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6 Ways PTSD Can Affect A Relationship

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by Sylvia Smith,
Contributing Author, Conscious Reminder

Research shows that eight percent of US citizens will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Those who deal with PTSD have often experienced a traumatic event such as being sexually assaulted, going through a natural disaster, being witness to domestic violence, or experiencing a life-threatening situation.

The after-effects of PTSD include having nightmares, reliving the traumatic experience, having intense anger, and withdrawing from loved ones.

These are serious symptoms, so it is no surprise that PTSD can have a negative effect on a marriage. Some partners may even feel that their spouse’s personality has changed completely after being diagnosed.

If your spouse has PTSD, does it mean that your relationship is doomed or can enrolling in marriage courses help bring you back together? Here are 6 ways PTSD is affecting your relationship and how you can heal.

1. Pulling away from the spouse

Living with PTSD can be an isolating experience. You may feel that the spouse who was once your best friend no longer understands you or what you’ve gone through. This, along with certain events that may have triggered your PTSD, may cause you to distrust your partner.

Studies show that couple’s who trust one another enjoy more fulfilling relationships. In light of this, losing that precious trust can have a negative effect on your marriage.

Suffering from traumatic-stress can also make you feel like your spouse no longer understands you which can cause you to pull back either emotionally or physically. Both of which can be damaging to your relationship.

2. The rise of depression

Going through a traumatic event can send you on a downward spiral into depression. This is very common for those living with PTSD. Signs of depression include:

  • Weight or appetite changes
  • Constant fatigue
  • Self-loathing
  • Disinterest in hobbies or activities that once made you happy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Severe sadness
  • Inability to get motivated
  • Suicidal thoughts

These are very serious side-effects that can leave a lasting change on your personality. Not only do these symptoms leave you feeling awful about your life, but they can make your partner feel scared and helpless.

It is important to talk to your doctor or therapist if you are having suicidal thoughts.

Taking a marriage course can also help you connect with your spouse on a deeper level. It can help teach you to trust and confide in them about the emotions you are feeling.

3. Social anxiety triggered

According to The British Psychological Society, those suffering from PTSD “may subsequently develop social anxiety disorder” and “become concerned about how they will appear to other people.”

Naturally, this severely limits your options of spending time with your spouse. It often means you can no longer go out with friends, have family get-togethers, go to restaurants, clubs, travel, or in some extreme cases, even go grocery shopping together without incident.

Research goes on to reveal that those with PTSD may develop social anxiety during a depressive episode. This is true even if the individual had previously been socially confident. The good news is, as the PTSD lifts, so does the social anxiety.

By taking a marriage course, you and your spouse can learn how to talk about your triggers. It can also teach your partner to have compassion for what you’re going through, even if they don’t entirely understand where you’re coming from.

4. Angry outbursts

When you are reliving a traumatic event in your life, it can create a deep sense of distress in your soul. PTSD creates hyperarousal, it is not uncommon to experience extreme anger following the triggering event.

It is a human inclination for many to take our anger out on the person who loves us most. In this case, our romantic partner.

This is often either because we know deep down, they will put up with our poor behavior and not abandon us – AKA because we can. It may also be that we are around our spouse more than anyone else so they are often the recipient of our angry outbursts.

Naturally, being an angry or aggressive person can create a negative space in our relationship.

5. Self-destructive behavior

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans suffering from PTSD are twice as likely to get divorced than other couples. These individuals often report lower marital happiness, social isolation, and personal well-being than those living without PTSD.

PTSD can cause partners to pull away from each other emotionally and engage in reckless, self-destructive behavior. This includes drinking and drug abuse, infidelity, over-spending money, or abandoning personal responsibilities such as paying bills and working.

6. Severe change in personality

Going through trauma can change your personality. It can change how trusting you are toward others, your sleeping patterns, personal beliefs, moral compass, and even your religion. Things that used to make you happy now leave you with nothing more than a numb sensation.

Such drastic changes in personality can make you feel like a stranger to your partner and to yourself.

How to Heal from PTSD in a Marriage

There is no doubt that the behaviors brought out above can have a harmful effect on a marriage, but couples can combat this distance by taking marriage classes. These will help partners to develop compassion, deepen communication skills, and learn to rebuild intimacy following a trauma.

PTSD is a serious issue. If you are suffering from PTSD and it is affecting your relationship and other aspects of your life, you should consult your doctor immediately. Taking marriage courses with your spouse can also help you lessen the effects of PTSD. They will teach you how to communicate, trust, and reconnect with your partner.

About the Author: Sylvia Smith is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organizations around the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is a featured writer for Marriage.com, a reliable resource to support healthy happy marriages.

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