Relationship How to get through to him?

Rosan1507

New Here
Hi all,

I want to share my story with you guys and I hope I can get some strength and advice. I'm sorry in advance for my long story ;)

I've been together for 1 year with my (now ex)-boyfriend. A couple of years ago he suffered from a big trauma with involved losing his wife. She collapsed in his arms, was in coma for months and woke up with brain damage. Like the good man he is, he wanted to take care of her because she was his wife. But she was taken away from him by family and he has never seen her again. He fought for years to get her back, but with no result. You can imagine that this has damaged him for life.

About 1.5 years ago he changed his life, moved to a new country for work and he met me. Everything was lovely, there was a big chemistry between us, and we felt save with each other. We were both very happy and everything went well. I knew things about his past, so he was open about that. But we never talked about the future though, we both skipped this subject, because I had the feeling, he was not quite ready for that.

After 3 months of being together, life got difficult. Not so much between us, but his work took a lot out of him, which affected us. He worked the whole summer seven days a week and that made him exhausted. He started to get nightmares again (couldn't remember them exactly), but it made him feel uncomfortable and he also had trouble falling asleep.

From October on wards, he couldn’t get a break. His mother’s partner suddenly got very sick and passed away within two months. (in the same period, he lost his wife, so this was already a difficult time for him) A week after the funeral, work decided to not extend his contract. This came out of the blue, no signals were given. He did everything for his job and his job was the reason he came to my country in the first place. So, his stability, the job he loved so much, was gone. On top of that the corona outbreak came and the stress he had with that, also didn’t help. Both parents got very sick, so he worried a lot, plus finding a job these days, is difficult.

After the funeral, I noticed a change in his behaviour. He was down, was restless and he found it difficult to say nice things. And the big change came when he lost his job. Instead of pulling me closer, he needed more space to sort his head out. I didn’t know how to respond to it, I felt rejected so that made me sad and mad. I couldn’t get a grip, it felt like he was sand slipping through my fingers. I sometimes gave him some space when he asked for it, not without moaning at it first, but he also came to me when he needed a hug. We were still intimate, but it was less than before. That made me insecure, but I knew it was because of the things he went through and that he had a lot on his mind.

On the day we had our one-year anniversary, it all went downhill. He didn’t say or do anything on that day and didn’t want to meet up. I was very upset about that and his reply was that he just needed space to clear his head and he couldn’t deal with all these emotions. And that he, again, f*cked something up in his life. The next day I went to his house because I was very worried about him. We talked a bit, but I felt distance. We agreed on talking later that week. He cancelled 3 times, but I gave him the time he needed.

When we had the talk, he didn’t greet me with a hug, and he said his feelings were gone. He didn’t feel anything anymore (for anybody), his sexdrive was gone and his head was foggy, and he was stressed. He needed to sort his life out again and he needed to tackle this by himself before he could see if his feelings and emotions were coming back. He didn’t want to let me hang in and he said I deserve so much better. Somebody who is capable of giving me all the love I deserve. It felt like he was breaking up with me, without saying the words, so I got all my stuff and left.

We stayed in contact with each other and we saw each other twice a week for some hours. The contact was shallow, but at least it was some. But after these 2 weeks I wanted to get more answers, it was confusing me. And this time it hit me…I started to talk about us, and he started to shake and stutter. I was so shocked to see my strong boyfriend like this. He said he felt a lot of stress and anxiety but didn’t know why he was feeling like this. He also said he needed help and wanted to talk to somebody. He let me cuddle him, but he still felt he needed to do this alone.
When I got home, I googled on trauma and anxiety and that’s when I found out about PTSD. I had heard about it before, but never knew what the symptoms were. All the puzzle pieces came together, and I feel so naïve right now…how could I have missed it? I have the feeling I pushed him away because I handled his needs wrong and I didn’t really listen to him.

I’m reading into PTSD the last 3 weeks now and that’s the reason I also found this forum. It helped me a lot to understand what is going on in his head, but it also makes me very sad that he broke up with me and let me go because he thinks that’s the best for me/us.
I really don’t want to let him go, I want to be there for him and let him know I understand his behaviour and that I want to give him the space he needs. He always had the feeling he was not good enough for me and he always told me I could do so much better. And that breaks my heart. Because he means everything to me. He is all that I want and from the day I found out he has PTSD; I love him even more.

