Can a person with PTSD love or be loved?
The short answer is “Yes.” The longer answer is also “Yes” and would probably fill a couple of books (and might best be expressed in novels).
PTSD Hates Love
PTSD seeks to corrode relationships. PTSD hates love. One of the ways it manifests its hatred towards love is in its attempts to destroy healthy, love-based, relationships. It endeavors to harm these healthy relationships through actions that diminish the meaning of love and the valuation of personal worth and trust. PTSD seeks to alienate us from our relationships and encourages us to self-harm.
But There is Very Good News!
It is always important to register that PTSD does not automatically exclude the ability to love and be in a healthy relationship.
A person who experiences PTSD can both love someone else and can also allow themselves to be loved by that particular someone else.
Having PTSD does not automatically exclude us from being able to love and being able to accept the love of another.
Even if one or the other partners has PTSD love can flourish and help us heal.
Many people with PTSD have healthy, loving relationships.
As an aside, I should mention that when I use the words “love” and “relationship” the meanings of those words signify a lot more than just having sexual intercourse with someone else. While sexual relations can intensify a loving relationship, sexual relations do not by themselves define a loving relationship…which is why I suppose that a Viagra prescription neither cures PTSD nor ensures a happy, loving relationship.
And, as an aside to the above aside: Sexual relations with one’s spouse can be beautiful and part of the healing of PTSD. I am rather “old school” about these things and understand that sex with one’s spouse is more than physical. It can be sacramental, spiritual, metaphysical. The sharing of love, vulnerability, openness and trust, together can help to heal the corrosion that PTSD tries to insert into our most healing and healthy of relationships.
But, Putting Those Above Asides to the Side…
An honest, open, love-soaked relationship can help us heal from our PTSD. We are less likely to self-harm or fail to see our own inherent self-worth when we share a meaningful love with another person.
Will such a healthy, positive, supporting relationship guarantee a complete healing from PTSD?
No. There are no guarantees. I wish there were.
A healthy relationship cannot cause a traumatic experience from our past to simply vanish as if it never happened. What has happened has happened (Gosh! I don’t know if that sentence sounds really stupid or really profound!? Profoundly Stupid?! Yikes!) But, regardless, love can inoculate us against the worst of PTSD’s symptoms and its insistence that we abandon hope and begin to self-harm.
Authentic love, like an authentic faith, cannot rewrite a traumatic past as if it had never occurred. If we took a wound, lost a limb, gained yet another scar, our love cannot unmake those events. But an authentic love, like an authentic faith, can help us heal from the wounds and not be controlled by them.
We can move forward, cognizant that at times we may feel the pain more some days than others. We can deeply know and acknowledge we have value and that we are worthy of someone else’s love.
We can risk greater openness and reveal our vulnerabilities.
We can risk trusting another member of the human race.
Through a journey of mutual love we can share our being with another.
We need not abandon authentic, meaningful love – the risk of happiness – because we have PTSD. Neither should we shun those with PTSD as if they cannot ever accept an honest, authentic, love.
Daring to be part of a loving relationship has all the risks and rewards – regardless of one’s PTSD.
Love, commitment, trust, are important and often violated or fail to find a foundation between people even when PTSD is not part of the picture.
Just as relationships where there is no PTSD may flourish or fail, the same holds true for relationships where PTSD is a factor. I have seen relationships whither away because of PTSD and I have seen relationships heal and flourish even though PTSD is present.
The good news is that having trauma and PTSD in the picture does not automatically disqualify us from loving another person or being loved by them.
We are all worthy of loving and healing.
You have value.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z