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PTSD After Emotional/verbal Abuse?

by Angel
(Tampa, Fl)

My boyfriend and I were friends who began a sexually exclusive but not committed friends-with-benefits relationship. About six months into this, he needed a place to stay for a month or two and so he came to my home. Very shortly after he lost his job. Not long after that his car broke down as well.

He became someone else for a while, and he basically criticized everything there is about me on a regular basis. He was rude and used things I shared against me, and he spoke in the most derisive tone I’ve ever been spoken to in. Eventually he found work again and I stopped seeing that nasty side to him on a regular basis. Our relationship became a committed one after some time, and that’s where we are today.

I am feeling like I’m always walking on eggshells, trying to predict what will set him off although the messages are so mixed that I never really know, and seeing put downs in everything he says or doesn’t say. I’ve been really thinking that this is him being an ass...but I am recognizing now that I am so reactive that I really may be exacerbating the situation with my constant anxiety.

I mean I get what’s happened idea of who he sees when he see me is formed from all those crappy things he said to me. So (to me) when he sees me he sees this awful person, so of course I’m always on edge.

He doesn’t criticize me like that anymore, but he does still have some anger issues. When his feelings are hurt, he seems unable to just say that and he reacts with anger. Nothing physical ever, but this verbal stream of everything wrong with our relationship just comes out when I’ve hurt him-usually inadvertently because we interpret things differently a lot.

It’s difficult for me to respond in a way that doesn’t escalate the situation when this happens because I’m just right back in that environment where literally everything about me was wrong.

I don’t feel I’m being abused anymore, although I do think we both need some professional help-him for learning how to express disappointment or hurt feelings directly instead of steamrolling our whole relationship like there’s nothing good about it, and me for healing this trauma I incurred as a result of his pain.

To complicate matters on my end, I also lost my 21 year old son to an overdose two years ago, and I had a miscarriage about a year ago. He was a great support through losing my son, but the miscarriage has created division between us.

He’s a good man, and I do know he loves me, but I feel like I’m trapped in this fear response. I have anxiety all the time anticipating something bad happening-and my behavior when I’m like this tends to actually create the environment for negative interactions.

I have healed enough to recognize my own role-and I am aware that the only control I have here is over myself. Do you think it’s possible to heal this damage and this relationship? And is there any work I can do on my own to help my mind let go of the pain it seems to be clinging to like armor or something?

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Feb 03, 2018
Follow Up
by: Angel

Thank you for your insight.

Since I asked these questions, I ended the relationship. I felt that regardless of all the circumstances pushing us this way and that, the bottom line was that his presence in my life wasn’t helping me be my best, and I was tired of feeling like I could be doing better than I was.

I have never loved any other man like I love him, even now. But that doesn’t mean he’s good for me, or that I’m good for him. I have to be more committed to myself right now than anyone else-especially someone who isn’t committed to my development along with his own, as a partnership should keep in sight.

It was messy and ugly and I’ve cut off contact. It’s been two months now since the breakup and a few weeks since he tried to get a foothold as a "friend" and was disappointed that his previously successful tactics were not welcomed.

I have times that I’m a little swept away by the three losses, three years in a row, but overall I’m feeling more myself than I have in years. I know I’ll be stronger as a result and I’ve learned so much about myself and what is good for me so I can’t call it a loss, just a painful win.

Thank you for pretty much validating my decision to let him go to love himself the way he thinks is best and to love myself the best I can. I really feel like I’ve processed most of this as well as is possible and now that I’m out from underneath unnecessary stress, I’m feeling healthier than I have in years.

Feb 03, 2018
Some Possible Answers For You
by: Dr. DeFoore

Hi Angel, and thanks for telling your story here. I respect the intelligence, integrity and insight reflected in what you've written. I will try to help.

It's not totally clear to me from what you've shared that you need to create some distance in this relationship, but that may be's for you to decide.

You say that you think you may be having PTSD from the abuse, and I'm sure that's true. However, you are also in the aftermath of two very significant losses...your son and your loss through miscarriage.

Because of how recent and significant these losses were, I encourage you to take a close look at your grieving process to make sure that it is not complicating your emotional reactions in your relationship. Learn about the stages-of-grief here.

You will also find some guidelines for self-directed healing on this article on PTSD.

I strongly encourage you to read these articles and do all of the recommended exercises. The more seriously you focus on them and do them repeatedly, the more benefit you will receive.

You may find that the stress of your relationship is too much for you to handle while you're doing this powerful emotional healing work. If that's the case, and your partner cannot create a gentle, loving environment for you, then you may need to be apart.

Above all, believe in yourself and the natural healing process that arises from within you. Nothing is more important than your own healing, and you're the only person that can give that the priority it deserves.

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