Relationship I triggered my gf- now what?

Hi, I've just discovered this site, and after reading multiple threads, decided to throw my recent experience into the ether and see what feedback you guys have for my situation. Ok. So.

My best friend of over 8 years, girlfriend of a year, has recently been diagnosed with cptsd due to childhood trauma, followed by a 14 year relationship that was very abusive- mostly emotional but also some sexual/physical abuse. I've been researching cptsd as much as possible, we're in therapy as individuals and as a couple to try to navigate this as responsibly as we can. I've had some concerns about her safety when she goes out drinking- she blacks out frequently either from alcohol or dissociating or both, and she has trouble identifying people's motives when they approach her. I knew bringing my feelings up about these issues would be triggering for her because her ex used these same feelings as an excuse to control her, but I also felt that my feelings were valid, so I brought these things up in a session with our therapist (I gave my gf a couple hours notice about the topics I wanted to discuss so she wouldn't be caught off guard). The conversation ended up being very triggering, and now things are strained between us. I'm currently giving her space because she is having trouble articulating her wants/needs about this. This is the second time she's been triggered by something I've said that reminded her of her ex. The first time I had no clue what cptsd was, neither did she. This time I tried to bring my feelings and concerns up in the most emotionally healthy way possible, but I still feel like I made a huge mess and should have waited until she is a little farther along with trauma therapy to bring up things that are triggers. We have known each other for so long, and typically work our way through any communication snafu. This feels different and I'm not sure what else to do besides give her space. Thoughts??
 
I've had some concerns about her safety when she goes out drinking- she blacks out frequently either from alcohol or dissociating or both, and she has trouble identifying people's motives when they approach her. I knew bringing my feelings up about these issues would be triggering for her because her ex used these same feelings as an excuse to control her, but I also felt that my feelings were valid, so I brought these things up in a session with our therapist

If you've made it clear that safety from excessive drinking was your concern & the therapist is now aware of it then I'd give her space & make sure the therapist continues to work with you both about this problem.

Excessive drinking makes a whole new mess of the problems she has. Imo you were right to bring it up in T.

Giving her space - seems appropriate but then what else can you do?
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
First of all... you did not trigger her. *She* was triggered. Triggers happen in her head and she is responsible for them, not you.

You cannot hold yourself responsible for her being triggered. It is impossible to know what will or will not trigger her. You are not in charge of her mental health.

We can’t walk on eggshells. That’s not healthy.
 
First of all... you did not trigger her. *She* was triggered. Triggers happen in her head and she is responsible for them, not you.

You cannot hold yourself responsible for her being triggered. It is impossibly to know what will or will not trigger her. You are not in charge of her mental health.

We can’t walk on eggshells. That’s not healthy.

I appreciate that angle, but I did know the topic was going to be triggering, which is why I included our therapist- to advocate for her feelings since she has trouble expressing them fairly often. I knew my concerns were valid regardless of her past negative experiences hearing similar things (extremely abusive, controlling ex), which is why I said them anyway. This diagnosis is new for both of us, as is how to navigate the process as a whole, so I'm trying to gain insight into how to manage these situations lovingly and respectfully. She couldn't pinpoint her feelings about whether she wanted me around today, so I told her I was going to err on the side of caution and give her space until she had figured out what she needs from me.
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
You already handled the issue in a compassionate and loving way... probably the most compassionate and loving way possible.

You have to be able to bring up issues in your relationship. You have to... if not you’ll end up a codependent doormat, which is how a lot of supporters wind up. PTSD relationships can get toxic AF really quickly, and that’s why most of them do not last. I’m not saying they’re hopeless. There are some of us who have been in one for years. BUT if you look at the long term supporters on this forum you’ll see a trend. We have hard boundaries. We hold our sufferers accountable. We love them, are compassionate, and we give them a lot of leeway when it comes to accommodating their PTSD, however we still hold our ground when it comes down to it.

I hate to break it to you, but as a supporter, you’re going to be the designated asshole when your partner is symptomatic. That will eat you up if you start to believe you really are the asshole instead of realizing that lashing out, projection and blame are negative reactions to stress. You have to realize that you *arent* doing the wrong thing, even if she is giving an academy award winning performance convincing you that you are. Be true to reality.

You had a valid concern. You were compassionate about bringing it up in the best place possible. You gave her warning. You did not do it for any kind of control or power. It was not abusive. You love her.
 
I had to chuckle at your "designated asshole" remark ?. Thankfully she and I have been friends for almost a decade, and the love and mutual respect has a very solid foundation. I've read The Body Keeps the Score, hell, I research things to death that are interesting and important to me, and I obviously have a vested interest in this topic, so I'm learning the difference between things she can and can't control so as to not take things personally when they're not about me. She's going to therapy weekly, and has already gained so much insight it's impressive. Not that I expected any less, she's one of the most brilliant people I've ever met. I know this is a long, sometimes very difficult road, and I'm very thankful I found this site so I can feel some sense of camaraderie, knowing lots of people are dealing with the same issues, and have been for much longer.
 
Sidenote: since giving her space was my idea, and I haven't contacted her all evening, should I send her a goodnight text anyway? We say goodnight and I love you every night without fail, but I also know contact isn't giving space, sooooooooo....????
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
Did you tell her that you weren’t going to contact her? Or did she give you a time frame for space she needed? If not, then a good night text seems reasonable.