We were going for a walk the other day and he told me he talked to a therapist and that he is going to start with EDMR treatment. I was very proud of him that he took this step and that he was able to share this information with me.
We almost have contact every day and once a week we will talk over the phone, but it’s never about feelings or us, just safe topics. Today I spoke to him on videocall and he was very cheerful and happy and you couldn’t tell that he has PTSD. He had a good day, but for me it also looked like he was already over me. He was even talking about moving in with 2 female friends to split the renting cost…And that makes me sad, is it too late? He is reaching out to me and want to watch a movie over the phone. So again: safety. And I’m fine with that, I respect that.

It’s so hard right now. He broke up because he thought it was better for me to let me go because he’s feelings were gone, but I want to let him know how my knowledge about PTSD has opened my eyes. And I really believe this can only make our relationship stronger. Does anybody have any advice how to handle this? because he avoids difficult and emotional topics and I don’t want to push him, but I also wants him to know how I feel about things and what my feelings for him are. Because I’m scared that if he doesn’t know, he will drift away even further and this will end in just a friendship.

I hope someone can give me some advice.

Love R
 

Simply Simon

MyPTSD Pro
First of all, welcome. I hope that you are well served by this resource, and I would encourage you to read the articles available here. They're very informative (and totally well-written: believe me, I'm not biased whatsoever :sneaky:).

It sounds like your loved one has had a LOT going on in a very short time. Each of the hardships you mention are in themselves huge upheavals for anyone in and of themselves, let alone as a series.

I'm going to try to practice some active listening by summarizing your post before I give some feedback, just in case I'm not really getting it or there's clarification needed.

This man was married to a woman who, a "couple" years ago (I'm thinking 2-3?), abruptly and tragically collapsed, went into a coma, and eventually woke up (not sure when from your post) with brain damage. She was then whisked away somehow by her family and kept from her husband. Not sure what country this is in, but from my US perspective, that seems awfully... strange that her family was empowered to keep her from her husband. But anyway, moving on.

A year and a half ago, you two developed a romantic relationship. Twelve weeks in, shit began to hit the fan regarding work stress. Within the next eight weeks, his mother's partner passed as did his wife. A week after one of those people's funerals, he lost his job, which he had gone abroad, to your country, to perform. Then his parents became gravely ill... with COVID?

You then mention your one-year anniversary as a romantic couple, so I'm guessing that 3 months elapsed post-funeral, which is when you mentioned a shift in his behavior and demeanor. He did not meet up with you to celebrate, cancelling three times before seeing you.

When you did finally meet up, he expressed emotional numbness and seemed to be telling you that he couldn't participate in the relationship anymore.

In the following two weeks, you had contact four times for a few hours apiece. After that, it seems you met up again, and this time you observed that something seemed pretty seriously wrong regarding where he was mentally and emotionally. After you went home, you consulted Dr. Google, who gave you the diagnosis of PTSD, which you then spent the last three weeks reading about. As you said this relationship has lasted 1.5 years, there's some holes in your timeline, but I think I've pretty much outlined what you've proffered. If I'm missing something, do tell me.

Okay, so now you've diagnosed your ex with PTSD via Google, which, from what you write, seems to have happened entirely independent of input from him. I'm not saying he doesn't have PTSD. I'm just trying to reiterate what you've said. It sounds like he wasn't part of this research you've been conducting via the Internet, and it also seems like he's either not getting professional help, or he is (you mentioned that he wanted to seek help), but it was left out of the narrative. At the very least, you didn't come to your conclusion because he was like, "Hey my doctor says I might have PTSD." So... okay. I think I'm done trying to parrot back your post. Clarity is our friend here on the forum, and I don't really want to give you feedback if I'm not actually understanding you to begin with.

I have some thoughts for you, but I'd rather wait to hear back from you regarding the accuracy of my comprehension before offering feedback. I hope you understand that I'm really trying to see the whole picture as clearly as possible, because there is a lot going on in this narrative, and it seems to me that it would be helpful to get all the facts straight before anything else.

