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The Do's and Don'ts Of Loving Someone With PTSD

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Aw, love. If there’s one thing I love more than life itself, it’s without a doubt love. The big L-O-V-E is so healing and can truly change your life for the better. That being said, sometimes we encounter some road bumps when it comes to loving someone. We can fall into situations that leave us with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which can make it a little harder to re-enter new relationships, or love someone else who has the disorder.

• What is PTSD?

As someone with PTSD, I do know that there are certain behaviors from potential partners that tend to make relationships harder for me. While I’ve learned that there are some explicit don’ts in relationships, I’ve also figured out some great do’s that can keep things afloat even in those messy PTSD moments.

Don’t: Guilt trip your partner for their reactions.

Do: Be honest with them about how you feel, while also assuring them.

When you live with PTSD, sometimes you tend to react to past events in the current moment. For example, if you’re dating someone who has has trauma from someone cheating on them using a certain app, then they may not have a not great response to you using that app a lot. Your feelings are valid, as are theirs, but guilt tripping them for a PTSD-based reaction is only going to make things worse. 

Explain to them how you feel respectfully, while assuring them at the same time. 

Don’t: Snap at them for triggers that may not make sense to you.

Do: Be patient with them, and clarify how they like to navigate their triggers.

Have you ever had a specific song that you shared with someone you loved who traumatized you, and then listening to that song just brought back bad memories moving forward beyond that point? You know that non-traumatic pain, so imagine what it’s like for it to be traumatic. People with PTSD may have triggers that make no sense to you whatosever, and sometimes those triggers may impact your life. Maybe it’s a place for dinner they refuse to go to, or a movie that they can’t watch that happens to be your favorite. Either way, offering them compassion and love instead of snapping at them and being frustrated is important for building trust.

Don’t: Tell them to never talk about that traumatic ex.

Do: Allow them to process as need be, even if that means talking about the past.

Just because we’re with a new person doesn’t mean that there aren’t old scars of the past. I saw somewhere online lately that it’s a red flag if people keep talking about their ex, and while that can be true in many regards, it’s also not. Some people talk about their ex because they aren’t over them. Other people talk about their ex because they aren’t over the trauma they caused, which are two majorly different things.

If you don’t have it in you to hear it, maybe offer up therapy or group talk instead. But you want to promote a safe environment for those moments, not the opposite.

Don’t: Tell them that they’re “too much,” for you.

Do: Acknowledge your limitations, and help offer solutions instead.

Sometimes dating someone with trauma can be a lot. It’s just a fact, and it can sometimes harm relationships when your partner is the only person you’re processing the trauma with. Your partner shouldn’t play every single role on your support team, or else you may have adverse effects. If you’re dating someone and you notice that it’s becoming more than what you alone can handle, offer up therapy, talk to their friends, and help create a plan to support them. By saying they’re “too much,” you may solidify potential fears and anxieties, which ultimately can make things worse for the partner with PTSD.

Don’t: Fight back if they start snapping at you due to what an ex did to them.

Do: Remind them that you aren’t the person that hurt them.

Sometimes being calm and patient in a tense moment can be hard, and I don’t believe you should ever accept mistreatment from someone else. That being said, when you live with PTSD you may constantly be looking for signs that the trauma is about to happen all over again, which can create problems if things that are different start looking a little too similar. Sometimes anxiety and paranoia can cause us to misplace blame and look for flaws that don’t exist, placing them on our partner.

This is where instead of getting angry and finger pointing, you remind them that you are not the person that hurt them, and that you love them. It can be hard to hear, but reminding them that you are a different person who is there to love and support them and not repeat the mistakes of their past is really important. This has helped me a lot. It reminds me to let me partners stand on their own two feet, and that I can’t punish them for what someone else has done to me.

At the end of the day, patience, understanding, and respect play major roles in dating someone with PTSD, or else things could go downhill very fast. If you love someone with PTSD, you may have to put in a little extra work to meet their needs and be a supportive partner, but I promise you it’s worth it. If you are the partner with PTSD remember that you are worthy of love right now, not just when you’re “healed” and “better.”

You got this. I believe in you.

Getty image by katleho Seisa

Originally published: August 10, 2022
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