Relationship Please help. Im at a loss - she makes me the target

SirRaabit

New Here
I need help. Please. Desperately. This will be a lot of information upfront but I will try and keep it as short as possible. I've been dating an amazing woman for about 7 months now. We started off bumpy to say the least. I wasn't honest with her in first 2 months about my home life. It's convoluted and messy and she was made to feel like a mistress. The situation has evolved drastically since then. She is my world. I do everything I can to show my devotion to her. Physically, emotionally and spiritually. I adore this woman.

I've done everything I can to remove stressors from her life. To protect her and give her a safe space. To just hold her and pet her gently or rub her feet until she falls to sleep. Her nightmares are better when I'm there at night so I've started staying more often , 5+ days a week. Now if I don't spend the night it's a fight. It's immediate dissociation and the walls go way up if she asks if I'm leaving ( usually for less than 24 hours to spend time with my kids). I know this is a common reaction for those that have PTSD. It's a struggle for me. It feels like I'm letting her down to fulfill other obligations.

I can deal with that for the most part though. I struggle with the second reaction that's becoming more frequent. We were both raised by narcissistic mothers. She grew up in shouting matches and looking for the words that would inflict the most pain. I also had a physically abuse father so I coped by just hunkering down and hoping for the best. When she gets into flashbacks this most beautiful woman I've ever met turns into something mean and intentionally cruel. Showing compassion for her past doesn't help. Offering her anything she wants doesn't help. Acts of love and service don't help. Disengaging makes it worse. Logic doesn't help.

She blames lashing out at me as my fault or frequently all men's. Frequently the triggering event has nothing to do with me. Just I'm the easiest target as I'm there and I love her. Arguments from the beginning completely unrelated to the current subject are brought up. And the shortly after the verbal abuse begins. Every single raw spot. Everything I do is worthless. All my actions. Just in general I'm worthless. I'm back to feeling like a scared kid. And it rips me apart because the only thing keeping me sane during it is trying to comfort her.

And after its all done its one of two responses. "It's your fault, you gas light me" or "I was triggered, I've got nothing to apologize for". If I say anything more about how the episode made me feel it's deemed I'm victim blaming.

So the questions. How do I help her? I want her to feel safe and when we are good we are amazing. And how do I survive her trauma without hurting her? She is taking pieces of me with her and I have my own mental struggles.

I guess it's relevant to point out. I have major depressive disorder and aniexty with panic attacks. It has be suggested that I too have PTSD from childhood physical and emotional abuse and is something being discussed in therapy. However my symptoms and reactions are not as severe and are almost exclusively dissociative in nature. She is diagnosed with PTSD and several therapists have suggest bpd as well but she refuses to acknowledge the later.
 
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ruborcoraxxx

MyPTSD Pro
She's verbally abusive to you. And in verbally abusive, there is abusive. How to help her? She has to help herself. You're her partner not a punching ball.

Hell, I'm a knot of triggers. I have a lot of annoying behaviours. I melt down. I ask why you don't love me and when you say you do, I say it's not true. I cry and pester and throw my phone on the ground then feel stupid.

But finding the worst thing to say and hurt the person I love? Jeez no. It happened 3 times in my life and all came as responses to blatant aggression.

PTSD, BPD, whatever diagnose people have are not blankets to refuse accountability and responsibility. I have CPTSD with blurps of BPD when things start to get out of hand. Nevertheless, what I do is what I do. That is has been triggered by something has nothing to do with the fact my response is hurtful. So, I don't. I walk. I write letters. I take medication. I come here.

You also can help yourself. Do you want to live with this person right here, right now? Or is it the hope that she might improve or realise? Do you find this situation is okay? Do you think you have the tools yourself go deal with this with your own background?

I spent two years trying to please someone who was abusive to me. He too, found all the horrible words. He too, had severe PTSD. And BPD. A wonderful combo.

Without real commitment towards therapy and a clear cut vision of what's acceptable and what isn't, this is not going to improve I'm afraid.
 

Friday

Moderator
I know this is a common reaction for those that have PTSD
I’ve never met anyone with PTSD who pitches a tantrum when their partner needs to spend time with their children. I’m sure there are people with PTSD out there who do that, but it’s not a PTSD thing.

