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Relationship Partner with CPTSD emotionally cheating? Or adopting unhealthy coping mechanisms?

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New Here
Hi, I’m a partner of someone with CPTSD.

I could really do with some advice… I’m really struggling and in shock. I’d be really grateful for any insights from people who have CPTSD.

My question is:

Is my partner emotionally cheating on me? Am I being used as a Plan B while she waits for her ex to take her back? I do want to be sensitive to her struggles, but I’m scared for myself and don’t want to be a doormat.


  • Been dating for 1.5 years. We live together. Moved in after 6 months of dating.

  • I give P absolute financial support. Rent, bills, food, yoga, therapy. I pay for everything.
  • I give P daily emotional support. She has daily breakdowns and I talk her through it. I WFH so can take time out from work to talk her through things, or hug her. Constantly send her inspirational quotes/images, reassure her, etc. I’ve told her I feel like her therapist also.
  • Therapy has been tough. Didn’t work out with a couple of therapists, and she’s been upset at the idea of having to talk through her issues with a new person all over again, a third time.
  • P freaks out about a lot of things that are not big deals. Catastrophises. I always reassure her.
  • For various reasons, we don’t get out much. Mainly due to life changing after COVID.
  • She used to live a party life with her ex (with him for 4.5 years). He’s a narcissist and the r/s was toxic, but she went out a lot and they had fun. She’s found it hard to adjust to a quiet life, where things are stable. It also doesn’t help that we don’t go out much.
  • She dropped out of law school years ago. I helped her get back in. She’s finding it hard to focus and isn’t attending all classes.
  • She says life isn’t “fun” anymore, and I understand that compared to her party life, it isn’t. But I work, she has law school, and we’re both at home. There are no after-work drinks anymore, etc. Life is different. We did go to Europe recently for my friends wedding. Intense, but good. So we do things, just not as often. She says she hates being an adult.


  • I was helping P with an assignment. I was searching for info on her phone (with her). When sending the link to her laptop, her ex came up as a recent SMS contact in the Share menu.
  • I was really upset and went away. She came to me and I asked to see her messages. She gave me her phone. Turns out they text every 2–3 days, sometimes a few days in a row. Since May last year… so they’ve been texting for 4 months.
  • The next morning, I went on her laptop to look at all of her iMessages and Instagram DMs. [I KNOW SOME MAY JUDGE ME FOR THIS. BUT I HAD TO KNOW. WHETHER THIS IS RIGHT/WRONG IS A SEPARATE TOPIC]
  • Combined with Instagram, their messages go back to when we were dating for 3 months. So for a little over a year, it’s been almost every day. He is NPD, dismissive; she is needy and seeking validation.
  • Some things upset me: Ex sent her sth about exes getting back together due to unconditional love and P said the fact they’re talking again must be a sign (love heart emoji); IG link about celebrity couples getting back together and P says that could be them; P sent him some proposal meme and she said now she just needs him to propose. Not all messages are like this, but there are a few.
  • She sent him a photo of them only a few weeks ago of them kissing, while at a party. Said it’s her fav photo of them.
  • They’ve met at the park a couple of times. Best I know is just to ‘catch up’. Talked on the phone a few times. These things are more recent.
  • The ex occasionally asked to see a couples photo of us, but she declines to send one. And there’s a message where she said she’s not sure if I’m the one… while that hurts, when in the context of not sending a photo of us, I get the feeling she’s playing me down to keep herself appearing ‘available’ to him. So that hurts. And feels like a bad sign to me.

When I asked her how long they’ve been in contact, she said only this year “to the best of my memory”. So I know she’s lying. But perhaps she’s lying out of panic/fear? Even if it’s bad to lie.

I asked her why she talks to him and she cried and said that at least someone is still doing things and it’s better to hear about that than just being at home with me where nothing happens. I know her confidence has been shot to hell.

I can understand asking him what he’s up to, which she does, but the ‘love’ stuff has me in shock.

Normally I’d end things, but what confuses me is that I’m blindsided. She is so loving with me usually, and seems committed. P really put in effort to get our new apartment sorted for us, takes the lead on domestic chores, etc. Seems to really want to have a life with me. She is very present.

A big thing is she has no friends, and so has no one to message/talk to. The ex is the only other person has to talk to. Else, she only has me to talk to. And she’s an extrovert, and struggles with not being social. I’m introvert, so am fine.

