General Self Awareness


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My husband, who’s a firefighter off work for ptsd, doesn’t seem aware of how he comes across in conversation. Here’s an example…

I’ll ask a question, like how long has the turkey been thawing in the fridge, and his answer will sound combative and defensive. My reaction, after several rounds of this, is usually to just be quiet. When he realizes that, he starts a happy and lighthearted conversation to try and get me engaged.

So I asked him straight up today, where does his awareness begin that the interaction has gone wrong? He said he noticed that I’m quiet and wants to engage but doesn’t know why I’m quiet. I asked if he realized I was reacting to a change in him and he has no awareness of that.

I’m assuming me going quiet (which is instinct and not done on purpose as a punishment or cold shoulder or anything) isn’t helpful. Today asking him that question nipped things in the bud. But usually it ends up going round and round and honestly I get resentful and upset and sometimes I even let it ruin my whole day. (I’m working on this part in therapy)

So I guess my question is…what can I do or say to stop things from going bad once that initial back and forth has taken place? Should I outright say that I’m frustrated by his tone/response/demeanour? Should I not say anything, and when he starts with the happy and engaged conversation just let go of the negative interaction?

I’m afraid my resentment will grow if I don’t figure this out.
We who’ve been diagnosed and living with PTSD are very vigilant and defensive; Questions and ongoing back and forth conversations of any small to enormous issues are stressors that makes a PTDS’er to react unknowingly or b these types of mannerisms.
There’s two extremely important areas you should get familiar with in interacting with your husband and how these areas affect him.

1. Triggers
2. Stressors

These two areas create us to go on the attack because with PTSD Triggers and Stressors mentally affects our thought process and takes us back to the thoughts and memories of what caused the trauma; We won’t talk about it BUT we only want PEACE, unfortunately obtaining peace is a daily struggle. Your husband is not going to give you too much information about how he’s feeling or what makes him respond to you in the manner of how he speaks to you because we don’t want others to see our inner struggles. It’s best to not ask too many questions but have positive inviting conversations that will allow him to feel more at ease in talking with you. When you shut down and get quiet; YOU now have become your husband’s Stressor which affects him in ways you will never see or realize. Hope this helps!
I’m a PTSD’er over 20 years and do understand
the effects of PTSD on marriages. Lisa RN
My husband, who’s a firefighter off work for ptsd, doesn’t seem aware of how he comes across in conversation.
from the sufferer/dispatcher side?
We are used to issuing commands that require split second reasoning. Fighting PTSD can take that away from us - which I didn't understand at first. So my responses were to mundane crap were often combative, but it was really me trying to get past the noise of ptsd, focus on the question and come up with an instantaneous answer. I couldn't do it (anymore) and that made me!

it's a whole hamster wheel from hell kind of thing

Hubby either lets me get away with it because he knows it has nothing to do with what is happening around me or he calls me out on it when it happens.

The biggest hurdle for us both to tackle is that it usually has nothing to do with what's going on outside of me (simple question about dinner) and everything to do with what's happening inside of me (losing my mind and being bitchy about it).

Plus ptsd is a huge, HUGE, fail in the first responder culture. Unless your hubby's station is one of the few progressive ones where ptsd is considered normal he's going to be fighting the demons of failure on top of fighting the demons of ptsd. Your normal questions about day to day life may just be the final thing to stuff in his brain and it overloads him.

None of that gives him the right to treat you badly however. So maybe a sit down when he's in a good place on how he wants you to deal with HIS issues when they pop up so that it doesn't affect you as badly would be helpful
Wow. Thank you both for your very insightful responses. I’m heading out the door but I’ll come back and reply to both of you when I get back. But I wanted to at least let you know how helpful that was.
Bottom line, it is wrong to treat you that way. His negative reaction will stop when he decides to change. It takes two people to have an argument. You can never reason with an unreasonable person, so don't even try. It sounds like you are going to have to be the one that rises to the occasion. Pick a neutral time, possibly in the early evening when both of you can sit down and discuss this. He needs to be in a good mood. That will cause him to be more receptive. Each of you agree to listen carefully and to not interrupt each other. Let him know how you feel when he does this to you. Be careful to not attack his ego as the conversation will quickly go south. It also appears like he may not be aware of what he is doing. A possible solution is for you to be able to use a "key" word or "phrase" to use when this behavior starts. He has to agree to this "key word or "phrase." It could be something as silly as "it's freezing cold." Look at him when you say it. If he catches himself....good. Don't forget to compliment him. If he starts arguing, repeat it one more time. The goal is to modify his behavior! If he still doesn't get it, let it go. Repeat the process in the evening again. Remember to be positive. If he truly cares about your feelings, he will make improvements, but it may take time. Don't give up. I have used this strategy in my marriage and it really works. Let me know how it works for you!