PTSD? May cause the emotional spike/dysreg, anxiety attack/panic attack, etc...but how someone deals with that symptom spike? Is on them / their decisions (even if so practiced, it’s become automatic). Whether that’s cheating, gambling, lashing out verbally or physically, getting drunk/high, self harm, etc.

PTSD > Causes the symptom
Person > Chooses how to react to &/or deal with the symptom

Which maaaaaaay seem like splitting hairs, when you’re in the middle of dealing with being eyeballs deep in badness... but it’s important. On both the sufferer side & the supporter side. “He HAS to cheat, it’s the PTSD.” // “She HAS to beat me up, It’s the PTSD.” “He has to sell everything I own, it’s the PTSD.” “She HAS to send photos of her sliced up arms to my kids, look at what you made me do, it’s the PTSD.” “He has to get high, it’s the PTSD.” “She has to sexually assault me, it’s the PTSD.” and a thousand other variations? Are total bullshit excuses. It’s not the PTSD. It’s them. And they could learn to manage their symptoms differently, and have chosen not to.

It may also very well be a trauma thing for her, completely unrelated to acting badly in the wake of a symptom spike... like if she was raised to believe that kids are meaningless pieces of shit, so she not only views your kids like that, but if you’re leaving her to spend time with them she’s less than shit. Or being raised with attempting to inflict the most pain with her words, and actions, is how one is “supposed” to treat the people you “love”. But that’s not the disorder. That’s her. Repeating the cycle of abuse. On you.

And after its all done its one of two responses. "It's your fault, you gas light me" or "I was triggered, I've got nothing to apologize for". If I say anything more about how the episode made me feel it's deemed I'm victim blaming.
You do get that SHE is the one victim-blaming, here? She’s blaming you for HER actions. You are not god. You don’t control her actions. She does. But she’s pulling the classic abuser stunt of making you responsible for HER thoughts, feelings, and actions. Oh it’s all your fault if she’s not happy, and it’s all your fault if she’s triggered/stressed, and it’s your fault if she behaves badly??? Really???

No.

It. Is. Not. Your. Fault.

If she gets triggered? That’s because she has PTSD. (Which you didn’t give her.) It is her responsibility to learn to manage her own disorder.

If she acts/reacts in a way that she doesn’t like? Or that hurts others, even if she sees nothing wrong with doing so. (Whether she’s triggered, or not). SHE is the one reacting that way, and she & only she has the power to start changing the way she acts & reacts.

If she refuses to accept any kind of responsibility for managing her own disorder, & simply blames everyone around her? There’s nothing you can do. Even if you held a gun to her head, or kidnapped her and tied her to a chair, and used every trick in the torture and interrogation handbook to get her to behave in the way you wanted? (And I’ve been there, which is why I feel comfy using it as an example) You still can’t make someone think/feel/act in a certain way, if they’re set against it. <<< So if even the most extreme options out there still don’t give you the ability to do what every abuse victim since the dawn of time attempts and fails? (It’s all my fault! I should have / could have / would have blahblahblah and then they....). How the everloving f*ck is her disorder, thoughts/feelings/actions your responsibility? They’re not. Never were. Never will be. No matter how much either/both of you may wish they were.
 

SirRaabit

New Here
Follow up question. My childhood abuse was daily and sustained. I don't have spikes or singular events. Very few things stand out to me. Its part why we are investigating PTSD in my therapy, the feelings of reverting back to that helpless mindset of a scared alone kid. I had always previously ascribed flash backs to more of a reliving a specific trauma not just a generalized feeling.

With hers when she talks about her trauma they are singular events. As such there are anniversary dates. She claims the entire month of May as a hall pass because of something truly terrible her ex did over memorial day weekend. This never seemed right, she has several months she claims, but my journey has been much different than hers so I try to understand the best I can. I feel like shit that I left today, even though she told me to leave, I know she doesn't want to be alone. She is scared and she hurts but I can't comfort her without hurting myself and I was at my limit.

