When Your Partner Has PTSD—5 Key Tips to Cope

Posted by on Feb 28, 2019 in Couples Counseling | Comments Off on When Your Partner Has PTSD—5 Key Tips to Cope

When your partner has PTSD, it can be hard to cope. Sometimes, it feels as if you’re walking on eggshells just to get through the day. It can seem at any moment that your partner is triggered by memories or a reminder of their past trauma. Or, that their physical and emotional needs are so great that they push other aspects of your relationship to the side. All of this can lead you to feel burned out and negatively affect your relationship. Nevertheless, there are ways that you can cope with your partner’s PTSD and prevent damage to your relationship.


Do Your Homework


If your partner has PTSD it’s important to learn what you can about the condition. The more you know the better equipped you will be to help and support your loved one. This is where working with a therapist can be helpful. Not only will they be a good source of information, but they can also refer you to other reliable sources as well.


Be Patient with Your Partner


Another important tip regarding a partner with PTSD is to practice patience. Remember that PTSD is a chronic condition that can last decades. With PTSD, the nervous system in the brain is “stuck” and can’t be turned off. This causes PTSD sufferers to feel as though they exist in constant crisis mode.  It’s very hard for them to keep their symptoms under control through sheer willpower alone.

There is no quick-fix for PTSD. It is a condition that takes a lot of time, commitment and work to treat. Thus, it helps to look at PTSD as a long-term problem, not one that can be resolved quickly.


Provide Healthy Support


As the partner of someone who has PTSD, it’s important that you know how to provide healthy support for your loved one. For example:

  • Don’t pressure your partner to talk about what happened
  • Avoid attempting to “fix” your partner’s PTSD
  • Refrain from maximizing or minimizing the trauma that occurred
  • Work with your partner (if possible) to plan ahead for what to do when they feel triggered

Sometimes even well-meaning intentions can have very negative consequences for those with PTSD. That’s why it’s important, whenever possible, to communicate with one another about ways to support them best. People with PTSD tend to know what makes them feel calm and safe, thus you can take your cues directly from them. However, on the other hand, you don’t want to enable your partner either. Therefore, it’s perfectly OK to provide your expectations and set clear limits.  PTSD shouldn’t control either of your lives or cause you to feel stifled or imprisoned by the condition.


Adjust to the “New Normal”


If you knew your partner before the trauma occurred, you will have to adjust to a new normal. For example, it might be difficult to go places together or travel if your partner has PTSD. They might be thinking “What happens if I am triggered?” or “How will I stay in control?” Still, this doesn’t mean that you are doomed to spend your time cooped up at home. Instead, it just means that you both need to be more proactive than other couples. Plan ahead, participate in therapy and use tools available to cope when anxiety spikes. It’s still possible to live a rich and rewarding life together despite PTSD.


Take Care of Yourself


Of course, you want to help and take care of your partner as they struggle with PTSD.  However, you need to remember to take care of yourself too. Make sure to have in place your support system comprised of friends, family members, support groups, and also professional help.  Hopefully, your partner can help you as well. Make time to enjoy life. Don’t give up the things that you enjoy. Remember to set boundaries with your partner. Be realistic about what you are capable of giving, both physically and emotionally.

When your partner has PTSD, you want to be there to support them through their recovery. However, doing this requires a shift in mindset and being open to the experience.  Progress may not happen in leaps and bounds but occur in feet or even inches. That’s why it’s important that you have your own support system in place so that you can get the help you need.


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