Well, let’s hit another tough topic today shall we? As I’ve said, all of them are tough. But this particular issue is hitting America in volumes that are less than comfortable. Today’s topic? How to get him back when your man has PTSD. This topic is sort of a partner to a previous topic, how to get back together with someone that has a mental health diagnosis. I mentioned in that column just how common that is. When it comes to PTSD, it’s even more common.
How common is PTSD?
Before I started answering this question today, I took a little journey over to the National Institute of Mental Health to see just how common this problem is. It is a problem that as you read this right now, PTSD is affecting 7.7 million Americans.
That’s a LOT. The greatest comfort you can take from this is that, whoever you know that is struggling with this is not alone. But when you consider suicide to be one of the “side effects” of PTSD, it’s not a comforting number at all. This important fact about PTSD is why I’ve chosen to cover mental health again for all of you, because I know if it is affecting one reader, it is affecting many.
One of our readers is in love with a man who has PTSD. Before I get to her question, let me tell you something about this disorder, and about any mental health disorder really. When someone is struggling psychologically, they are very difficult to understand. They seem illogical at times, irrational at others, and just plain psychotic when they are at their very worst.
So easy to write these guys off and say, “Good luck with that!”
But for some, not so easy. When you are carrying their child or have a ring on your finger and made promises to them, there is nothing easy at all about it.
You can and you will spend hours and days and months crying about this, and wondering what you can do to help them get their heads straight. The cold hard truth is that YOU alone can not do anything. You can do SOME things, but you alone will not be able to heal them. Without you, their journey of healing may be tougher, there is no question about that. But what happened to them is NOT your fault, and is a problem that is bigger than you are able to handle.
The other thing you need to realize when you are going in and about your every day with them is that….they process things differently than you do. For example, they may freak out or melt down when they hear thunder booming, or fireworks across the street, or any little thing that is their own unique PTSD trigger. This kind of thing could destroy their day. What are they going to do? Take it out on you.
But he’s not going to say, “I am freaking out because that noise reminded me of a roadside bomb that killed my best friend.”
Instead, he’s going to freak out and have a meltdown, and when you walk into the room it will sound like, “Why aren’t the freaking dishes done already? Where the hell is my dinner? What the hell have you been doing all day?? For god’s sake woman can’t you do anything right? I go out to fight for this country and you have done absolutely NOTHING to show any respect! What were you doing all that time I was gone anyway?? Who were you with? I sacrificed so much and THIS is how you thank me??”
It doesn’t make sense to you right? You are left feeling hurt and responsible, and it doesn’t even occur to you that he’s not processing things properly and that this isn’t your fault. He’s not processing things in the same way that someone who didn’t have to make all of those sacrifices would be.
That’s because he’s not that other person, and he’s sick. And he needs help. Help that you alone can not provide.
Does that mean your relationship is doomed?
No. It just means that you need to be redirected towards the tools that will help repair it. Think of it this way. If you bought a car that you fell in love with, but it made a squeal every time you hit a speed bump, what would you do?
Would you give it away and get a new car because you couldn’t understand this problem?
Of course you wouldn’t. And you wouldn’t do that with the love of your life either. Instead, you would take him somewhere to get help, find out what is really causing the squeal, and hang in there with him until the squeal stops showing up, or shows up less and less and less.
Let’s go to our reader’s question today. Her biggest question is how to get him back, or even if she can get him back, after he’s been diagnosed with PTSD. I’m going to call her “Faith”.
Here’s what Faith wrote in, once again I’ve highlighted key points to take away.
My current ex and I were in and off for a year. He’s an army veteran and he has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He is also very skeptical of anything remotely good and pleasant in his life, but overall, he was a great, sweet boyfriend… The day I told him I told him I’m pregnant, he said that he wants a paternity test when the baby is born which was a slap in the face to me. I’ve always been what you would call “sexually shy” and I despise the idea of “flings” and he knew that practically since day one and yet he dumped me a couple of days later for “cheating” on him.
His “evidence” was a sincere letter I had written to a friend he and I shared that passed away. That friend happened to be a guy by the way. The whole break up was a total nightmare and I could never repeat the things he said to me. Long story, short, he blamed me for the relationship falling apart. He said that he’ll stick around to be the father, but I’m seven months along and he won’t bother to come visit at all. He got a new girlfriend a week or two after the breakup. I told him that I need to meet her if she’s going to be around the baby and he refuses.