I've spent the last couple of hours reading the forums and I'll likely spend days more. It's both comforting and saddening that this isn't a unique situation. I don't want to give up on her. She is worth fighting for but I'm repeatable hearing that there is no way to reach her if she is unable to see these things herself.
 

joeylittle

Administrator
Sounds really tough, @SirRaabit - I'm glad you posted.
Now if I don't spend the night it's a fight. It's immediate dissociation and the walls go way up if she asks if I'm leaving ( usually for less than 24 hours to spend time with my kids). I know this is a common reaction for those that have PTSD. It's a struggle for me. It feels like I'm letting her down to fulfill other obligations.
As @Friday said - this isn't typical PTSD behavior - but it's definitely BPD behavior, and you mentioned that's come up as possibly being part of her diagnosis.
And after its all done its one of two responses. "It's your fault, you gas light me" or "I was triggered, I've got nothing to apologize for". If I say anything more about how the episode made me feel it's deemed I'm victim blaming.
One - it's not your fault at all, and yes she does have to take responsibility for her actions; there's no such thing as "the PTSD made me do it, I'm not responsible". Two - this is also reminiscent of personality disordered behavior.
I feel like shit that I left today, even though she told me to leave, I know she doesn't want to be alone. She is scared and she hurts but I can't comfort her without hurting myself and I was at my limit.
On some level, she wanted you to feel badly. Might not be a conscious level - but she's clearly engaging in behaviors designed to shame you and create guilt in you...so, it sounds like she succeeded. And that's not fair to you. It's really good that you left, and it's very healthy for you to recognize you were at your limit.
She is worth fighting for but I'm repeatable hearing that there is no way to reach her if she is unable to see these things herself.
The very hard thing about BPD - about all personality disorders, really - is that the person not only cannot see themselves....they see themselves like in a funhouse mirror. What they see is warped - and they think that's who they are. The treatment path is difficult, and if they aren't on-board with what the therapist is teaching them about how their disorder warps their behavior...then they really can't make progress.

That's a long way of saying - if in fact BPD is a big part of what's going on with her, then yeah - nothing is going to work unless she becomes willing to believe her therapist, and if her therapist is skilled enough to work with her.

This is true of all mental health issues, to a certain extent - but some of them can be worked on whether or not the sufferer is in-tune with themselves. Sometimes this is enhanced or enabled by meds, or sometimes it's because they've got a little bit of awareness that something is wrong - just enough to make it possible for them to go to therapy with an open mind and give something a try.

It doesn't sound like she's really engaging in treatment. And that's going to make things infinitely harder for you. It's kind of a no-win situation.
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
I can’t really add anymore to the conversation about her. She is in charge of her own triggers, stressors and symptoms and how she reacts to them. She is not reacting well, and therefore abusing and gaslighting you. Lashing out, unfortunately, is a pretty common struggle that supporters go through.

All I can do is offer up some advice as a long term supporter. You may want to protect her and help her with her triggers. You may want to comfort her through them and calm her down, etc. That just does not fly. You end up walking straight into a buzz saw. Make sure she is physically safe, but do not feel obligated to be a target of her bullshit just because she is triggered. YOU didn’t trigger her... SHE was triggered. DO NOT take on any guilt or responsibility for that. Everything that’s happening is happening in her head, therefore it’s her responsibility.

My partner is a vet with combat PTSD, and he has a tendency to lash out (although he has gotten much much MUCH better about it over the years because of hard work and good boundaries). He is a foot taller than me and built like a brick shithouse. While he has never laid a finger on me, it can be scary when somebody is towering over you in that state. I learned early on that when he was in that state I needed to have zero tolerance for my own sanity. Do not engage. Do not escalate. Do not try to reason or defend yourself. Disengage, and walk away. Nothing you say or do is going to make her happy or fix anything. At this point in time, you need to protect your sanity and well being.

“I love you, but I cannot stand here and be a target. I will talk to you when you’re able to have a civil conversation.” Then remove yourself from the situation. Every time. Do not get sucked back in. That is your boundary, and boundaries only work when enforced. They’re not about controlling her... they’re setting your own limit. For example, you’re not telling her “You’re not allowed to do X”. You’re telling yourself “if she does X, I will not tolerate it”, then you’re communicating that boundary and enforcing it by following through.

