Relationship I'm Scared, Confused And Need Help...probably Long

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mandyk

I've been lurking for several days now but I'm at a point where I really need to talk to someone about my relationship with my non-combat vet husband who suffers from PTSD and will not get help. I need advice and help because if I cant get things right in my own head then my relationship with him will be done.

To begin, my husband and I were geographically separated for 7 years. It was our decision based on buying a home and needing to give our kids stability, but looking back, it was the worst decision we ever made. I won't dwell on that though because what's done is done and we can't change that.

My husband retired in the fall of 2015, and immediately got a good job in the Chicago area which caused a little more separation, but he was finally able to move back home this past July/August time frame. At this point I knew he was officially diagnosed with PTSD by the VA, but the signs and symptoms were very mild. Well, they were mild TO ME, honestly I don't really know what was going on in his head at that point.

Over the course of about 3 months here at home, I saw his symptoms gradually deteriorate. He couldn't handle a lot of noise or stress and he started to get frustrated very easily. Our crying grandson would mildly set him off and he would get upset because he couldn't concentrate on paperwork with the noise.

In October he left me. He asked for a divorce. It was a shock to me because I would ask him ever so often if he was happy in general, and happy to be back home and he would always say, " yes babe I'm very happy." So as you can see, him leaving was quite a shock and extremely painful.

Over the course of the next month I tried to move on with my life and he mostly moved on with his, but shortly before Thanksgiving, we agreed to give our relationship another try. After 22 years of being married, our bond and love was very deep and we just wanted to make sure divorcing was what needed to happen. Things have been pretty great up until this point. We've had a few hiccups but we've had some amazing days and all of the holiday season was pretty wonderful.

But, the past few days things have kind of snowballed into hell.

(Before I go on, I should say that we have an RV that he has moved about 45 mins to an hour away from the house. He says this is his escape and his place of solitude but won't tell me or the kids where it's located.)

In order to save our marriage we agreed to give it a year and take it slow. However, it's gone a bit faster lately than what he's wanted so now he is beginning to pull back. He says the biggest problem is that I don't know when to shut up and I cant understand he needs space. He doesn't want me to ask questions about our relationship or his feelings for me and he doesn't want me to talk about my feelings about him or the relationship. He just wants me to be quiet and let things progress as they progress, and at a pace he can handle. He says he needs to work on him before he can fully give to me and I understand all that, but I find it very very difficult not to be able to discuss things with him.

I am the type of person that needs assurance that things are going well or NOT going well, and instead of understanding that when I wanna talk or ask questions about US, he sees me as pressuring or pushing or backing him into a corner. My head says he's right, but my heart is scared that I'm going to lose him and I feel a deep seeded need to talk about relationship stuff. My heart tells me that I need to be in contact with him and explain to him how I'm feeling and what I'm thinking.

That's always how our relationship has gone - we lived and loved by text and email. So now it's difficult for me to process the fact that he doesn't want to talk to me all the time or every day like we used to do.

The main problem is space. After reading the forums here, I finally understand why he needs so much space in a general PTSD sense, but I take it so personally when he wants to be away from me with no contact. And it hurts.

As an example, last night he came and took me to dinner and had planned to stay the night. When he got here, he realized he forgot to turn off the water at the RV and because of an ice storm in the area he was going to have to return to shut it off. I almost immediately got upset because in my mind I felt like it was an excuse not to stay overnight or that it was an "out" for him. Later after dinner, he made a comment to my son about not knowing if he was going to return to the house to stay over after going back and handling the water issue in the RV. I looked at him and said please come back.

Things really started to turn to crap after that because he said I was pressuring him to stay and for that purpose alone he wasn't going to. He got angry and we argued and told me he didn't give a f*** about my feelings. He said he was going away and I wouldn't see him for three weeks. He told me not to initiate contact through text or phone and to let him come to me when he was ready.

I just feel like both of us are confused and hurt and I'm trying so hard to learn everything about PTSD that I can because I love him so much and I wanna be there for him more than anything. He's said several times he has no heart anymore and he's not the same person he used to be, and he doesn't think this will work between us. BUT, at the same time, he wants to continue trying til the end of the year and see where we are relationship - wise. He still kissed and hugged me last night at the end of the evening, so while I know those are good signs, I still realize that yesterday was a terrible day. He told me I should do some soul searching this weekend.

