Relationship Now I Don't Even Know When She's Triggered or Not

AdamKadmon

New Here
Part of my difficulty with being with my CPTSD wife is trying to figure out when she's triggered and what is "the new her" emerging from all the EMDR and therapy. It's like the PTSD has now become an integral part of her personality. She'll get triggered about something and things will be tense and awkward, then she'll seem okay the next day, more regulated at least -- but still saying and believing the same stuff as the day before. For example, that me asking her how she's feeling or if she's okay is "scrutinizing her emotions," that my perception of her being angry or agitated or triggered is just my own interpretation and a result my "cognitive distortion." Apparently I have zero ability to read other people's behaviors or moods all of a sudden. In the past she'd often retreat back from the paranoid or irrational stuff from the previous day - but now she sticks to it, just in a less triggered way.

It also seems like lately she's either triggered or stoned. She got a medical cannabis card through her therapist, and it really does help the PSTD symptoms, but there seems to be no balance or stability possible without it lately. We are facing some huge life changes, including an international move (or rather re-move, because we moved to Europe last year and are now going back to the US), and a probable separation. So I understand that life probably feels like one big trigger lately (it does for me!). But at a time when we're supposed to be working on our relationship, basically from the ground up by reestablishing friendship, peace, and stability, it's not helping. The rag-doll dynamic - of feeling like I'm always being yanked around by her emotions - is still there. So she'll be dysregulated, tense and argumentative for a few days, then gets stoned and is suddenly affectionate and pleasant (though even that is an issue because sometimes it's not so fun to be around a stoned person, and we're also not being intimate because I'm concerned about trauma-bonding).... then the next day she'd dysregulated and snappy again.

Anyway, I haven't been on this forum for a long time and I looked back at my first posts from about a year and a half ago. Since then, all I can say is that things got worse, though the really extreme stuff is better. A "discussion" (basically meaning a calm argument without yelling) can still go on for 4 hours, but at least it's not as aggressive and loud. That seems to be the main progress which is depressing. That's after 4 years of her doing EMDR, which has now ended. Since then she's been suicidal a few times that I know of (and once was bashing herself on the head with a heavy ledger book, and another time punching herself in the head, and another pounding on her legs). She just started seeing a new therapist, so hopefully that will help. And we've also started couples counseling - the first session seemed really good in the sense that we trusted and liked the counselor, but I can't say I was encouraged in any way.

Actually, to give myself some credit, another bit of progress is that I manage my responses better - more often able to step back from the abyss, and not fan the flames if an argument is coming. I'm also a bit better able to not take her stuff onboard emotionally all the time, but you know, having to create distance creates more distance....

Another development: she "came out" to me as non-binary and is considering having her breasts removed. My shock, disappointment, and even horror at this is not understood at all, and she says "why can't you love me for who I am?" and "I thought you were such an enlightened, open-minded person." She sees it as finally becoming her true self, and wishes I could "go on this journey" with her, and celebrate it. I don't judge anybody's sexuality or gender identity, but I can't help seeing this as self-harm, self-mutilation, and related to her CPTSD somehow. But who knows, maybe her gender dysphoria is contributing to her PTSD, and maybe if she has the surgery and fully transitions to non-binaryness that will help? I don't know, and I don't think I will be around to find out. I already told her that I'm not the right person to help her through that if she decides to do it; though also that the idea of someone else helping her through it while I wait at home in horror trying to find ways to "celebrate" is also so depressing. I guess the surgery is a red line for me.

Thanks for reading.
 

grief

Sponsor
I don't judge anybody's sexuality or gender identity, but I can't help seeing this as self-harm, self-mutilation, and related to her CPTSD somehow.
you can't know. in addition this is something that trans people deal with a lot of. "oh, you're just transitioning because of trauma, you're mUtiLaTiNg yourself."

you can't know, period. so at this point you need to make a decision based on yourself, not based on what you think she's doing for whatever reason. if she transitions, it sounds like that will not be compatible with you-which is valid. but telling her she's self-harming is not productive.

and in order to access medical care for transition she will be psychologically evaluated anyway. all that to say, it's not really relevant to you why she's doing it. it's just not. unfortunately people get caught up in how it will impact them, but it's not about you at all.

the reality is you guys just may not be compatible.
 

