Relationship need perspective/reality check in C/PTSD marriage

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burnedout

New Here
Hi All, first post, found this place via Google.
My wife (self-diagnosed C/PTSD sufferer) and I have been friends for just over 20 years. We were both in previous marriages in other countries before getting/living together 5 years ago (married 1.5yrs ago). Her traumas are extensive and from multiple spheres, ie child sexual, her health, the health system, parent psychological. She is brilliant, a masterful arguer, and licensed trauma therapist. As a friend she is extremely empathizing, giving and warm, to the point of fault, how could I not fall in love with her.

I blindly flailed around my own life, now knowing myself to be/have been a naive, anxious, co-dependent - my own cross to bear, and it helped me start and wreck numerous relationships.

Getting back to my sufferer, starting an intimate relationship with her was a challenge that my naivete at the time was shocked by. I kept 'causing' angry responses, doing wrong things etc, was feeling constantly criticized. She seemed to always need to be attended to. I would try to challenge, but this always made things worse. We would end up frequently having 4, 6, once even a 10 hr fight(s), this didn't seem good to me, I would freeze/shutdown. Her skill at logic and argument would bowl me over.

This eventually got to a point where I was close to taking my own life from frustration and hopelessness. I did get help and began some medication for anxiety which helped me to start seeing more of what was going on, but it was still all a mysterious mess.

Sometime later I tried to leave the relationship - we took a break. However, I was never left alone long enough for me to gather my thoughts. Through many conversations she convinced me that basically I hadn't been invested enough in the relationship, or applied myself enough. It made sense with my passiveness/co-dependency, so I decided to go 'all in' as it were. I asked her to marry me, I designed the engagement ring myself etc etc.

Fastworward a bit more to us, 4 months after being told we could not conceive, we're pregnent(!). This initiated a realization in her that her mother was actually NPD and should not be allowed contact with our child. In this process I started to learn about NPD, Borderline, and the like from her. A lot of that behaviour started fitting into place for me as ways to describe what I had been experiencing in our relationship. My wife had on occasion mentioned that if she had anything it was C/PTSD, but has always stayed away from getting officially diagnosed as the health system itself has traumatized her on more than one occasion. So I started wondering about these other conditions, but they just didn't seem to fit with her empathy and giving, that I, and others, know her for.

A few days ago I came across a couple of desciptions of C/PTSD behaviour and it clicked in my head.

So now on to my current situation. We both live with my father and our 5 month old daughter in the house I grew up in, not ideal for me given my co-dependent upbringing, but we're trying to save for a house after our rental landlord sold the place we were in suddenly. I had a fulltime job that was a difficult place to work - some systemic bullying. Historically I have worked freelance in the entertainment industry which has always required some long hours, last minute calls to work, and late/early start/end times, but this job was fulltime in the same industry with a particular company. My sufferer has chronic insomnia - we sleep in separate rooms, she uses a window air conditioner, 2 sets of earplugs, a noise machine, and at times, over the counter sleep aids. So I've had to adjust coming and going/work times. more and more this has been whittled down until now I do not go out in the evenings to work or see friends, I have had to leave that job as it caused too much stress for me trying to balance the demands her and the job were putting on me.
The pregnancy added to this requirement for my constant presence. I am always desiring to be supportive of her but money must be made as well, which is something else she is always coming down on me for - but how can I be out making money and staying by her side?? This type of duality is constant in our relationship.
So I am pursuing a different line of work, but am currently stuck in a red tape situation waiting to begin. This puts me available to care for our daughter with my sufferer (who is also on Mat. leave), which on the one hand is an absolutely great thing.
However, due to the insomnia, I co-sleep with the little one everynight, handling whatever happens on my own, feedings/diapers etc., and must wait for my wife to wake up before starting the day. Then I am needed to prepare meals, tidy, and assist her with the baby all through the day. Along with this are regular, almost daily, triggered aggression, and some major crisis to deal with. There has almost always been some onging crisis.
I'm burning out. Neither of us are working day jobs at the moment, and yet I'm burned out.
My wife is doing EMDR for her trauma, but it's slow, once a month or so. She's been working on her trauma for years in different self help ways interspersed with therapy. She is extremely intolerant of anyone disallowing her to have her meltdowns/freakouts, citing it as a denial of her emotions or right to her emotions - that in itself a trigger from childhood.

