one debated if it was fair to me to continue the relationship feeling guilt. We had a talk about and I promised her that I wasn't leaving her and that yes things move a bit more slowly than I would like sometimes but it's fine.

We're at a point now in the relationship where I am trusted to watch the kids if she has to run an errand, or if one of them is sick, if someone needs to babysit the house for a repairman to come in (I work remote, she does not), weekends are assumed that I come over and any activities I am invited to so I am mostly at her house 5 days a week, sometimes 6. She usually takes Friday off to spend time alone with her and the kids. I actually bought a house closer to her, about 2 minutes away, because she wanted me to be closer and asked me about looking around for something closer to her. I was previously renting and they were kicking people out of the apartment and it was time to move anyways so it all worked out well. The reason I haven't moved in with her yet is because the house is too small for all 5 of us. So the longterm plan is renovate the attic for the 10yr old to move in there to make space for me and that I rent this property out. I don't sleep over often, but I am allowed to and everyone is fine with this.

Because of her ex's NPD all of the children have a therapist they meet with weekly. The 10 year old was recently diagnosed with high functioning autism and this child is the only one who is old enough to remember any of the abuse and arguments from their father. The father is fairly absent in their lives. He goes through abuse cycles where he pretends to care about the kids for a couple of weeks then blows them off consistently for about 2-3 months. Currently he is at the bottom of this cycle and the children have only seen him once in the past two months.

(Apologies for this novel, but want to give background info so you can understand!)

Anyways, I have noticed from being with my gf usually when we enter a new stage of the relationship she gets triggered in some way and usually needs a few days to process. When this happens, she stops answering phone calls and things like that. We did agree a long time ago to always say good morning and good night texts to each other no matter what. And we have mostly stuck to that. There has been one other time she has been triggered where after she told me she needed space she didn't answer my good morning/good night texts.

So the past week my girlfriend has been in the process of starting a new job. On Monday she told me she wanted to spend time alone with the kids and I said OK, she didn't answer my phone calls early in the morning. On Tuesday she texted me good morning/good night and just said she was busy. Wednesday she did finally call me for about 20 minutes and told me she was sorting through things and to not push her. I asked her if she was mad at me, she said no but she was dealing with emotional stuff and especially guilt and fear from changing jobs and the new job starts on Friday. I asked if I was coming over on Wednesday as this was usually assumed. She said not this time. I did end up coming over in the evening for 3 minutes because I had to pick up the 10yr old from youth group while she put the other two to bed. I dropped her child off made sure the child got in the door safely and closed the door. As I walked away, my gf came out and wanted a hug and a kiss which I was not expecting but was nice. Thursday was sparse again and I let her be. Friday she called me in the afternoon said she was starting to feel better as the new job wasn't as scary as she thought it would be and she was feeling more confident about it. We talked for about 20 minutes, she told me what time I needed to meet her Saturday morning for one of the kid's soccer matches.

Saturday (yesterday) when I first got there I noticed she was pretty stressed and argumentative with the kids and me. I was kind of annoyed by this, but didn't say anything about it because I know she was probably dealing with arguing all morning trying to get them ready and out the door so we don't miss soccer. We got to soccer, things were fine, we got back home then I went to get groceries. When I got back from getting groceries we sat down to watch a movie while she worked on her college coursework. I fell asleep for an hour because I wasn't feeling too well (me and her are vaccinated btw). Not awful, but my lower back hurt and just generally felt blah. I woke up an hour later and mentioned that maybe I'm getting that cold you and everyone had 2 weeks ago. She said no its not that, and we started to argue about it a little bit and I said I work from home, I only leave the house to see you and get groceries. Maybe it was from the halloween party we had at the house last week idk. She was saying that she wanted me to leave and go home and see how I feel tomorrow. And (this is where I messed up) I started getting upset and argumentative about it. I told her that if I go home I'm just gonna nap and feel better in a couple of hours and be bored. I'm not coughing or anything like that. She said she can't afford to call in sick at her new job. And I said that I haven't talked to you or seen almost all week. I just miss you and want to spend time with you.

