Relationship She broke up with me because sex triggered her PTSD

fl14

New Here
Background: I (32M) went on a few dates with this girl (29F) last summer. We hit it off, kissed every time, and everything seemed to be going really well. She ended things abruptly, saying she was not at a point in her life ready to date. We very loosely kept in touch, and ran into each other a few times, but never met up. She would occasionally reach out, but plans would fizzle. I chalked it up to probably never seeing her again.

Flash forward a few months and she reaches out to reconnect with serious intent. We meet for drinks, sparks fly immediately and we end up kissing, and we begin making plans to hangout more. I was hesitant about what occurred earlier, not knowing what had happened, but I learn that she called things off before due to reactivation of her PTSD. She was violently sexually assaulted as teenager and had her life threatened. She kept it very close to herself and worked through the trauma as an adult and got past it, being able to have normal relationships since then. However, around the time she initially ended things, she went to an event that her attacker also attended, this being her first time seeing him since the attack (~15 years later), and no one else there knew about what he had done to her. This triggered her PTSD involving nightly night terrors where she was back in that night of the attack. I learned that she worked through things, felt she got better, and felt comfortable reaching out and reconnecting with me.

We were hitting things off, trying our collective best to take things slowly, but were both really into each other. She went out of town the first few weekends but kept stating how excited she was to see me again. We start seeing each other multiple times a week, almost an every-other-day basis. We have conversations about how much we have in common, start making plans for the summer, discussing similar life goals (location, family, lifestyle), and she even made a comment about how "fate" brought us back together (we're both non-religious). Around the 6th date, we're making out and it leads to sex at my apartment. I tried to be very conscious of her trauma and asking before every sexual act. She reassured me she's not seeing anyone else, and I told her I ended things with a friends-with-benefits situation I had going on. Things were going great and this continued a few more times. A lot of passionate hand holding, kissing, cuddling. We spent valentines day cooking and watching a movie, kissing and cuddling, no sex. On this night I think I realized I fully have feelings for her.

Then, the shocker: two days later, she tells me she thinks I am great and has had such a wonderful time with me, but has to end things because her PTSD (nightmares, losing sleep) came back ever since we started having sex. I've been pretty devastated, which of course feels insane because we were only seeing each other for about a month, but I felt a connection with her I haven't felt with anyone since breaking up with my former long-term partner 2 years ago. She came over to talk that night, I tried to see if we could meet somewhere in the middle (continuing seeing each other with no sex), but she felt that would be unfair to me and didn't want that, but wanted to remain friends. I said I'd need to think about it; I felt very rejected (and regretfully let that show) even though I fully believe her that this is 100% trauma-based.

So I'm at a hard spot. I ended up telling her the next day (yesterday) that I want to try to be friends too, and that I'm here for her. I of course still have feelings for her, and don't want her to feel any pressure by that. She seems very withdrawn, saying she's incredibly overwhelmed at the moment and doesn't want to talk more. I've been reading about PTSD, cPTSD, and nightmares. I don't know if she's "the one" for me, I don't know if I believe in that, but she checks more boxes than anyone I've dated. I know I want her in my life and want to help support her in any way I can. She seems to want space right now. I've been thinking about writing her a letter (with no pressure or love bombing of course) and/or cooking a meal and leaving it on her doorstep. Any advice would be super appreciated. This post might fit better as a diary post and I'll consider copying it there.
 

joeylittle

Administrator
This post might fit better as a diary post and I'll consider copying it there.
No need to do that - we prefer it if members just post content to one location, and link to it in other places (as needed), instead of copy-paste.
Any advice would be super appreciated.
I don't know that I have advice, I just want to say I'm sorry you're going through this. It sounds like you've really fallen for her, hard. And if you take what she's telling you at face value, she doesn't want a relationship.
I felt very rejected (and regretfully let that show) even though I fully believe her that this is 100% trauma-based.
Please don't beat yourself up for feeling your feelings. Whether or not it's trauma-based - she's making choices. It sounds like she's pretty aware of how PTSD affects her when it flares up; this isn't a situation where she's getting flooded with symptoms and doesn't know where they are coming from. She knows what she's dealing with.

I might question the degree to which she's actually worked through her trauma, if she's having these flare-ups as fully and cyclically as she is. So, it's possible she's not actually worked through it. BUT - that doesn't mean that you need to put yourself in a really difficult situation emotionally, in order to wait out her flare-up. The relationship is very new, and somehow - I'd encourage you to give yourself permission to look out for yourself and your own needs, at least as much as you're concerned about hers.
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
So I'm at a hard spot. I ended up telling her the next day (yesterday) that I want to try to be friends too, and that I'm here for her. I of course still have feelings for her, and don't want her to feel any pressure by that.

i've never been on that side of the divide, but in my more rational moments, i believe i can see that is indeed, a hard spot to be in. my husband has been putting up with it for 42 years now and i often question his sanity for doing so, but not so often as i appreciate his loving kindness and patience in doing so. he isn't qualified to be a member of my therapy support network, but there is nary a doubt that he has been one of the greater healing forces in my life.

for what it's worth
he augments the attitude you showed here with lots of votes of confidence that i can work through it on my own and acceptance of the simple fact that he will never be detached enough to make a solid member of my therapy support network. i'm rather grateful for that, as well. most days. . . he, too, is merely human and is nicer about it some days than others.
 

