Do you love someone with PTSD?

by Suzanne Grosser

PTSD can destroy your relationship. Loving him is easy. You know who he used to be. You want that person back! Be aware you may never get him back. He has changed. He may have permanent scars, both physical and emotional. Things are bad now, and there is no guarantee it will get better. Love never comes with a guarantee. That does not mean you should not stay. It does mean that staying will not be easy.

Are You Doing the Right Thing?

If you are in a relationship with a PTSD sufferer, you have asked yourself this question many times. If you are thinking of ending that relationship, there are a lot of questions you should be asking yourself. Click here to learn more.

Here a few tips to make staying together healthy for both you and your significant other.

1. Build a support group for yourself. First, find people with similar problems. They can sympathize with your pain, share resources, and offer practical suggestions for dealign with his symptoms. But don't stop there.

Enlist your family, and his. They have information you need, such as family medical and emotional history. And they love you! They are emotionally invested in your well-being. It will take all of you to get through this. (This assumes that your family is reasonably sane and supportive.)

Last, you need people in your life who are not dealing with PTSD. These friends can be a great support as they will remind you that there is life outside your problems. They will force you to take breaks, to spend time on yourself, to laugh, to not stop living your own life while you wait for your lover to get better.

2. Learn as much as you can about PTSD. Educate yourself about the specific symptoms he may have. Substance abuse perhaps, or depression.

The better you understand what he is going through, the easier it will be for you to empathize and, equally important, to sense when you have tolerated too much. You do not want to be so understanding that you stop being supportive and become an enabler.

3. Remember that you know your significant other better than the experts. Experts have general knowledge about PTSD symptoms. Doctors, counselors, and therapists, know a lot about how it affects a wide range of people. But you have specific knowledge about your partner. You know how he was before the trauma. You know what has changed. Respect the value of what you know. Even if something seems normal to the experts, you should tell them if you know it is not normal for your man.

4. Get him other sources of help. You can not be his only support. He needs medical doctors to treat his physical problems. The stress hormones associated with PTSD cause physical damage, even if his trauma did not involve a physical injury.

He needs emotional support, sympathy, and the tough love he will get from a group of PTSD sufferers or a trained counselor.

He may need help dealing with his roller coaster emotions, and he will almost definitely need some form of talk therapy. You cannot do it all. That is too much for any one person. And unhealthy for him. He needs someone to talk to about what happened, someone that is not you. There are things he needs to say that he does not want you to hear. And you don’t want to know all of it. You really don’t.

5. If you think of leaving, don’t feel guilty. Anyone whose life is intimately entwined with a PTSD sufferer has seriously considered it. It is extremely painful to love someone who is numb or whose moods change without warning. This is the time you need your support group. You need the emotional support, that shoulder to cry on. You need someone who will listen to you vent. This is why finding your support group is #1 on this list.

6. Be aware that this is changing you. It may make you stronger as you work to support him. It may challenge you to grow as a person. But it could make you bitter, or depressed, or insecure. This is another reason for your own support group. You need people who love you enough to point out the less desirable changes in you and to help you overcome them.

Choosing to staying with your lover while he struggles with his post-trauma symptoms may be the most difficult choice you ever make. He may never be the man he once was. Your relationship may not be the one you expected. But it can still be good. He may emerge from this experience grateful for your support. You may be the reason he does the hard work necessary to recover.

You will work hard to re-build your relationship. Be sensitive to his experience, but invite the fun back in as well. Always remember no matter what experts may suggest - you know your guy and your relationship better than anyone else.

When you have lived up to your own expectations, no matter what anyone else has done, you will feel good about yourself. Do what is right for you and you will make yourself happy. Ultimately, the only person you can please is yourself.

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Books by Suzanne Grosser