I know him well enough that he doesn’t like the fact that I’m pregnant so he made up a different excuse to be mad about and he’s just with this girl till I deliver the baby and he gets his paternity test. He says that he doesn’t want to be involved with me, only the baby, but he has repeatedly tried to convince me to “get my rocks off” and the last time I did see him, he was all cuddly (that was about two months ago). I know he still gives a damn, but he thinks he can hide it. Recently, he did text me and ask me how I was doing and what I was up to, which was odd to me.. At the most, I talk to him once, maybe twice a week.Any tips to help get his head straight?
This is one of those questions that offers more hope than others, even if it doesn’t feel that way to you right now, Faith. You’ve said a lot of great things about this guy, even though you are clearly frustrated. “Overall, great sweet boyfriend.” You’ve mentioned that he still checks in on you, that he’s cuddly, and that he’s even passed on a few innuendos on occasion. As far as I’m concerned, all green lights for this relationship.
If you want my gut instinct hunch that I received when I was reading your letter, Faith, as soon as that paternity test comes back as his baby, you won’t need to write me letters any more because you will be happy and in your mommy bliss…with the man that you love. Of course, I hope you do come back and continue to help our readers with your experiences, but you won’t have a broken relationship anymore. I may be wrong, but about these kinds of things, I seldom am.
Why do I say this? Because there’s nothing bad about this guy. You said so yourself. He has some jealousy and insecurity issues obviously. Any man that would ask you to get a paternity test without probable cause is jealous and insecure. But you have to remember, he processes things differently.
It is very difficult for him to see anything good in his life right now, because he is an Army Veteran and has seen the worst of the worst in terms of the sanctity of human existence. Once someone is traumatized by something they have experienced or witnessed, it takes years for them to overcome that one image or that one experience and believe that there IS good in the world. He will realize that however, with the right help, and the right slow and steady journey from you, see the good in the world. And, since there’s a new baby on the way, miracles will become more believable to him sooner than you might think. You can’t ever stop remembering that the way he processes things right now has nothing to do with YOU, and everything to do with what happened to him AFTER he took that long flight to who knows where into the middle of war not that long ago. How can you remind yourself of this?
Put yourself in his shoes.
On top of the trauma and destruction and havoc that war wreaks on someone’s brain wires, think about this. If you went away for 18 months and had to leave him for that long, wouldn’t you have some of your own insecurities about how he passed his time as well? What if you ran across a letter that he wrote to some other woman while you were gone? You would question him, no matter how much you love him, wouldn’t you?
The answer is yes, because we ALL would. That’s normal. Outside of his PTSD, there is nothing abnormal or wrong with this guy. The girl he is with now? You said so yourself. He’s just with her to pass the time until he sees the black and white DNA results.
If he’s texting you, he’s thinking about you.
You also said he is still texting you. If he was in love with her, whether you were carrying his baby or not, he wouldn’t be doing that.
You also asked, “Any tips to help get his head straight?”
For that, my advice is, get him to a doctor that he can see regularly to help him cope with his PTSD until or after the baby is born. You can’t get his head straight. And from what I have seen, you are doing just fine handling things on your own right now.
You however, may want to work on getting your head straight. NOT saying there is something messed up with you, but merely suggesting that you turn your head away from your own pain and problems, and look directly at his and the truth that he is showing you. That truth is that he IS struggling with something, and that he DOES care enough about you to keep checking in on you, and that you KNOW he still “gives a damn”.
So give him a chance to give a damn, without judging him for his actions that are in all likelihood caused by his mental health struggles. You don’t need to and you shouldn’t be texting him all of the time to see how he is or ask whatever excuse you come up with. But you can give him a tremendous gift by giving him some space, and drawing close to him when he draws close to you the next time he texts you. He will realize at one point that this girl he is with right now is not the one that has stood by him through thick and thin. I can assure you, he is not in love with a person that he took into his life one week after he broke up with the mother of his child. And when he takes that bundle of joy into his arms for the first time, he will see you in an entirely different way. THIS I promise.
What do you do next?
The best relationship advice I can give you right now, Faith, is, hang in there. That’s why I changed your name to Faith. Every time you feel that baby kick, remember that he IS with you, more than it feels on those dark hours. Take care of YOU for the next two months, and by doing so, you will in some way be taking care of all three of you. Your child is the most important thing in your life right now, and the rest, from the sounds of it, will fall into place sooner than later.
We wish you the best of luck, and are eagerly waiting your update!!! Readers, drop some notes in the comments to wish our Faith well until we hear from her again!