Also, I just wanted to point out that there is a "Supporter" section, and you might find posting there helpful. I haven't been that active in the last couple of years, but, historically, the Supporter section is a bit of a safe haven where sufferers themselves are a bit less candid than we are in the PTSD sufferer sections.

Again, welcome. It sounds like you've been having a pretty hard time yourself. Again, I hope this resource is helpful for you in these trying times.
 

Rosan1507

New Here
First of all: thanks for you responds. I made some adjustments in your comment :)
First of all, welcome. I hope that you are well served by this resource, and I would encourage you to read the articles available here. They're very informative (and totally well-written: believe me, I'm not biased whatsoever :sneaky:).

It sounds like your loved one has had a LOT going on in a very short time. Each of the hardships you mention are in themselves huge upheavals for anyone in and of themselves, let alone as a series.
Yes he has.
I'm going to try to practice some active listening by summarizing your post before I give some feedback, just in case I'm not really getting it or there's clarification needed.

This man was married to a woman who, a "couple" years ago (I'm thinking 2-3?),abruptly and tragically collapsed, went into a coma, and eventually woke up (not sure when from your post) with brain damage. She was then whisked away somehow by her family and kept from her husband. Not sure what country this is in, but from my US perspective, that seems awfully... strange that her family was empowered to keep her from her husband. But anyway, moving on.
This happened 7 years ago. For 3/4 years he tried to get her back via lawsuits. I don't want to get too much details out, but they abduct her back to her country and he got a ban to ever visit that country again. So he was powerless.
A year and a half ago, you two developed a romantic relationship. Twelve weeks in, shit began to hit the fan regarding work stress. Within the next eight weeks, his mother's partner passed as did his wife.
His wife did not passed away, but they took her away from him and he has never heard anything from her again.
A week after one of those people's funerals, he lost his job, which he had gone abroad, to your country, to perform. Then his parents became gravely ill... with COVID?
A year ago we developed a romantic relationship. The stress with his work was last summer. The mothers partner got sick in december and died end of january. The funeral was mid february and a week later he lost his work. Mid of march he broke up. His parents did have COVID yes.
You then mention your one-year anniversary as a romantic couple, so I'm guessing that 3 month elapsed post-funeral, which is when you mentioned a shift in his behavior and demeanor. He did not meet up with you to celebrate, cancelling three times before seeing you.
We've been separated since mid march, so over a month now. :) Shit was hitting the fan around mid feb, after the funeral, but of course stress was already building up weeks before that when the partner got sick. He did not celebrate it with me, his plan was to come the next day because of lock down. But because I was upset, he shut off and wanted space. I went to him the next day because I was very worried about him and he suggested to talk a couple of days later about it.
When you did finally meet up, he expressed emotional numbness and seemed to be telling you that he couldn't participate in the relationship anymore.
That's correct. He wanted to talk a couple of days later and that's when he cancelled on me 3 times, before we met to talk. That's when he said he was feeling numb, had no feelings anymore and experienced a lot of stress.
In the following two weeks, you had contact four times for a few hours apiece. After that, it seems you met up again, and this time you observed that something seemed pretty seriously wrong regarding where he was mentally and emotionally. After you went home, you consulted Dr. Google, who gave you the diagnosis of PTSD, which you then spent the last three weeks reading about. As you said this relationship has lasted 1.5 years, there's some holes in your timeline, but I think I've pretty much outlined what you've proffered. If I'm missing something, do tell me.
I indeed did research on trauma and anxiety, and found PTSD. I did not confront him with this, because no doctor was involved. But when I was reading into it, I made calls with therapists and gave him their number so he could call for an appointment. He called them the next day and made an appointment. He went to a therapist and he gave him the diagnose PTSD and they are going to start with EMDR-therapy soon. So when he told me that they were going to do the EMDR therapy, I asked him if he had PTSD. And he confirmed it.
Okay, so now you've diagnosed your ex with PTSD via Google, which, from what you write, seems to have happened entirely independent of input from him. I'm not saying he doesn't have PTSD. I'm just trying to reiterate what you've said.
His therapist diagnosed him with PTSD.
It sounds like he wasn't part of this research you've been conducting via the Internet, and it also seems like he's either not getting professional help, or he is (you mentioned that he wanted to seek help), but it was left out of the narrative. At the very least, you didn't come to your conclusion because he was like, "Hey my doctor says I might have PTSD." So... okay. I think I'm done trying to parrot back your post. Clarity is our friend here on the forum, and I don't really want to give you feedback if I'm not actually understanding you to begin with.

