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Relationship Supporting a Partner with PTSD: Navigating Blaming Me and Emotional Turmoil

vowedmom

New Here
My husband's CPTSD flared up big time this summer '23, with two triggers.
His PTSD is from childhood abuse, a mass shooting killing a dozen people at his work (3 years ago), and our young adult daughter's rape (2 years ago).
His symptoms had mostly been depression, but some medication handled it overall, and he would isolate/grumpy some, but things were okay... not great, but okay.

On what felt like a random June day-- I had a trip for work to the Middle East planned for August, and my husband had a nightmare that I was having an affair with a coworker.

I've done international trips for work before, although not to the Middle East. I had agreed to be a speaker for a group of people who work with refugees and my work had checked things out that where we were going, and the city we were in, was safe. I know people who have done this speaker series before. Tickets were bought and people had their travel plans to attend the event. He knew it was coming for a year and never said anything about even being concerned about it. He looked to see that the country is listed by the state department as concerning and totally lost it.

I've never had an affair- in fact, I'm a really conventional (boring) Christian overweight middle-aged lady who married my husband at age 21 and never had another relationship but him. I don't go out or even spend time with men alone. The co-worker he had the nightmare about is a young guy I was assigned as a mentor at work- he's young enough to be my son. But no special relationship- never even gotten together with him outside of work meetings.

So when my husband woke me up on a Saturday morning to tell me that he thought the nightmare was real, and that I should have known he didn't want me to go to the MIddle East. He yelled and berated me for hours that day, and every few days after that for weeks. I was deeply confused. I actually thought maybe he had a stroke or something. I tried to convince him that his two triggers weren't real- they seemed so bizarre. I have some training in trauma but it "just couldn't be that" in my mind because the content was so strange and he NEVER acted like this.

Fast forward- I actually got Covid and couldn't go on the trip to the Middle East. But we are now 6 months later and he is frequently Spinning in his emotions. Isolating, slamming doors, yelling at me for hours, blaming me for the trauma, saying I can't be trusted, hurling accusations. He wants to control all my work decisions and keeps telling me that I need to submit to him as head of the household (He has never said this before). He was triggered and drove so erratically this summer on a trip with our adult children and my mother in the car that they don't want to drive with him. He refused to let someone else drive at that time (I wish I had said I would get a rental car then and refused to get in the car). We have been married for 30 years and he has always been mild-mannered and if he gets angry it's like 1 sentence of anger and then he would walk out. I hated the walk-out (some of my own anxiety about abandonment in life) but he NEVER did this. Now he says he has always thought this way, that I'm abusive and terrible. Well, he vacillates between the yelling and emotional unloading and being apologetic and tearful. He doesn't want me to spend time with other people, wants me to quit my job (which is more than half our income), says I'm too enmeshed with my extended family locally and shouldn't spend time with them, has cut off his relationships with others, was drinking some, driving erratically, telling me to leave him (yes, I know.. red flags and I am still spending time with family, friends and not quitting my job or making major work decisions based on what he thinks I should do).

Two weeks ago, he got upset and went to a room in our home, took out a gun and pointed it to his head and said "goodbye" and shut the door. I called 911, stepped into the front yard not sure if I was about to hear a gunshot or if he would point the gun at me, and the police came. He was calm by the time they all arrived, and I do actually believe it was a desperate cry for help, not an intent to suicide. But a little piece of me still worries. People with PTSD kill themselves. He agreed for them to temporarily take his guns away- he went back and got them a few days ago without mentioning it to me. He is so incredibly distressed.

I know the responsibility for his trauma is not mine-- but with his parents, the shooter at his work, and our daughter's rapist. That while I haven't been perfect, I haven't done any major offenses (no affair, no abandonment, no substance abuse...). I have said angry things over the years that I shouldn't have said, but not frequently-- maybe a few times a year and then apologized that I didn't mean it. But those things are all conflated with his traumas. I'm getting all the heaps of fiery coals of hate.

