So, you’re one of the lucky ones. You got out of an abusive relationship, and you haven’t given up on humanity or dating.
I survived, and I couldn’t make it through nights in my house alone. So, whether dating was an excellent idea or not, I did it.
Here are my tips for not finding yourself back in another terrible relationship and for not spiraling while dating:
1. Have boundaries. I had to learn what actually was terrible behavior. I probably erred on the side of no tolerance for rudeness. If someone said anything rude, I blocked them. If they hinted at anything scary, they never saw me again. Maybe not all of them would have been terrible, but being in a relationship when you’re terrified all of the time requires a special partner. Anyone who scared me was not that person.
2. Be honest. If you like someone well enough to go out with them, put your PTSD out there, share your history. If they run, they are not enough for you. My whole perspective shifted because men kept saying I was too much. But it was never that I was too much; they were not enough.
3. Don’t set yourself up for failure. For example, if you know you have sound sensitivity, don’t agree to a heavy metal concert. I didn’t go that far, but a couple of times, I thought I could leave my noise cancelling headphones at home and be normal. I was wrong, and I usually drank more than I meant to, to drown my senses. I wore those headphones on my first date with the man I recently married. He didn’t mind.
4. Be real. If you’re scared, say so. If you want to run, say that. If you want someone to stay with you, but you don’t know if it’s just because you’re scared or because you care deeply or both–just blurt all of that out. Someone who’s intelligent enough for you can sort all of that truth out and decide if you’re worth the risk.
5. PTSD might not go away. People put off so much until they are healed or ready; I hear people say that they’ll date when they’ve gotten better sometimes, but PTSD can be a lifelong disability. It was a bitter pill to accept, but once I knew I might always be like this, I knew there was no reason to wait until I am better. Better might not exist and this moment does.
I hope you get amazingly lucky and meet someone who lets you heal and tells you that you’re safe until you don’t panic as often. Don’t give up.