AdamKadmon

New Here
Well, a few things made my mind go to "trauma-related." When she first told me about it she'd been dysregulated for pretty much 2 weeks solid, and suicidal, and there was no mention of gender. All she said was basically, "I don't like my body. I want to cut off my breasts." So it sure sounded like self-harm talk to me, especially in that state and context. It was three days of mutual madness before it finally emerged that she was trying to come out to me. At the time it seemed like yet another thing on top the endless nightmare of the past couple of years.

True, there are a lot of things I can't know and this is one of them. I'm not basing my decisions or actions on understanding her psychology, but I need to know who she is now and what she's going to do. She insists she hasn't changed, but that's not what the rest of the world would say - and I don't just mean physically. We've been together for over 10 years, and she seems to be a totally different person to the one I married - far more negative, angry, dark, pessimistic, suspicious etc. I would not have fallen in love with this personality, and I've been hoping more of the old one will return. That needs to be figured out even aside from the gender stuff, because it was already going on for years.

I didn't and wouldn't tell her she's self-harming, because I don't know if she is. Once I understood what was going on, I've never said anything to that effect, or questioned her about it. Other than to ask if she's made a decision. Because the importance of the surgery seems to wax and wane. I don't want her to tell me she won't do it only for her to change her mind later. I've enough enough surprises, and have heard enough promises that can't be kept. I also don't want her to not do it "for me" if she thinks that's somehow holding her back from manifesting her true self. That's not a burden I need, and is not a recipe for a healing relationship.

>> unfortunately people get caught up in how it will impact them, but it's not about you at all.

Her reasons are not about me, sure, but how am I supposed to not be impacted by it? How is it not supposed to affect me when the woman I married is suddenly no longer a woman, insists that I don't see her as such, wants me to use new pronouns and correct other people if they use the wrong ones, and most importantly is essentially asking me to change my sexual orientation for her, embrace her new identity, and possibly support her through a surgery that I personally find horrifying, and which will remove a physical part of her that makes her "feminine" and a woman? And has been a part of our intimacy for 10 years.

At with PTSD supporters, there's very little help or resources out there for spouses of trans people (though I did find a good forum about it). Everything is about "how you can support your transitioning partner." Fair enough, but what about how the trans person can support their straight partner when they drop the bomb on them? Her PTSD therapist never thought of talking to me or both of us together about how her trauma and therapy might impact our relationship, or how to best deal with it. To me, that's negligent and should be a basic part of the therapy. Then again, there's a Jekyll-and-Hyde aspect to all this, where often only the supporter sees the really negative, aggressive behavior. Most people would never imagine that she'd be capable of it. It still surprises me, in fact, even after experiencing it countless times.

Yeah, we might not be compatible - which is a pretty devastating and depressing thing to learn after 10+ years together. Because we were the most compatible relationship I've ever had. The PTSD didn't manifest until after the first 6 or 7 years, and even then for the first couple of years it was contained, directed at the actual past causes of it and not taken out on me.
 

grief

Sponsor
So it sure sounded like self-harm talk to me, especially in that state and context.
like i said, it doesn't matter what it sounds like to you.

but I need to know who she is now and what she's going to do
this is an impossible ask for any human being. but especially one with ptsd. you can't predict the future. you can only take actions now. to benefit yourself and your family.

how am I supposed to not be impacted by it?
of course you will be impacted by it. but it's not going to change what's happening. obviously you are in emotional distress but it's honestly incidental. it's still happening.

you need to stop trying to read her mind and predict the future and make a decision based on what is currently happening, now.

How is it not supposed to affect me when the woman I married is suddenly no longer a woman, insists that I don't see her as such, wants me to use new pronouns and correct other people if they use the wrong ones, and most importantly is essentially asking me to change my sexual orientation for her, embrace her new identity
i mean, she's basically just telling you she's transgender. at this point you either can accept that or you can't. it sounds like you can't.

and possibly support her through a surgery that I personally find horrifying, and which will remove a physical part of her that makes her "feminine" and a woman?
again, this isn't that relevant. if it's repugnant to you then you need to stop being her spouse, obviously.

Her PTSD therapist never thought of talking to me or both of us together
if your spouse doesn't consent to that, that would be a breach of professional ethics. so of course she didn't talk to you.

Yeah, we might not be compatible - which is a pretty devastating and depressing thing to learn after 10+ years together.
yeah. it obviously sucks. i'm not saying it doesn't suck. but no amount of wanting things to change is going to make them be different than what they are, as evidenced by the fact that they are still not different.

or they are different but in even worse ways than what you initially wanted. at this point this relationship just sounds like it's causing both of you anguish.
 

