Things To Keep In Mind When Dating Someone With PTSD

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated March 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.
Has your partner experienced a traumatic event?

Dating someone living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be challenging. You may feel confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed by your partner's symptoms or reactions to certain triggers. However, it can be important to remember that PTSD is a mental illness that can require patience, understanding, and care as you support your partner through their healing journey. It’s often helpful to educate yourself about PTSD, create a safe and supportive environment, and encourage your partner to get the professional help they deserve. Oftentimes, PTSD affects both the survivor and their partner. For this reason, you may also benefit from speaking to a therapist online or in person as you navigate relationship challenges and any of your own mental health concerns.

Understanding PTSD and its symptoms

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD can be defined as a disorder triggered by exposure to a traumatic event, such as war, physical or emotional abuse*, or natural disasters. It can cause intense emotional and physical reactions in the person living with the condition and interfere with their daily life.

When it comes to understanding what your partner is going through, it can be important to understand the root causes of PTSD and its common symptoms. PTSD is usually caused by a traumatic experience ranging from a single intense event to multiple events over time. Risk factors for developing PTSD can include prior trauma, exposure to violence, or existing mental health conditions.

*If you or a loved one is witnessing or experiencing any form of abuse, please know that help is available. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline anytime at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Common symptoms of PTSD may include the following:

  • Re-experiencing the trauma through flashbacks and intrusive thoughts
  • Avoidant behavior in which your partner may try to avoid any reminders of their trauma
  • Negative changes in mood and beliefs
  • Hyperarousal and reactivity, potentially making them feel anxious or on edge all the time

Having a partner with PTSD can be difficult for both people in the relationship, potentially making communication an even more important factor in how you support each other. Emotional distancing and trust issues can arise, as well as communication challenges and intimacy concerns.

The most important thing may be for both of you to be open about how the condition affects you and what your needs are to make the relationship work. When your partner feels seen and heard, they may trust you more and feel safer in the relationship.

Supporting your partner through their healing journey 

While it can be important to understand PTSD and its symptoms, it may also be vital to take action to support your partner through their healing journey. To show your partner that you are there for them, it can help to:

  • Educate yourself about PTSD: Resources on the condition are available online and in books. Understanding triggers and recognizing signs of a flashback or panic attack can be essential in providing support when your partner needs it most.
  • Create a safe and supportive environment: Encouraging open communication, establishing trust and boundaries, and practicing patience and empathy can create a safe space for both of you. This type of environment can be essential so you can work together to heal without fear or judgment.
  • Encourage professional help: Professional intervention may be necessary for both your partner and you. Alternative treatments like EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), mindfulness, and meditation can also be beneficial and should be discussed with your partner.
Has your partner experienced a traumatic event?

Supporting someone through their healing journey can be a difficult but rewarding process that typically requires time, patience, and understanding. With the right approach, you can ensure that both of you have a healthy relationship despite the challenges posed by PTSD. When you have an open dialogue about how to best support each other, you may find it easier to manage the condition and have a fulfilling relationship.

Navigating relationship challenges together

Remember that you and your partner are in this together, and with some effort and patience, you may work through any challenges that come your way.

Let's look at some strategies for addressing difficult relationship issues together.

  • Communication strategies: Active listening and nonviolent communication techniques can be valuable tools for creating a safe environment to discuss any challenges arising from your partner's PTSD. Additionally, seeking external support from a relationship coach or therapist can provide an objective perspective and help both of you positively manage any conflict.
  • Navigating intimacy: An open dialogue about fears, boundaries, and trust can be key to rebuilding intimacy in the relationship. You may also want to explore alternative forms of intimacy, such as cuddling or massage, which can be less intense but still foster closeness between partners.
  • Coping with setbacks and progress: Celebrating small victories while acknowledging and accepting setbacks may play an important role. Having a long-term perspective on healing can be important, as it may help both of you stay focused on the end goal rather than getting bogged down in any individual obstacles along the way.

Following these strategies and staying committed to each other can create a safe relationship that may weather even the toughest challenges. As you learn each other's needs, provide empathy and compassion, and remember that you are a team, working toward common goals may become easier. On this journey, you may find it worth every effort as you remain connected and grow together in a meaningful and healthy relationship.

Self-care for the supportive partner

To be an effective and supportive partner, taking time for yourself and practicing self-care tend to be crucial. Self-care may seem like a luxury, but it can be essential for maintaining your emotional well-being. It can help you manage stress and be more present when your partner needs you the most.

Clinical research indicates self-care may reduce stress and increase resilience. Resilience can be defined as your ability to bounce back from challenges. This ability generally helps you stay emotionally connected, calm, and understanding during difficult times.

Setting personal boundaries can be one of the most important elements of self-care. Establishing and maintaining boundaries may help you feel safe and in control, as well as provide structure within the relationship. Boundaries can include anything from scheduling regular check-ins to taking a break when needed.

Pursuing hobbies and interests can also be essential for self-care. You may want to take up an old hobby or try something new that helps you relax and unwind. Activities outside of your relationship may ensure that both partners have independent lives, which can be beneficial.

Another important element may be connecting with a support network. Friends, family, or a licensed mental health professional can provide emotional support. Connecting with those who understand and empathize with your situation can help you gain perspective and maintain a healthy emotional state.

Finally, if needed, seeking professional help may always be an option. 

Benefits of online therapy

Online therapy can be an effective way to receive support from a qualified therapist in the comfort of your own home. The therapist can help you work through any relationship difficulties and provide guidance for overcoming challenges with PTSD. To provide support, your therapist may also create a plan to address common issues such as communication, trust, and intimacy.

According to a 2019 study, online cognitive behavioral therapy may be an effective treatment option for PTSD. This study joins a large body of evidence suggesting that online therapy is usually just as effective as in-person therapy. It may be a helpful treatment option for people with PTSD, as well as their partners.

Counselor reviews

"Dr. Cooley was able to identify my needs and address appropriate therapy. I no longer have PTSD events that are not manageable. He has given me the tools and resources to deal with my issues. I became brave enough to make positive change in my life and found I could experience joy and genuine love."

"Lindsay has been such a blessing. I am a small business owner who is married to a PTSD vet. I have a lot on my mind and plate and she has helped me with everything that I could ever dream of. My anxiety and stress are becoming more manageable daily and it's because of the amount of attention and care she puts into our sessions. I have told so many people about her and the tips she has given me. I will never be able to repay her for the fresh start she has given me."


A supportive partner can be an invaluable aid in managing the symptoms of PTSD. By understanding what your partner needs and offering empathy, compassion, and support while taking care of yourself, you can work together as a team to build a strong and healthy relationship. It may not be easy right away, but your efforts will likely pay off over time as you learn to navigate life with PTSD and strengthen your bond along the way. Both you and your partner may benefit from the support and guidance of a licensed therapist as you learn to foster a healthy relationship.
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