No matter what type of trauma you’ve been through, it’s unlikely that you’ll recover from it overnight. Some people struggle with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for years.
If your trauma is the result of destructive or abusive relationships, dating might feel overwhelming. Even if you want to “get out there” and meet someone new, your past trauma can make it difficult.
How can you start dating again in a healthy way if you have a history of trauma? What can you do to make it easier on yourself?
1. Understand Your Triggers
Most people with a history of trauma have specific triggers that can cause anything from fear to wanting to self-isolate. When you understand what those triggers are, you can take extra steps to avoid them — especially when you’re out on a date.
Unfortunately, you won’t always have control of your triggers. For some people, something as straightforward as a particular sight, sound, or smell can lead back to a memory of abuse. An excellent approach is to do what you can to steer clear of them whenever possible.
2. Don’t Share Everything Immediately
You might feel as though a weight would be lifted from your shoulders if you told your date everything about your traumatic history right away. But that’s a pretty intense conversation to have over coffee!
In all honestly, you’re more likely to scare someone away by opening with a traumatic story. While you should tell your date eventually, try to avoid talking about your trauma on the first date unless it comes up naturally. Remember, it doesn’t define who you are, so you don’t have to share that part of yourself with your date just yet.
3. Take Things Slowly
No matter how interested you are in a person, it’s essential to take things slowly. Even if everything is going well, don’t rush. Trust your gut and your intuition. You don’t necessarily have to have your guard up, but do what you can to protect yourself from heartbreak.
By taking things slowly and not relying on initial feelings of attraction, you will understand where the relationship might be going and feel more in control and comfortable.
4. Be Patient
When you do eventually start to talk about your trauma, practice patience. The person you’re dating will undoubtedly have questions. Some of those questions might be offensive or even trigger negative memories. In most cases, people don’t ask questions to be purposefully invasive, but they may not know what to ask or how to ask it.
So, be patient. Explain what you are comfortable talking about and what you’re not, and answer things with understanding rather than resentment.
5. Don’t Blame Yourself
Going through a traumatic experience is never, ever your fault. When you do start to talk about it, avoid blaming yourself. Don’t feel guilty for what you went through or “apologize” to the person you’re dating for what happened to you.
It’s essential to remember that you aren’t broken, and your trauma doesn’t define you. It may have strongly impacted your life, but it isn’t who you are. Letting your date know that it was a part of your life, but not your entire life, can make a big difference in how your relationship moves forward.
Please reach out to me if you’ve been dealing with the effects of trauma for a while. Maybe you’re still concerned about dating. Perhaps you’ve gone on a few dates that didn’t turn out as you expected.
Remember, you don’t have to go through the aftermath of trauma alone. Together, we can work on more tips for getting back into the dating scene and enjoying the experience. I’m here to help.