Sweetpea76

Moderator
My advice, as a supporter, don’t write the letter or leave gifts on her doorstep.

That’ll make it worse.

Honestly, sometimes the best thing to do with a symptomatic PTSD sufferer is to leave them alone and let them have the space they need. That’s a loving act too. You are respecting her boundaries and prioritizing her need for space more than your need to be comforted by her… which she can’t do anyway.

I wouldn’t call, text, email, write letters or anything. I’d leave her be. If she comes back, she comes back. If she doesn’t, you wouldn’t convince her to come back either.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
I agree with @Sweetpea76. Leaving food or writing a letter might not be received in the way you intended , or there is risk of that. And I agree with @joeylittle , she's made her decision: you are not being selfish or uncaring if you now take time to help you grieve the loss of this relationship and the potential it had.

Sorry this has happened. Whilst it hurts now, best you know where she is at and what she can bring to a relationship now rather than later when you are even more invested. As hard as it is.
 

fl14

New Here
Thank you for the responses, everyone. I guess I want to tell her she's important to me and I want to be a safe friend for her in a way that doesn't put any onus on her to respond (pressure that a text, for example, might apply). I know she's very lonely, not being from around this area. Her job is very emotionally stressful and she has to box things in at work. That's why I thought of doing something like bringing food so she can have a little more time to help herself.

From what everyone has said though, I understand how that could be received negatively. I'll refrain from any action until I hear from her, as much as it feels like I'm losing her by doing so. I think I'm having trouble letting go of the things we were hoping to do together (For example: I'm training for an upcoming race, and she expressed interest in running with me). I worry she'll refrain from reaching out to me for my own sake, due to how tough I took things when she came over to talk.
 

fl14

New Here
No need to do that - we prefer it if members just post content to one location, and link to it in other places (as needed), instead of copy-paste.

I don't know that I have advice, I just want to say I'm sorry you're going through this. It sounds like you've really fallen for her, hard. And if you take what she's telling you at face value, she doesn't want a relationship.

Please don't beat yourself up for feeling your feelings. Whether or not it's trauma-based - she's making choices. It sounds like she's pretty aware of how PTSD affects her when it flares up; this isn't a situation where she's getting flooded with symptoms and doesn't know where they are coming from. She knows what she's dealing with.

I might question the degree to which she's actually worked through her trauma, if she's having these flare-ups as fully and cyclically as she is. So, it's possible she's not actually worked through it. BUT - that doesn't mean that you need to put yourself in a really difficult situation emotionally, in order to wait out her flare-up. The relationship is very new, and somehow - I'd encourage you to give yourself permission to look out for yourself and your own needs, at least as much as you're concerned about hers.

An update: I haven't reached out, nor has she. It has been 1 week since our last text (cue that barenaked ladies song... have to have a sense of humor I guess? lol). Still thinking about her/everything on the daily though. I'm struggling to not scratch the itch to reach out (via text) to the tune of something along the lines of (with better wording): "no pressure to reply, wondering if it's okay to check in. Have educated myself more about PTSD and understand everything better now. I want you to feel supported, and if I'm able to, I'd like to know what that looks like. I haven't reached out because I don't want to interfere with yourrecovery. I'll continue to give you space in the mean-time. Whenever you're comfortable to reach out, I hope you do."

I think a big reason why I want to reach out is we left things on somewhat uncertain terms. First it was she was going to wait for me to reach out, then the next day I reached out asking if it would be okay for me to say more, to which she replied that she was feeling overwhelmed and needed some time to get back on her feet.

I'm curious what the people here who have offered their opinions have to think about that. @arfie @Sweetpea76 @Movingforward10

Thank you all!
 

fl14

New Here
I’d leave her alone. She told you she needed space, and reiterated that after your last text.

If she is feeling overwhelmed and wants space, texting her is not going to make her feel supported. It’s going to make her feel smothered and like you cannot respect her boundaries. Texting now would comfort YOU, not her.
She didn't re-iterate this. Actually I was the first one to ask for space before I texted the next day asking if we could talk again. There was only the one instance of her asking for time to get back on her feet and that she was feeling overwhelmed after I asked to talk again. She didn't actually ask for space, I inferred it. Anyways, I said okay, and that I'd give it more time before reaching out. She said thank you, time will help, and that she appreciates me. That was the last text sent from her and our last contact. 1 week ago.

Not trying to argue, just give you the information! I wish I wasn't so stuck on this. I appreciate your response @Sweetpea76
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
I think , sadly and sorry, that it's best to focus on you now and not text her.
I get how hard it is to not be in contact.
But, it's over and you have to heal from that.
Reaching out could end up with you a bit more hurt if you don't get the response you need.

If you can hold off, I think it might be better.
Give yourself some time.

She's an adult and sorting her things out.
She also could text you if she wanted. So I'm not sure there is a game of her sitting there waiting for you to text? I think that might be your thinking happening in the stages of grief (bargaining etc).

Break ups suck so utterly badly. Horrible to go through. This is the worst bit. Focusing on you and you alone is going to help, because what you need to do is emotionally shift from her, and worrying about her and letting go the little hope of something more from her.
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
in my own healing journey, it is somewhere between difficult and impossible to predict how long it will take me to work through a psychotic episode or where the work will end up. when i need space for this hard work, my husband texts me just often enough to let me know he is still here for me, but not often enough to make me feel pressured. his texts are simple and too the point. "sending love and prayers" would be a typical text during these hard phases.
 
Top