Dating can be confusing and frustrating for even the most well-adjusted person. This is especially true for someone who has experienced trauma. It can be scary, and at times even debilitating, to think about letting someone get that close to you after you’ve been through something that hurt you so much. It can also be scary to navigate a relationship with someone that has experienced trauma because you don’t want to end up accidentally hurting them more. When it comes to dating after trauma, whether you are the one that was traumatized or you’re dating someone that’s been traumatized, it’s hard to know exactly how to navigate the path forward.
Sadly, trauma is all too familiar for far too many people in the world. Trauma affects everyone differently and in turn, everyone reacts differently to it. When dating, it’s a good idea to be trauma-informed. “Trauma-informed” basically means to go into something with the assumption that it is likely that trauma has impacted a person’s life. When going into a relationship with that mindset, it’s important to focus on trust, communication, and patience. Honestly, I think this mindset should be utilized going into any relationship, whether that be a friendship, a working relationship, or otherwise. Respecting each other’s boundaries is always crucial and doing so will help you and your partner feel safe.
When in a relationship, it will always help to communicate and make sure you both are feeling safe and comfortable. While retraumatization is possible, there are ways to prevent it as best you can. By communicating, you can make each other feel seen and heard, and you can figure out how to best work together. It’s also important to build and keep trust between you and your partner. When trust is violated it’s so hard to feel secure and safe with each other. For someone that has experienced trauma in their lives, safety is huge. It also becomes hard to know what to believe when trust is violated, and that can cause anxiety– a feeling many trauma survivors know all too well. Knowing what you need and staying on the same page as your partner is crucial when dealing with the good days as well as the more stressful days.
I went through a few years of trauma fairly early in my life. Because I was so young, I never had a chance to have a regular relationship before my outlook was completely affected by my experience. I went through years of feeling like I would never meet anyone that I could feel safe with and I had thought about just deciding to be alone. When I was twenty-three I finally met the man that took the time to understand me and help me feel comfortable. Now, almost three years later, we’re happily married. We still work together every day to make sure we’re both doing well and in the right place together. I do have bad days, but I know that’s bound to happen. And so does he. The important thing is that he’s there for me on those bad days and because we communicate, he knows and understands what I need – whether that be space or more support.