It is all extremely taxing (I'm also 56). I just try to get through each day, one at a time. I do what she asks, when she asks, the way she asks, whether or not it was different the day before. It's the only way to keep the peace. My anxiety meds actually help me to be calm about how messed up this is.
Writing this now normally would be time enough away from her to warrant a reason, luckily she was up early to feed the baby. I do love who she is under all this trauma, and that pokes through very occasionally, but the idea of leaving is so complicated and cruel.
I know that it's really only one choice, leave or stay. It's extremely difficult. There are so many more incidents, subtleties that I could add, but it would be pages. Thanks for reading this, any advice or perspective would be greatly appreciated.
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
Wow. She is abusive and manipulative. I never say that about people’s partners when they post here because “abusive” is a word I don’t throw around. What she is doing to you is abusive. She knows exactly how to mess with your head and she’s doing it to get her way.

We would end up frequently having 4, 6, once even a 10 hr fight(s),

First of all, f*ck that. Walk away. Don’t engage. She uses words and manipulation to control you. There is no reason on God’s green earth you have to listen to her malarkey for 10 hours straight. Walk away.

This eventually got to a point where I was close to taking my own life from frustration and hopelessness. I did get help and began some medication for anxiety which helped me to start seeing more of what was going on, but it was still all a mysterious mess.

So in order to be with her you have to be medicated? Your marriage made you suicidal? Does that sound like a good situation to be in?

She is extremely intolerant of anyone disallowing her to have her meltdowns/freakouts, citing it as a denial of her emotions or right to her emotions - that in itself a trigger from childhood.

Sure... let her freak out. But walk away from her. She does not have a right to make you a target of her tantrums. You do not have to stay and listen to her. Exit the room.

What is she going to do to your daughter growing up?? Her behavior is NOT acceptable. You either have to set and enforce major boundaries that she’ll respect or you’ll need to leave. She won’t get better with self treatment.
 

burnedout

New Here
Thank you Sweetpea76 for your bluntness, I have wondered about whether the word abuse applied, but psychological abuse is very nebulous to define, especially if you're the one in it. Strangely enough, later this morning my wife came to me wondering about the possibility of having to find some medication - currently she is severely wigged about a possible dental surgery, money impact, the whole crisis. Will see where this goes. I'm still partly convinced she is not fully aware of her behaviour when triggered, and rejects it when confronted with reports of it.
It's such a rabbit hole, as this whole thing could be another way of perpetuating crisis. I feel for her, I do, she never asked for the abuses of the past, and I do realize she needs to own it, but I do still have compassion for the human she is, the imperfection, needing help to share the burden. The question is, when does it turn to abuse of my compassion. I guess each of us has to decide for themselves, and I guess that's why I'm asking for perspective here, to not make decisions in a vacuum.
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
I'm still partly convinced she is not fully aware of her behaviour when triggered, and rejects it when confronted with reports of it.

Does she acknowledge her erratic behavior in calmer moments? Does she ever apologize for targeting you after the fact? Not that it’s an indication that she knows what’s going on, but it if she knows what happens after the fact then she knows what she did. The question is, does she feel justified in treating you that way?

I’d also read this post about triggers and stressors for clarity. Stressor vs. Trigger - What Is A Trigger?


do still have compassion for the human she is, the imperfection, needing help to share the burden. The question is, when does it turn to abuse of my compassion.

Sure... we all love our partners. We wouldn’t be with them if we didn’t love them. However, you can’t love em better, and you can’t let them steamroll over you using their PTSD as an excuse to treat you any way they please.

I wanted to make every excuse in the world for how my partner treated me. Yeah, he lashed out, projected, and isolated, but he’s poorly. He’s been through a lot, and mine has had multiple TBIs. But guess what? He doesn’t get to make my life hell even if he has PTSD.

