My boyfriend of a few months has a brother whose wife suffers from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) whose details are unknown by his family.
She formerly used alcohol for comfort and was very bubbly and fun loving, then.
A year later, they had a child with whom neither her family nor his were permitted much contact for five years.
His brother’s wife went into complete isolation.
She’s now allowing the family to spend small amounts of time with the child (who was diagnosed this year with autism and anxiety problems).
But there are endless rules, e.g. don’t use a cell phone in her presence, period. I wanted to give the child a colouring set, markers, and a booklet as a nice surprise.
I was told the mother would have to be convinced by a grandparent beforehand, as she doesn't allow the child to be given gifts.
I only met this mother briefly as they won’t attend any family gatherings.
I'm at a loss for how to proceed.
I really feel for his family. His brother is very meek; he goes along with whatever the wife wants to not make waves.
How to Handle?
This isn’t about you. The best gift you can give this child is gentle friendliness and compassion.
The same applies to her mother. She has her own story, with a diagnosis to back it up.
The rest of the family not only needs to accept this, but also learn about PTSD, which is generally caused by very stressful, frightening, or distressing events.
She isn’t behaving out of meanness to the family.
Rather, she’s responding to a difficult set of symptoms related to her past trauma, e.g. extreme anxiety, nightmares and flashbacks.
It’s also not uncommon for sufferers to experience feelings of isolation. Hopefully, she’s been receiving some counselling.
Now, she’s trying to protect and help her child who has her own issues to learn to handle. The “rules” about cell phones or anything else may’ve been recommended by a mental health professional.
You can become a great aid to your boyfriend and his family by understanding the conditions the mother and child face. Rather than everyone bringing judgment and hurt feelings to this situation, they and you can offer whatever’s truly needed.
If and when you do get to meet this woman, let her build trust in you at her own pace.
Reader’s Commentary “At 21, I fell hard for a married guy who said he was separating from his wife. But then he found out that he had a two-year-old and said it was difficult to leave.
“He said they never slept together anymore, but when I delivered our daughter I found out his wife had also given birth to another child just months before me.
“I needed professional help but didn't seek it. Instead, I raised my daughter, now age 32, on my own for many years.
“My daughter contacted her biological father but he’s not interested. I told her not to waste her beautiful self on someone who’s really not a good person. Good people don't do what this guy did.
“My daughter and I have had a good life – a home, and a long-term relationship for me that produced a sister and brother for her.
“I’m not ever sorry that I had her. But I’m so sorry I wasted so many years when I should’ve been seeking education, healthy relationships, respect, etc.
“I didn't run fast enough in the other direction.”
FEEDBACK Regarding the man in a sexless marriage (June 7):
Reader – “He wrote: “She wants to lie together (which never leads to sex), but I spitefully refuse.”
“He’s missing a big opportunity for tenderness and a renewal of their “amazing sex life” of the past, if he avoids her night and day.
“He must have some responsibility for perpetuating this deterioration.”
Reader #2 – “While I think his wife is handling it the wrong way, I don’t think she should feel pressured to engage in sexual activity with her husband.
“Some people have a lower sex drive and no one should be forced into doing something they don’t want to do.
“That just switches the tables of resentment.
“They need to have an open, honest, respectful conversation about their individual needs and decide if staying together is good for anyone involved.
“Begging her and being spiteful is no solution.”
Tip of the day:
People living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder need continued understanding from those close to them.