My soul, and heart, love him more than he can imagine. But I'm at a point where I need help handling this situation, I need help in knowing when to stop talking no matter what my feelings are at that moment and I need help understanding how to not take it so personal when he needs space from me and our relationship. I know he loves me, I just don't know if either of us know how to handle a PTSD relationship so I've got to pull up my boot straps and get as much help as possible.

I have no local PTSD support group so coming here is my next best alternative for now. How can I balance my own needs in fixing this relationship with being quiet, and giving him space and recognizing his needs too? Should I seek counseling for myself? I just don't know how to begin understanding what I can do for him and yet make him understand I have feelings too. Because right now my feelings aren't important to him.
 
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dulcia

MyPTSD Pro
Personally, I see some hope in your post. You seem at least somewhat self-aware and he seems at least somewhat able to express what he needs in the moment. Telling you he doesn't give a f*ck about your feelings, but then still giving you a kiss and a hug at the end of the night seems like a big deal to me. Also, that he gave you an explanation for why he would be taking time away, an estimated time frame of how long he was planning to be away, and his expectations for contact between the two of you (in this case, none). Although I'm not saying the whole situation doesn't suck and I don't mean to diminish the hurt you feel due to him going away. It sounds like you could benefit from having someone to talk to to release some of that need you feel to discuss your feelings and the relationship with him when it's not possible. Maybe being in such close proximity again after such a long geographical separation is having more of an effect on him than it is for you.
 

Justmehere

Sponsor
What a tough situation. My heart goes out to you both. I think that counseling for you, and maybe even couples counseling or meeting with a good trauma therapist together may help quite a bit. You could gain some skills to be able to handle the times apart and he could gain skills in communicating reassurance to you in a way that doesn't overwhelm him as much. You both have a lot of insight and awareness but maybe not all the tools and support you both need to navigate this.

I'd also suggest reading up on preoccupied and avoidant attachment in married relationships. I'm not sure if either of you have those attachment styles, but you are both stuck in the same cycle that commonly happens when aomeome with a preoccupied attachment style and an avoidant attachment style are in relationship with each other. He backs up, you feel abandoned and you pull in, he gets overwhelmed, he backs up more, you pull in more... and around and around the cycle goes. It's quite common, and there are ways to get out of the cycle if both sides are willing to try, and that seems to be the case here.

The more support you can get around you to navigate this, the easier it's going to be over the long haul.

For what it is worth, which may not be much, it does seem like he is trying to make it work, and does care for you so deeply, just as much as you are trying and care for him. I think you are really on track with a number of things. It can be so hard to give space to someone that you are worried is abandoning you. I really get that, even as a sufferer. I'm glad you are looking at ways to pull through and get support and reach out here.

I'd possibly look for a NAMI organization in your area. Sometimes they can have support groups and classes for friends and family of those struggling with mental health issues and that can be helpful.

Even more, I'd recommend building up good regular routine connection with friends of your own. Not so much as folks to discuss the situation with, as they may not understand - but as a way to meet some of a your relational connection needs and to have some support in life when he can't be there for you. When I have been struggling with feeling like someone is abandoning me and they can't give me the reassure to calm my anxiety and fears, spending time with others helped me get through. It doesn't make the anxiety and fears go away, it helps endure them - and that's half the battle for sufferers and supporters: endurance until the storm passes.

Your desire to fix the relationship is natural, and very understandable, but the more you can let go of fixing whatever places you can let go of, even for short periods at a time, and simply be present, the more space it will give him to work things out that are going on for him and to be able to connect again. I'm a huge fixer myself, so I really get it - and I also know how much someone who is trying to anxiously and understandably fix a relationship can overwhelm a sufferer who is struggling to get their feet under you.

In way, some of the work you and him have to do is very similar. You both have to work to build up skills to tolerate distress and be present in this moment now with problems that can't always be fixed in the short term, but have to be endured unresolved for a time. It's hella hard, but it's worth it. No matter what happens, those skills will pay off in big ways over the long haul and give you both the best chance possible at making this work.
 

TheMinsterman

MyPTSD Pro
The desire to avoid discussing the relationship and feelings is something I can seriously relate to, my girlfriend is essentially doing the exact same thing to me right now, she's given me "problems" and I feel like her avoiding discussing where we stand firmly leaves me with issues I simply can't resolve (i.e. you don't open up, but how do you do that when the other person avoids you etc). Justmehere probably hit the nail on the head there above, I want to fix things, clearly you do too, but if they says its overwhelming and too much for them we perhaps need to not take it so personally, even though it hurts and leaves us feeling confused and unable to feel secure.
 
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