I try really hard to empathize with the trauma- but the nightmare-affair-that-wasn't and the international trip feel like delusions and reinforcing them as real threats feels like it just distracts him from the real traumas. But he feels super-betrayed that I don't recognize them as real threats. I've softly and kindly, when he wasn't triggered, said that I think the real trauma are the things listed at the top here, not the nightmare and trip but he can't disengage from them as the biggest threat. This is a really big deal... that he wants me to join him in the belief that these are real and present danger.

He started treatment with EMDR, working on his childhood. We started couple therapy, and he is trying. We went to a prayer conference for a few days, and it was helpful to access our shared faith and calmed things some. I have a glimmer of hope. But he is still spinning out 2-3 times a week-- that I see. Likely more.

We've been married 30 years, two adults kids that live with us, planning our sweet daughter's wedding this summer, and my extended family is always supportive. Also I take vows very seriously in sickness or health so don't suggest to leave him- I won't leave unless he physically harms me or makes things so unsafe I can't live in the same home.

I'm trying to stay calm, to work on my own feelings of abandonment, anxiety, and injustice at being blamed for things.

I think I just need to write this out... and maybe some shared experience?

Any lived experience of someone who is getting blame and finding ways to make it work?
 
I try really hard to empathize with the trauma- but the nightmare-affair-that-wasn't and the international trip feel like delusions and reinforcing them as real threats feels like it just distracts him from the real traumas. But he feels super-betrayed that I don't recognize them as real threats. I've softly and kindly, when he wasn't triggered, said that I think the real trauma are the things listed at the top here, not the nightmare and trip but he can't disengage from them as the biggest threat. This is a really big deal... that he wants me to join him in the belief that these are real and present danger.
This.

Don’t accept the blame for evils others do, and do not co-sign crazy.

You did nothing wrong, and are doing everything right.

The man had a nightmare, and is punishing you as if it really happened. Worse than if it really happened, honestly. I devoutly hope this makes it into his therapy sessions sooner, rather than later &/or that his T can reccomend a trauma informed couples counselor for you both, so he can start to take some ownership of his triggers/stressors, and back his shit doooooown. 30 years of history is going to buy a lot of slack, but every person has their breaking point of not being seen for who they are, and being accused of things they. did. not. do.
 
Is he on any medication? Or is he not taking his medication?

This is my guy when he stops all of his medication. Withdrawal is scary and dangerous.
 
I have returned to this group. I relate to your post. Going through similar stuff. My veteran husband has trauma. I have ptsd too. I am back in therapy. Grateful for truth and reality in your post. I had to call crisis line for me today. My husband's firearms were moved.
 
Your situation rings so true and close to mine that I have goosebumps and am on the verge of tears reading your post. I wish I had some amazing advice. We have been through what feels like every treatment option available. We have done ketamine, psilocybin (both with guided therapy), a laundry list of conventional medicines, multiple therapists, EMDR, residential treatment, you name it. Just when it feels like we are heading in a slightly positive direction, the smallest trigger will send us spiraling. It’s exhausting and devastating. What has helped me is working very very hard with my therapist on boundaries and opening up to a few close people about what is really going on. It’s one thing for friends and family to know that your spouse has PTSD, but totally different from knowing what is actually happening in your home. Find your support and build yourself up. Know that you are strong and resilient and do not deserve what you are being forced to endure. We can love unconditionally and put up with truly terrible behavior, but we cannot force our loved ones to get the help they so desperately need. Most importantly, you are not alone. Set your boundaries and advocate for yourself. You deserve all of the love and support that you give.
 
drlight12 thank you. I have ptsd from ACES and almost dying from bacterial meningitis of my brain. My husband has ptsd from ACES too plus military service. We got to a better place this afternoon watched a movie together. He then got right back on his phone to the news spoke about a terrible headline wanted me to read it. I read the first word could go no further. I said no I can't read it. No means no. I went down my husband's rabbit hole of doomsday beliefs. Now I am owning my part. I am back in therapy - probably the rest of my life. When we met my husband was very insistent about me believing like him. He denies it now. I am 100% percent responsible. I was even blamed about the headline issue. He said you make too big a deal of it. My husband takes no meds. Does not trust healthcare. He can possibly get disability via VA for himself. He refuses. Right now we live on my income only. I am a retired nurse was rn. Thank you for your post. It helps give me strength to go on. By the way I have a seizure risk from my illness. I have been seizure free 9+ years. Yet he does this I get upset cry yell am triggered - at risk for a seizure. My husband claims I am my worst enemy in this by getting upset.
 