I have some thoughts for you, but I'd rather wait to hear back from you regarding the accuracy of my comprehension before offering feedback. I hope you understand that I'm really trying to see the whole picture as clearly as possible, because there is a lot going on in this narrative, and it seems to me that it would be helpful to get all the facts straight before anything else.

Also, I just wanted to point out that there is a "Supporter" section, and you might find posting there helpful. I haven't been that active in the last couple of years, but, historically, the Supporter section is a bit of a safe haven where sufferers themselves are a bit less candid than we are in the PTSD sufferer sections.

So overall, our relationship was for 1 year exactly, because on our one-year anniversary he backed out and wanted space. A week later we had a talk and he was sharing his feelings (or the feelings that aren't there anymore) and that his head is wracked and that he needs time and space to clear things out. To move the rock that's blocking the light in the tunnel.

We're now separated for a month now and we've seen each other a couple of times, with space of 1 or 2 weeks.

<mod edit: moved to Supporter area, fixed formatting>
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Simply Simon

MyPTSD Pro
I'm really glad I decided to do the parrot back approach, because your clarifications really changed the whole picture I was getting. Game changing clarifications. Thank you for taking the time to explain more. I know your first post was long and busy, so I figured some stuff was getting lost in translation.

So, IME, "give me space" means "give me space," "I can't handle a relationship right now" means "I can't handle a relationship," and "I'm breaking up with you" means "I'm breaking up with you."
Sounds like your breakup was ambiguous, so it could have fit any of the above three categories, but all of them basically get at the same thing, which is, in a nutshell IME, "I can't handle an ongoing relationship right now, because I'm in crisis mode."

Sometimes, I think the person seeking support here can find the answers they're looking for in their own words better than in the words of others, so I separated some quotes from your post into three sections: you expressing your wants and needs, him expressing his needs, and your reflections on your recent research about PTSD regarding how your newfound cursory knowledge of the disorder relates to how you feel about pursuing a relationship. I think many of the things you've said about these three topics kind of coalesce into what to me is a pretty solid understanding of how you can best honor this man's feelings.

I have bolded statements that particularly stick out to me as being important, and I have italicized what was posited, insofar as I can tell, as conjecture on your part.

but it also makes me very sad that he broke up with me and let me go because he thinks that’s the best for me/us.

I really don’t want to let him go

I want to be there for him

I really believe this can only make our relationship stronger.

I want to be there for him and let him know I understand his behaviour and that I want to give him the space he needs.

So, above, there are some pretty strong sentiments from you about your wants as well as your expectations of a potential future. Following these, here are some equally strong sentiments you say he expressed about his wants and needs.

he said his feelings were gone. He didn’t feel anything anymore (for anybody), his sexdrive was gone and his head was foggy, and he was stressed. He needed to sort his life out again and he needed to tackle this by himself before he could see if his feelings and emotions were coming back

He let me cuddle him, but he still felt he needed to do this alone.

Then we move to your reflections about PTSD, which you admit you were not very literate on previously and have only been reading up on in the last month.

I found out about PTSD. I had heard about it before, but never knew what the symptoms were. All the puzzle pieces came together

I’m reading into PTSD the last 3 weeks now and that’s the reason I also found this forum. It helped me a lot to understand what is going on in his head

I had a hard time placing the quotes below, as I find them entirely baffling, and that's really all I'm going to say about it.

He is all that I want and from the day I found out he has PTSD; I love him even more.

He broke up because he thought it was better for me to let me go because he’s feelings were gone, but I want to let him know how my knowledge about PTSD has opened my eyes

And here is the most important quote of all. The statements herein really summarize something invaluably important in your situation, which is whether you are being responsive to his wants and needs and whether you are listening when he expresses those wants and needs.

