Loving someone diagnosed with ptsd is challenging. These seven strategies can help.
1-When your loved one is diagnosed with ptsd, read about the symptoms to understand how these effect every day life. Knowledge is power. Understanding leads to compassion. It also allows you to depersonalize your partner’s behaviors.
2-Allow yourself to grieve. You will go through the grieving process described by Kübler-Ross: shock/denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Why?Much like having a parent with dementia, your loved one is still physically there but distant and hard to connect to therefore you have lost the person you once knew. You may get them back in time but, for now, the transition is painful.
3-Understanding and compassion are a great start but if you don’t want to burn out, you must take care of yourself.
-Reach out for support through support groups, online forums, family, friends and colleagues. Get out of the house to experience yourself out of this context.
-Develop strong boundaries re: what is about you and what isn’t, what you can control (yourself) and what you can’t (your partner), what you are able to do and when you need help (you don’t need to do it all and be a superhero)
-Speak up and be direct about what you need, break it down into steps and be specific
-Ensure your safety if your partner is violent: Where can you go? Who can you call? Is there a sign you can establish so your partner knows when s/he has crossed that line (time out)? Agree in advance on what will happen in the event that you need to use that signal (go for a run to calm down, I’m going to my friend’s house, text me later)
4-Recognize what is working in your relationship. Chances are, there are still some positive aspects to your relationship. List them and keep this list where you can see it. Let your partner know when his/her actions help you feel loved and close
5-If you could change five things about your relationship to create a happier, healthier version of it, what would those changes be? Place them in order of priority. Then focus on the most important change. Ask yourself what you can do today to move toward that change. Share this with your partner and ask for suggestions.
6-Sometimes we take over and give our partner no room or opportunity to be there for us. We play the same role: I am the one who helps you, I do everything on my own. It’s important to be vulnerable when it is safe and appropriate to do so and allow the partner diagnosed with ptsd to be helpful and strong.
7-Feed your sex life. I will post another blog entirely on sex within the ptsd relationship. For now, suffice it to say that maintaining a healthy sex life can be challenging in relationships where a partner is avoiding intimacy. Don’t give up. Express your desires and use opportunities to be physical with your partner (eye contact, hugs, holding hands, snuggling etc).