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What It's Like to Date When You Live With PTSD

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Having PTSD can be the result of a variety of things. But in my experience, having PTSD from abuse (emotional or physical) or seeing it growing up as a kid, just always stays with you. For many people with PTSD, being in a relationship and breaking up can be even more of a blow to your heart — and can make your triggers more present.

• What is PTSD?

PTSD can affect relationships in many ways, because each person experiences it differently, but similarities are still found. For example, many people with PSTD may feel numb, like they don’t have emotions at all. This can be hard to express to your partner, due to the fear of them not being able to comprehend or understand where it is coming from. This is often one of the realities of dating when you live with PTSD.

PTSD can make it hard to express emotions sometimes. Due to the emotional mental block PTSD can cause, sometimes we are not able to talk about our feelings to our loved ones. This can hurt a relationship because without knowing what you’re feeling, your partner may not be able to understand the mental trauma that led to PTSD. Trauma is often the reason why expressing emotions is physically impossible sometimes. This can make arguments or times when you want to be physically intimate pretty difficult. In my experience it’s so hard because I want to express emotions but I can’t, making me upset with myself in fear of losing the relationship to something I can’t control.

Often physical touch can be triggering for a partner with PTSD. This can even make some people with PTSD believe they will never be able to have an actual relationship. It’s important to talk with your partner about physical guidelines to avoid being triggered. As someone with PTSD, I wish I didn’t have to have these kind of rules in place, but it’s often the reality. Talk to your partner about what kind of touch is OK — holding hands, kissing, etc.

Dating with PTSD can come with a lot of little worries, worries we hope will not affect the relationship. However breakups with PTSD can be even harder because of the symptoms you experience. If someone with PTSD experienced abuse, a breakup can trigger symptoms and make PTSD harder to live with. I had a friend who lives with PTSD recently go through a breakup, and when I tried to console her, she went into a full PTSD attack.

It’s hard to trust someone with part of you that most people don’t get to see. When you have PTSD and are in a relationship, it can be easy to blame ourselves for our illness. It can feel like there’s no way around it sometimes.

Dating with PTSD can affect the relationship in many ways. If you are dating someone with PTSD, please keep these things in mind and try to understand where they are coming from.

Originally published: June 15, 2018
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