Complex PTSD and romantic relationships can combine and inflame your stress, confusion and fear. Under the best of circumstances, relationships are challenging. And how many times in anyone’s life qualify as the “best of circumstances”? There are countless factors that can impact your romantic connection. Mental health issues are certainly on that list. And for someone who is recovering from Complex PTSD, intimate relationships are typically triggering. But complex PTSD triggers in relationships don’t have to spell doom.
Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) differs from PTSD in that it results from ongoing, repeated exposure to traumatic events. These events might involve chronic abuse — usually during childhood. As adults, people with unaddressed C-PTSD face a wide range of uncomfortable symptoms. In addition, because much C-PTSD results from early childhood trauma, it can wreak havoc on your romantic relationships.
Complex PTSD-5 Signs C-PTSD is Compromising Your Romantic Connection
1. Living Together Feels Incompatible
For couples, moving in together can feel like a quantum leap forward in your relationship. If your partner is struggling with C-PTSD, cohabitating carries with it a fair number of obstacles. You may notice them undergoing some pretty dramatic mood swings. One minute can find you defending something innocuous that you said. The next minute, your partner may slip into a dissociative state. Living together can be more complicated if your partner struggles with a health condition that is trauma related.
2. CPTSD and Sex. Lack of Emotional Intimacy and Sexual Challenges
Your partner with C-PTSD probably desires an emotionally and sexually intimate connection as much as you (or anyone, for that matter). The tricky part for them may be relaxing into the moment. Regardless of whether or not their trauma is born of sexual abuse, you can imagine this has the potential to play a major disruptive role in their sex life.
3. Complex PTSD and Lack of Trust
By definition, people with C-PTSD do not find it easy to trust other people. After all, they were victimized by a betrayal — perhaps by someone very close to them. While this sign is not about you personally it can be difficult to not take it personally.
4. Unregulated Emotions, Complex PTSD and Romantic Relationships
Unprovoked, disproportionate emotional outbursts are a hallmark of C-PTSD. Needless to say, this can toss a monkey wrench into any relationship.
5. Emotional Distance
As mentioned above, such distance can be the result of dissociation. In addition, people with C-PTSD often feel very isolated and misunderstood. To them, no outsider can ever grasp what they’ve endured and how it has scarred them. As a result, they can set very strong boundaries that will hamper the growth of your relationship. Dissociation is common with trauma survivors, and Complex PTSD and romantic relationships can also be derailed by it.
If you are are a trauma survivor, there is another important reason why you might be emotionally distant. You might avoid emotional, physical and sexual intimacy as a way to prevent yourself from being triggered. Keeping your emotional distance can be a habitual way to make sure you don’t feel too scared, too humiliated/ashamed, or too angry.
A Few Things You Can Do If Your Partner Has C-PTSD
- Know Your Complex PTSD Triggers in Relationships: I recommend working with a trauma treatment specialist who can help you find and master them
- Try Your Best to Not Take Things Personally: Yes, this is easier said than done. But it can go a long way in soothing both of you.
- Learn More About C-PTSD: Self-education is key. Also, learn more about your partner’s specific needs and triggers. Learn what C-PTSD is.
- Practice Self-Care: You need to safeguard your mental and physical well-being. Maintain regular sleep patterns. Make healthy eating choices. Engage in daily activity and exercise. Develop some relaxation techniques.
- Be Consistent: Someone with C-PTSD responds well to predictable patterns and habits.
- Respect Boundaries: But also, be sure to set and enforce your own boundaries. Make this an ongoing conversation between you.
- Talk About Consent in Terms of Intimacy: Get things out into the open in terms of your intimacy and your sex life.
- Encourage Them to Seek Professional Help: Simply put, your partner needs professional treatment, not judgment or unreliable support.
With Complex PTSD Triggers in Relationships, Individual or Couples Therapy Is Invaluable
Here’s what’s important regarding complex PTSD and romantic relationship. Both people need support and guidance. The partner with C-PTSD needs to work with a qualified mental health practitioner to move toward recovery. Trauma treatment is a specialized field of psychology. So, it’s best to work with someone who provides trauma informed treatment.
Complex PTSD Triggers in Relationships
Any therapy that you participate in should have some focus in identifying and managing the common complex PTSD triggers that arise in relationships.
But, as a team, you can both commit to couples counseling. And if you are in relationship with a trauma survivor, be sure to get the support you need. Remember, it’s vital that you work with a couples therapist that specialized in working with trauma, otherwise your couples therapy might be ineffective or harmful.
While your partner heals, the two of you can make much-needed progress in your romantic life. These parallel tracks validate both of your needs and cover a lot more ground.
To learn more about this process, why not reach out today for support? Consider PTSD therapy We can connect for a confidential consultation to gets things moving in a healthier and more productive direction.