someone with PTSD
In my experience, choosing to date someone with trauma can be just as rewarding and passionate as someone without. Its not like there is extra work that needs to be done in that relationship, just different efforts.
If you are a person uncomfortable with emotions, this track just isn’t for you.. To be honest, I would argue that relationships are inaccessible if you cannot handle emotions.. but thats just one gal’s opinion. Not everyone with PTSD is overtly emotional, every person is individual and unique and, in fact, some prefer to focus their emotions inward and handle things on their own. That idea of introvert and extrovert applies to people with PTSD just as it does anyone.
And just as in every relationship, some compromises have to be made. Perhaps you have to go see the fireworks without them because loud noises are really triggering to them. Maybe when you go out together it has to be a restaurant instead of a bar, and perhaps that bar needs to be away from a certain area of town. But the thing to remember here is that everyone has these peculiarities. Those picky moments are ones not unfamiliar to those without trauma. And sometimes, there are less restrictions or easier ones like “I can eat anywhere that isn’t in this area” meaning if you respect their space, you can eat literally whatever you want and they will be happy.
When you’re dating someone with trauma, in theory it may seem as if there is so much extra to be done, but i would advise that you take a moment to shift your perspective.
This relationship looks a little different when it comes to communication. You may need to check in a bit differently when it comes to things like sex and love.. Making sure everything is okay with the person is imperative. There are anniversary days that will need to be approached with ease. That being said, do not treat them like they’re fragile.
Remember that they have been through some hard stuff in their lives, this does not make them more fragile, but more resilient. Perhaps it may come off as fragility in those moments where they are vulnerable with you. But, and I really mean this, do not reply to that vulnerability by acting like you need to walk on eggshells. You are aloud to respond in ways that do not always have to be perfect. That’s the point of a relationship, to learn and grow together.
Which brings me to this... and pay very close attention... Just because you are dating someone who is perhaps a bit scarred does NOT mean that you need to suppress your feelings. Being a martyr is so much worse for you both and if you’re going to go this route, you have already chosen to end the relationship.
Seriously, in my past I have had partners shove everything down to protect me.. the only thing that did was make me miserable as if I were forcing them to do this. So there I am, holding back my feelings from trauma and general life in hopes that I can help them allow themselves to be happy. Being the partner someone is martyring themselves for is like watching a train slowly run over your dog without being able to interfere. You hurt them so much worse in the long run by sacrificing things they did not ask you for.
There’s a song by Panic! At the Disco called “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage” and since I was a teenager, I have always thought about that title. Essentially the idea of martyrdom being a selfish way to showboat oneself- its not about mental health or making decisions for yourself, its about the show.. Having the ability to say “but I did this and this for you” is manipulative and toxic.
But that’s enough about what not to do.. There are simple ways to make special memories with your PTSD partner. On a trip to New Mexico last year, I was really nervous because it was my first time traveling in five years and thats where a lot of my trauma resides. Honestly, if my partner at the time had asked me what he could do to help I wouldn’t have been able to answer because my mind was completely preoccupied with worry. The simplest effort made the entire trip feel safer for me...
When we got to New Mexico, the hotel was beautiful, the room was so intricate in this adobe style room. I was in awe of the whole thing and honestly I just couldn’t get over it. He told me that he wanted to get a room that would enable us to stay in if I needed to and we could still have a cool experience. This maybe seems like such an odd thing to latch onto, but that moment made me think that he would not be upset no matter what I wanted or was able to do on that trip. He reminded me that we could turn around and go home whenever I needed to and made sure that at no point did I feel stuck in our travels.
Something that simple is monumental for us. Helping distract them when they need and helping comfort them in their trauma is great. Just whatever you do, seriously whatever you do, do not make decisions for them. Do not take it upon yourself to decide what they can and cant handle. Do not decide what is best for them in those moments where you are unsure. Ask them what they want and need. If you need to talk about your feelings or something serious just simply ask “hey are you in the right headspace for this?”
To be honest, thats something all of us should be doing anyways because it is so damn important to respect one another’s emotional boundaries. Checking in should be normalized. Its like making sure someone is consenting to sex. Be sure that the person is consenting to the emotional obstacles you are about to throw their way..
Perhaps I am ranting at this point. Perhaps I am wrong about this.. Like I said, these are just in my experiences. I think the #1 most important thing to remember is this: You are not here to fix your partner with PTSD nor do they want you to. Your job is not to be their therapist or caretaker and you shouldn’t feel the need to. In Queen and Slim there is a moment where Queen says that she wants her ideal partner to “hold (her) hand while (she) nursed (her) scars” and thats exactly it. You are along for the ride, not steering the ship.
Overall, just remember to love yourself as much as the person, make sure to respect them and make sure they respect you. You shouldn’t have to be in a relationship where you feel like your partner needs you instead of actually wanting you. and they shouldn’t have to feel like your patient or some project that you are fixing.