Survivor3

MyPTSD Pro
Hi @AdamKadmon, I think that it's really great that your talking about this. I don't have advice to give because I never been in a relationship with any of these aspects. All I want to say is that it's not selfish for you to look after yourself. You have your own mental health to consider and your own personal wants and needs. If this relationship is affecting you really badly then back out of it. It sounds really tough.
 

AdamKadmon

New Here
like i said, it doesn't matter what it sounds like to you.
Well, words matter and actions matter, and how things are discussed and what is said have an impact. So it did matter when she said "I hate my body and want to cut off my breasts" while she was in a suicidal self-harming state. It matters that what she says one day doesn't always correspond to what she says the next.

this is an impossible ask for any human being. but especially one with ptsd. you can't predict the future. you can only take actions now. to benefit yourself and your family.
Sure, I understand that - but there must be certain things that people can rely on in each other - or should be able to. I can confidently say "I will never hit you, never hurt the dog, never have my penis cut off," etc. I'm just looking for some basic consistency, reliability, and balance. Something to hold on to in an ever-changing abyss of my spouses mental health problems and identity changes.

you need to stop trying to read her mind and predict the future and make a decision based on what is currently happening, now.
If I had done this from the beginning I would have left her 3 years ago. I've been trying to be patient and understanding about her illness, and give her time to heal. To see what happens and where we are when the dust settles, if it ever does. The more time that passes and the less progress is made, the less optimistic I get. But it's not a decision to make based solely on what's happening right now. Because that always changes. I don't know yet what the new baseline might be.

i mean, she's basically just telling you she's transgender. at this point you either can accept that or you can't. it sounds like you can't.
That's oversimplifying. There's not just one kind of "transgender". And she tells me different things at different times. If everything else was great and we had a mutually supportive, loving, happy relationship and she just wanted me to acknowledge her feelings about her gender and validate her appearance, that would have been fine. But I have to change the way I think, feel, act, and my sexuality if I want to be with her. Talk about a big ask.

again, this isn't that relevant. if it's repugnant to you then you need to stop being her spouse, obviously.
Not that relevant to whom? It's relevant to me, to her, and to the relationship. Removing her breasts might be one reason among others that I'd stop being her spouse, but it's premature to tell me that if it's repugnant to me I need to get a divorce. My whole point about this is that not knowing, and the changing attitudes about it, make my situation even more confusing. Divorce her because she might do something I find repugnant? Same with the trauma-related anger and aggression. If I knew those things wouldn't improve and that she'd get the surgery, things would be clearer. The gender stuff is just the tip of the iceberg, anyway - which I tried to convey in my original post.

if your spouse doesn't consent to that, that would be a breach of professional ethics. so of course she didn't talk to you.
Obviously - which is why I said "or both of us together." I didn't and wouldn't try to go talk to my spouse's therapist behind her back, and I did ask to join a session with them. Which we did once for about 15 minutes, and that was it. My point was that discussion about how behavior might affect personal relationships should be built into the therapy program.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
But I have to change the way I think, feel, act, and my sexuality if I want to be with her. Talk about a big ask.
Yep. It's a massive massive ask. Huge.
She's (or does she prefer a different pronoun now?) Changing her identity which means, if you stay in a relationship it has an impact on how you see her, how you see yourself, and how society sees you. That's massive.

Her doing this though, and her saying words like "wanting to cut her breasts off", are not acts of self harm or mutilation if she is transitioning/non-binary/trans or identifying as anything other than "female". If she were female and wanted to cut her breasts off and had no wish to change her gender identity or body, then yes it would be self harm. But that's not what she is telling you.

The road to self discovery is not neatly wrapped up. She will say one thing one day and another on another, as the whole thing is confusing. Doesn't make it any less real or happening.

Of course that would confuse you though.
This is hard on her. This is hard on you.
Whether you survive this and remain together? Who knows.

I would ditch the "she is mutilating herself" talk though. That is something you need to process. That isn't going to support her or help her.

You may be going in opposite directions with this. But I hope you find a way through with kindness for each other.

Couples therapy?
 

Friday

Moderator
Apparently I have zero ability to read other people's behaviors or moods all of a sudden.
Snort. Don’t you just love that? It’s like being accused of cheating, out of the blue, because the other person has just cheated on you. Um. No.

