Sleeping in Separate Rooms

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eatyourgreens
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Sleeping in Separate Rooms

Unread post by eatyourgreens »

My boyfriend and I have been together for 4 years now. We’ve lived together for 3 years and generally we have a great relationship. In the past year however, the relationship has brought up our own issues to the surface more and created a lot of conflict. For me it’s brought up my own PTSD, making me realise I have trust issues that basically prevents me from being able to relax when things go well. I’m always on the look out for danger and expecting things will go badly. I’m insecure and usually in need for reassurance etc.
My boyfriends problem has been communication. He comes from a very non expressive family where he had to repress his emotions. So he never really learned how to express himself and communicate in a mature way during conflict - resulting in him having defensive reactions, being passive aggressive, having outbursts, becoming quite attacking when he realises there’s things we have to talk about. We trigger each other because I obviously need to talk, and he has trouble talking (in conflict).

The past year has been chaotic but he has understood what I need from the relationship and made a serious effort to learn more about handling conflict. He started reading books and even keeping a journal for self reflection and study, he writes in it almost every day. Despite that the progress hasn’t been totally linear. It got better, then suddenly got sooo much worse over Christmas. This is all really difficult for me because I don’t feel like I’m as objective as other people might be - I’m already struggling with trust issues and problems of feeling invalidated, disrespected etc trigger me greatly. I probably don’t deal with the mistakes as well as I should, and quickly panic/react when things aren’t going well rather than get curious and believe that there’s a reason for it. Like when he fucks up, my brain goes ‘see, this was all a lie. He doesn’t actually care about this, he will never change’

It did get so bad though that after new year I told him I don’t want to sleep in the same room as him. I need my space, I don’t feel ‘safe’ and him not handling conflict well triggers me greatly so I want that safe distance.

It’s been over a week though and I’m confused because I never used to do this and even when I did, I’d miss him and want him to come back to bed like after 1 day. But now, I am still happy to have my space and I’m really put off by the idea of him sleeping with me again.

I’m really worried about why I’m actually enjoying the space a lot and why I have zero desire to be close. It’s not like I want to be close but can’t, I feel as though I don’t even want it.

There are still strong fears I guess and just because our distance has made things a little calmer, it hasn’t automatically fixed everything and so maybe that’s why I’m happy to stay in this space and don’t want to get close. But yesterday we had an intense argument and he handled that really well, and it seemed like he is getting better again at communicating. I was happy about that. But I still didn’t want to be near him.

I’m confused by these contrasting feelings. How can I know I love him and at the same time I don’t want to share the bed with him or want to be close in any way? Is it really because I’ve been hurt that much that it is gonna take some time to repair, or does this mean something worse? I’m afraid to embrace it and allow myself to have the space so I invited him to bed last night thinking it’ll trigger those feelings of warmth again. Instead I felt totally uncomfortable and really disliked it. :( this is all very strange to me, I don’t usually feel like that about him.

He did hurt me a lot. Even if I can understand his upbringing affected it and even though I can objectively see how dedicated he is to repairing, the fact he is still failing makes me feel like he is out to hurt me. I used to feel strong resentment when we first started working on communication properly, because I felt like I had to be a teacher to get him to do something that was basic and what I deserved. But now I don’t feel resentment, I just feel... hopeless and put off. I think I feel like because he got better then suddenly reverted so aggressively, I feel like that’s really impacted my already fragile trust. Even though he is showing me he is getting better again, I feel like ‘well clearly he can revert again’

Why am I feeling this way? Is it even normal to feel this way? If I let myself feel it and continue having the space will that mean I’m letting the relationship fall apart? I don’t feel good about closeness at all. In fact I feel angry that he even slept here. I’m scared if I don’t allow him to be close after doing better though, that he might revert again. No matter how I look at it I’m terrified about that


( by revert I mean become childish attacking defensive in conflict etc, saying things that hurt which he doesn’t mean, deflecting and blaming things on me and being unable to have an open discussion. Only to apologise about it after)
Sam W
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Re: Sleeping in Separate Rooms

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi eatyourgreens

In terms of sleeping in separate rooms, if that's something that's making you feel safe and comfortable then I encourage you to keep doing it (doubly so if sharing a bed with him makes you resentful). Sleeping separately isn't automatically a sign that a relationship is falling apart; sometimes, it's the arrangement that best meets the needs of the two people involved.

That being said, it sounds like this is really worrying you. Let's start with this question: aside from sleeping separately, do you otherwise want to be around him or spend time with him? And if you take a look at this article, do you see a lot of things that apply to your relationship? Does Your Relationship Need a Checkup?