So I could rationalise the regular texting. Or even meeting up with him, even if I don’t like it. Else, she never has anything to do except study, and yoga. She is incredibly lonely. She’s told me this many times. I encouraged her to join clubs, etc. Do things to meet people.

But it’s the ‘love’ stuff that gets to me, and sending him photos of them kissing, sending a photo of a nice proposal and then saying “all you need to do now is to propose to me”, etc. _And then there’s her playing down her relationship with me and never sending him a photo of us… to non-CPTSD me, it feels like she’s trying to make it look like she’s still available for him.

Is she trauma-bonded? Is she chasing an old high, even if it’s toxic? I am so hurt by her behaviour, but is there some way to rationalise this, while still meaning I could salvage things with her? She’s told me she’s scared of abandonment before, and her parents are divorced. Maybe she’s got some kind of attachment issues? But I’ve always told her I’m not going anymore. And she still seeks her ex out…

Could this be worked though with therapy? Have any of you seen/had this before?

Or am I an idiot, and is it obvious she’s in love with this guy and not committed to me?

I do know that she has little confidence and low self-esteem, as she feels that everyone in life is succeeding/moving on except for her. This affects her greatly, on a daily basis (main source of her daily breakdowns).

I want to run, but I feel so bad for her because she’s truly a sweet person with a strong character that just continues to have had SO MANY bad things happen to her. And maybe she’s all messed up because of that. And seeking to re-live ‘fun’ times, which is consistent with her saying that these days, every day just blurs into the next. She has low self-esteem, seeks validation in her messages with her ex, etc.

I’m so confused because I know she truly cares for me. Does many nice things for me, and is considerate. And is loyal. So part of me hates her for this, and part of me is trying to rationalise that her CPTSD has her all messed up and searching for the last time she was ‘happy’ (albeit unsustainably), and seeking a confidence boost from the ex. And also as she has NO friends, so has no one to even casually message.

Is it possible that she’s ‘simply’ never developed healthy coping mechanisms, and is doing the only thing she’s knows to do, especially given she’s so messed up about life?

Please, if anyone has any advice, I’d be so grateful for it. I want to be a good partner who can be patient, and work with CPTSD. But I don’t want to be a doormat.
That's alright these situations do trigger walls of texts.

I have been in a situation with someone who has pretty horrendous cptsd and bpd and whatnot. I felt bad for him. It was horrible. I suffered horrors in his hands and at some point I got so drained I was on the verge of suicide.

Day next he went off to someone else who could eat up his lies.

Do all people with PTSD, cptsd or bpd do that? No. Many do and it's no different than with no disorder. Harm is harm. There are. No excuses for harm.

There is something that I find difficult with supporters (I have cpstd but have been a supporter myself so I know where this comes from but its very misguided) is that shielding someone and excusing away their behaviour because of their mental health is actually doing a great disservice and also ignoring that we DO have a choice and agency. I can CHOOSE not being an ass.

It is not I'm An Asshole Disorder, it's post traumatice stress disorder. The symptoms are real and valid, but not all bad coping mechanisms are just unhealthy; some are outright harmful and devastating. I have a choice though in adopting the lesser worse.

And if I chose a bad coping mechanism on you? At least I'd persist and sign and I would not let you explain it away for me saying it's because I'm mentally unhinged. I mean it is a reflex to excuse stuff away and I did fall into that pit myself but no one ever benefits for having reduced responsibility when in possession of minimal judgement.
Thanks for sharing your story… I’m sorry you had to go through it, but glad you’re out on the other side.

The bluntness of your reply is exactly what I needed… a real kick to be told that there is no excusing this stuff. Your comment that CPTSD is not “I’m An Asshole” disorder is so helpful!

I was unsure if there was some kind of distinction between PTSD and CPTSD in a situation like this, which might be relevant (not to downplay PTSD, of course).

Anyway. I’ve made mistakes before, and so I’ve always tried to be kind to people that mess up in life. We all do stupid things.

But the nature of what she’s done, and for how long it’s persisted, and the content of the messages, and then the secrecy/lies… I know I need to end things. Perhaps also for her sake. Give her a chance to confront her demons and face them, or just repeat the same cycle for the rest of her life.

I hope anyone in a similar situation who finds this thread in future takes some comfort from this discussion! I don’t want breaking up to be the right thing to do, but it is. I’m so sad ☹️☹️☹️

I can’t keep thanking all of you on this forum enough. Good karma and best wishes to you all 🙏
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