Just because YOU (her) have lost your ability to accurately read people, & assess situations, & act accordingly… doesn’t mean that everyone else has, too. >.<

The rag-doll dynamic - of feeling like I'm always being yanked around by her emotions - is still there. So she'll be dysregulated, tense and argumentative for a few days, then gets stoned and is suddenly affectionate and pleasant (though even that is an issue because sometimes it's not so fun to be around a stoned person, and we're also not being intimate because I'm concerned about trauma-bonding).... then the next day she'd dysregulated and snappy again
My whole point about this is that not knowing, and the changing attitudes about it, make my situation even more confusing
It’s brutal and heartbreaking as the trust you’ve spent all your lives together building… gets hit with a sledgehammer over, and over, and over again. No matter how strong it was to begin with? Strike by strike, chip by chip, it comes closer and closer to just shattering. And you never know when that will happen. Or if it will be a relatively clean break into large pieces with clear areas that may be able to be reforged… or if it’s been too many blows, for too long, and nothing will be left capable of mending. Shards and dust. You can see it happening. You can even see countless ways to fix it, if only… and now fewer ways. And fewer ways. Trust eroding, near breaking, is a pain I don’t even know how to begin to describe. There are just so man damn layers to it. Betrayal, fear, determination, exhaustion, grief, regret, hope, longing, missing, sadness, loss… and so much more. Chip by chip. Blow by blow.

At least when one CAN tell their beloved has “just” temporarily lost their damn mind, knows they’re triggered and being an irrational idiot? It’s easier to both maintain your sense of self, and your trust in them. Not a lot different -if on a grander scale!- from ignoring someone “before coffee”, or carrying snacks around because “low blood sugar bitch Queen” best avoided, or tax season, PMS’ing, job loss, grieving a death. Yes, it’s still very much them, but it’s also them-in-situation-ABC. It’s a known quantity. It’s just them. Doing their thing. That can be expected, and worked around. By both people. Whether it’s a daily thing, or an intermittent thing, it’s A THING. Not everything.

The more it takes over? The more someone else’s skewed reality becomes NOT a few minutes here, a few days there, a hard time here, a hurt there? The more you’re accused by someone you love, who is supposed to know you, of things you would never do, treated like a person you aren’t? Not seen for yourself, or treated the way you deserve? It’s crazy-making. It’s f*cking HARD to hold onto reality, when the person you love and live with, is no longer there in that reality with you. Except just often enough to remind you of what you’re losing, and have lost.

It’s waaaaaay too easy to join them there, and start blaming yourself, believe you deserve to be treated like a rapist, an abuser, an untrustworthy piece of shit. As anyone who has ever lived in an abusive relationship can attest to. Whether one is talking abuse, or crazy f*cked up bullshit, or both.

I can’t even begin to give you any advice about what to do… as far as leaving, staying, separating.

The only advice I can give is this: Trust your gut. Trust your judgment. Evaluate it, as needed/wanted, for damn sure. But trust it. And trust yourself.
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
PTSD is a selfish disorder, and supporter feelings often get blown out of the water when the sufferer is in self preservation mode, lashing out, symptomatic, or any other number of reasons. Let’s keep in mind that this is the supporter section. We have the whole rest of the forum to worry about PTSD feelings.

Your feelings are valid @AdamKadmon. You’re allowed to be confused, frustrated, and sad. It does not make you a bad person. It sounds like your wife has been symptomatic for awhile, as well as going through EMDR. That’s hard on her, but it’s probably been hell on earth at home too. Caregiver burnout, compassion fatigue… whatever you want to call it, very very real.

Thats the thing about marriage/long term partnerships that people don’t consider. Your lives are wrapped together in all aspects. Your spouse affects your life. Being in a relationship means making yourself vulnerable to that person. You trust them not to hurt you emotionally, physically, financially, etc., knowing full well that they could. You’re allowed to feel what you feel when your partner is throwing a big monkeywrench in your life. But as a supporter you automatically get a big heaping spoonful of guilt to go along with those feelings too, because you’re the “healthy one” and the designated asshole when things are not going well.

It does not make you a bad person to question your wife’s behaviors if she’s been dysregulated. That is a dumpster fire from the outside. We don’t know what the hell is going on, we just know we can’t do anything about it. As long as we stay we’re just along for the ride, and that sucks when you have to be the “healthy one” and put out the practical fires. Is she triggered? Is she stressed? Is it the weed? Is she ok? Who knows? It’s a “field of rakes blindfolded” situation and I don’t blame you for being exhausted.

