Relationship GF of 2.5 years has CPTSD and I triggered her

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 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.” (if you’re being told your own motives, etc.).

^^^This is where an impartial 3rd party, like a marriage counselor, can be invaluable.
Hi Friday,

I understand what you are saying, with mixing past and present and how this can be dangerous. Considering how emotional she is right now I don't think now is the best time to set a boundary. As much as I would like to text her and explain that I feel awful that I upset you and your children and I would love to talk to you about it and resolve this I don't agree that it was something 'unbelievable'. As sweetpea mentioned previously, this is a typical argument that many people have, all the time and at this point it's clear she has not realized that. It's even quite possible that her oldest child has PTSD as well. And first the child was triggered, and then this triggered her. I think that's the likely course of events. But again, I can only speculate here at this stage.

I agree that counseling would be ideal. I don't think she would be opposed to it, but with lack of communication there is not much I can do at this point. However, I would say if this drags out into the next week I may just have to suggest it to her via text whether she has communicated with me or not. This is something that is a mix of misunderstanding, a minor selfish mistake on my part, and trauma response from her. It's something that I think could be resolved of the course of a few sessions of counseling. And I would say if she cannot resolve this in herself sometime in the middle of next week then getting a third party involved is the next step; if she is willing.

Thanks for all your help, and thanks to everyone so far who has been reading this. I know it's a lot.
 
The more I think about this I think my next step, regardless if she decides to communicate with me before the end of this week is counseling. I feel that even if she does decide to finally have a conversation about this I don't think she will be OK. I'm anticipating there will be boundaries and many steps taken back.

If she does not respond around Monday or so this is what I plan to say:
"<>, I love you a lot and care about you very much. I feel awful about what happened that I hurt you and your kids and would like to apologize to everyone. It hurts me that we haven't talked in more than a week. I know that you are working through the emotions of what has happened. If you still feel the same as you did last week and you are having a hard time communicating to me then I think it is time we looking into counseling. You can pick whoever you want to use. I will pay for the sessions. Please let me know if this something you are wiling to consider. I want to continue building my life with you and I think this may be the next step if you are having a difficult time being able to talk to me about what has happened."

I would say if it has been this long and that anger and other swirl of emotions is still on-going for her that professional help is needed at this stage. It's a bit unfortunate and disappointing as I was anticipating her to get past this in a few days, but it's clear she hasn't. There is no shame in going to counseling, I was just hoping it would not reach this stage where I have to suggest this to her.
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
Considering how emotional she is right now I don't think now is the best time to set a boundary.

This is exactly the time to set a boundary. She isn’t made of glass, and she’s dishing it out with no problem. You need to nip it in the bud now. If she cannot respect your boundary, then she isn’t healthy enough for a relationship.

Stop apologizing for something you didn’t do. Stop excusing crap behaviors just because she has PTSD. *She* also argued… in fact, it seems like she started it? But *you* have to belly crawl for 2 weeks because of it? Do you want to live like this forever?

I hate to break it to you… you’re going to be the designated asshole forever if you keep doing what you’re doing.

Boundaries are limits you set for yourself, not for her. It’s “I refuse to apologize for something I did not do.” You can be sorry she isn’t feeling well or whatever, but you did not abuse her by arguing, and if the kid was upset, she is just as guilty of upsetting the kid.
 

joeylittle

Administrator
The more I think about this I think my next step, regardless if she decides to communicate with me before the end of this week is counseling. I feel that even if she does decide to finally have a conversation about this I don't think she will be OK. I'm anticipating there will be boundaries and many steps taken back.

If she does not respond around Monday or so this is what I plan to say:
"<>, I love you a lot and care about you very much. I feel awful about what happened that I hurt you and your kids and would like to apologize to everyone. It hurts me that we haven't talked in more than a week. I know that you are working through the emotions of what has happened. If you still feel the same as you did last week and you are having a hard time communicating to me then I think it is time we looking into counseling. You can pick whoever you want to use. I will pay for the sessions. Please let me know if this something you are wiling to consider. I want to continue building my life with you and I think this may be the next step if you are having a difficult time being able to talk to me about what has happened."

I would say if it has been this long and that anger and other swirl of emotions is still on-going for her that professional help is needed at this stage. It's a bit unfortunate and disappointing as I was anticipating her to get past this in a few days, but it's clear she hasn't. There is no shame in going to counseling, I was just hoping it would not reach this stage where I have to suggest this to her.
I understand hoping that things wouldn't get to this stage - but, I'd encourage you to let go of that idea, because the truth is - she's not aware of her own need for professional intervention. So, it just won't come from her.

This kind of distorted thinking that she's demonstrating towards you and the relationship really does need a third party to help sort it out. Being able to communicate with a partner is just plain difficult - I think it's one of the great myths of relationships, that if the relationship is "right" somehow, everything will work out... that's just not how things work. Communication is a skill. Listening, and speaking, and exchanging views on things that deeply matter to both parties - and coming out the other side having really hear each other and accepting individual responsibility - that's not something human beings are automatically good at.

