My ptsd partner left me - now what?

A repetitive question by spouses and loved ones is that their sufferer walked out of the relationship with little to zero prediction of such event occurring. Some may have concluded that the end of the world would happen before their partner walking away from them would have.

At this point I can only say, I'm sorry for the pain you're enduring right now.

Two questions often follow this predicament:
  • Why did they leave me?
  • What can I do to save the relationship?
There are many possible scenarios surrounding a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) sufferer leaving a partner. This article discusses the key situations and leaves open to comment further discussion for individual cases and possible solutions.

Relationships are complicated​

Relationships within our lives are anything but simple. We have those who are closer to us than others. We have specific individuals within our relationship circles with whom we connect better than others. We have those that we intentionally keep at arm's length yet enjoy catching up with every so often.

It is lovely to believe, or dream, that we meet the love of our lives and spend a lifetime with them. Through good times and bad, the relationship stands the test of time. For a rare few, this is a reality. Unfortunately, this is idealistic in today's society. As such, nowadays it is normal to have multiple marriages and multiple sets of parents.

Many factors are at work to create our modern societal view of marriage, divorce, remarriage, and the adaptions to the nuclear family that accompany these relationships and breakages. Our lives are high-pressure, expectations of marital bliss and compatibility in all arenas are often astronomical, and individuals are often influenced by a culture of disposability, and our society is vastly more accepting of that culture than it was only a couple of generations ago.

What does disposable have to do with anything? Because we no longer fix possessions: when they break, we throw them away and buy a new one. Our relationships follow a similar pattern today, in that we treat them like possessions -- disposable. The moment a relationship requires hard work, one or both partners are more prone to check-out and abandon ship.

When things get too tough, too complicated, we throw away the relationship and get a new one, one where that problem doesn't exist. We hope that a new relationship will be easier. Well... the honeymoon period that typically follows on the heels of new attraction is usually the best part, yet it is equally the most unrealistic model of the relationship.

The honeymoon period​

How magical it is to meet someone new, feel attraction, lust for that person, to learn one another, explore each other. Welcome to the honeymoon period of the relationship.

Everything is new. You don't honestly know one another well enough to begin making changes in the relationship dynamics. You likely even think each other's flaws are cute.

The honeymoon period can be months, and some may stretch it for years based on structuring the relationship between together time and individual time. Once the relationship shifts towards more routine matters, such as savings, moving in together, paying bills, performing chores, planning to be married and even starting a family of your own, the realities of what a real relationship entails are setting in.

All the fun, sex, adventures, romantic outings and spontaneity are slowing as day-to-day routine sets to strive toward goals for the future. Oh yes, they mentioned they had PTSD somewhere amid all that fun and adventure, but it didn't seem to bother them too much nor did it impact me.

As the honeymoon period wanes, the narrative changes. From where did this aspect of their PTSD suddenly spring forward? I've never seen that before from this lovely person. Welcome to the PTSD-affected relationship.

The PTSD relationship​

You awake and give one another a kiss and cuddle, say good morning and begin your morning routine. You're spending the day together, going to the beach. You have a lovely day out. You lay upon the beach, hold hands, talk, relax. You walk along the beach, throw stones in the water, chase each other in the sand, buy ice cream and have lunch. The outing is over, and it's time to go home.

On the drive home, not much is said. You're thinking maybe some romance tonight after such a lovely outing. You arrive home, and the sufferer walks in the door, lays on the couch, turns on the TV and zones out. The day was lovely, and things have gone great, so you ask for a hand to tidy-up the house and prepare dinner.

Explosion! The sufferer goes ballistic and enters a verbal barrage towards you.

"What the hell just happened?" you ask yourself.

The PTSD relationship can range from beautiful, to periodically argumentative, to full scale war zone. Verbal abuse is the rule, but physical abuse can be the exception. One minute everything is great. The next minute, the sufferer breaks down, isolates and becomes unresponsive, even highly aggressive. They may disappear for days or weeks.

