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How to be his "safe person"?

Discussion in 'Supporter Relationships' started by Devoted2EV, Jan 11, 2018.

  1. Devoted2EV

    Devoted2EV New Member

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    Hello! This is my first post on here so forgive me for how long this post will be. I'm sure much of my questions and confusion was addressed in similar posts in the forum but I thought it might be best to share my experience with you all (a venting session if you will).

    Here's my situation:
    I've loved a man whom I've worked with in the past, for nearly six years now. Our relationship formed rather quickly and unexpectedly into what it is now: beautifully complex. He's a very compassionate and kind-hearted man. He's the perfect dreamer with a touch of realism that makes him genuine and rare. He truly inspires me and supports my decisions and objectives.

    This amazing man; however, has many personal demons that are seemingly triggered around the winter months. He would have somber episodes of guilt and shame that would be randomly resurrected at times where we would bond with one another. I'm a huge talker, and I love to tell him every little thing about my day, about how I feel; he soaks it in for the most part and is often quiet but I always took that as being a part of his personality (being simplistic). After a few years, I started to notice his patterns of withdrawals from me. He'd ghost me for weeks and his moods would dangle from a pendulum. At first, he told me that he had seasonal depression. I have seasonal depression, so some of his symptoms and what I'd observe of him didn't seem very typical of seasonal depression, but I didn't want to pry with questions since I made those mistakes in the beginning of our relationship.
    Naturally when you're getting to know someone, you ask questions. When I'd ask him about his family and childhood, that's when the sails would take a turn south into a dark storm.
    He'd reveal his past in puzzle pieces where I was left to collect and configure. I never knew if I'd complete HIS picture or what I perceived since I was given so little detail, but when he would purge it out, it was heavy and grim. He came from a severely abused childhood, filled with inappropriate sexual undertones, was sexually, physically, and mentally abused. I knew that I wasn't dealing with seasonal depression...I suspected that he may have PTSD since he'd almost go in a trance when he'd share these traumatic moments with me, but I just wasn't sure, and I was fearful to ask since he is very sensitive. Usually after he'd purge, we'd have a very sweet and close moment of bonding...but the next day, he'd be extremely cold and would withdraw from me, sometimes for weeks at a time.
    I like for him to feel that he's steering us. I don't want to diminish his potential by how he acts sometimes when he's reliving his moments. He has NEVER said an ill word to me, but he will self-loathe and call himself a monster, a demon, worthless, a nothing, a nobody.... I don't know how to help him since we have a very unconventional relationship that is long-distant (so I'm unable to have physical contact with him often).

    January is the worst of all winter months. He completely withdraws from me for weeks at a time. Yesterday I was in for a bit of a shock...I was a bit down about our relationship and told him that I think it's best that we try to work on ourselves. He agreed, painfully, and then had a bit of an episode, and told me after 6 years that he has PTSD. I'm a little shocked since he chose to tell me now...he says he lives in fear daily and that he feels extensive shame.

    I'm reading literature on PTSD to better our relationship and my understanding for him, but since he told me that he has PTSD, he has withdrawn from me and I'm afraid that I'll have to deal with what I had been the past two Januarys where he will ghost me for several months of no contact. When I told him I loved him a few years back, he withdrew terribly too. I used to think he was being humble when I'd praise him or show him affection, but reevaluating those moments show me that those were all eminent signs of someone with PTSD. He wouldn't let me give him pleasure (romantically) yet he was eager to show me. He's selfless and sacrificial and feels so undeserving of love. He often tells me that he views me very highly and that I'm on a pedestal.

    **Should I tell him right now that I am reading literature on PTSD so that we can walk this battle together? Or would that make him withdraw from me even more? **

    I used to believe that something I'd say or talk about would trigger a depressive episode with him and he'd constantly tell me that "it's not you, it's me." He has a very difficult time expressing himself into words and a hard time comprehending and mapping his inflictions, but he shows so much love and gratitude by his actions.
     
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  3. B.J.

    B.J. Policy Enforcement Banned

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    This is so amazing! I was about to turn in and I found your post. First, I would like to welcome you. Second, your story is so closely related to mine with my ex telling me he didn’t really like me praising his looks because it reminded him of what his perpetrators used to say. He would withdraw at times but I didn’t know what it was at the time. He is also very humble and kind-hearted and giving to a fault. He comes from a some-what dysfunctional family, so I expect him to behave somewhat strangely. Our relationship started in December of 2016; I’ve known him for about 7 years and I’m also 16 years older than he is. He has a history of child-hood sexual, mental and emotional abuse and he would share some of his story with me at times, but I didn’t pry; it was all up to him.

    I will say that I learned a while ago through reading, that it’s always good to allow them to lead in conversations (especially about them). I found that less is more, so I only give when allowed, and I only speak on subject he feels comfortable with, I also will have to set boundaries with him on what I can handle and what I can accept. I would let him know that I was researching material to be more supportive to him and just leave it there, don’t expect a reply or conversation. Again, this relationship is gonna require a lot more of you giving and leading than him giving or leading. Be prepared to for disappointments and irrational behavior; it’s a part of who he is.