Being a partner to somebody with mental illness is not all sunshine and romance. It’s hard. You have to protect your own sanity. You’re not helping her by being a martyr. You’re not helping yourself either. Boundaries are essential.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
You're 7 months in to a relationship. This is meant to be fun, exciting, getting to know each other.
If it is heartache, and bullying, and like how you describe: is this really what you want?

Your questions are about how you can help her, how she can be better.
But what do you want from a relationship. This? Or someone who behaves differently? As your behaviour doesn't make someone behave differently. They make themselves behave differently. You have no control about it. None.
Sometimes it's best to walk away and put it down to experience.
 

EveHarrington

MyPTSD Pro
I’ll just focus on one part, safety, as this is a primary struggle of mine.

I have only felt safe with one person in my life. He was the only person I was ever able to sleep beside. He was the only person who could hug me and I’d feel safe. This was not something that could be forced. It just was. It was something built over time. I don’t think anyone could even begin to advise you on how to make HER feel safe. Plus, this isn’t your job. This isn’t your responsibility. It is something that simply grows out of a healthy(ish) relationship over time.

And on to my next point. You should not try to be a safe person to her in that she needs you in order to feel safe. I felt safe with my ex, but this was a perk. Sometimes I would crave seeing him as I wanted to feel safe. However, in treatment we were told to NEVER have a safe person or object as safety has to come from within. We need to be able to make ourselves feel safe. In this I mean don’t have a safety object like a rock that makes you feel safe, as when you can’t find your rock you will just panic even more. We must be able to be anywhere and with anything (or even nothing) and be able to calm ourselves, even getting a sense of safety.

It sounds like this relationship is going to be difficult if she isn’t willing to work on herself. I have PTSD, but I would never date someone else with a trauma history as it would just be too much to handle. I worry that she would hinder you in your healing.
 

lostforgottensoul

MyPTSD Pro
Do not engage. Do not escalate. Do not try to reason or defend yourself. Disengage, and walk away. Nothing you say or do is going to make her happy or fix anything. At this point in time, you need to protect your sanity and well being.

“I love you, but I cannot stand here and be a target. I will talk to you when you’re able to have a civil conversation.” Then remove yourself from the situation. Every time.
From someone who was (isn't anymore) diagnosed with BPD and PTSD and who used to have blind rage explosions at people, this was key. This issue with me was that they would follow me around and fight back with me and that would make it all the worse. If they disengaged and walked away, I could eventually calm myself. Mine were triggered by anxiety by who knows what hers is triggered by.

Boundaries are also so very important to me. They are like a guide rope for me. Hard set boundaries not only helps the supporter but also the sufferer.


I've done everything I can to remove stressors from her life. To protect her and give her a safe space. To just hold her and pet her gently or rub her feet until she falls to sleep. Her nightmares are better when I'm there at night so I've started staying more often , 5+ days a week
This is not your job. For both of your sakes, don't do this. Don't take responsibility for this. This not only harms your mental state but it also gives her the wrong ideas here. She needs to find her own safety. She needs to manage her own triggers and stressors. She needs to manage herself as you need to manage yourself.


It's immediate dissociation and the walls go way up if she asks if I'm leaving ( usually for less than 24 hours to spend time with my kids).
Sounds like abandonment issue which I can relate to but again, not your job to manage. Your kids deserve your time, right? She is an adult, right? Think of your kids here. They deserve you to be there for them.


It feels like I'm letting her down to fulfill other obligations.
But you'd be letting your kids down if you didn't go see them. How about setting a boundary here? My kids need me and need my time. So I will be spending X time with them or X days with them. Period. Let her deal with her. Her reactions isn't on you.

She blames lashing out at me as my fault or frequently all men's. Frequently the triggering event has nothing to do with me. Just I'm the easiest target as I'm there and I love her. Arguments from the beginning completely unrelated to the current subject are brought up. And the shortly after the verbal abuse begins. Every single raw spot. Everything I do is worthless. All my actions. Just in general I'm worthless. I'm back to feeling like a scared kid. And it rips me apart because the only thing keeping me sane during it is trying to comfort her.
I used to do this. We could be talking about the weather and I would go off about some unrelated topic. I would go back to @Sweetpea76's response. Disengage. Walk away. Go see your kids. Do not engage in that bull as it makes it all worse anyway. The best thing to do is to walk away and not engage until she has calmed down.