The PTSD sufferer​

The effect of PTSD upon a person can range from mildly annoying to completely debilitating. Symptoms vary per person, regardless of PTSD severity. Symptoms will be influenced by factors such as how a person was raised, their morals and beliefs, the type of trauma experienced, socio-economic status, environmental factors and more.

A sufferer with combat trauma may exhibit more aggressive and hyper-vigilant symptoms than compared to a rape victim, who may exhibit quiet, reclusive and security-conscious behaviour. Behaviour will also vary depending on situation, such as the person may be able to function well at work in order to make a living for themselves, to pay the bills, yet when she is home, she crashes and burns, physically and emotionally. He may have no social life as another consequence, unable to process human connection further than a work environment.

A sufferer may no longer be capable of experiencing love, affection or romantic emotions. The more complex the emotion, the less likely they are to experience it or identify with the emotion. It is not uncommon for a person without PTSD to confuse lust with love, so where trauma hinders emotional processing, such distinction becomes ten fold more difficult.

A common feeling for PTSD sufferers is guilt.

Guilt towards a partner​

Whether PTSD presents within a relationship or is present entering the relationship, changes in the relationship due to PTSD can easily cause havoc. The supporter wonders why they aren't "over it" yet, and the sufferer is trying to understand why the supporter doesn't understand. Both parties are lost and confused.

It is not uncommon that a sufferer feels extreme guilt that they're holding their partner back. They may not necessarily express this to their partner, but they watch how their illness is affecting the person they love. Guilt is powerful.

A supporter can often become a different person than they were when entering the relationship. They may become more reclusive to match their PTSD partner. A supporter may lose friends and family who can clearly see from outside the relationship that it is toxic and destructive to who the supporter is as a person. The sufferer can likely see this too.

Guilt creates toxicity.

The toxic relationship​

PTSD, more often than not, creates toxicity within a relationship. You have the PTSD sufferer enduring symptoms, struggling to understand how to stop themselves saying and doing things that even they don't like about themselves any longer. You have a partner who may try and understand yet really cannot. The partner is wondering when their time will be. What about them? Their life has changed for the worse as a result. Negative emotion is harbored and used as weapons against one another.

Home feels like a floor of eggshells. You, the supporter, feel complex emotions, counter-acting emotions. You may love your partner, yet even that emotion may be surrounded with negativity for you. PTSD can destroy the notion of love. A sufferer may love you enough to see they're destroying you, as a person.

This is a long way from that honeymoon period, right?

Where is this going?​

You may now be wondering where this article is going, compared to the original two questions mostly asked when a PTSD relationship has broken down:
  • Why did they leave me?
  • What can I do to save the relationship?
The answers are anything but simple, and they always vary per situation. Remember I said a sufferer will often struggle with emotion. They will find it difficult to feel or to understand what emotion it is they feel. In this way, making a decision to walk away from a relationship can be much easier for a PTSD sufferer, because they don't know what to feel about you. What they often do know is that they can't stay with you because it's making their symptoms worse.

Many a spouse has boggled over the situation of a sufferer walking away into the arms of another. Guilt is one reason. The inability to rationalize complex emotion is another. If you have been longtime partners and PTSD appeared in the relationship, guilt towards watching you sink with them may be a driving factor for leaving. Finally, the sufferer may, out of the blue, no longer feel love towards you. Yep, just like that.

It is easier for a PTSD sufferer to be with another person who doesn't know them. They can be someone different. They can pretend. They can wear a mask. They can even just be themselves, accepting that their new partner met them this way and accepts them. No pressure, in essence, especially if they felt pressured to get well in the previous relationship. They may simply begin to chase the honeymoon period, then exit, knowing what's ahead from experience.

Remember, PTSD sufferers struggle to understand complex emotion. Love is about as complex as it gets. They want to heal, but they may not know how. They may be in complete denial that there is a problem with them.

A final effort to recover​

Knowing what you have read, can the relationship be saved once a sufferer has walked out the door?

Anything is possible, yet unfortunately once a relationship has reached this level, it is highly unlikely. A relationship stands a much better chance if issues are dealt with while the relationship is active. It is the exception, not the rule, that a relationship will come back from this point, especially with the presence of PTSD.

