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My partner suffers from CPTSD and now our family is struggling

Community Member

From before we were even together I knew my wife had suffered trauma. She was in a horrific car accident at 14, and when we started dating, she had just left a short but supposedly violent marriage, and her mother had passed from cancer. My wife was her primary carer and watched her deteriorate.

Just before she turned 40, my wife told me she was sexually abused by her older brother while she was a child. At the start of this year she revealed that she had had a consensual sexual encounter with the guy who was the best man at our wedding whilst I was recovering from lower back surgery. Further discussion about this has lead to my belief it would have more accurately have been called rape. She did what he wanted and felt disassociated during the act.

She was diagnosed with CPTSD in April. She forwarded me a letter of formal diagnosis from the psychologist she has been seeing, and the formal wording accurately describes the behaviours that have been exhibited from early on in our marriage and have slowly escalated over time. Hyper-vigilance; emotional dysregulation, interpersonal difficulties, dissociative symptoms, and negative self-esteem.

I had thought it was just really bad anxiety, and had been asking her to seek help for years. She was reluctant to do that - her reasoning was that she had been treated badly by Psychiatrists after her car accident and didn’t trust them.

So I did what I thought I was supposed to do and hung in there. I have been trying to access family counseling with someone who is strong in PTSD since the diagnosis, but they are few, and demand is high. I have managed to secure an appointment in early February.

Until then, we just have to hang on. My personal Psychiatrist tells me to have no expectations of might might be achieved. We are all struggling and his advice, while probably honest, doesn’t give much hope.

Maybe I’m just looking for someone who has come through similar and out the other side intact.

10 Replies 10

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

HI, welcome

It does seem your wife is somewhat scarred/damaged by her past hence her diagnosis. Anxiety might still have a part to play currently, these illnesses often overlap.

I admire you because you've stood by her all this time. You've done this by seeing things behind the scenes others would not even think about eg mental illness.

Some people need ongoing psychiatric care others not so. Thats for her professional medical person to determine however, this site is open 24/7/365 so it is a great place to express issues and chat about them for comfort and ideas.

I dont know if your wife would like to start her own thread here to chat about her feelings and life events? If so it would be a good idea to recommend it, its totally anonymous.

I do believe there is people that have PTSD and not realise it. It's complex and talking about it tends to help.

I cant be of more help but hopefully someone will attend to this thread shortly.


white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi again

It seems a busy time of the year for us Champions so I'm sorry nobody else has replied.

Re: "My personal Psychiatrist tells me to have no expectations of might might be achieved. " Sometimes the medical professionals are a little blunt. I wouldnt dwell on their negative comments, I dont think they are intentional.

During this period until you go to your February appointment, go back to basics with her. No stress is welcome. Be very careful over the xmas period that she is not subjected to family squabbles. It might be wise to attend these functions for only a short period then leave or you both might have more to dwell on.

The following thread is not for PTSD but for anxiety. I suggest you read the first post only.



Community Champion
Community Champion

Dear SalaciousBCrumb~

I'd like to join TonyWK in welcoming you here to the Forum.

In some ways you do not realise how much you have accomplished. I'll say more in a moment.

Just as background I've PTSD,bouts of depression and constant anxiety - it was not for the same reasons as your wife but I have ended up in a pretty reasonable life, loved and loving, supported and supporting, working at what I enjoy.

It took time, hospitalization, therapy and medication -but you could say I've recovered.

I've told you all this so you know there is hope.

So what have you accomplished? well I never trusted anyone, you have got inside that bubble and are trusted -to an extrodinary degree. While initially she may just have mentioned trauma, car accident and her mum's condition these are things that are more impersonal or can readily be seen.

Now she has shown you the full extent of her illness and opened up, telling you of her abuse by her brother and the encounter while you were in hospital. Add to that a violent marriage which would make it harder, she has entrusted you.

You must be treating her exactly right, which is not esy when those symptoms can be very hurtful, I don't know how my wife stuck it out. She did have support and that is terribly important, she had her mum. Do oyu have anyone you can lean on, talk wiht frankly and who will simply care -a family member perhaps? Coping on your own in isolation is very hard indeed.

You mentioned you had a psych of you own, may I ask about that? Any form of Mental Health condition will make matters that much harder.

It is excellent news you have found a therapist that specializes in PTSD. Does your wife intend to see that person? I'm not sure if it is a psychiatrist, psychologist or councilor who is best. I merely think from my own experience they have to be very familiar with the condition and be able to gain the person's trust, not easy but possible.