While this was on-going the 10yr old got triggered by this arguing and went upstairs. When my gf realized this, she started to walk after her and told me get out of her house. I looked at my gf, the 8yr old and the 6yr old and apologized. Went home. She texted me that my behaviour is 100% unacceptable to argue in front of the kids especially with what they've been through. I responded that I am sorry and would like to apologize to the 10yr old. She to just leave us alone.

I left her alone, then she texted me that evening asking about a project I was working on for her that I left in my car she needed for Saturday. She wanted it and I said do you want me to drive it over now or bring it over tomorrow. She said right now. And then she said to please leave the key to her minivan and her SNAP card (for groceries) in the minivan with the project and lock the van. I told her that I am sorry and I love her and care about her and I want to talk to her about this. The last thing she said to me was "I do not want to/am unable to discuss this presently. Please do as I ask. Thank you. We will discuss it when I am capable of doing so."

I left the stuff at her house as she asked. Got home, said good night. Did not hear anything. This morning I texted her good morning and have not heard anything either. At this point, I know what she needs is time and this will be hard for me to deal with because I think at this point it can go either way.

I'm unsure what to do next, besides just giving her space. I would like to continue saying good morning/good night texts regardless of a response as I feel it's an OK way for her to let her know I am still here for her and I am thinking about her and am ready to talk when she is. However, I have never triggered her like this before, and also the 10yr old (unknown if 10yr old has also been diagnosed with any form of PTSD) and I feel awful about it. I am not a malicious person.


If you made it through this whole thread, thanks for reading and looking forward to your thoughts/comments/questions.

**I can't edit thread but I want to mention I meant to say "My ex-wife also verbally abusive".
 
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Sweetpea76

Moderator
Welcome to the forum.

Walking on eggshells should be the official sport of PTSD supporters… Or walking through a field of rakes blindfolded. *BLAM* right in the face.

All you can do is wait it out and give her space.

However you need to stop taking the blame for her mental health. You did not trigger her. *She* was triggered. It’s happening in her head, so she is the one who is responsible for it. You had an everyday conversation that any other person has probably had 50-eleven times. You are not maliciously “abusive” and “argumentative” if you don’t agree with every thing that comes out of her mouth and don’t do exactly what she wants all the time.
 
Welcome to the forum.

Walking on eggshells should be the official sport of PTSD supporters… Or walking through a field of rakes blindfolded. *BLAM* right in the face.

All you can do is wait it out and give her space.

However you need to stop taking the blame for her mental health. You did not trigger her. *She* was triggered. It’s happening in her head, so she is the one who is responsible for it. You had an everyday conversation that any other person has probably had 50-eleven times. You are not maliciously “abusive” and “argumentative” if you don’t agree with every thing that comes out of her mouth and don’t do exactly what she wants all the time.
Hi sweetpea,

Thanks for the reply. OK, ill keep this in mind. I do have a lot of project blame and guilt to myself on this particular incident. I just want to be clear if you guys think this situation that I am in the wrong and its grounds to end the relationship on her end. I feel this is more of a trauma trigger and that I can be resolved discussing when she's ready, but who knows how long it will take.

I haven't heard from her past two days for the most part. I've been saying good morning and good night texts. She never responded. I did mention that I was spending time at my dads cabin that is 4 hours away and I'd text when I got there safely and to my surprise she replied instantly with a thumbs up. So she is reading my messages.
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
just want to be clear if you guys think this situation that I am in the wrong and its grounds to end the relationship on her end.
Nobody thinks that. You literally did nothing wrong. If she thinks that, she isn’t healthy enough for a relationship.

If she is responding, keep doing what you’re doing… Space and time to get over herself.
 
Nobody thinks that. You literally did nothing wrong. If she thinks that, she isn’t healthy enough for a relationship.