The thing that saved my sanity and made the relationship work was learning how to set and enforce boundaries. I was not good at it before, and I was not nearly as firm with my lines. I *had* to get this way.

Boundaries are YOUR limits. You cannot control anybody’s behavior but your own, so boundaries are rules for yourself. Instead of telling her “you can’t yell at me”, you tell yourself “if she yells, I will not engage and I will leave the room.” Do you see the difference? She gets no say or input in your boundaries. They’re your limits. You communicate your boundaries, and she can respect them or not, but she does not get to bargain or negotiate them. They’re your limits, and you’re only controlling your own behavior. Also, boundaries are useless if you do not enforce them. Say what you mean and mean what you say. The first step is taking a good hard look at what your lines are. You can have hard dealbreakers, less firm lines, and things that are no big deal, etc. You just need to decide what they are.

For example my firm dealbreakers are violence, cheating, and hurting my children. That’s a no-go at this station, and I will leave the relationship. As far as behaviors I will not tolerate; lashing out verbally, name calling or breaking up my house. I remove myself from the situation every single time. He can yell at the wall for all I care, but I’m not going to be there to give him an audience. If he wants to talk to me like a grown up he can give me a call. I give a little wiggle room for isolation, which he uses as a coping mechanism. I won’t tolerate long periods of time with no contact. I will however give him space if he needs it and I know he is safe (I respect his boundaries for isolation as well).

If I didn’t stand my ground with these boundaries he would have made me into a doormat by now... Not because he’s a horrible person who wants to be an ass, but rather because PTSD is a horrible, selfish disorder. When you’re in self preservation mode you’re not exactly looking out for your partner. You’re coping whatever way you can, and unfortunately some of these coping mechanisms and reactions suck.

Honestly, I think part of the reason he loves me so much is because I don’t take a lot of shit off him. He knows I’m not going to let him hurt me, which in an odd way comforts him. He doesn’t want to hurt me.
 

Justmehere

Sponsor
She's manipulative and gaslighting you to believe things are your fault or responsibility. She is trying to make you out to be all the bad guy and isolate you... it's steps out of the abuser's handbook.

I'd suggest counseling support for you. This is not because something is wrong with you but because you are in a really difficult situation with a new baby and an abusive and mentally ill spouse. Anxiety meds are good, but a lot of them can lose effect over time and frankly, the situation is worrying. I think anxiety would be a normal response to her crazymaking. A counselor can be there to help support you as you set some boundaries and hold them. Get connected to any friend or other supports you can find. Don't let her isolate you from work and others.

Stay away from self diagnosis - by you or by her. She needs a qualified professional to sort out a diagnosis. She may or may not have PTSD or CPTSD, and it's not excuse for her behaviors. She's still 100 percent responsible for her actions. Not you.
 

Friday

Moderator
There’s sooooo much going on here, but I really just wanted to highlight this one thing real quick;
She is extremely intolerant of anyone disallowing her to have her meltdowns/freakouts, citing it as a denial of her emotions or right to her emotions - that in itself a trigger from childhood.
f*ck that noise.

Emotion and action are 2 different things.

A person has a right to their emotions... they do NOT have the right to inflict whatever action they decide to take on other people. No matter how they feel. To the point we have LAWS against that sort of thing. Because, yes, some people are so selfish and self centered they believe they are allowed to act however they please, regardless of how it affects the people around them. Moreover, that their feelings trump other people’s lives.

She. Has. No. Right. To take out any of her shit on you, or your child. Ever.

Can you even imagine allowing her to berate your child for 10 hours??? Or insist your child stay home from school, not make friends, and attend to her every need? Or take the blame for mom’s meltdowns and bad behavior? Your baby responsible for an adult woman? Please, every star in the sky, let the answer be “Of course not!” That you would never allow her to treat your child how she treats you. And then to take a very serious look at both how f*cked up that statement is, as well as have a deep think about the lessons you want your child to learn about how we treat the people we love, and how we expect to be treated.
 
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