This is a really big deal... that he wants me to join him in the belief that these are real and present danger.

This is a land mine. Trust is so hard-won with sufferers, but you cannot facilitate the delusions. I think that is something that a lot of supporters have to face. It only gets better when they feel better.

I can only commiserate. I wish I had some helpful advice. Make sure to take care of you.
 
My husband's CPTSD flared up big time this summer '23, with two triggers.
His PTSD is from childhood abuse, a mass shooting killing a dozen people at his work (3 years ago), and our young adult daughter's rape (2 years ago).
His symptoms had mostly been depression, but some medication handled it overall, and he would isolate/grumpy some, but things were okay... not great, but okay.

On what felt like a random June day-- I had a trip for work to the Middle East planned for August, and my husband had a nightmare that I was having an affair with a coworker.

I've done international trips for work before, although not to the Middle East. I had agreed to be a speaker for a group of people who work with refugees and my work had checked things out that where we were going, and the city we were in, was safe. I know people who have done this speaker series before. Tickets were bought and people had their travel plans to attend the event. He knew it was coming for a year and never said anything about even being concerned about it. He looked to see that the country is listed by the state department as concerning and totally lost it.

I've never had an affair- in fact, I'm a really conventional (boring) Christian overweight middle-aged lady who married my husband at age 21 and never had another relationship but him. I don't go out or even spend time with men alone. The co-worker he had the nightmare about is a young guy I was assigned as a mentor at work- he's young enough to be my son. But no special relationship- never even gotten together with him outside of work meetings.

So when my husband woke me up on a Saturday morning to tell me that he thought the nightmare was real, and that I should have known he didn't want me to go to the MIddle East. He yelled and berated me for hours that day, and every few days after that for weeks. I was deeply confused. I actually thought maybe he had a stroke or something. I tried to convince him that his two triggers weren't real- they seemed so bizarre. I have some training in trauma but it "just couldn't be that" in my mind because the content was so strange and he NEVER acted like this.

Fast forward- I actually got Covid and couldn't go on the trip to the Middle East. But we are now 6 months later and he is frequently Spinning in his emotions. Isolating, slamming doors, yelling at me for hours, blaming me for the trauma, saying I can't be trusted, hurling accusations. He wants to control all my work decisions and keeps telling me that I need to submit to him as head of the household (He has never said this before). He was triggered and drove so erratically this summer on a trip with our adult children and my mother in the car that they don't want to drive with him. He refused to let someone else drive at that time (I wish I had said I would get a rental car then and refused to get in the car). We have been married for 30 years and he has always been mild-mannered and if he gets angry it's like 1 sentence of anger and then he would walk out. I hated the walk-out (some of my own anxiety about abandonment in life) but he NEVER did this. Now he says he has always thought this way, that I'm abusive and terrible. Well, he vacillates between the yelling and emotional unloading and being apologetic and tearful. He doesn't want me to spend time with other people, wants me to quit my job (which is more than half our income), says I'm too enmeshed with my extended family locally and shouldn't spend time with them, has cut off his relationships with others, was drinking some, driving erratically, telling me to leave him (yes, I know.. red flags and I am still spending time with family, friends and not quitting my job or making major work decisions based on what he thinks I should do).

Two weeks ago, he got upset and went to a room in our home, took out a gun and pointed it to his head and said "goodbye" and shut the door. I called 911, stepped into the front yard not sure if I was about to hear a gunshot or if he would point the gun at me, and the police came. He was calm by the time they all arrived, and I do actually believe it was a desperate cry for help, not an intent to suicide. But a little piece of me still worries. People with PTSD kill themselves. He agreed for them to temporarily take his guns away- he went back and got them a few days ago without mentioning it to me. He is so incredibly distressed.

