“My partner has told me how isolating it is to suffer from her CPTSD she got from her ex. I know it’s tough for her to find support since psychologists are beginning to explore its effects more and more, but she has support out there.
It’s even tougher to support someone suffering from CPTSD or PTSD with almost no resources out there for a partner or family member.
Finding a group where there are others who also have to deal with the hidden repercussions of damage done by someone else to the person you love and care about, who have done something that would barely have caused a wave in a relationship with someone without PTSD but instead has turned into a traumatic event for the person you love and your relationship, and where people who are in the group are here with a “I’ve dealt with that too and here’s how we got past it” really helps take the weight off and helps with the feeling of being in this alone.
Glad I found this group!” ~ James
Just over a year ago, I discovered online support groups for survivors of childhood abuse. Most are closed or secret Facebook groups that provide safety, community, and a place to talk openly about the struggles of living as an adult with a history of childhood abuse.
A friend who moderates a survivor group invited me to join. She knew that I, as a partner, felt isolated and alone. I accepted her invitation and quickly grew to enjoy the interaction of group members. Although the subject matter was sobering and painful, there was also humor, encouragement, and genuine care communicated by text messages, images, and emoticons. I saw members share deep and painful experiences, often for the first time in the context of an online group.
Yet, because I am not a survivor, I still felt a bit like an imposter. And my heart was pulled towards the situation of partners for whom there are few resources. I began to contemplate starting a partner group. Would partners join? Would they have time to participate? How would we talk about the challenges of living with a survivor? Could you talk about things like sex and intimacy in an online forum in a respectful and safe way?
So I didn’t act on the idea for a few months. During that time, we made a big move cross-country, we had lots going on. The thought of a partners group didn’t leave, it was just set aside.
Shortly after arriving in our new city, the thought of the group came back full force. Now, I was really alone, in a new part of the country with no personal support. I decided I might as well give it a try. I set up the group, sent out an email, and waited.
The first week, a few members joined. Then, a few more. More members join every week.
We are not a big group by Facebook group standards, but it’s working well so far. Every week, there is more sharing, more support, and more members.
This group is different than the survivor group in which I participated. For one thing, there are more men than women.
Secondly, interaction is less frequent. Typically, partners juggle many responsibilities: work, children, caregiving, appointments, and trying to fit in time for ourselves.
When partners share, we share. Our posts tend to be long–like several paragraphs! For many members, there has not been a venue to share. Furthermore, the issues faced by partners are complicated.
Most of us understand that the responses of survivors come from past trauma, but we as the most intimate people, experience feelings like hurt, confusion, and fear too.
Like most groups, people share when they can and what they want. Some observe for a period before joining in.
So far, we have been able to broach topics like sexual intimacy, finances, when a partner shuts down (dissociation), when our partners have trauma parts (sometimes called ‘inner child’), isolation and exhaustion.
The group is also made up of those who are separated, divorced, or going through a relationship break-up. The impact of another’s trauma does not end when the relationship is over. Partners need support as they grapple to make sense of aspects of the relationship.
Is the group perfect? No! It would be great to sit down in person with these people. But with the lack of resources for partners, I am happy to provide a safe online environment for us.
I started with a quote from a group member and I close with another. Both beautifully summarize the experience of group members. So if you are a partner and these words resonate, won’t you join us? And if you know a partner, please let them know there is support.
“There are no support groups available in my local area which is incredibly frustrating and isolating. I find it hard to discuss my concerns as the abuse my partner experienced is not my story to tell. Having the opportunity to join this group makes me feel less alone and allows me to share my experiences, listen to others and find out about useful articles.” ~ Partner support group member