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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Thankyou so much for this article and thread of comments, it has helped me so much. My partner just finished our relationship after a stressful period in our lives, with work and family stressors which I felt were a normal part of life but which has led to him severely triggering, then isolating and breaking up the relationship. We had been together 2 years and were planning on getting married and had started looking at getting a house together. I never saw it coming and am blindsided; we were absolutely in love and the happiest couple, and literally the weekend before he told me he was so happy he met me; told all my friends how deeply in love with me he was; he told me I was the love of his life frequently; how much he adored me and that he was the luckiest man in the world to have me to grow old with. 2 days before we were dancing in the kitchen cooking dinner and he hugged me and said how happy he was to grow old with me. Just before he broke up with me he had been triggered and got aggressive; and then he looked so distressed, severe anxiety and he broke up with me. We held hands, hugged and he said he couldn’t do it anymore; he thought his illness was going to damage me and he didn’t want that to happen. Then he disappeared, I have had a couple of texts saying he needs to be single and can’t manage a relationship; that he has to focus on self care and his work and stopping himself getting triggered. He said he will always love me but knows he can’t do a relationship and is sorry. My world has fallen apart; he was the love of my life, I knew he had C-PTSD from childhood abuse and neglect , we had talked about it and he thought it was well managed so had decided to try a relationship after years of being single and working on himself. There were signs early on and he would be triggered; would need to be alone or he could get aggressive/ angry and send me abusive texts when he dissociated or if he felt threatened; his insecurity was triggered. This happened about every 6 months and in between he was loving, kind, supportive and very nurturing. I was very aware of it, and gave him loving space whenever he needed it and really tried to be consistently loving and supportive and understanding if he was having a trigger. This feels like there is no going back; I have written him a letter asking if he would do couples counselling but although he keeps texting me he said he can only be friends from now on. He had moved in with me and we had built a life together; I feel he is my soulmate and I love him so much and miss him. We had such a strong connection I honestly thought we would be together forever. It helps so much to understand what has happened, he is a very protective and ethical person and said he wants me to be happy and peaceful and so I think he is trying to protect me. I am going to try and focus on my healing but it is so hard as we were inseparable and I miss him with all my heart.


I'm sorry this happened to you Sally. You are just another name within the long line of destruction that PTSD causes daily around the world. I'm glad to hear that you are now focusing on you, your healing. I look at my past as building blocks to my present relationship. I felt love, I felt lots of things, but certainly nothing in my past as what I feel now towards my wife. I thought I fit with past partners, but obviously did not. Now... we've been together over 15 years. That is a whole lot of me working on me to be a better version of me for her. To me, that is true love. I never did that for a past relationship as a PTSD sufferer. PTSD is destructive, that much I know. My wife still wants to strangle me at times now, but I typically can quickly see when I'm at fault, apologise and fix my view. Not always, but most of the time. Sometimes it is her that has the issue, and PTSD has nothing to do with it.

Relationships are complicated. They require both people to make maximum effort at times in order to want to be with the other person. So just don't blame yourself over the entirety of the relationship breaking. Both parties obviously have fault in such things, but its typically one more than the other. Own only what you own, lay the rest at his feet for him to sort out.


Hi, thank you for this article. Me and my now ex got together 8.5 years ago after falling for eachother 18 months before that. As teenagers we put in so much effort to make a long distance relationship work, we had so much love for eachother and he asked me to marry him 2.5 years into it. We since went on holidays, bought a house together and planned our wedding, which would have been in May if it weren't for covid. We started a family as we had always wanted, it was just perfection.

Then devastatingly, his dad passed away in February and it was a shock for us all. He had previously dealt with loss as well as can be and open with his feelings to me but he shut down after this, I tried to get him to talk but he said he couldn't. I encouraged him to get bereavement counseling as I was concerned he was suppressing his grief but he was putting it off.

He then started snapping at me all of the time and so we were arguing. It all came to a head one night and he revealed he wasn't sure he felt the same for me anymore and felt like he was making me unhappy. After a good talk and him getting so upset, he said that he didn't want to lose me, our relationship or our life so we decided to do what we could. We made more time for eachother, he was doing his best not to snap and even when he did I didn't react to it. We had conversations since where he said if he had left it would have been the worst decision of his life and was looking for new ways to propose to me again.