    Before I end, I feel as if I stumbled on something in your post about winter and January being months that may call for ghosting. My ex and I started dating last winter and it didn’t seem to be a problem, however, I noticed a withdrawal starting in November and he ghosted right before Thanksgiving and we really haven’t had a real conversation since then, nor have I seen him since then. He did text me that he apologizes but he couldn’t see me or speak with me and he needed more time. So now, I just send emails and texts sometimes, not a lot, with me checking on him and making sure he’s ok. I think he appreciates that; although I’m not sure. Thank you for sharing your story; it actually gave me some insight and made me feel hopeful.
     
  4. EveHarrington

    EveHarrington _______ in progress. Premium Member

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    If you don’t already have the traits in you already to be a safe person, you will never be a safe person.

    Be honest. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be consistent. Don’t play games. Respect his boundaries, always.

    You can’t force safety on anyone. (Lesson number one.)

    Safety either develops or it doesn’t.

    You can’t walk the battle with him. You can support him as he walks the battle. This is an important distinction.

    But most of all, don’t force safety. Don’t push yourself as a safe person. He may never fully trust you, or trust may take a long time to build.

    On the flip side, the idea of being someone’s safe person——it WILL devastate him if you are “the” safe person and then you walk away. I had someone do this to me. I’m battling my way back from hell right now. It’s not likely that I’ll find anyone to be “safe” anytime soon.
     
  5. Devoted2EV

    Devoted2EV New Member

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    B.J. THANK YOU for your insight and for allowing me and others to know a bit about your experiences — it's humbling to me. Much of what you said mimics my current relationship, and is somewhat haunting in ways, especially when you mentioned.
    He starts to pull away from me in November and it peaks in January...then he will slowly come back to me and is more receptive in late Spring and early Summer.

    Because I was ignorant on what PTSD entails, I thought that his seasonal depression was the culprit to some of my concerns, especially the continuous year-by-year cycles that tests our relationship.

    Last year, we decided to mutually part. I had a bit of a breakdown in January, lost some weight, would go into crying spells throughout the day — it was extremely difficult to function without messaging him just to see if he was okay. He appreciated me reaching out prior for the most part, and as you mentioned about your ex, he also has a habit of not reciprocating texts and emails but I know he appreciates it since he would continue to follow through into the relationship. After several months of not speaking, he came back to me in late march and told me that he was sorry and needed time...he reiterated that he still needs time.
    When I'm very "clingy" or overly sensitive (I really am hyper emotional) I think it used to trigger parts of his past, specifically his mother since she didn't act like a mother or guardian. I think he felt responsible over caring for his unstable mother since early childhood. He didn't have an ounce of nurturing and was often left to fend for himself.
    Now that he has let me in somewhat by telling me a diagnosis, I'm starting to re analyze certain moments in our relationship where he'd withdraw severely...but I am feeling responsible over him pulling away. I keep crying about it and thinking that I caused him to relive hellish moments from his past. He tells me that he pulls away because he's a monster and that he wants to feel whole. He thinks I'm too good for him and thinks very highly in a way that makes me uncomfortable sometimes.
    I want to help him believe in himself and to build more confidence in him. He really believes that he is undeserving of any kind of pleasure or happiness.
     
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  6. Devoted2EV

    Devoted2EV New Member

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    Is it normal that I wonder or doubt if he considers me safe?

    Most of the time I *think* that I am. He tells me he has nobody to talk to, that he's never been able to be this close to anyone, and that he doesn't have any real friends (they're friends that he's had from childhood who grew apart from him and who have differing life priorities than him. He says that their relationships were always surfaced). He makes himself out to be a difficult person, often labels himself as a bad communicator (although I don't think so since I usually get the gist of what he's expressing).

    Thank you for telling me that I can't walk the battle alongside him. I know that I'll never understand what he feels or thinks and I never meant to sound pompous in regards to that. I just really love him and see so much more than what he thinks he is.
     
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  7. B.J.

    B.J. Policy Enforcement Banned

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    I hope we can continue to speak and compare notes. It’s refreshing to speak with someone who cares.
     
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  8. Devoted2EV

    Devoted2EV New Member

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    We definitely can continue! Thanks for replying and for your thoughts. :)
     
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  9. Friday

    Friday Raise Hell Moderator

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    No idea. Some people love that. Some hate it. Some don’t care one way or another. Which might he be? No possible way for any of us to know. Ditto, even if he loves it he may still pull away more; and vice versa. Whilst -as a group- we may understand PTSD better, ie be able to say WHY a certain reaction may be happening... just like you can undoubtedly look at someone with SAD and nail why they’re doing certain things, they have to do them first... you know him as a person, and a best situated after years together to predict HOW he’s likely to react. Understanding behaviors & where they come from is a very different thing from understanding a person and where they’re going. Knowing the disorder, and knowing the man? 2 very different things.