How do I help her?
You don't. She needs to help herself. Period.


And how do I survive her trauma without hurting her? She is taking pieces of me with her and I have my own mental struggles.
Make boundaries. Boundaries are gold! They save your sanity and are guiding lines for the sufferer.


I guess it's relevant to point out. I have major depressive disorder and aniexty with panic attacks. It has be suggested that I too have PTSD from childhood physical and emotional abuse and is something being discussed in therapy. However my symptoms and reactions are not as severe and are almost exclusively dissociative in nature. She is diagnosed with PTSD and several therapists have suggest bpd as well but she refuses to acknowledge the later.
Does she have a therapist currently? Can you look into couples therapy to learn how to set boundaries together? Or at least I would discuss this with your therapist to learn how to set boundaries. She also needs to be seeking out some therapy in my opinion as it's my opinion that she's the one gaslighting. She could have BPD too. But my BPD diagnosis was dropped due to more info about my trauma coming to light and thought CPTSD isn't in the DSM yet, that is a better fit and there are more diagnosis that were added. So I don't want to armchair diagnose here but it certainly sounds like BPD.

DSM was a godsend for me. It's therapy specifically for BPD. If she won't go to the classes and stuff, you could suggest the book. I got it off Amazon. It helped me to learn how to emotionally stabilize myself. Even if she doesn't accept the diagnosis, she may just accept the book that allows her to go through it herself. It's a workbook.


Maybe she would accept something that she can go through herself? Honestly, the only thing here I would suggest to her. The rest is on her.
 

joeylittle

Administrator
From someone who was (isn't anymore) diagnosed with BPD and PTSD and who used to have blind rage explosions at people, this was key. This issue with me was that they would follow me around and fight back with me and that would make it all the worse. If they disengaged and walked away, I could eventually calm myself. Mine were triggered by anxiety by who knows what hers is triggered by.

Boundaries are also so very important to me.
@lostforgottensoul - please re-read the guidelines for sufferers posted at the top of this board.
But my BPD diagnosis was dropped due to more info about my trauma coming to light and thought CPTSD isn't in the DSM yet, that is a better fit and there are more diagnosis that were added. So I don't want to armchair diagnose here but it certainly sounds like BPD.
This has no relevance to the OP or their situation...whether or not you have BPD isn't the topic, and if you don't want to armchair diagnose, don't.
 

nursenurse

MyPTSD Pro
There are so many red flags in the original post regarding this relationship. Not only do you seem to be doing most of the giving, and she is doing most of the taking, but she is also throwing it back at you in an abusive manner.

Admittedly you were dishonest for two months. Right from the get go from what you said this relationship is not founded on trust. Granted we don’t need to lay out every single card on the table at the very beginning of a new relationship, but there are some important things that need to be out there. I will not speculate as to what you held back. If you had this much baggage to hide in the first place for whatever reason, then perhaps you need to look into it. Baggage isn’t a bad thing, but it must be dealt with properly and healthily before a new (and good) relationship can start. Perhaps in your world, as well as hers, this is not the time. You said you have spent all this time trying to make it up to her. To really little avail, from what I see. A lifetime of bending over backwards making up for the past straight out of the starting gate is a hard and rocky road doomed to fail.

For May she says she gets a pass for her abusive behaviour. Why? So far that makes three out of seven months that were way less than stellar, plus all the things you have gone through in the other four, and I am truly doubting those months were all sunshine and roses.

Re-read your initial post, take a good hard look at why you need to be in this relationship that is less than amazing. In a non PTSD world, anyone objecting to a partner spending time with their children is not ready for that relationship. Your kids didn’t choose this. Do you really want to be with someone who grudgingly “lets” you go to see them because you have to set a boundary for it?

@Friday ’s explanation “He has to....because it’s PTSD” is the best point blank explanation I have seen and should be taped on every supporter’s bathroom mirror for daily morning reading. You are a supporter. Not a door mat. Don’t lose yourself or your own recovery for someone else. I have no doubt that at the right time with the right person, you will have a lot to give and a lot to gain. Whatever you decide to do, wishing you good luck and peace.
 
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