Lea Dawn | Anxious Attachment + Relationship Coach | Logo

Why Healing Complex PTSD is Crucial to Secure Attachment in CNM Relationships

“Own your shit.” 

“Do the inside job.” 

“It’s your soul’s journey.” 

“You are responsible for your emotions, not me.” 

“If you aren’t happy for me, then you must not truly love me.”

I don’t consider myself a polyamory proponent. I believe it works for some and not for others. 

What I am a proponent of is conscious and consensual relating.

I do believe that polyamory has the potential to heal many of the world’s ills when done in a conscious and truly consensual capacity. 

After putting my ear to the ground of polyamory online for several years now, I’m coming to see that there is a chasm of misunderstanding between those who wish to be free to love others and those who struggle to support their freedom.

I’ve observed in other communities a general revulsion for jealousy and “hypocrisy”, and all are labeled as unhealthy codependence or enmeshment.

Sometimes I wonder if the spiritual encouragement to welcome solitude and loneliness emerged out of necessity to fill the chasm that monogamy created when it splintered the tribe. 

As I’ve shared before, I tend to live on both sides of the fence.

Up until two years ago, I had created a personal poly hell for myself, riddled with anxiety and projection that every one of my partner Shai’s next love interests would spell the end of our relationship.

It wasn’t until I discovered attachment theory frameworks that I understood the root of my pain. My entire life changed the day I began reading Attached by Amir Levine. 

It was like opening my eyes to see a previously invisible prison around me, and attachment handed me the key.

Walking through the door to freedom, however, required confronting just how traumatic elements of my childhood and my formative love relationships were. And pushing through many layers of protection I’d created to survive. 

Those layers make it very, very hard to support the freedom of only one man in the world who’s ever made you feel truly safe in relationship with the masculine.

My entire world became different, and yet, years later I still struggled depending on the situation. It was hard to admit that, at times, I often used painful events from the inception of our current relationship as a template to project into a dark future.

It’s harder to admit that this is because it’s incredibly challenging for me to forgive and let go. 

So when I recently came across a book called Complex PTSD by Pete Walker, everything clicked into place. 

C-PTSD is defined as the result of long-term exposure to traumatic stress. It typically results arises as a result of ongoing stress or repeated traumatic events in childhood.”

It shares many of the same behavioral patterns as acute PTSD you’d expect from a veteran or rape survivor. 

The difference is, on the surface you may have had loving parents who met your physical needs for shelter and food, but their unconscious wounding and patterns may still have created chaos for you.

I suddenly realized that there was a legitimate reason why my software programming could be so at odds with the beautiful free love reality I live in every day. And why others navigate it so differently than I do.

That while my heart would love to love more, my mind and body were never trained to share. 

Based on what I’ve observed online, I’m not alone.

So, I’ve decided to work my way through a resource I found called The Complex PTSD Workbook by Arielle Schwartz.

The workbook’s tagline is unlike other aphorisms like the ones I wrote I above. Rather, it is this:

“You are not broken, in need of fixing. You are hurt, and in need of care.”

This is very, very important. This places a completely different lens upon “jealous” and “hypocritical” behavior in poly. Suddenly we peer through the lens and see wounded souls who were never given a roadmap to inner safety.

That perhaps they do know how to truly love, and, nothing in the world before you has shown them that a source for love isn’t going to leave them.

While I understand now that safety starts from within, we are not meant to “own our shit in a corner” and go this road alone. The book goes on to say this:

“Recovery from developmental trauma requires that you have a reparative experience in a relationship. Within the compassionate ground of another, you embrace the experiences of confusion, discomfort, anger, grief, shame, and pain.”

Leaning on others to heal in relationship is not enmeshment; it’s intelligent design.

So why am I doing this, here and now with you?

Because compersion still mostly eludes me and I’m ready to ignore its taunting voice and accept me for who I am.

Because I know my vice grip on the past is holding us back.

How do I know? Because if I dare to dip into those memories, I’m flooded with sadness, fear, or anger.     

If they were healed, I should feel almost neutral. But I don’t.

Could it be because so many people have been burned already for reasons unbeknownst to them that it’s simply too painful to try again?

Or they already have trouble making mono relationships work, how could they possible fathom more than one?

I know that there is a legion of beautiful, fragile, wounded souls who could make this lifestyle work if they just had the right tools. 

I see a vision of more partners available to love because they’re equipped to handle this, and more partners to help them who are literate in CPTSD. 

Less loneliness. More love. 

I see a future for polyamory; one built on compassion and non-judgment. 

I also see a future for monogamy; one chosen consciously and consensually and no one judges for that choice.

I believe understanding CPTSD is a key stepping stone in both of those paths.

Will it be the Compersion Cure? Not sure. But just by embarking upon the journey, I feel a wellspring of strength emerge.

For those who struggle, I see you. Know that you are not alone. 

For those who don’t, you may glimpse into our inner world and hold the space with care. 

In that, we all heal together. 

We were never meant to go it alone.



Lea Dawn is an Anxious Attachment Style + Relationship Coach who specializes in helping the “poly-anxious” navigate CNM and open relationships. Get in touch about her coaching and speaking services here.