What is Posttraumatic Relationship Syndrome (PTRS)?
According to Debra Vandervoort and Ami Rokach’s research, Posttraumatic Relationship Syndrome (PTRS) is a new trauma-based syndrome which ‘may afflict individuals who have been traumatized by physical, sexual, and/or severe emotional abuse within the context of an intimate relationship’. Although PTRS is different from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), it is similar in that the two share several symptoms such as hypervigilance, sleep disturbance, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, etc. Unsurprisingly, when an individual suffering from PTRS finds themselves in a new relationship, it might be difficult for both partners.
There are several signs to watch out for if you suspect your partner might be experiencing symptoms of PTRS:
1. They feel extreme psychological distress at ‘random times’.
The truth is that when your partner begins to experience extreme psychological distress and physiological reactivity, they do not do so at random times. That is, they may experience uncontrollable shaking (or other physiological reactions) when they are in the presence of their ex-partner or reminders of them/their abuse.
2. They have intrusive thoughts and nightmares.
After experiencing months or years of abuse, your partner may experience intrusive thoughts whereby they persistently relive their abuse. This may result in nightmares, daydreams, and night terrors among others.
3. They are restless, have difficulty concentrating, and are hypervigilant.
It is important to note that these symptoms signal PTRS only if they have become present after their abuse. What is more, these symptoms along with insomnia and weight loss are common to both PTRS and PTSD.
4. They feel intense rage towards their ex-partner.
While many people dislike their ex-partners after being hurt by them, those who have experienced intense abuse and trauma may feel extreme rage. Your partner might express this rage when their ex comes up in conversation.
5. They find it difficult to commit and/or trust you.
If your partner has been left with PTRS after their previous relationship, it is not surprising that they can find it difficult to trust. Moreover, before they confide in you, you might initially be confused and hurt by their inability to commit and/or trust.
6. Victims of sexual abuse can experience sexual dysfunction.
Those who have experienced sexual abuse in their intimate relationships may struggle with sexual dysfunction as any reminders of this abuse will trigger them. Patience, understanding, and communication are necessary if your partner has been a victim of sexual abuse.
A relationship with someone who struggles with PTRS will not be easy; however, if you stand by their side, show support, and help them work through their trauma, it can have the power to flourish. Ensure that when your partner needs it, you will be there to reassure them and remind them of your love. At the end of the day, love always wins.