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Global Guide to Divorce

Jack Jack the Cat

Dating Dilemmas

Relationship PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Portrait Of Young Shy Couple Sitting On Sofa At Home

Trauma from past relationships affects a current one.  The person may do the hot/cold dance – wanting to get closer, yet afraid of being burned again. Not only is relationship PTSD traumatic for the individual, but also to the other in the relationship. The person with PTSD can be afraid to acknowledge even to themselves, deep feelings – as this has led to heartbreak previously.

UK ‘s National Health Service (NHS) defines PTSD as an “anxiety disorder caused by very stressful or distressing events.” People with PTSD have high levels of stress hormones. When danger is perceived, the body produces adrenaline to trigger the fight or flight reaction. “People with PTSD have been found to continue to produce high amounts of fight or flight hormones even when there is no danger.”

 

How PTSD Manifests

 

In relationships, the person may bolt when things are getting serious. They are okay at the beginning – the Getting To Know You stage. When simple requests/demands are voiced by their dating partner, it can be overwhelming. “Do I stay and face a risk of rejection (whatever the trigger is)?”  This person dances into a relationship, then dances right out again.  Or keeps the partner at an arm’s length.  You might be kept in the friend zone or friends with benefits one without a commitment.

The individual with relationship PTSD can be self-medicating with either drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or all three. This is to numb themselves and tamp down emotions. It feels more comfortable to put up an emotional blockade around themselves. If they are like a zombie, then there is no opening for trauma to sneak in. This is a faulty protection mechanism which is harmful to relationships.  Insomnia is another problem for those with this PTSD. Some get flashbacks whether or not in a new relationship.

A person with dating PTSD is trying to avoid being hurt again. Also tries to avoid repeating patterns which led to the trauma -being left behind and heartbreak. The Lehigh Center for Clinical Research in Allentown, PA, USA states “Avoidance is a common symptom of PTSD. If you avoid communicating with your partner about important matters such as your feelings, because building a wall to protect yourself is easier, then you may be suffering from PTSD from your last toxic relationship.”

One man, Peter, had three traumatic dating relationships in a row and developed PTSD, complete with flashbacks. He opted not to date for 10 years.  He became an alcoholic trying to deal with this trauma. Attending AA meetings gave him support dealing with his life.  Now he is living with a fabulous woman.

 

What to do when dating a survivor of PTSD

  • Go Slowly.
  • Be Patient
  • Learn when to pull back. They may crawl into their cave when the relationship is getting too intense.
  • Give them space.  They not initiate contact for a few weeks.
  • Allow time to build a firm foundation. Then they can begin to trust you bit by bit.

It is a delicate balancing act

Pushing to get closer scares them away. Too little leaves them guessing if you are about to do a runner, which may have led to PTSD from previous relationship. Consider sending a short, to the point text “How is your day going?” or when something notable occurs. “I didn’t get the job” or “My short story won a prize.”  Responding is easier than generating a text.

 

Have a full life

When you are busy, your mind is focused on these activities and less likely to be dwelling on the frustration of this dating relationship. You are more interesting and enticing when you do get together.  They can laugh and wonder what antics/classes/events you are up to next. Your full life gives fuel for conversations.  Taking improv acting classes, having fun at karaoke an d so forth, helps you seem different from previous dating partners where trauma occurred,

You may have to accept their pattern of being there and then backing away. No one can change another person. One can express needs with “I” statements. “I need you to text or call at least once a week.” “I want to get together at least every other week.”

 

Questions to ask yourself

  • Are you getting frustrated with the dance backwards and forwards?
  • Are you getting something out of the relationship?
  • Are the good times outweighing the disappearing act?
  • Are you feeling secure in the relationship?
  • Are you both able to discuss personal history, problems, worries, etc?
  • Are they focused on you when you are speaking?
  • How strongly do you feel about them? In love? Or is it lust or merely a fascination?

Your dating partner is operating from fear. Fear is their reality. They are looking for indications that they may be mistreated again.  You may be able to slowly build trust and have a successful relationship. Communication is imperative.  Give it your all, and then if you need to bail, you know you did everything that you could. There is hope that after a bumpy start, your relationship can be successful.