A sufferer may feel the only way forward is to start anew with another. Reasons are comprehensive, at best. Saying that, a few things you can do may be:
  • Ask them if they will attend couples therapy, if not to save the relationship, to help understand residual emotions to help you come to terms with things. You never know; it may get them talking openly when there is no pressure of reconciliation and inadvertently rekindle the relationship. At best, you get some closure.
  • Write them a letter, carefully. Do not blame or use it to vent towards them, certainly not if your aim is to fix the relationship. Express what you feel, and leave everything else for another discussion.
  • Ask them to a casual lunch meeting as though it is just for closure. They may be more open to communicate then.
  • Ring them, as they may feel more comfortable to express themselves over the phone.
The above are merely a few suggestions. At no stage should you place yourself in a position where you become a doormat for your separated partner. Relationships are a compromise, not one-sided. The strongest relationships are often where both parties view their partner as equals. Status, employment, so forth, are not viewed as a measure of importance within the relationship.

Parting words​

Remember the start of this article? Relationships are complicated. Love is complicated, as are the complexities of a healthy relationship, let alone one with mental illness present. Health problems in general can test the strongest of relationships, breaking them apart for one reason or another. Health, physical or mental, can truly test a relationship's ability for communication, commitment and the presence of love for another.

What you have just read, I wrote - a PTSD sufferer, two divorces later due to PTSD, and the third marriage I started to implement significant change into my own life, thus I am still married and with the same partner for now 13 years. I took responsibility for me, and that is what your PTSD sufferer must do too. We own our choices and behaviours. Work with them to help them, but do not compromise your own life. We get one life with no time frame, use it wisely.
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A repetitive question by spouses and loved ones is that their sufferer walked out of the relationship with little to zero prediction of such event occurring. Some may have concluded that the end of the world would happen before their partner walking away from them would have.
Thanks for this post but even the terapist told me that, my partner of 20years will call me every day at 5 to know when I was coming back home from work, wouldn't go anywhere without me..and then he was retraumatized by his family and he isolated himself and us and them he started yelling me that he hates me and never loved me or that I was selfish and ruined everything...
I don't know if he us indifferent or angry t me (he said that is angry but is over and I took him for granted???
However, I struggle al lot especially with friends that don't understand
Behaviour will also vary depending on situation, such as the person may be able to function well at work in order to make a living for themselves, to pay the bills, yet when she is home, she crashes and burns, physically and emotionally. He may have no social life as another consequence, unable to process human connection further than a work environment.
This is so accurate, but not many people know that, and they tell me that he and this is all life just to destroy me...
It makes me very sad because he was a very caring man...that did so many good things for me..
One therapist told me that probably he didn't like me for 20 years and was panting up anger against me..(what a waste of time and money) basically she was blaming me for not meeting his expectations..

Symptoms will be influenced by factors such as how a person was raised, their morals and beliefs, the type of trauma experienced, socio-economic status, environmental factors and more.
This is so true, when he is syntomatic he does act like his father ..( he ates his father and haven't been talking for years).
The partner is wondering when their time will be. What about them? Their life has changed for the worse as a result.
This is exactly what happened to us, I was upset that he couldn't understand that I was dealing with the lost of my father the best I could, for once I needed his support and I needed to be left my journey to recovery..
The only one time that I needed hi is help he let me down and attack me..
I am still in shock...
But thanks..thanks also for saying that I shouldn't act like a doormat, but shouldn't make him feel guilty and more ashamed or himself (even I want to..sometimes)
I don't think he will ever come back to me, he has forgotten everything his personality has switched completely...
My beautiful person is gone..


