When I tell people that I have post-traumatic stress from dating, I don’t think most of them believe me. In many cases, that confession elicits a chuckle from them, followed by the ever-common, “Don’t worry, you’ll find the one.”
Can you get PTSD from dating?
Well, the thing is, dating PTSD is really real. After having been in one too many abusive relationships, having been cheated on, used for everything I had, and being hurt without any respite from it, I developed PTSD.
I stiffen up when I feel like guys might have an interest in me. I have nightmares about my exes. Occasionally, if I see someone who looks like one of my exes, I start getting panic attacks.
My dating and relationship PTSD is real and, frankly, it’s affected me in ways that I don’t really think that people can fully grasp. And if you’ve been thinking, “Do I have PTSD?” especially after leaving a turbulent relationship, this is what it’s like to get post-traumatic stress disorder from your dating life.
Here are 12 signs of PTSD caused by relationship trauma:
1. You wonder, almost daily, if any of the people you dated even feel remorseful for what they did
I wonder about this a lot. I also try to push this thought down into my subconscious, because I know that the answer is obviously no.
Most of my exes thought they were Jesus Christ on Earth; why would they ever actually admit to themselves that hitting me, cheating on me, or sexually assaulting me was wrong?
2. When someone tells you that they love you, your response is often, “I wish I could believe you,” or, “That’s nice”
It’s happened to me about 30 times or so.
These days, I actually have trained myself to say the L-word back. Even so, I’m not sure I can mean it. I don’t feel love anymore.
3. You can’t see potential dates as humans
I view them as potential attackers. I view them with suspicion, asking myself what they really want to do with me.
I also don’t believe they like me or are capable of love. Honestly, seeing anyone else other than me and my friends as a human is hard.
4. You vacillate between begging for attention and love, then pushing people away, because you’re sure they’re going to hurt you
Yes, it’s a lot like Borderline Personality Disorder. I might have started to get that, thanks to my exes and the abandonment issues I have from them.
5. You might also flinch when people touch you
I’ve been beaten and sexually assaulted enough times to flinch when people touch me. It takes a lot to get me to be snuggly around someone these days.
6. Intimacy is something you yearn for, but are terrified to enjoy
I want to feel that connection and sometimes, I almost believe I do. I will sometimes allow people to touch me or have sex with me.
But intimacy is different than touch. I can’t let intimacy happen again, because, if I do, I might get hurt again.
I honestly believe all men ever want to do is hurt me, so I just cope with it by staying at a distance.
7. You get absolutely sick of hearing people say that you’ve changed
When the PTSD really started to show its ugly head, I became very icy with people.
I don’t want to hear how I’m icy or mean. I’m not going to apologize for it anymore. No one apologized for turning me into this cold, bitter person.
8. It affects your self-esteem, too
I’ve become increasingly withdrawn and shy. I don’t believe people even want to befriend me, because of the things I heard from dates or because of the way people only hung out with me in hopes of getting laid.
Even if I could find new friends, I don’t believe they are real and therefore, generally don’t reach out to them anymore.
9. When people tell you that you’ll “find someone,” you literally want to knock their lights out
I don’t believe it anymore. I believe love is not meant for me. It’s meant for others, who seem to have a higher value than I do, regardless of what I do.
On an emotional level, hearing people tell me I’m attractive or that I’ll find “someone” makes me want to beat them bloody. It sounds like the fakest, most utterly condescending lie wrapped up in an insult to me.
You might as well tell someone whose relative died that they’re “just sleeping and will wake up soon.” It’s just as insensitive.
10. You also know you sound crazy, so you don’t bother telling people
I stopped complaining. No one listened or cared when I did cry out for help, so I just stopped talking about it.
I don’t want people to know how much I’m hurting inside, anyway.
11. If you had bad experiences with doctors, you won’t want to seek help
It’s too expensive and part of me feels I’m better off this way. At least, this way I can’t suffer loss anymore.
After all, what else can you lose when you are completely emotionally gutted? If I became “fixed up,” I’d just go through it again. Why buy more loss? It makes no sense once you’ve lost everything enough times already.
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12. No, you can’t just “get over it”
What I went through was years of abuse at the hands of people I just wanted love and commitment from. I can’t get over that and no amount of guys telling me “not all men” and “you chose the wrong guys” will fix the pain they’ve doled out to me.
If it sounds really depressing, I’m sorry, but it’s the truth. I can’t sugarcoat the problems it inspires.
The thing I wish most for, out of everything that’s happened, isn’t an apology. It’s no longer for me to find love or even to be surrounded by friends.
It’s for people to have compassion for one another and it’s for people to stop treating one another so terribly. It’s for people to think about their actions and how they affect others.
Perhaps, if the dating scene changed, maybe I would give it another chance and maybe others wouldn’t suffer as I did.
Until that day comes and until men start acting like they want love rather than sex, validation, and a slave, there will be more and more people out there just like me.
Alex Alexander is a pseudonym. The author of this article is known to YourTango but is choosing to remain anonymous.