Unexpectedly a few weeks later, he was seeming distant and knowing something was not right I pushed him to talk to me and he said his feelings for me have changed and he didn't want our future anymore. This was now 2 months ago and we have had so many talks, sometimes he has broken down over losing me and other times is so cold. He has told me that he felt he was dragging me down into his pit of grief and he couldn't do that to me, he felt I wasn't being my usual fiery self and therefore unhappy. He didn't want to lead me on if the feelings never came back so was best to end it now before I resented him. He said he can't be selfish and keep me if there is someone else that can make me happy.

It is like he doesn't process what I tell him and reading your article was like seeing all the things he has said to me. He said when he left he closed the door and he can't look back, he can't deal with the feelings that are behind that door as he has felt numb to everything since his dad died. He can only think about going forward. It was never an attraction issue but I asked for honesty going forward and he has now told me he is more attracted to a work colleague than me, this is a recent thing. I couldn't understand how he could be numb but think about someone else, your article makes it a bit clearer.

Overall I am still in shock and absolute despair, as is both of our families and friend's who can't understand what went wrong. I am suffering with depression right now but still worry about him and what will happen when he opens that door in counseling and realizes what he has lost. He has now experienced a lot of loss in 6 months. Is there any hope?
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RoseCecilia - unless he was diagnosed, it's possible (even likely) that your partner isn't suffering from PTSD. I'd encourage you to work on accepting what has happened, rather than look for some kind of mental-health justification (or explanation) for his behavior.

Grief is a very strong force. But the life changes that people make in the face of strong grief aren't necessarily rooted in an illness. Those changes can simply be what happens after a huge loss - loss changes people, and then their priorities change, their world view changes.

And it's really, really painful for the person who is left behind, like you. Nothing will just erase that pain, but holding onto the idea that his change is temporary, as you're suggesting here:
what will happen when he opens that door in counseling and realizes what he has lost.
He's telling you he's lost his love for you, and he's telling you he has an attraction to someone else. I don't see him giving you signs that he wants to work on the relationship with you; and you can't work on the relationship, alone.

My advice, for what it's worth - is to take this time to process your own grief over the loss of the relationship, and work on moving forward into your life, without him.


This article has helped me a lot. My ex girlfriend has trauma from a previous relationship which was abusive. It hurts so much to see that I can't really do anything now, she's blocked all contact and doesn't see that it is the past that caused it.

Just like you said, suddenly the emotions switched from madly in love with me to breaking up. She said things like, 'you're my ride or die' for months on end, she said on the actual day of the breakup that she wanted to be with me 'long term'. We had one small disagreement in the relationship and that was enough for her to break up with me and see similarities of her ex in me. Just the disagreement alone was enough for that since, well, she had a lot of disagreements with him. She broke up with two other guys before me (short term dating) because they 'reminded me of my ex'.

What hurts the most is that she is the quiet type, so calm, and she builds all of these emotions up in her mind. I didn't see it coming. No communication. She's the most lovely girl you could ever meet, so sweet. She puts others first all of the time, and even works in mental health herself helping others with their problems. Trouble is, she can't identify this issue herself anymore - in the past she did, she got therapy and now thinks the problem has gone and it is other people instead. It hasn't gone, it's evident, she cried everyday, she had down moments where I couldn't do anything other than hold her and tell her I was there for her. I'd never abandon her, I was always supportive and loved her with everything I've got.

Now she's gone. She's also dealing with an injury that may put her in a wheelchair for life, depending on surgery. You may ask yourself, 'why do you want to be with someone with Ptsd and has an injury like that?'. Truthfully, the other times were the happiest of my life. We have so much in common, she is a wonderful person - fun, funny, kind, caring, affectionate, thoughtful, amazing in every way possible. But as soon as I was one of the things causing even a minor distress, bam - I was gone. All relationships will have their problems, we couldn't discuss them because she associated any problem with an abusive ex. Problem = run...