New Here
Hello thank you so much for your article such a hard thing loving someone with ptsd my boyfriend had repeated childhood trauma from a parent. .He is middle aged and always knew something was wrong..about a year in he went to classes and therapy to try to help and was diagnosed with PTSD...not long after things seem to change...and he became distant and isolating from me..but yet would still text every day...I recently seen him...and he said we would start seeing each other's been a few days still text...but I'm not holding my breath...I told him when I seen him if he doesn't want this to please just tell me...and he didn't or I don't know maybe couldn''s like he doesn't want to let go...but doesn't know how to make it work...
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I have been in a relationship for 5 years with a combat PTSD sufferer with alcoholism. My advice is don't stick around for this roller coaster. I have been so incredibly patient and he has done things to hurt me without much empathy on his part. I have researched and read and blogged and gone to counceling- on and on and on...
We lose people. It is horrible. They die, they betray us, the lose their minds, they lose their moral compass... But if they do not have the capacity to commit to you and the care you need as a significant other, cut and run as soon as you can- because unless they are on a serious self- care/ self- discovery plan things will only get worse and your precious life, love and effort will go with it. Find what you love and do that. Enrich your life. Focus on friends who are good to you, causes that speak to you... Find joy. Chances are really good joy is not the final outcome with a person with untreated PTSD.
Unfortunately, that's true, things don't get better over time...without therapy..
I get frustrated when people say or think that love can cure everything..
Or that he should get over it..
Mine got worse, actually when we met he was fine (was seeing a therapist at the time, that some how decided that he was cured???).
The more I think about it the more I think it is surreal the personality switch that mine had a couple years ago!!
I am glad I can vent and read about similar experiences here!!


New Here
Thank you for putting something I’ve been struggling to understand for years into words.

I'm currently trying to leave my bf of 5 years due to escalating violence in the relationship. He has had repeated meltdowns and thrown furniture, punched a hole in the wall, etc. It took almost 2 years to get to this point and I feel terrible leaving him, but I don't know what else to do. We've already been to couples therapy, etc. It breaks my heart.


But if they do not have the capacity to commit to you and the care you need as a significant other, cut and run as soon as you can- because unless they are on a serious self- care/ self- discovery plan things will only get worse and your precious life, love and effort will go with it.
Correct. The person must be trying to help themselves, and not just trying, but actually making progress. Otherwise... they are just making excuses. Everyone can improve any aspect of their behaviour they want, with enough education and hard work. I barely drink nowadays (and usually its light beer if I do, in moderation)... I know it doesn't help me, I know it doesn't solve anything at the time, and I know I feel worse afterwards, so I just rarely do it.


You would think that after almost 9 years of the roller coaster I'd understand by now, especially with having PTSD myself. But the reality is, I don't want to believe it. Every October he leaves, and we work things out and I make more and more concessions.
This year, he finally started counseling. But not in time to prevent this annual falling out. There's a huge part of me that wants to continue to give up more to keep things going, but I know that's codependent and unhealthy. It hurts so much to do this the "healthy " way. I hate the fact that this is so risky. What if he doesn't want to finish the work to come back? How do I move on from what I still believe is genuine love?
This to me is truly harder than just giving up more. I feel like I've not only lost my lover, but my best friend too. I feel like my granddaughter just lost her only grandpa by him being gone. They love each other so much.
What is wrong with me for letting this go on so long that we all are so attached? What's wrong with me that I want him to still be here? I just wanted my family to stay together.
I guess I feel like I'm losing a huge part of myself. We're close, closer than most... .....but I hate that I'm always what gets the boot at stress cup explosion time. I wish he understood that his guilt is making him push, but I know what's best for me not him.


New Here
Thank you so much for this article and these comments from other folks. Now I see that my situation is not uncommon. I am 65 yrs. old and just had my husband of three years walk out. He is a Vietnam War and Desert Storm veteran. We dated for five years and there were red flags, but I loved him with all my heart. So we married. He has had multiple marriages and promised we'd go to counseling if we had problems. Well that's not going to happen. Besides PTSD, he seems to be on the narcissistic spectrum for a lot of behaviors which I find even harder to deal with. The only good thing is that he is not a cheater. I am totally devastated though for many reasons. I spent a whole lot of money on property and a large lake home in a rural area for him. Now he has dumped me with everything. I even gave him a lot of more money so he could buy his own place. Shame on me. Although we are not divorced yet, I'm trying to rebuild my life. For me, understanding what happened really helps.