Researching and this forum kept me sane... honestly. My partner is a combat vet, and he is an awesome person. Smart, hilarious, and he treats me like a queen when he is doing well... but oh man, he can be a huge dickhole when he is ramped up. He tends to fight in fight/flight situations. He is much better than he used to be about lashing out, and I am glad I learned to set boundaries early on in the relationship.
 

Friday

Moderator
This is the second time she's been triggered by something I've said that reminded her of her ex.
If you stay together? There will be THOUSANDS of times that she’s triggered by something you do or say.

And tens of thousands of times she’s stressed (read this >>> Stressor vs. Trigger - What Is A Trigger? <<< if you haven’t already); by you, the relationship, your kids, your grandkids, difficult conversations, happy events, sad events, angry events, exciting events, late paychecks, raises, paycuts, disappointments, failures, etc.

You can’t take responsibility for all of that. Just because something you say or do triggers her, does NOT make it your fault that she’s triggered.

Consider being married to a diabetic. Is it your fault their pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin? Nope. Even though you KNOW it doesn’t make enough insulin? Still not your fault. What about offering your partner some food? Should you check their blood sugar before you offer them food? No. That’s their job to monitor their own blood sugar, and accept or turn down offers. Should you decide what they are and are not allowed to eat? No. That’s their job. Just because 95% of your family meal planning is glycemic index friendly, does that mean that EITHER of you are not allowed to have a treat from time to time? Nope. Of course, either of you can. Whose job is it to decide when there’s a treat? You for you. Her for her. If on a hot sunny day after mowing the lawn you decide to have a cold beer, is that because you hate your spouse, and want them to suffer? Either by not getting to have a beer, or because they decided to have one (their choice, not yours), and either have to take an extra shot of insulin or go to the ER, or possibly both? Of course not. You decided to have a beer. If she decides to join you, that’s her decision to make. She could have decided to make an icy sparkling citrus water, and leaned into you laughing and enjoying the afternoon. You’re not holding her down and pouring beer down her throat, or sneaking tablespoons of sugar into her soup, or any other kind of taking-the-choice-away-from-her. Being aware & considerate, is different from being responsible & to blame.

Same durn thing for PTSD, triggers&stressors, etc. Being aware & considerate, is different from being responsible for & to blame.

Nor can your relationship be the one magical relationship on the planet that never has to have a conversation she doesn’t want to have; nor can she never do anything wrong / never be called on doing something wrong; never do anything hurtful / never be called on doing something hurtful... just because it will be difficult for her (any everyone else on the planet with a stress related disorder. PTSD, seizure disorders, cardiovascular disorders, and dozens of others mean tens of millions of people have to be mindful of their stress. Not be wrapped in cotton and put on a shelf. That’s not living).

There are going to be times where difficult things need to happen &/or be discussed, times where she f*cks up, times where she hurts you... AND... you still need to be able to say so, talk about it, & come to a resolution if possible.

Waiting 5 years until she’s in a better place, to have a difficult conversation? Just isn’t realistic. Not if the two of you want to be partners and not a babysitter + invalid incapable of being in a relationship. That MAY be the case, right now? It often happens with PTSD that someone isn’t capable of being in a relationship for a time. If she’s not far enough along to hold herself responsible for her own actions/responses, she shouldn’t be in a relationship / that would be one of those times. Because that’s NOT a relationship. But this doesn’t sooooooound like where she’s at???

Meanwhile, a very realistic thing to do with difficult conversations is waiting a day or three, or a week or two... and is also exactly what you did. You waited until the best possible time to have a hard discussion. Now you’re waiting to see how it went.
Be true to reality.

You had a valid concern. You were compassionate about bringing it up in the best place possible. You gave her warning. You did not do it for any kind of control or power. It was not abusive. You love her.
THIS.

I coulda just waited, & cut/paste! :roflmao: S’what I get for not catching up in the thread before finishing my draft. This -and the rest of sweetpea’s post this is quoted from- says it all.
 
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Thanks for the validation, I tend to be an over-thinker, and I definitely have trouble recognizing that I am a human who makes mistakes lol. No time frame was set, no "space rules" at all, I just told her I was gonna go and if she realized that she wanted me around to let me know. She's definitely 99% flight/shutdown, which is what our convo yesterday did to her, it shut her down pretty severely, but she told me it was happening and that she didn't know how bad it was going to be. Thankfully we communicate well even when we're stressed or tired or pick a synonym, and she has no trouble holding herself accountable. Hell, SHE tells ME to not bottle my feelings or walk on eggshells because she knows I have had bad experiences in past relationships with being truly heard and respected in that way, so I'm doing my best to stay open, no matter the subject matter. Only adjustment I can think to make is to do my processing with someone else, so when I do come to her with my feelings, they're exactly what I mean and more concise. I have a tendency to go on wide, looping tangents before I discover the real point I'm trying to make. Sigh. ?
 

Friday

Moderator
Sidenote: since giving her space was my idea, and I haven't contacted her all evening, should I send her a goodnight text anyway? We say goodnight and I love you every night without fail, but I also know contact isn't giving space, sooooooooo....????
People with PTSD are all different.

My personal rule, whether I’m dating someone with PTSD or not, is that the person who calls timeout gets to set the rules for that timeout, unless challenged. And then it’s compromise time, where we both see if we can get what we need/want.

So following MY rules?

You called timeout, you want to text her? Text her. You don’t? Don’t.

But my rules, her rules, your rules, & the rules of your relationship are very likely to be 4 different things.
 
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