I believe that every person with PTSD or not had difficulties with relationships because we are human. We don’t see things the same way. We don’t respond to stress in the same way. We all have different expectations. However, PTSD and trauma can add layers of difficulty that can be difficult to cut through. Me in a rage causes massive problems with my relationships. Either they get yelled at when they don’t deserve it or they don’t understand how to help me. This webpage answers a few questions.
How does trauma affect relationships?
After I had cancer, my husband and I had one of the worse arguments in our marriage. He was confused by my behavior and pointed out that I was behaving differently. I blew up. Of course I was behaving differently the things that I used to think were important seemed trivial when compared to the cancer. Many things that didn’t bug me seemed like fingernails on chalkboard to me. It was difficult. The trauma of cancer changed my responses with no map or clue how my husband could understand the changes. That is one part of living with someone that went through a traumatic experience. Another aspects were the difficulties I had with trust, boundaries, communication, and other symptoms of PTSD also interfere with relationships. I feel like every relationship I need to fight through a thorny hedge like Sleeping Beauties castle. A lot of people don’t want to take the time to get past all my prickly guards. The article points out that the behavior-response cycle can spiral down creating a destructive pattern that needs to be broken for the relationship to survive.
How might trauma survivors react?
This is a multifaceted answer. No two trauma survivors respond exactly the same way. The one thing that loved ones of survivors agree on is the person experiencing trauma changes. For me this is a ‘No Duh’ statement. The reason trauma is called a life changing experience is because the people experiencing the trauma change. I believe it would be really spooky if a person is not affected by trauma. Unfortunately the extreme ways a survivor may respond is bewildering. Some dissociate, deny events happened, or generally check out as a way of coping with trauma. Others become clingy, demanding to know other people every move, and overprotective. A survivor maybe so focused on surviving that other people are just distant blips on their radar. The article doesn’t talk about those that are in long term abuse situations with their on list of problems with boundaries, intimacy, people pleasing, nightmares, sleepwalking, and the list goes on. Sadly, many survivor turn to self destructive behaviors alcohol, drugs, promiscuity, cutting, eating disorders, and suicide. These are the scary realities of a survivor.
How might loved ones react?
I will quote the article on this one:
“Partners, friends, or family members may feel hurt, cut off, or down because the survivor has not been able to get over the trauma. Loved ones may become angry or distant toward the survivor. They may feel pressured, tense, and controlled. The survivor’s symptoms can make a loved one feel like he or she is living in a war zone or in constant threat of danger. Living with someone who has PTSD can sometimes lead the partner to have some of the same feelings of having been through trauma.”
Basically survivor’s relationships will have challenges. However, in my opinion, not impossible to over come those challenges.
This next part of the article is well said and I don’t believe me paraphrasing will improve it. Maybe because it is a little close to home for me. Length of time and age of survivor can add layers of impact that add to the list of symptoms.
Trauma types and relationships
Certain types of “man-made” traumas can have a more severe effect on relationships. These traumas include:
- Childhood sexual and physical abuse
- Domestic violence
- Prisoner of war
Survivors of man-made traumas often feel a lasting sense of terror, horror, endangerment, and betrayal. These feelings affect how they relate to others. They may feel like they are letting down their guard if they get close to someone else and trust them. This is not to say a survivor never feels a strong bond of love or friendship. However, a close relationship can also feel scary or dangerous to a trauma survivor.
Do all trauma survivors have relationship problems?
No. Some people do not have PTSD and the array of symptoms that cause problems for those that do. The article has several good suggestions that a person with PTSD can do.
People with PTSD can create and maintain good relationships by:
- Building a personal support network to help cope with PTSD while working on family and friend relationships
- Sharing feelings honestly and openly, with respect and compassion
- Building skills at problem solving and connecting with others
- Including ways to play, be creative, relax, and enjoy others
What can be done to help someone who has PTSD?
I highly recommend getting counseling with a therapist that understands PTSD. Learning to build healthy relationships is a skill that can be learned. I am thankful for my counselors that taught me about self care, boundaries, negotiations, assertiveness, and many other basic skills that I missed getting because I was too busy trying to survive. There is life after trauma with or without PTSD. Overcoming the affects are a long term challenge but I believe I am worth fighting for and so are you.