This recently just happened to me. My ex and I were together for over a year. He had shared things about his time in the military and I knew he wasn't getting help for his PTSD. I noticed a change during the holidays. He had dropped out of school because his original plan to do what he wanted had been thrown out the window, so essentially, he had to start over, and he is the type of man who has back-up plans upon back-up plans. So, he was lost. I couldn't do anything.

Fast forward to now... He is finally getting help after almost TEN years of suppressed memories. He tried therapy/meds when he first got out, but he didn't like them and then stopped. He said it's going to be tough in the following couple of months. We were fine then all of a sudden, he said he didn't want me to be a part of the process. I have come to terms that his decision to break up with me was an act of love. He loved/cared enough about me to let me go. He had enough self-awareness to know that it could break our relationship (which is what his doctor told him).

He had a rough childhood and then going overseas twice, back to back, didn't help the already built trauma he had within himself. I just hope, one day, he comes back and that he gets the help he needs.

This post was just what I needed. As for what you all said about being able to move mountains to be with the ones you all love despite the PTSD? I want so badly to say that my situation is different. He moved mountains while we were together. The PTSD is just... It's way too much and he knew it was going to put a damper on our relationship if we tried to work it out while he was going to get help.

I miss him. So much.
I’ve been reading a lot of posts and learning as much about PTSD as I can since meeting a great man who was open and honest from the beginning about having it. He told me has went through 3 years of intense therapy for it and that he does see a therapist when he needs it now. I guess my question is similar to others. A little of the back story.

We met on a dating site and I asked him what he was looking for he said he wanted to get to k ow someone more than friends and have intimacy with them meaning more than sex, that he misses that connection with someone and that he wants to try. Well the short of it, things went really fast. He said things that I can now look back at and realize he may not be ready or even able to have a relationship. He said on thing in particular, if I don’t run you off, we could meet up for lunch sometime. That statement now makes sense. But to get back to how things happened. We talked and texted and met really quickly. We really hit it off, he said he felt as connection and was excited about seeing me again. Time went so fast when we were together. We met a few more times and decided that it was best that we slow things down and then he saw his therapist and he asked him if he though he should even be in a right now. He took a promotion and was moving to a new city, the city where I live. Things still seemed to be good we talked or texted daily and then boom.... he blocked my phone number for 4 days. I figured it out quickly and then he unblocked me and said he should have told me that he shuts off from the world from time to time. Things still seemed to be good and then he dropped the bomb. He really enjoyed spending time with me and that he has a lot of fun with me but he couldn’t see things being more than a friendship. He said he wanted to keep our relationship as a friendship still do all the things we did before but nothing physical except maybe a friendly hug. He said I didn’t need to tell him right away but that he really hoped we would could still be friends. That was 2 months ago. We still text on a regular basis, not like before and I am still usually the one to reach out. He ALWAYS replies to my texts and is even flirty at time. And when we spent time together after him telling me about friends, the hug he gave me seemed more than friendly. And he said to be prepared to ride every time I come over. He has a Harley and we both like to ride.

My question is this, I am reading into this more than I should? I feel like he may be unsure of his feelings and that’s why he wants the friendship. To get to know each other and build trust. I know he’s not seeing anyone else and he has his son for the summer so we won’t see each other for at least 6 more weeks. I don’t want to be reading into this but we met almost 5 months ago, this is a long time to keep things going if we are only friends. The romantic part of us lasted for about 2 and a half months. Any in-site would be much appreciated. I am still new to this and don’t want to cause him anymore added stress if I don’t have to. He’s very kind caring respectful and honest. He has never shown any anger or frisky towards me. I have really fallen for him, although I have kept that to myself but he does know I still have deep feelings for him, but that the extent of what I have told him. Thank you again.


Hi my partner who has PTSD has walked out on me and my children after 2 years for no reason he says he loves me but can't be with me I have done nothing but be kind and supportive to him I love him so much and I'm struggling here as I don't understand why he has left me I just want him back in my life the day before he left me was my birthday 2 months ago he took me out for a meal and spent a lot of money on me. I am really struggling hear I have been put on antidepressants since this happened and I'm suffering mentally I am now having councelling myself. I can only think of one thing why he left me and that is when he found out about his auntie dying and I told him to go and see her