I'm venting really, this happened two months ago. I don't know if her surgery went well, if she is ok, if she still cares. It's so painful as I'd do anything for her - if her surgery went badly, I'd be with her forever taking care of her. That switch from 100% all in, love + kindness, to then no contact, nothing at all, saying she won't message me again and that she's sorry. I messed up at first, I didn't know she had Ptsd, I thought it was dealt with and the sadness was just her emotions and as she said, hormones. It is so clear it wasn't now. At the end of the relationship, I was so hurt, I didn't do anything bad, I just said it was cruel to say one moment she was all in (on the day of the breakup) then to break it off with me. I said it was horrendous behaviour to play with someone like that. I feel I wouldn't have said that in hindsight had I known. The guilt she feels, she probably won't ever come back, probably thinks I'm better without her. I'm not... She's genuinely the only girl I have ever wanted a family with, marriage, house - the lot. Only one, and she unearthed those feelings as I've never had them before. Anyway... Vent over. Thank you for the article. I was searching for answers for so long and this is her down to a T.


Sorry to hear Bobby. I get why you want to be with her. It was her choosing, not yours. Her decisions does not mean you stop loving her. I totally get it as a sufferer knowing what I had done. I still do negative things today, but my wife quickly throws it at me to look at, for "is it me?" moment. It typically is. But that didn't just happen for me. I never did therapy and thought I was all better. In fact I will tell anyone honestly today, I'm still screwed up to some degree and PTSD kicks my butt at random times when I get too overwhelmed with anything in life. I know what does it, but I still get overwhelmed and simply have to deal with knowing myself and to rest ASAP in order to get my head screwed on. If you met me, I am just a normal bloke, who does normal things. But the underlying mental stuff is what nobody can see, and that is what has affected you from your ex. Really sorry mate.

All you can do now is move forwards with your life. Remember the good times and keep going. If she wanted you in her life, you would be there. That simple. She obviously does not. Mourn the loss of the relationship and keep going.

Big kudos to you for reaching out about your experience. Spouses get the worst of PTSD, hands down IMHO.
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Thanks Anthony, your input helps, it really does. It is hard to understand it from my side. You've made it easier to understand and I will keep on loving her.

If she decides to come back at some point maybe we can work on things if she agrees to get help. That's my requirement now, she must get help with it, I'll pay for it, as long as she agrees to go to get help I'll pay for the lot and be by her side. I truly hate the guy who did this to her, not because I want to be with her, but because I just want her to be happy and she deserves that, he has stolen it from her.

Like you say, I'm going to move on, she may come back but I put the chances at the low end of the scale + it may be too late even if she does. The best thing I can do is agree to her wishes to be apart and I can meet someone new in my own time, learn from this and be better at identifying potential issues and communicating these issues.

Anthony, while you're a stranger I have to wish you all the best of luck with your PTSD and any issues you face. Life is hard enough without that extra curveball and you seem like you're coping well with it. I hope you're well and it seems like you've got your head screwed on.

I'll return back here if there is any update in the future. People may be curious in months to come - I'll let you all know if she does come back and if we work on the problems with professional help. If not, she didn't come back and I wish her the best.


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As someone who has cptsd I’m both disgusted and very sad over my actions with a long distance relationship. I’ve never really been in love and have
always dreamed of finding my soulmate, I really believed she was the one. Another thing, this is probably the closest I’ve felt to anyone in a very long time. This went on for over a year and I was planning on seeing her and hopefully getting married, for the first time in my life. And even though I would tell her ”together forever“ and I love you always the truth is the relationship was tearing me apart from massive anxiety, lack of sleep and depression. I felt very guilty for seeming to have my issues resolved when in fact I’m a lot worse then she realized.

I haven’t spoke to her in over a week, this not the first but I do believe she’s gone for good this time. I’m devastated and at the same time glad it’s over, I hope she will find someone truly good for her.

I feel so alone

sorry for the bad grammar, I’m not sleeping well😢


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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.
This is powerful and is helping me as a supporter to understand so much. I have been doubting that reconciliation is an option and reading this puts into perspective my former mate's need to end our relationship and completely ghost me and cut off all communication. Its sad but also maybe the Lord's provision for me. Great Article and much needed reality check for me

Thank you. I am loving him through this and pray for everyday. This is why I am educating myself to better understand how I can support even though we are no longer together.
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