I feel so naïve right now…how could I have missed it? I have the feeling I pushed him away because I handled his needs wrong and I didn’t really listen to him

I think you've stated your own situation with more lucidity than maybe you realized, and I think you've answered your own question as to how to move forward as you strive to support the person you love in the best way you possibly can.

What do you think?
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
@Rosan1507, welcome to the forum.

My advice, as a supporter... step back. You cannot fix him. You cannot love him better. He is mentally ill. It doesn’t matter what you know, read or understand. If he isn’t healthy enough to function in a relationship nothing you do will make him healthy enough.

Step back, give him some breathing room, and stop pressuring him about the relationship. He cannot handle that right now and he keeps telling you that.

Instead of focusing on labels and worrying about the relationship, why not shift focus? He is still in contact with you. He is still opening up to you. Why not focus on that? If you love him, giving him the space and time he needs is a loving act. Not pressuring him about a relationship is a loving act. Listening to what he says and believing him is a loving act.
 

Rosan1507

New Here
Thank you for your response.

I haven't talked about our relationship for 4 weeks now. I often wait for him to contact me, and i'm the one who is asking if we can hang out or have a walk. It's up to him if he wants that and when. So i'm not pressuring him at all anymore...BUT...he always said that we had a good base for a friendship and my biggest worry now is, that he thinks I'm ok with this all and just want to be friends.
I also know he is avoiding difficult topics, because he never asks how I'm doing and he don't talk about how he is feeling.

So my question is, do I need to (briefly) say that I don't give up on him,etc...because I worry that he is moving on because he thinks i'm ok with it.

He's not telling me anything about his feelings by himself, he is avoiding feelings and emotions. Therefore I'm also the only one who knows about his mental state of mind and I also know none of his friends or family member know he broke up. Because he doesn't want them to worry about him.
 

Freida

Sponsor
from the sufferer side :)

The "people are better off without me messing up their lives" thing is pretty common and there is nothing a supporter can say or do that will change it. That is a distortion in my mind that will only come out with a lot of therapy because it's part of rewiring my brains.

I can see how badly you want this to work - but there are a lot of "I" statements in your posts. That's not a bad thing in a normal relationship but it is something many of us will pick up on and then run as fast as we can. Being what someone else needs can be really overwhelming and even if you aren't saying it to him he could still be picking up on it. To be in a relationship with someone with ptsd requires you to be able to be strong on your own, without us. I want to be with my people because they want me, not because they need me. It's entirely ok to think about what you want of course. You deserve that. He may just be interpreting it differently than you realize
they are going to start with EMDR-therapy soon. So when he told me that they were going to do the EMDR therapy, I
EMDR is a shitshow of epic proportions. Things will probably get much, much worse when he starts because you have to relive your experiences over and over while you change how you think about them. When I first started it could take me the entire next day to recover and hubby learned quickly to not even approach me. I couldn't handle any kind of interaction at all - i basically hid in the bedroom for 24 hours.

It is totally worth it because it is one of the best therapies out there. But it's hell on relationships.
Maybe the two of you could talk about what to expect when he starts - you could let him know you are there if he wants to reach out but you also understand that the thing he may need the most is silence and you can respect that without worrying it's about you? That may take some of the pressure off for him.
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
Friendship may be all he can do. If you don’t want that, then the best thing to do is be honest with him. Don’t just be his friend in hopes of reeling him back into a romantic relationship.

The best thing to do now is take a good hard look at the circumstances. He is what he is. He may never be like his old self. He probably will get a lot worse when EMDR starts. Ask yourself if YOU want to be friends with him if he cannot be in a relationship. What kind of relationship makes you happy and fulfills your needs? Can he give you that? What are your needs? Are you happy now, and will you stay happy of things never change?

You can’t do or say anything to make him come back as a romantic partner. All you can control in this situation is yourself. Being the partner to some somebody with a mental illness is hard. It’s not romantic, but you have to focus on the reality of the situation.

Once you decide where you are realistically, then you can decide on the next steps to take.
 