I know the responsibility for his trauma is not mine-- but with his parents, the shooter at his work, and our daughter's rapist. That while I haven't been perfect, I haven't done any major offenses (no affair, no abandonment, no substance abuse...). I have said angry things over the years that I shouldn't have said, but not frequently-- maybe a few times a year and then apologized that I didn't mean it. But those things are all conflated with his traumas. I'm getting all the heaps of fiery coals of hate.

I try really hard to empathize with the trauma- but the nightmare-affair-that-wasn't and the international trip feel like delusions and reinforcing them as real threats feels like it just distracts him from the real traumas. But he feels super-betrayed that I don't recognize them as real threats. I've softly and kindly, when he wasn't triggered, said that I think the real trauma are the things listed at the top here, not the nightmare and trip but he can't disengage from them as the biggest threat. This is a really big deal... that he wants me to join him in the belief that these are real and present danger.

He started treatment with EMDR, working on his childhood. We started couple therapy, and he is trying. We went to a prayer conference for a few days, and it was helpful to access our shared faith and calmed things some. I have a glimmer of hope. But he is still spinning out 2-3 times a week-- that I see. Likely more.

We've been married 30 years, two adults kids that live with us, planning our sweet daughter's wedding this summer, and my extended family is always supportive. Also I take vows very seriously in sickness or health so don't suggest to leave him- I won't leave unless he physically harms me or makes things so unsafe I can't live in the same home.

I'm trying to stay calm, to work on my own feelings of abandonment, anxiety, and injustice at being blamed for things.

I think I just need to write this out... and maybe some shared experience?

Any lived experience of someone who is getting blame and finding ways to make it work?
I’m so sorry to read your story. I feel the pain in your words.
Not quite the same situation - but so much of your story resonates. I’ve been with my partner for 11 years. He was told he had ptsd from an incident in 2020. It’s been so hard, so intensely painful.

The last few weeks I’ve notice a dip, and lots of blame being thrown my way. In fact, I’ve just got off a call from him a couple of hours after one of his therapy sessions - it’s was 30 minutes if really mean and horrible things. He blames me for his binge drinking - saying that he is doing it because he is acting out against authority / the authority being me … says that I’m always listening to him, nagging him etc. we live in a very small house, so it is very hard not to hear the other person. But he has put me through an intense couple of years - disappearances, drug taking, binge drinking, threats of suicide, photos of guns saying ‘I’m out’, extreme rage, fights in the street, doing very very dangerous acts…and all whilst no one else know what’s going on and I’ve spent my soul trying to look after him, keep him alive, keep him safe, love him and not judge him.
I love him so deeply.
But tonight was an intense blame session - I’m not perfect, I’ve not dealt with things perfectly - but with the financial, mental, physical and knowledge rescources I had - I can honestly say I did everything I could to love him. I feel very deeply hurt right now - so in answer to your post - I feel your pain.
 
I'm trying to stay calm, to work on my own feelings of abandonment, anxiety, and injustice at being blamed for things.

I think I just need to write this out... and maybe some shared experience?

Any lived experience of someone who is getting blame and finding ways to make it work?
vowedmom thank your for your honest and open post. These are my first words here on this forum and you’ve inspired me to be here and learn more.

I am in a marriage of 7 years with a sufferer of CPTSD, we have a young child. I feel like a newborn in my understanding of what’s going on in my wife's suffering but how the symptoms and triggers are also a part of our relationship, my daughters experience, and of course my own personal experience. I am rather alone in it all. I speak with my mom over the phone a little. I’ve seen a therapist off and on, I’ve read, I listen. And I suffer silently.