What do you think you'll do, if she refuses to see a counselor?
 
Hi Joey,

If she refuses to see counselour then I guess that is an unfortunate end of the road. She's not a person who is opposed to therapy as a solution. In fact, her children already are in therapy and she was herself. Even back when she was getting ready to leave her ex-husband she suggested they get counseling and attempts were made. But, like you said, if she says no or has some funny excuse for it and refuses to listen to my side of it then there is really nothing I can do any more for her. There's also the possiblity that maybe she already is thinking about a counselour as well but I won't know until the conversation happens.

She texted me randomly today to say she was ready to talk and wants me to meet her at her house on Saturday evening after she puts the kids to bed. We'll see what happens. I really don't know what will transpire. I'm hoping that it's legitimate communication from both sides and that we agree to work on things together as a team. I'm trying my best not to to think of the worst case scenarios which is something that is easy to do and I don't want to make that a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In response to sweetpea about my boundaries. Maybe boundary is a wrong term? I'd say more expectations. There is an expectation from me, and it was something we agreed on very early in the relationship that no matter how mad we are at each other that we will always say good morning and good night to each other. It doesn't have to be cutesy filled with a bunch of heart emojis and things like that, but it's something that helps me, makes me feel safe and better to just at least get a daily check-in. I don't know if that is called a boundary. Whatever it is, this time around she has absolutely not done this for me which hurts my feelings and this will be communicated to her as much as it's going to be hard for me.
 

scout86

MyPTSD Pro
This probably won't be useful, but a thought on "arguing in front of the kids." It took me a long time to figure out that people arguing isn't the end of the world. Usually, I think you learn that as a kid, by seeing it happen. Me? It's one of the things I learned from interacting with a therapist. My thought is, if the 10 year old sees the two of you disagree respectfully and move past it, it's a valuable lesson. You can't learn how to deal with conflict by avoiding it. You can't learn how to deal with conflict in a HEALTHY way from a narcissist either. You need a relatively sane person to practice with. Good luck!

One more thought..... You really can't learn to deal with triggers of any sort by avoiding them. You just keep narrowing your life down as you avoid more and more stuff. Getting "triggered" isn't a big deal. It's what happens NEXT that matters. "Getting triggered" is an opportunity to learn something. and practice new skills. (It's just not necessarily fun in the moment.)
 

joeylittle

Administrator
She texted me randomly today to say she was ready to talk and wants me to meet her at her house on Saturday evening after she puts the kids to bed. We'll see what happens. I really don't know what will transpire. I'm hoping that it's legitimate communication from both sides and that we agree to work on things together as a team. I'm trying my best not to to think of the worst case scenarios which is something that is easy to do and I don't want to make that a self-fulfilling prophecy.
FWIW, I think it would still be very good for you to bring up counseling for you and her.

Otherwise, you should consider what working on this as a team would look like, from your perspective, and have your thoughts on that clear, going into the meeting.
 
Hi everyone, been busy this morning and reading your messages.

Yeah, I grew up from a family that argued a lot and I always thought it was normal behaviour in long term relationships. However, when my ex-wife left me years ago I did learn there are certain levels of arguing that are acceptable and others that are not. With that said, I do agree with you that the children seeing some mild arguing/disagreements and seeing a peaceful resolution to it is a good thing. You mention narcissism which is interesting as her ex-husband has NPD and this is one of the core reasons for her trauma. Any arguing was met with gaslighting and lying and all sorts of nonsense. So it makes sense she got triggered from this. However, I do think this long term response to this is not healthy. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that her 10 year old was specifically uspet at ME for arguing with her mom and not US for arguing at each other... well, I feel awful that I made her uncomfortable, but that's a sign that she has some kind of trauma problems or other issues that need to be addressed and that is not my fault. However, I empathize for making her 10 year old sad and uncomfortable. But, I'm pretty sure her 10 year old is more mad that we were arguing and it reminded of her what it was like when my gf and her ex argued. If this is the case, then my gf is also at fault.

Dealing with triggers by avoiding them is tricky. Her coping skills that she has seem to have been taught over the past 3-4 years is all about boundary setting and recognizing she needs space to process this properly. But, as you can see, sometimes I don't think she knows "OK, I need a day to relax and think things over and then get in touch". She seems to continue just avoiding me entirely until she is ready and that's when it becomes avoidance instead of trying to be smart and walk away for a little bit, in my opinion.

I absolutely will bring up counseling. I also want it to be known to her that my feelings have been hurt over the past week. Her lack of communication hurts a lot. Even still, she is uninterested in answering simple good morning, have a good day... type of texts which I think is very unfair.

I don't know how tomorrow will go, I am hoping that OK she is mad I will apologize for my part of it, she will set boundaries that unfortunately will probably take some steps back (like me not being able to come over for soccer games, etc. for a while), but that I also calmly explain to her what I went through and that this whole situation... how it was responded and handled is not typical and we need to see a counselour about this.
 
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