    This.

    You’ve been together 6 years. And it works for you. You find it beautiful. You’re already exactly the person you need to be, because you’ve been being yourself... and ...Across multiple arenas -friends, colleagues, lovers- the two of you work, and have been working, for quite some time now. As long as what’s been working for you continues to work for you? I wouldn’t worry too much. But if you’re expecting a penny to drop and his very well established behaviors to change at some point in the future? (If you just love him enough, wait long enough, do the right things enough, etc.) Then I would seriously re-evaluate what you want from life. Because going into a relationship wanting it to fundamentally change? Never works. Life changes people, and people change, but rarely in ways we expect, much less want them to.

    Personally, I don’t view anyone as safe, the people that I love LEAST of all.

    Whether that’s true or not for your beau? idk.

    What I would ask myself though, if I were you, is how much that matters? (To you.) for some people it’s a baseline requirement. For others, they couldn’t care less. There’s no right/wrong answer, it’s just personal preference. If being viewed as a safe person is something you need? That’s important to know. If it doesn’t matter a whit as long as // If and only if other things are present? (Trust, respect, etc.) Equally important to know.
     
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  10. Snowflakes

    Snowflakes Well-Known Member Donated

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    I’m sorry you are going through that Eve. Therein lies the trust issues with my sufferer that I talked about when I first got here. It has come out through her therapy that there was a safe person in her past that also physically abused her. This on top of the original trauma that is the root cause of her PTSD.

    Reading what @Friday wrote about whether a supporter is a safe person or not really matters. I will think about that. I don’t have a need to be a safe person from her perspective. I know my personal integrity and ethics; she will never be harmed by me in any way, shape, or form. However, it didn’t occur to me that, like @Friday , it may be something my sufferer will never need or want again.

    @Devoted2EV I see your kind heart and love towards your SO. I’m glad you’re here. As @B.J. writes......we speak and share notes because we do care.
     
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  11. Devoted2EV

    Devoted2EV New Member

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    That's a very profound statement to me that I'm going to need time to reflect on since I tend to study behavior and wonder "how this happened" rather than taking what he is as of NOW and fast-forwarding into what may become of him in his future.
    Forgive me for saying this, but even he has expressed how difficult it is to remain in a moment, when there are times that the moment carries trinkets of past experiences that bring back the past again. I get blind-sided by it and try to help him see what I see him as of right now...he just doesn't accept it. Rarely will he acknowledge it.

    I feel like we are living in a snow globe. We have a vision of how we see ourselves, and we place monuments that ornament our "picture-perfect world" and then...BAM. We are shaken to where we can't find our grounding; the storm in our own time-lapsed orb replays, while the same tune of our past is winding, twinkling softly in the background. It's haunting.

    He wants so badly to move forward, but doesn't know where to start. I will try to contemplate your statement and practice it. Thank you so much for sharing your insight because it helps me understand how to build a better support system for him and for me.

    As for the question of rating how important it is to me as to being a "safe person" to him:
    It's actually essential for me. I would want for him to feel comfortable enough to come to me whenever he is in need and for him to understand that it is okay to not go through with this alone. I will NEVER understand what is going on in his mind, but I'd want him to feel no shame around me, so long as he remains respectful of me and I of him.
     
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  12. Devoted2EV

    Devoted2EV New Member

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    Eve, I'm also very sorry that this has happened to you. It's very much unfair and I think it comes from a lack of education. When I first heard of the term PTSD, I thought it was exclusively for veterans and people from war-torn countries to experience (and 'experience' is exactly what I thought it was, which is NOTHING close to what it really is).
    People tend to dilute it and categorize it under being "depressed". They think that you can just snap out of it and may even label sufferers as being "overly sensitive" or even "attention seeking". I can't imagine what it feels like for you and I wish you peace.
     
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  13. Justmehere

    Justmehere Help support myPTSD - more info in Social forum Moderator Premium Member

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    First off, I think it’s great you are learning about PTSD.

    But, you don’t know if he has it or not.

    If a friend or partner suspected I had a specific mental health disorder and said they had been reading up on it to understand the relationship,. I’d feel bad. Overly pathologized. I’d dunno how he’d take it but that’s what it would be like for me, especially if I was already really shit down and not trying to figure it out myself.

    It would come across better to me if they said they noticed different symptoms and they wonder if I could have PTSD and suggest getting some support for it. Or looking into together. Normalize that almost everyone needs support sometimes and we’ve all got stuff and struggles eventjose with no mental illness.

    I completely disagree.

    In fact, there are a number of great books to teach someone how to be a safe person, and others on how to connect with safe people.

    It is totally possible to learn new ways of relating to others.

    It’s not an all or nothing matter.
     
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