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Complex PTSD and Abusive Relationships

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From England: Hi, I have always had a very difficult time maintaining relationships after suffering years of abuse from my father but physical and verbal, and verbally and emotionally from my mother. I have been diagnosed with complex PTSD, and I now have a partner of 8 months. My biggest fear is that because of my history I have picked a man that is like my father on a subconscious level. How do I know if this man is abusive or if this relationship is normal without any point of reference? He occasionally puts me down, and does some other insensitive and thoughtless things, but I don’t know where to draw the line. I don’t want to end up with an abusive partner, is there any guidelines for someone like me to use as a rule of thumb?

Complex PTSD and Abusive Relationships

Answered by on -


You’ve asked a very important question. Your challenge is to, on the one hand, take care of yourself by being aware of your potential for repeating bad experiences but, on the other hand, not to be so hyper-sensitive that you see abuse when someone is merely clumsy or having a bad day.

The best indication of someone’s character is how they have behaved in the past. Since you are in your late 20s, I’m going to guess your partner is as well. Chances are he has had other relationships. How he talks about and treats former partners is instructive. Does put them down? Does he blame them for whatever went wrong in relationships or does he take responsibility for his part in break ups? Does he generally treat women with respect and sensitivity? The measure of a man is not just how he treats you in the heady time of new romance but in how he treats and talks about the other women in his life (from the check out clerk in the grocery store, to his mom, to his former partners, etc.). If you pay attention to this, chances are you will get your answer.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Complex PTSD and Abusive Relationships

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2018). Complex PTSD and Abusive Relationships. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 22, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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