How to be in a relationship with someone who has PTSD

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Seem familiar?

Maybe you don’t have PTSD, but someone you love does. A spouse, significant other, parent, child, other relative. They may not seem like the person you knew before. You love them but aren’t sure how to support them. What do you do? Here are some tips.

  1. Gain some knowledge! The first thing to do is learn about PTSD, everything you can. A book I recommend to anyone who wants to know more about PTSD is called The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel van der Kolk. It’s written by one of the top PTSD experts in the world. It helps. A book more oriented to relationships is Loving Someone with PTSD, by Aphrodite Matsakis.

  2. Accept that the person you’ve loved has changed. Trauma leaves a huge mark on someone’s life, expect that they will be different. Help them on their journey to learn how to live again.

  3. Believe in them. The person they were is still in there, but it’s buried under the person they have to be sometimes, to cope with the trauma.

  4. Be patient. Whether the person you love has anxiety, anger, or a combination of things, do your best to bear with them. People with PTSD are not always in control, they are in a kind of ‘survival mode.’ It takes a lot of time to recover. You don’t need to live with continual abuse, however.

  5. Keep reaching out. People with PTSD are often living on emotion. They sometimes cannot be rational. You never know when something you say or do will reach them.

  6. Don’t rush them. PTSD is not something people just ‘get over.’ The memories of what they experienced can sometimes be worse than the actual event, because the actual event ended. The memories don’t, unless they are treated.

  7. Sometimes denial is coping. For folks with PTSD, the world is not a safe place. Everything can become dangerous. Trust that deep down they do know that something is not right. If they say everything is fine, take this to mean, “I’m doing the best I can.”

  8. They don’t hate you. Regardless of their behavior, or anger, or withdrawal, they need you. When your loved one acts differently from the person you know, that’s the PTSD temporarily taking over. The person who loves you is underneath that, still present.

  9. Be there. Make no mistake, your presence can make a huge difference. Your loved one may not trust much of anything; PTSD can make someone question even the fundamental beliefs they have. Your presence can be a safe harbor in their inner storm.

I hope this is helpful to you! Please click here if you’d like to learn more about PTSD Treatment and my practice.

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