I am wondering if anyone has symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) that can be specifically triggered by a specific polyamorous situation. I do.
Almost five years ago my primary, D, and I went through a very difficult period together. In his pursuit of another relationship, his first poly one, he committed a very specific betrayal of me and our relationship that potentially put me in harm's way. It was the kind of thing that would have ended most relationships. I didn't leave him though, I stayed. We had young children at the time and I couldn't even begin to figure out the logistics of splitting up. D greatly resisted doing many things that would have helped me heal, so the process of healing was long and hard. Yes, we saw a couples' counselor for about a year, and I think even she was frustrated with his defensiveness and glamorizing of the person who caused trouble between us. I saw an individual therapist for over two years afterward as well. She helped me realize that I had PTSD, and tried to help me through it.
Perhaps the crux of the issue, for me, was D's utter lack of any protective impulses towards me during the difficult situation and the aftermath of it. He had gotten involved with a supposedly poly woman in a bad marriage who claimed to fall madly in love with him during their first (and in the end, only) meeting and then freaked out when I had issues with that. I grew alarmed at her very obvious mental instability in conversations I had with her and from things that D told me, and told D that I did not want him in a relationship with her. The betrayal between D and I began when the woman started trashing my character, to him, and he did not make any attempt to defend me, and then escalated when she threatened my life, to him. He not only didn't tell me about that, but he actively hid that information from me. I found out. I insisted he take what she had said seriously and take action to protect my personal safety. We had known her online barely a month, I'd never met her, and he had only met her once. He did not want to take her threat against me seriously. He did not even want to get information about a restraining order. He desperately wanted to believe that his friend was just upset and that I was overreacting. He spent months afterward, in and out of counseling, arguing with me that she was really a good person. I spend months afterwards terrified that she would show up at our house with a gun. He had even shown her pictures of our children, so I worried for their safety too.
D slowly began to accept that NRE, at least in that situation, was a toxic cocktail for him that compromised his ability to see things rationally. It was at least six months before the effects of that even started to recede. It was a horrible ordeal. It felt like deprogramming a cult member. Time passed. D healed. I tried to. It has been a huge struggle for me to get comfortable with the idea of D having future poly relationships, and for a long time he did not.
Now D and I just had an incident with a new romantic interest, R, that had some disturbing parallels, for me, with the one I just described. (I talk more about the rest of the R story here http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=28432
) While he did not get involved this time with someone who threatened violence, R did seek to cause discord in our relationship, under the guise of "helping us," and was very disparaging of me, to him. His first romantic interest started off that way too. This time, because of our longtime agreement on utter transparency, I was very aware of what was going on.
D gave the appearance of commiserating with R about what she saw as my deficiencies of character. I reacted badly to that. He quickly shifted gears and wrote a rousing email to R where he took her to task for attempting to manipulate him into her desired relationship outcome, for disparaging me, for trying to interfere in our relationship and seek to change our agreements despite D not having asked her for any advice or input there. It was a very meaningful thing for me, that he finally defended us, and me, against someone who sought to cause trouble between us. I praised him, said that I felt that what he had done was going to be very healing, for me, in the long run. But D seemed uncomfortable with my praise, then started trying to parse what he had meant in his email versus what I was indicating I thought he meant, and gave the appearance of backpedaling away from his defense of me, and us, and, well, I had what probably looked like a psychotic episode of rage and grief and betrayal for about 24 hours. I Googled divorce lawyers. I tried to figure out finances and moving out and what it would mean for our children. I told D our 28-year relationship was over. I could not even hear him when he tried to explain what he had actually meant. I did not even know that I could get that angry.
I eventually calmed down, started to hear D out, and realized that he hadn't been backpedaling, just had a different view of what was important about what he had written than I did. D feels like an idiot now because none of it had to happen, he could have just accepted my thanks and left it at there.
So, I have PTSD. I knew that years ago, and I did try to address it in years of therapy. It apparently didn't work. But my PTSD only seems to be triggered by the specific situation of D giving the appearance of aligning and commiserating with a manipulative romantic interest, against me. A friend tells me that the psychological term for this is triangulation.
I know that this won't happen with a woman I can trust. D is in a relationship with C and she is fine, and I know she wants the best for both of us and would never try to stir up trouble to further her own ends, as R tried to do. Future partners of his? Who knows. He's attempted four serious relationships since we opened our relationship six years ago, and two of the women tried to cause trouble between us. I don't see that as a great track record, for either of us.
How can we go forward as polyamorists when I have this issue? I don't feel I can depend on D to make good choices all the time and only pick women like C for partners. I also am fairly certain that my relationship with D won't survive another incident like we just had. He's still the love of my life, and I am his.
We will likely seek more counseling now together as a couple, and D might also go on his own, which he has been promising to do for a long while anyway.
If anyone has been through something similar, I'd appreciate stories and insight. Thanks.