Rosan1507

New Here
It is hard, because the last 10 months we were together he was loving, would do anything for me and we were happy. We were open to each other, could talk about everything...and this has changed because of losing somebody and losing his work.
He said a couple of weeks ago that he doesn't know if his feelings are coming back because everything is blocked and he needs to move that rock himself. So yes, hope is what's driving me. Just be friends is so hard and I don't know if I can do that.
I don't want to bother him with how I see this situations, but its killing me because giving him space, means letting him go. And that means that things are even harder to get back together in the future. He doesn't know how I want to support him and want to wait for him. But I think I can better not tell him that...?
 

Simply Simon

MyPTSD Pro
It is hard. I hear that. And I hear you saying what your hopes are as well as your fears. I can tell that you care enormously. My understanding from your posts is that you are extremely invested in “seeing this through” with him, for lack of a better description.

I’m wondering, though, are you hearing yourself? And are you digesting the feedback being offered? I see people here, including me, responding directly to the content you are offering—taking the time to read your feelings and then offering feedback based on what they’re reading from you.

I’m having a much harder time seeing how you are taking the time to read and respond directly to those posts. These replies are clearly attempting to understand your situation in order to give you some sincere, compassionate, quality feedback based off of their years of experience as a sufferer or supporter.

You’ve gotten some really heartfelt, excellent responses from members. I would especially like to say that I don’t think it’s possible to read @Freida ’s post too many times; it is truly a great response that I think could be helpful to any supporter regardless of the relationship in question (a spouse, parent, friend, etc).

My own post ended with “What do you think?” You don’t owe me or anyone else a response. That’s not what I’m trying to say at all. But I would urge you, for your own sake of understanding yourself in this very emotional situation, to at least reflect on how you’re posting here in contrast to how others are responding to you. Put differently, while others are clearly responding directly to your content, your posts are comprised of more descriptions of your situation peppered with questions that are beginning to come off as rhetorical in the conspicuous absence of acknowledging that people are talking back to you. I wonder why that is, but it doesn’t matter if you care to say. What’s potentially important is whether you know why that is.

As an outsider, I am inclined to suppose you might be seeking answers that you’re not getting from this community, but what do I know? I’m simply begging the question because I think your answer to yourself might illuminate something for yourself. And again, what do I know. I’m just wanting to help, like everyone else writing to you. What is it you’re wanting to accomplish by writing here? That’s the question I think you’d benefit from asking yourself, whether you share your conclusion with us or not.
 
K

kvolm

Hi Rosan, I agree that you have received some excellent support and feedback so far. I hope you have found it to be helpful. I just wanted to add that maybe the best thing you can do toward a future relationship with him is to work on your own emotional well being and growth. Since he will be investing in healing and growing, wouldn't it be great if you gained some additional emotional and relational skills as well? Thoughts?
 

Rosan1507

New Here
Dear all, I want to thank you all for the responses and for trying to help me. It's a lot of information and I have to read it a couple of times to let it all in. My head is just all over the place and there is a difference in what my head and my heart says. I'm new in all of this, never experienced this before so doing the right thing is hard. So that's why my responses is also all over the place: heart and head are both saying different things.

To answer the question about only friendship: I don't know now if I can be just friends with him and that's what upset me a lot. I don't want to let him go because he got PTSD and that's the reason he zoomed out. Because he can't help it and he is in pain too. So I know that if I want to be in his life, I have to put my emotions aside so I can be there for him, but that's difficult. I know it's a positive thing he is still in contact with me and I have to focus on that. And when we meet it's when he wants it and at his place, because that's the place he feels safe. I'm not pushing him or telling him how I feel, I just wanted to know from you guys, if I had to share that (gently) with him or not.

That's also why I came here: to ask for advice, but also to see if somebody had experiences with somebody with PTSD who broke up with you because he/she felt numb and what that person did. And I wanted to know if somebody has experience with EMDR therapy and if/how that has helped you dealing with emotions again and get your life back on track.

Again: this is all new to me and I think I need help too, because my life is falling apart at this moment. And I need to be strong, in order to be strong for him.

ps: it's hard for me to express because English is not my first language.
 
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