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Relationships and CPTSD

Community Member

Hi friends.

Just wondering how you all navigate relationships with CPTSD. I struggle with feelings of abandonment and not feeling significant enough.

This can be so triggering, especially in my marriage and as a Mum of 3.

I guess what I want to know is.. when something triggers us, is it healthy for the relationship for us to address the issue, try fix it and set a boundary around how we need to be treated in future? Or do we just do the work on our own reactions to the situation and say nothing? 

I have so many boundaries I am trying to set after 12 years of not speaking up, but I am met with anger, yelling and zero understanding of where I'm coming from, and am made to feel like I am the problem.

This causes me to spiral into a depression and gives me feelings of hopelessness.

Thank you for any help you can give. 

2 Replies 2

Eagle Ray
Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Dear HopefulMum,


I think when we begin to try to establish boundaries with someone after we have been in a certain pattern with the person for a long time, it can be met with resistance by the other person. This doesn't mean that you speaking up for yourself is wrong. It is a good thing to start to establish healthy boundaries.


If the response you are getting is anger, yelling and a lack of understanding, that actually sounds on the abusive side. If you are presenting reasonable explanations but getting unreasonable, aggressive responses, that is quite hard to deal with. I am wondering whether you have any support from a psychologist or counsellor who could help provide guidance around ways of communicating and handling responses when establishing new boundaries? I also wonder if your partner would be open to couples counselling to help them understand your perspective and the impacts of your history with CPTSD?


I have CPTSD also and I am also establishing new boundaries after a lifetime of not having good boundaries and not being able to speak up for myself. However, I am not in a relationship so I am not having to deal with those boundary challenges in my home in environment. I can understand that would be very hard and I get the spiralling into the feelings of hopelessness which I have experienced in relation to the struggles I've had in the past.


I think the not feeling significant enough, basically feeling very small in the world, is so common in CPTSD. What I have been gradually learning to do is to self-parent and essentially grow up the part of myself that didn't get the encouragement and support it needed when I was a child. I was so used to being treated abusively I really internalised that that was what I must deserve and thought I really was an inadequate person. But as I gradually come to learn to value myself I am finding I am going into bat for myself more, speaking up more often, but also learning to let go of things others say or do that are unkind.


But of course it is harder when living with someone when you are in a relationship with them. The stronger your own sense of self the easier it becomes to assert boundaries which can be done in skilful, non-confrontational ways. But it can be very challenging, even scary, at first. I'm just wondering if building up that inner strength within yourself by working with a good, trauma-informed psychologist would help. You may have done therapy work before given your CPTSD diagnosis.


I don't have any easy answers, and hopefully there may be someone else who has gone through the process in a marriage before that you are trying to navigate now who can offer some thoughts or suggestions. But if it gives any hope, I have definitely improved at my boundary setting, as hard as that has been. I feel more confident now in a range of situations and I also am not tolerating any behaviour from others that is unkind or abusive. I am finding practice makes a difference, so the more I keep doing it the easier it is getting. It does make moving through life easier.


It is important to recognise you are not the problem. It is a good thing to be working on these things and you are showing courage in trying to establish those boundaries and make things better in your life.


Take care,


Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi HopefulMum


Taking the journey of self development is something to be so incredibly proud of in my opinion. While it can be an exciting journey at times, at other times it can be one filled with self doubt, incredibly challenging inner dialogue, mental health struggles and so much more in the way of challenge. It is a journey not for the faint hearted.


I was once offered a great perspective which largely changed the way I saw myself. In sharing it, I hope it helps make some difference for you in the way ahead. It's based on the idea that there are many facets to us that go toward making up the whole of who we are. While some facets have already come to life over the years, others are yet to come to life. And while some will be triggered to life through circumstances beyond our control, some facets in us can be brought to life through the choices we make in our self development journey. To offer an example, the people pleaser in us may have come to life when we were just a kid. Being conditioned to please, as opposed to challenging our parents, teachers etc meant being nothing other than pleasant and non confrontational. No matter how much we may have suffered through certain forms of suppression, even to the point of becoming depressed, the dialogue of the people pleaser in us dictated life to various degrees, 'You have got to do as you're told so you won't upset anyone. If you don't upset anyone people will like you/accept you'. Over the years, through suppression, oppression, depression, the stirrings of another facet of self can eventually be felt...


Our intolerant self may be champing at the bit to come to life, an opposing nature. Whether it is born out of sudden overwhelming fury while screaming at us 'THIS HAS GOT TO STOP. YOU DESERVE BETTER THAN THIS!' or it is slowly born through the labors that come with a longing for the pain of constantly pleasing to be over, I believe it must be welcomed to some degree. The welcoming of this facet of self may come to sound like 'I'm so glad you're finally here. I'm so glad you're here as the most upstanding part of me. I am glad you are here to help me speak up and speak my truth'. When this intolerant aspect comes to life, its inner dialogue grows louder as it dictates stuff like 'You have got to tell him you deserve better than this' or 'You've got to tell her you're done with the way she treats you' or 'You have got to tell them how soul destroying and depressing their words and behaviour are'. I've found 2 things happen through the prompting of our intolerant sense of self, 1)we come to respect our feelings, we come to speak our truth and we become upstanding and 2) we may be labelled as 'Difficult', 'Challenging', 'Selfish', 'A b***h' and more. With greater confidence, the labels become like badges of honour, while we come to truly honour our self in ways like never before. I think we can come to bring this sense of self to life in little ways, if that's what's easiest to begin with. Simple example: If we don't like bacon with our eggs 'No bacon for me thanks' means not tolerating having to eat bacon. No biggy, unless someone wants to fight about us not having bacon. Some people can be strange like that 😁.


What facet of your self would you most like to bring to life?