It also sounds like you're worried that your trauma history is compromising your ability to navigate this relationship. The tricky thing is that, while trauma or PTSD can lead to people being hyper-vigilant, often the experiences that created the trauma mean you're more attuned to certain red flags because you've seen them before. I don't think people with trauma are less objective in dealing with conflict than people without it; we all have blind spots or things we're extra sensitive to. Does that make sense?

I do want to check, are you currently getting any support, like medication or counseling, to help you manage your PTSD?
eatyourgreens
not a newbie
Posts: 9
Joined: Tue Jun 16, 2015 5:33 pm
Age: 27
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Sleeping in Separate Rooms

Unread post by eatyourgreens »

Sam W wrote:Hi eatyourgreens

In terms of sleeping in separate rooms, if that's something that's making you feel safe and comfortable then I encourage you to keep doing it (doubly so if sharing a bed with him makes you resentful). Sleeping separately isn't automatically a sign that a relationship is falling apart; sometimes, it's the arrangement that best meets the needs of the two people involved.

That being said, it sounds like this is really worrying you. Let's start with this question: aside from sleeping separately, do you otherwise want to be around him or spend time with him? And if you take a look at this article, do you see a lot of things that apply to your relationship? Does Your Relationship Need a Checkup?

It also sounds like you're worried that your trauma history is compromising your ability to navigate this relationship. The tricky thing is that, while trauma or PTSD can lead to people being hyper-vigilant, often the experiences that created the trauma mean you're more attuned to certain red flags because you've seen them before. I don't think people with trauma are less objective in dealing with conflict than people without it; we all have blind spots or things we're extra sensitive to. Does that make sense?

I do want to check, are you currently getting any support, like medication or counseling, to help you manage your PTSD?

Hi Sam,

Thank you for your reply and sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I took some time to think about your response properly before jumping in, since it's a confusing situation for me. Aside from sleeping separately, I do have a good relationship with him and enjoy spending time with him. If anything, having this space has allowed me to feel like I can actually get a break from my own constant vigilance, which I have recognised with a therapist that it is on hyper-drive.

It feels like my defenses aren't as activated, and I'm actually beginning to enjoy the things I used to enjoy with him. In turn, I think in a way it has been helping our relationship improve. While I've told him that certain things need to change, I don't always give him the space or time to change because I'm so hair-trigger sensitive. The space apart has allowed me to hold onto my boundaries, but also give him a bit of time to adjust and absorb that. Like a part of me feels like the space is allowing us to rebuild without being in the same pattern automatically if that makes any sense? He is a good person but our communication was not good - on his part, being someone who always suppressed his emotion he didn't really know how to navigate difficult discussions easily and would erupt/say things he doesn't mean/respond impulsively to his emotions.

The space genuinely feels healing and fosters a lot more feelings of respect. I can see my partner in a more objective way, and I went through that check-list and it does confirm my feelings that he is a good partner and genuine person.

I think I was confused because despite feeling better, I still felt like I didn't want to sleep in the same bed. In my mind, I was kind of like, well if I'm feeling better why would I still feel so terrible sleeping near him. I think it's probably as simple as it being 'too soon'? I'm not really sure if it is too soon - it's been about a month now, and I'm starting to feel like maybe I should be feeling normal again, things should be back to normal, and if they're not then it's my fault for dragging it out, or like there's a problem with the relationship.

I don't really know how long is too long, that's really what is confusing me.

Edit: I am not currently seeing anyone for my PTSD. I was but it's proven difficult to find an available counsellor around my area. I'm still searching though. Not on any medication.
Sam W
scarleteen staff/volunteer
Posts: 7463
Joined: Mon Jul 28, 2014 9:06 am
Age: 30
Awesomeness Quotient: I raise carnivorous plants
Primary language: english
Preferred pronouns: she/her
Sexual identity and orientation: queer
Location: Desert

Re: Sleeping in Separate Rooms

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi eatyourgreens,

You're welcome, and no worries! We want people to be able to engage in conversations here on their own time.

What you're describing about the space letting you see and break patterns makes a lot of sense! If you're feeling like the separate sleeping spaces are helping you with boundaries and the relationship overall, then I see no reason not to keep using them. There's not a timeline you "should" be following, just the things that feel right to you. Too, a month isn't all that long in the grand scheme of things, so I wouldn't push yourself to go back on the basis of that.

Does it seem like he's making progress in terms of handling conflict more effectively, with less blaming of you and saying things deliberately to hurt you?

In terms of the difficulties finding a local counselor, have you looked into remote counseling options at all?
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