It also does not make you a bad person to feel how you feel about your wife coming out or transitioning. That’s a huge bombshell when there is no mental illness in the mix. A long symptomatic period, SI and self harm would make it harder to be unquestionably accepting right out of the gate. I may be too used to dysreg napalm, but I’d have to hear that conversation when my partner was in a stable place to be able to even begin to process. I don’t blame you for questioning in light of everything you’ve been through… although I’d probably keep it to myself to be supportive. As far as ending the marriage, that’s not the relationship dynamic that you entered. It’s easy to be supportive of gender identity in general, it’s a different thing when your spouse transitions after years of marriage, changing your whole life. That doesn’t make you or them a bad person either… it is what it is. Your feelings are just as important as theirs.

There is a lot to unpack here. I don’t know what I’d do in your situation. I just wanted to validate your feeling and let you know that you don’t have to feel guilty for having them.
 
M

Martine

Part of my difficulty with being with my CPTSD wife is trying to figure out when she's triggered and what is "the new her" emerging from all the EMDR and therapy. It's like the PTSD has now become an integral part of her personality. She'll get triggered about something and things will be tense and awkward, then she'll seem okay the next day, more regulated at least -- but still saying and believing the same stuff as the day before. For example, that me asking her how she's feeling or if she's okay is "scrutinizing her emotions," that my perception of her being angry or agitated or triggered is just my own interpretation and a result my "cognitive distortion." Apparently I have zero ability to read other people's behaviors or moods all of a sudden. In the past she'd often retreat back from the paranoid or irrational stuff from the previous day - but now she sticks to it, just in a less triggered way.

It also seems like lately she's either triggered or stoned. She got a medical cannabis card through her therapist, and it really does help the PSTD symptoms, but there seems to be no balance or stability possible without it lately. We are facing some huge life changes, including an international move (or rather re-move, because we moved to Europe last year and are now going back to the US), and a probable separation. So I understand that life probably feels like one big trigger lately (it does for me!). But at a time when we're supposed to be working on our relationship, basically from the ground up by reestablishing friendship, peace, and stability, it's not helping. The rag-doll dynamic - of feeling like I'm always being yanked around by her emotions - is still there. So she'll be dysregulated, tense and argumentative for a few days, then gets stoned and is suddenly affectionate and pleasant (though even that is an issue because sometimes it's not so fun to be around a stoned person, and we're also not being intimate because I'm concerned about trauma-bonding).... then the next day she'd dysregulated and snappy again.

Anyway, I haven't been on this forum for a long time and I looked back at my first posts from about a year and a half ago. Since then, all I can say is that things got worse, though the really extreme stuff is better. A "discussion" (basically meaning a calm argument without yelling) can still go on for 4 hours, but at least it's not as aggressive and loud. That seems to be the main progress which is depressing. That's after 4 years of her doing EMDR, which has now ended. Since then she's been suicidal a few times that I know of (and once was bashing herself on the head with a heavy ledger book, and another time punching herself in the head, and another pounding on her legs). She just started seeing a new therapist, so hopefully that will help. And we've also started couples counseling - the first session seemed really good in the sense that we trusted and liked the counselor, but I can't say I was encouraged in any way.

Actually, to give myself some credit, another bit of progress is that I manage my responses better - more often able to step back from the abyss, and not fan the flames if an argument is coming. I'm also a bit better able to not take her stuff onboard emotionally all the time, but you know, having to create distance creates more distance....

Another development: she "came out" to me as non-binary and is considering having her breasts removed. My shock, disappointment, and even horror at this is not understood at all, and she says "why can't you love me for who I am?" and "I thought you were such an enlightened, open-minded person." She sees it as finally becoming her true self, and wishes I could "go on this journey" with her, and celebrate it. I don't judge anybody's sexuality or gender identity, but I can't help seeing this as self-harm, self-mutilation, and related to her CPTSD somehow. But who knows, maybe her gender dysphoria is contributing to her PTSD, and maybe if she has the surgery and fully transitions to non-binaryness that will help? I don't know, and I don't think I will be around to find out. I already told her that I'm not the right person to help her through that if she decides to do it; though also that the idea of someone else helping her through it while I wait at home in horror trying to find ways to "celebrate" is also so depressing. I guess the surgery is a red line for me.

Thanks for reading.
All this Is going on and you won't have sex because of trauma bonding. I haven't CPTSD and woaw. That's what she's probably missing..I mean 🤷‍♀️ Why not can it get any worse. Your already trauma bonded. She knows that. She has to live with herself. She knows herself.
 
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