I think I am a caregiver in a majority extent to my wife, though she can’t see that. We also run a business together, raise a child together, and of course partner up with running the business of life as we know it. With what’s left, there is of course our marriage, which seems like an on-going struggle with her not getting enough attention from me, constantly needing validation and reassurance, riddled with nightmares and bad dreams about me leaving her, and what I can only imagine is mistrust in me at some core level, and even what I feel as a lack of respect for me, at a core level. Co-dependency seems ever pervasive, as when I have a bad day and try and talk about it, it ruins her night and she can’t see that the conversation was supposed to be about my day. Arguments ensue. The cycle of being blamed for being harsh or unkind begins. During and the days after every argument we have, which arise from nothing at all, I am told how triggered she was by me, how when I say things like this or that how much that frightnes her and how much what I say makes her feel unsafe. She becomes focused only on her pain, her triggers, her needs, her fears and trauma. The small topic of conversation that began the argument gets buried in what feels like a toxic dumpster fire, decades in the making, so messy that I have no idea what we’re even arguing about. Recently I bowed my head and said, “please I don’t want to argue tonight, I had a hard day.” She lashed back, “no! You just said you’re day was fine!” I was being blamed and argued with for trying to talk about my day and asking for peace after it.

My spouse is NO-CONTACT with her parents and siblings. All the siblings in my wife’s family who were also abused, are adults with families and have never done any work to begin to accept that they were all abused, and even still are being emotionally abused by the parents to this day. I say all of that because I seem to be the only one in the world close to my wife. It’s me and the therapist. She has friends, who all open up to her about detailed trauma or closer personal issues in their lives. People have always seem drawn to her to divulge and talk. She listens, cares, and people love her for it. She on the other hand, does it open up to her friends. Has told only 1 or 2 a little about her childhood trauma and what it means today.

Back at home, I see it all. The good and the bad. The hurt and the bravery. I see the imbalance, I witness the pain. I don’t get the same person the rest of the world gets. I did once, maybe before the world changed for her again, perhaps it was another life altering trigger, perhaps it’s just the way this goes.

The loneliness and isolation may be getting me deeper in the mess. I try and take too much on, I have always been one to take on more to avoid a mess. I avoid conflict and will go pretty far out of my way rationalizing the detour rather than setting a firm boundary. When I do set a boundary, it’s like I blew up a perfectly good orphanage. (Excuse the darkened humor). What I mean to say is that I get blamed for doing something really horrible, to a situation that was just fine they way it was.

Her CPTSD may not be the only thing going on here. And most likely the trauma of her childhood caused a slew of other things that are all entwined: OCD (obsessive thoughts), abandonment, trust issues, jealousy, NPD. Although OCD and PTSD is all she’s been diagnosed with, if she is talking about any of this other stuff with her therapist, she’s never mentioned it to me.

I feel gaslit when every argument eventually leads to her being triggered by me, her never apologizing or even seeming empathetic about my side of the issue, and then directly blaming me for communication problems, her triggers, scaring her, making her feel unsafe, not understanding her needs, not seeing her as my wife, and generally being emotionally immature to the point where my communication and relationship skills are the problem.

I fear we’ve not quite begun any real work to make this better. I can’t see that she sees these problems. She knows she has CPTSD, she does EMDR and talks about it all of the time. She believes she is a managing it well and one of her biggest fears is that it will affect us. And I think there in defines the place I feel trapped and lonely in; living with someone with CPTSD, who know they have it, and believes they’re managing it, who is isolated from pretty much the world and has a resolute belief that because of her therapy and how much she like her therapist, she’s doing pretty good.

I can’t help but feel that though I am not responsible for her triggers or most of what she blames me for, I do feel like by not setting and maintaining boundaries and taking on extra to avoid a mess, I can only be kicking the can down the road, Enabling toxic behavior, and putting up with what I feel is emotional abuse towards me.

I don’t know if I am finding ways to make it work. I find ways to avoid bad days. I pour love into my kid. I work hard and take pride in a rewarding career. I lie and suppress my feelings because I’ve found that being as open as I need to be makes a pretty stressful existence nearly intolerable. I worry about my own mental health a lot. I wonder how bad it’s gotten and I can’t see it. I self-medicate. I wake up, and I keep going for my child, taking seriously the most meaningful role I could ever have. I wonder what the future holds for me and my child. I find people like you and places like this. I watch birds and nature around me and remember that there is beauty everywhere.

Thanks for listening.
 
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