If she is responding, keep doing what you’re doing… Space and time to get over herself.
OK, I'm sure others here know it can be very trying sometimes coping with your partner who needs time to sort it out. I've been going through and reading others stories and I'm very fortunate she has not "shut down" (as I refer to it unsure the proper term) for multiple weeks at a time. I think her absolute worst has been a week.

The worst one I recall is when I told a white lie about taking time off work to make a valentine's day present for her that involved me buying artwork materials. When she found out via the neighbor that I stopped over at his house to borrow materials she didn't talk to me for about 5 days and she told me that any lie even a white lie is unacceptable because her ex husband lied to her for 15 years straight gaslighting her. I told her I will do my best to respect this. A week after this she talked to her therapist and the therapist did help her understand that I am not her ex husband and it was not malicious. However, now that is unknown to me if she is seeing a therapist currently its up in the air if she can sort this out on her own to realize that what happened this time was also not malicious.

Shes a smart person, but emotional responses can override thinking things through logically. So far she has done an amazing job.
 
Just updates to this.... I did hear from her randomly yesterday in the afternoon while I was busy. She texted "I'm less mad, but I'm still upset." and I thought about it for a couple of hours while I worked on other stuff and responded back with "Okay hun, sorry been busy. I'll be here when you're ready to talk." and then she started going into asking why I was busy and I explained what I was up to. Because of her ex's constant lying I guess this time around she just didn't trust what I was saying (which is unusual) and I offered to send her a timestamped photo of where I was, what I was doing and that it was no problem. She just replied "No, I'm going to sleep now. whatever." So i told her to have a good night, i love you and hope you had a good day.

Didn't hear anything from her this morning (again). Then told her I was leaving my dad's which is a 4 hour drive (which is where I've been the past couple of days) and said that I loved her, I missed her and that if she can text me to please do so. She responded with thumbs up. Let her know I got home safely. Heard nothing. Told her I was going to bed. Heard nothing.

Now, I'm sure she'll get over this at some point. But, now after 4-5 days straight of very little communication and trying to give her the space she needs it's really starting to hurt me more than it did at the start of this. The frustration is starting to turn into resentment and anger. I'm trying my best here, and it's really hard to not just start saying nasty things, which I have NOT done. But, this is so hard and I feel like I am totally worthless to her at this point. I know that with CPTSD you get into this emotional cycle and it can be hard to break so I'm trying to be understanding and patient as best I can but this is incredibly hard this time around. :(
 
You’re allowed to be angry. She has responsibility in all this too. Even if she has PTSD it doesn’t excuse passive aggressive behavior.

You're right. It's just hard. I want to be able to talk about this with her and move past this and get on with building our lives together, but being patient and not having an impulsive reaction to her lack of communication is very hard. This is the longest I think we've ever gone. Usually she would have been in touch with her therapist by now and have calmed down, felt safe, and been willing to call me to discuss things.

I love my girlfriend a lot, and when she is not suffering she makes me very happy. Sure we disagree on things, and nothing is perfect, but she is an amazing person full of sincere hope and care for the people she loves. She really does mean the world to me. I hope she can work herself through this soon.
 
So I did hear something again last night. This time she told me "I'm still really upset at you. I just can't believe you would upset the 10 year old like that. :( :'(. I'm still too upset to talk to you. It's just unbelievable."

All I could really respond to this was "I know you are hun, and I feel awful about what happened."

So, now we wait again.
 

Friday

Moderator
This time she told me "I'm still really upset at you. I just can't believe you would upset the 10 year old like that. :( :'(. I'm still too upset to talk to you. It's just unbelievable."
What’s unbelievable is she’s treating you like you screamed at her that she’s a psychobitch c*nt and her disgusting brats had the worst worthless piece of shit mother on the planet, and she should f*cking kill herself …AND… you’re apologizing like that’s what you did.

Unless that’s what actually happened.

