“I have a question for you about Valentine’s Day,” my husband Derek said.
“Okay,” I said. I didn’t make any attempt to mask my nervousness at his request.
“Would you like to go to the symphony?”
“But Valentine’s Day is on a Tuesday,” I replied, confused.
“They’re having a special concert this year,” Derek explained.
“You know, I think I’ll pass.” I scrutinized his face fearing my response had triggered rejection.
“Are you sure?” If I’d had a magnifying glass, it would have been inches from his face. You do weird things when you live with a survivor.
I explained, “With everything that’s happened over the last months, I just don’t think I can go. I’m pretty tired.”
I held my breath and waited.
“It’s okay. I just wanted to ask” No triggered expression, just kindness.
I exhaled and relaxed.
But Heather, it’s the symphony. And it’s Valentine’s Day. How romantic.
Let me explain.
This past fall, Derek had a flare-up of Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms. It was like living in a tornado 24/7 for weeks. It went on for most of the fall.
You don’t go through a trauma tornado without needing time to recover. I accept that.
I also have to accept that Derek is okay with my decline of his Valentine’s Day offer. Likely, we will go to the symphony. It’s something we enjoy. And of course, we do have the last name ‘Tuba’!
Under normal circumstances, maintaining a connection with a partner is hard work. Add in a partner’s childhood trauma and it’s extremely hard.
How can you stay connected with your survivor partner on Valentine’s Day or any time of the year?
Here are five things Derek and I find helpful:
- Keep it simple and small. Maybe all you can manage is a ten-minute conversation. Maybe it’s better to stay in. Maybe a coffee. Maybe a walk. Be okay with small.
- Remember when. What did you use to do before trauma invaded your life? What things did you enjoy doing together? Derek and I like to shop together – even groceries.
- Do something with your kids or another couple. We took our girls for brunch on Sunday.
- Take a break from ‘hot’ topics. Watch tv. Look at cat videos. Listen to ABBA. (This is what works for us!)
- When you can: talk, laugh, share.
One more thing: be gentle on yourselves. Recovery from trauma is hard, confusing and misunderstood by so many people. There is no manual on how to do this as a couple. Yes, therapists and others can make suggestions, but ultimately, you and your partner must find what works for you.