Trauma is a complex and confusing thing to live with. It can be even more so if your loved one is experiencing symptoms and you are observing. When your partner has PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), you may not know how best to support them. At times, it may feel like you’re walking on eggshells.
Your partner may be withdrawn or prone to emotional outbursts. They may get angry and say things they don’t mean. It’s important to be aware of the source so you can approach the situation compassionately.
Familiarizing yourself with how trauma affects your partner and how you can appropriately support them will make a huge difference in your life living together. It can be the difference between creating a stronger foundation vs. creating a painful distance.
Here are 10 tips to help you peacefully coexist with your partner who has PTSD.
1. Don’t Push Them to Talk
You may think that nudging your partner to talk about their trauma will be good for them. However, it’s most likely to create a rift between you. PTSD is painful and difficult to live with. Your loved one may have shame connected with it. Let your partner come to you when they are ready to open up. Giving them space is important, and sometimes they may just want some alone time.
2. Stick to the Norm
It may be hard for you to know that your partner struggles with PTSD. It may make you want to add some special treatment to your lives together. However, counting on doing your normal activities together is important in keeping stability in both your lives. Even better if those “normal” activities include physical activity like going for a walk or partaking in a mutual hobby.
3. Do Your Research
If you’re unfamiliar with PTSD, it can seem scary. You may feel awkward or at a loss because you most likely associate with veterans who experienced violent or terrible things during service. However, PTSD can happen to anyone who experiences trauma, even if it’s emotional rather than physical. Educating yourself on the characteristics of PTSD and how it affects someone can give you better insight so you can connect with and support your partner.
4. Learn to Listen
You may want to suggest immediate solutions to help your partner heal. However, it’s important to remember not to take a fix-it approach. Talking about trauma is difficult enough. Be ready to listen without judgment and try not to make your partner feel as if their trauma is something that can be healed easily. Know that you may also get emotional when they open up, and try to stay calm.
5. Take Time for Yourself
While it’s important to learn how you can support your partner with PTSD, it’s also important to make sure you’re taking care of yourself, too. It’s normal for you to feel stressed, too, when supporting your partner. So make sure you’re also getting the alone time you need and are doing things you enjoy.
6. Stick to Routines
Sticking to an everyday routine is important in creating stability and a sense of safety. People with PTSD live in a constant state of hypervigilance; often they in fight-or-flight mode, or they can move into shut down. This is not intentional on their part but is a physiological response to perceived danger. Unpredictability may not mesh well with that. It may trigger anxiety and panic. So making sure you’re creating a familiar routine for you to follow together is key.
7. Establish Boundaries
This is not only important for your partner, but for you as well. If your partner experienced sexual or emotional trauma, it’s very important to create clear boundaries. This will help avoid triggering their PTSD and is an important aspect in making them feel safe. It’s key for both of you to feel like you’re in control of your bodies and decisions.
Living with a partner who suffers from PTSD can be hard. It may be different day-to-day. At times, it may even feel unpredictable. However, by educating yourself and putting the right support structures in place, you can not only help your partner find more stability but create a sense of peacefulness for yourself as well. Read more about PTSD and anxiety treatment. Then, please reach out for an initial consultation soon. I’m here to help.
If your partner is struggling with PTSD, you may need support yourself. To learn more about anxiety counseling,click here.
About the Author
Kate Kendrick is a psychotherapist and relationship counselor in private practice in Longmont, CO. She specializes in treating anxiety, depression, PTSD, grief and marital/relationship problems.