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How Staying In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship Can Literally Give You PTSD

PTSD from an emotionally damaging relationship is a real thing. When someone has been in this type of relationship, the after-effects of that relationship don’t just fall away. They are often carried into future relationships, only to have similar outcomes. The unfortunate piece of this is often the person with PTSD may not even realize they have it.

What If My Partner Was In An Emotionally Damaging Relationship?

It’s not easy to be the new partner of someone who comes from an emotionally damaging relationship. You may not be aware when the relationship first begins that this history exists. As the relationship grows, eventually the PTSD behaviors of the affected partner will begin to show up in the relationship. This can be a challenge for both partners. Here are some of the behaviors that can surface over time:

  • Walking on eggshells to avoid disappointing your partner
  • Self-doubt and judgment
  • Feeling the need to check-in and say who you are with and why
  • Being very sensitive to sarcasm and joking around
  • Chronic apologizing (even when you have done nothing wrong)
  • Being a people pleaser
  • Seeking constant acknowledgment/approval

These are some of the behaviors that have been ingrained into someone who has been in an emotionally damaging relationship for any length of time. (1, 2, 3)

How Can We Change The Dynamic Of Our Relationship?

Being in a relationship with someone who suffers from PTSD from a prior emotionally draining relationship is not easy but it can be worked through. The ideal situation would be for the person with PTSD to work through their condition with a licensed therapist before getting back into a relationship. However when the situation occurs, where they are already in a relationship and both parties are open to working on the relationship, there is hope.

One of the key things to remember is to work on one thing at a time. You can’t solve everything at once, so just work on one thing at a time. The best thing that you can do for yourself if you are the partner without PTSD is to practice regular self-care and to set healthy boundaries for yourself. You aren’t able to support your partner in this journey if you are exhausted, angry and worn down. Learn to make yourself a priority and you will empower your partner to do some of the same things for themselves. (4)

An Emotionally Damaged Relationship Can Take You By Surprise

I was two months into our marriage when I realized that something wasn’t right. In a time when we should have been blissful newlyweds, I noticed that my husband was shutting down. He always seemed to be walking on eggshells around me. He would be checking in with me constantly. It got so bad he was even telling me when he was going to use the restroom. There was a shift in him I just couldn’t explain. We were also at the beginning of a court battle to get more time with his son.

Over the coming months, as events unfolded, I felt as though I married a stranger. My husband was so shut down. Finally, he started therapy and some of the answers began to emerge. He had been in an emotionally controlling relationship and he was suffering from a form of PTSD. He continues to work with the therapist, is setting healthy boundaries for himself and stepping into a healthy masculine lifestyle for himself. Our marriage is getting stronger and we are moving forward into our second year of marriage with a renewed sense of excitement for what lies ahead.

Is There A Happy Ending?

There is no guarantee that you will have a happy ending. However, there is the possibility that you will have a stronger, more empowered version of each of yourselves moving forward as you work through therapy. Many couples are afraid to set boundaries that allow for self-care because it may be perceived as being selfish. The reality of self-care is that it is not selfish, it is “selfless”. Therapy, self-care, and setting boundaries are not only great ways to take care of yourself but are necessary for you to be able to take care of the people you love in your life.

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