It is something that took me a very long time but ended up able to live in family life and work doing well. While not all the symptoms are gone they are much muted and manageable.

Tony has given some good advice about the Christmas period. Please let us know how you get on


You may well be right she 'followed orders' and saw it from a distance.


sorry for the delayed response.

I was seeing a psychiatrist who’s a pain specialist about the time of my back injury. I went back to see him at the beginnings of this year simply because I new him and I was his patient and could get in to see him rather quickly. He is blunt, but at least this allows me to move forward with my eyes wide open.

I don’t have any underlying mental health condition. That said, I can see that my wife’s distress had has an affect on how we interact, and that I’m quite anxious when I interact with her.

This has lead to avoidant behaviour. However engaging with her tends to lead to conflict, so avoidance is understandable.

Any time with family is bound to bring conflict, so we have limited it for years. In recent years there has been no contact with the offending brother, so there has been pushback from other siblings over that too.



Hi Croix,

she has said to me that I am the only person she trusts, but that isn’t backed up by actions. The aspersions that I have been subjected to are constant and often vicious. They are also very creative, often physically impossible, but no amount of discussion can convince het that they are not true, especially in the moment. They bubble just below the surface, and then blow up when something triggers them.

I think to a great degree these are due to deep seated insecurities and a fear of abandonment. A brain injury sustained during the car accident causes her to feel she is “less”. Most people wouldn’t even know she has an impairment, but she is very self conscious about it.

As for support, I have elderly parents, but they have a lot going on, and I’m helping them get through those issues. A lot of my family have been alienated by my wife, and we don’t see them much any more. Most of my friends (and her’s for that matter), have drifted away after experiencing some nasty situations.

Our kids don’t like having friends over as she can blow up at any time.

It’s all rather isolating. I do have clients that I socialise with, but I don’t share personal information with them.

I don’t really want to discuss what is going on with the people we still associate with, as I fear it will drive them away too.

I really don’t know if her first marriage was violent, as I’ve been accused of exactly the same stuff as him, and I know what she says happened with me has never happened. I don’t know if this is flashbacks, or paranoia or something else entirely. All I know is that it makes it really difficult when she comes home with tales of how someone at work has done some terrible thing to upset her. I don’t know if it’s real or if it is something triggering her from the past.

Just about every day there is a problem at work. She has had three months off this year, and has been on reduced hours for the balance. She wants to quit entirely, but I don’t know what would happen if she was home alone all day with just her thoughts. It was pretty dark when she was taking time off at the beginning of the year.

I intend to see the PTSD psychologist alone at first, and then with my wife, and finally as a family over a period of 8 weeks. My wife has previously been seen by this psychologist, and was given a lot of workbooks to complete, but never did them and hasn’t returned since.

I’m hoping that maybe we can work through them together before she returns with me.


Community Member
Hi Sal, I am not out the other side yet myself as yet but understand about living with a partner who has suffered trauma. Although they have different presentations I think your wife & my husband have some overlap in their histories. We are facing a family crisis too at the moment but I would not believe a psychiatrist that says not to hold out hope. I guess I just wanted to support your mantra & conviction to ‘hang in there’. There are psychologists that have trained in trauma informed therapies but I know they’re hard to get into at the moment. Hang in there.

Hi Marsia,

thanks for your feedback. My psychiatrist said not to have any expectations. I feel that there isn’t much hope. However, having read “The body keeps the score”, I have a little more hope. It’s a case of finding a good practitioner and then convincing my wife she should see them.



Hi SalaciousBCrumb,

I'm really sorry to hear about what you are going through. It sounds like your wife's condition has put a huge strain on your relationship. I can't imagine how difficult things must feel right now. Trauma and its effects can so debilitating for the survivor and their loved ones. It can completely disrupt how the survivor functions and lives, as you described. I understand your fear of driving people further away, but I am really sorry you don't feel able to talk to any family/friends about what you are experiencing, I can only imagine the isolation must make it even more distressing. It isn't the same as talking face to face, but there is the Mental Health Carer Helpline (1300 554 660) if you need to talk to someone confidentially about what is happening for you.

It is great that you have been able to find a specialised psychologist to help - I hope that it goes well. It also sounds like you have some resources already, but if you are interested, there are two books that I think you may find really helpful: 1) The Body Keeps the Score (By Dr Bessel Van Der Kolk), and 2) Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving. Recovery is not a linear process with mental health, it can be so painful, but there is hope.

Take care of yourself.

Hi A, That is the book I am reading too! And you’re right, I think, to feel there is hope. There is certainly some hopeful stories throughout that book of recovery & healing. Take care. Regards, M