Dating Someone with Complex PTSD: Healing and Growing With Your Partner

Dating someone with complex PTSD is no easy task. But by understanding why the difference between traditional and complex PTSD matters and addressing PTSD-specific problems with treatment, you and your loved one will learn what it takes to move forward together and turn your relationship roadblocks into positive, lifelong learning experiences.

Being in a relationship means being open with your partner and sharing life experiences, both the good and the bad. When you’re dating someone with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, however, it might sometimes feel like there is more bad than good. Your partner’s anxiety, paranoia, and on-edge nature can make them extremely volatile, leaving you wondering how you can possibly help. And when it comes to complex PTSD, it is likely influencing the way that your partner perceives the world—and your relationship—in a negative way.

You might have accepted that you will never have a “normal” relationship, believing that the turbulence of your relationship is something that simply needs to be accepted. But in truth, guiding your loved one in the direction of residential treatment can pave the way to so much more. Through professional guidance and support, both you and your partner can learn how to deal with the unique challenges of PTSD in the context of a relationship and use them to drive personal growth.

Why the Difference Between Traditional and Complex PTSD Matters


Traumatic events are never easy, and the coping period after a traumatic experience is painful and difficult. Both our bodies and minds try to regain their balance as we attempt to move forward and continue our lives. But for those with PTSD, this period never quite ends. The lingering effects of trauma lead to hyperarousal, the re-living or traumatic memories, and negative changes in feelings and beliefs.

And when this trauma repeats itself, such as in the case of repeated personal victimization, the traditional PTSD symptoms began to develop into something even more deep-rooted. These situations are classified as complex PTSD.

Common symptoms of complex PTSD are:

  • Difficulty with emotional regulation
  • Dissociation
  • Negative self-perception
  • Trouble relating to others
  • Distorted views of the perpetrator of the trauma
  • Loss of faith or hope

These are problematic symptoms in any situation, but in the context of a relationship, they can be even more destructive. You might feel like your partner is drifting away, isolating themselves from their support systems and sinking further down into their negative emotions and memories. Even when you reach out, they might react in an extremely emotional manner, and may become overly critical of themselves or your relationship.

Given the deep-rooted nature of trauma, especially in the case of complex PTSD, it can be nearly impossible to overcome these relationship struggles without professional help. Your attempts to break through to them might be rooted in good intentions, but you might be doing more harm than good by fueling their insecurities and desire for isolation. For this reason, a professional treatment program is necessary, both for your partner’s mental well-being and for the health of your relationship.

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Addressing PTSD-Specific Problems with Treatment


Isolation, heightened emotional responses, and negative self-perception—these are all common ways that PTSD can manifest in a person, and all of these symptoms can cause damage to a relationship. However, with the right treatment, both you and your loved one will be able to address these issues in a healthy way.

  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is one way that people struggling with PTSD can relieve themselves of the distress attached to their trauma. Through carefully guided therapy, they learn to focus on both their internal memories and external stimuli, creating new positive associations that draw the attention away from negative emotions and loosen the grip that they have on their psyche. These benefits will help them focus on engaging positive emotions and relationships.
  • Support groups and networks can help your loved one break out of the pattern of isolation that their PTSD constantly pushes them into. During treatment, they will learn how to identify, use, and sustain support networks. These are invaluable skills that will help them better integrate into the world and engage in personal relationships in a way that is healthy for them and everyone involved.
  • Holistic therapies like yoga can help promote the grounded sense of control and body awareness that is so beneficial for PTSD recovery. Many people think of it as a way to de-stress, but for a loved one with complex PTSD, it’s so much more—it will help them develop a sense of strength and establish a positive relationship with their body. And in order to establish a healthy, positive relationship with another person, you need to be able to create one with yourself.

By addressing the driving forces of complex PTSD, treatment can help your partner learn to cope with their struggle in a positive way that promotes personal growth. And with so many options for support through family and couples therapy, you will be able to contribute to this growth both in your partner and yourself.

Seeking Treatment and Moving Forward Together


In order to move forward together, both you and your partner need to learn the most effective and adaptive ways of addressing the problems that complex PTSD creates in your relationship. Through a comprehensive residential treatment program, you will be connected to the professional tools and supports necessary to address this mental health challenge. After these unique learning therapeutic learning experiences, you will have the positive energy and outlook to move past the negativity that has held you both back, allowing you to focus on developing a lifelong bond with each other.

Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive treatment for people struggling with mental health disorders as well as co-occurring substance use disorders, eating disorders, and process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Los Angeles and San Diego-based programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward healing.