If she was mad at you for cheating on her… would you just keep apologizing? Or would you refuse to co-sign crazy, and both correct her 1+1= 64; and stand up for yourself, because you don’t deserve to be treated like you cheated, when you didn't? That she may be enraged, but that doesn’t mean it’s your fault.

Either you had a normal, healthy, totally adult argument, where sure… an apology or three might be warranted….or? ….You were an abusive bastard to her, and her kids, both deserving to be treated like that’s what you did, and should be broken up with immediately.
 
What’s unbelievable is she’s treating you like you screamed at her that she’s a psychobitch c*nt and her disgusting brats had the worst worthless piece of shit mother on the planet, and she should f*cking kill herself …AND… you’re apologizing like that’s what you did.

Unless that’s what actually happened.

If she was mad at you for cheating on her… would you just keep apologizing? Or would you refuse to co-sign crazy, and both correct her 1+1= 64; and stand up for yourself, because you don’t deserve to be treated like you cheated, when you didn't.

Either you had a normal, healthy, totally adult argument, where sure… an apology or three might be warranted….or? ….You were an abusive bastard to her, and her kids, both deserving to be treated like that’s what you did, and should be broken up with immediately.

Hi Friday,

I agree it's unbelievable from her. I promise you there was no screaming and calling each other "mother f*ckers". I didn't call her kids brats, in fact her kids weren't even mentioned in this simple 3 minute argument. Actually, I love her kids I've never had a reason to think her kids are brats and I think she's a good mom! So no, that's not what happened.

I am not abusive to her, her kids, or anybody. In fact, I go out of my way to not having abusive tendencies as I experienced that growing up so I have a good idea of what NOT to do.

I still believe that this is a total trauma response to upsetting her one child and her. I think that this brought up past experiences of her and her ex-husband arguing and possibly upsetting the oldest child as that child is the one who is old enough to remember any of it. To me, this is an emotional response as I have done nothing wrong as we have stated before. The only thing I think that was wrong was that when she said "no, you should go home and rest" I should have not argued it and respected her decision even if I felt it was a bit silly. I think I should apologize to her and her children when I am given this opportunity as I do not want them to feel uncomfortable around me.

I'm trying to just give her this time and space she needs as best as I can since I believe this is mostly a CPTSD trauma response and she has not fully processed that in herself yet. Trying to stand up for myself now may only flare it up and restart this whole process and make it worse/take longer to get resolved.
 

Friday

Moderator
I still believe that this is a total trauma response
I have zero problem believing that.

My word of warning is that going along with someone else’s trauma response, rather rather than having rock solid boundaries? Does a couple of things

1. It prolongs it… because someone trusted is agreeing with you about what happened… it takes it out of the past/triggered and lands it into the present as “this IS what happened, and it’s not an overreaction to be xyz about it.”

2. Totally rational actions following irrational events follow like a line of ducklings (following a rabid polar bear). Like it’s totally rational to break up with someone who was abusive to you & your kids. The irrational part of mixing up past & present? Gets lost when it’s agreed it’s not an irrational trauma response, but something you’re totally guilty of.

I’m NOT saying that there’s any way to argue sense, when someone is triggered and irrational.

I AM saying it’s reeeeeeally important to learn to not feed the polar bear // IE not agreeing with a version of events that never happened.

It’s mostly just a <cough> simple <cough> word change… from “I’m sorry etc.” to “We’ll talk when you’re ready” or “that’s not me / not what I think / not what I feel, etc, but we can talk about that later.” (if you’re being told your own motives, etc.).

^^^This is where an impartial 3rd party, like a marriage counselor, can be invaluable… to help untangle what happened, why it happened, and provide an easy to believe reality check (abusive people ALSO tell you you’re wrong, and get you to believe it, so trusting your own judgment? Gets a bit f*cked). So half the problem isn’t fear that you’re just repeating the same mistakes all over again, and agreeing abuse WASNT abuse. Even it is ISN’T abuse. Especially once kids are involved, erring on the side of caution (not trusting the person you’re mad at)? Is one of those rational ducklings… following a polar bear.
 
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