Content Warning:This article mentions traumatic events, PTSD, rape & abuse, which some of our readers might find upsetting. It is highly recommended that if you have experienced or are experiencing trauma to consult a mental health professional.
Trauma can be a very scary word to think about. When thinking about trauma, we often think of the worst case scenario – death, rape, domestic abuse – but trauma is a specturm and is incredibly personal to every individual. It is important to remember that what might be traumatic to one person, may not be traumatic to another. Everyone is different and trauma can impact everyone differently.
Many people still associate PTSD with male war veterans despite that not always being the case. Trauma can begin in your childhood or on a simple walk home. The US National Centre for PTSD says that women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with the condition yet in many ways, we are the invisible victims. These traumatic experiences can affect your future romantic and platonic endeavours in a vareity of ways.
You might question why your significant other does things or acts a certain way, actively seeking out ‘red flags’. This can make it difficult for you to not only trust others but also trusting your own judgement skills. A common way this manifests itself is repeatedly asking to check your partner’s phone – this stems from a distrust in their actions but is a big violation of their privacy.
A traumatic event can result in a decline in your self esteem and your self-worth. This can lead to feelings of shame and lowering your standards and expectations when looking for the healthy relationship you deserve.
Trauma is known to activate your fight, flight or freeze responses. While this response can be very helpful during a crisis, it can over-function when a traumatic event has not been processed.
For partners of someone who has experienced trauma, it is important for you to become trauma-aware and supportive of your other half. When you take their trauma into consideration, it can make you feel better as well.
For example, those who have experienced trauma can sometimes react with anger when they are triggered – if you learn their triggers, you will better understand that their behaviour isn’t necessarily something about you or what you did. But do keep in mind that trauma is not an excuse for abuse.
You or someone you know might be feeling hopeless for the future, but there are many ways you can help to move past your trauma. It may take time but there is not a time limit on how you feel towards this. Everyone moves at their own pace and that is perfectly okay.
You might have noticed that you are always aware of your trauma but something sets it off. What is that something for you? Maybe its physical closeness with someone new or even a specific smell. Identify what your triggers are and your response when you are confronted with different triggers. Once you’ve clearly identified your triggers, you can either implement ways to steer clear of them where possible or work alongside a therapist to learn how to effectively cope when you encounter a trigger.
It might be best to wait a few dates at least before you share everything about you, trauma included. It is an intense conversation to have with anyone, let alone a practical stranger over your second cup of coffee. After all, your trauma doesn’t define who you are, so let them get to know who you are first.
Taking things slowly and at your own pace can help you ground yourself more effectively. It is best not to rush things and to instead find a pace that suits the both of you.
Patience is your best friend. Patience and practice – you might feel better after planning out what you are going to say than being put on the spot. Your partner will likely have questions but if you don’t feel like you are ready, politely ask for more time before opening up to them about your trauma.
Keeping a gratitude journal can help you to remember what you are grateful for in your low moments – you can use it to remind yourself of the moments people have shown love and understanding towards your situation as well as the times you have felt grounded to try and replicate that. You are worthy of happiness.
It is NEVER your fault. Please remember that. If you’re experiencing low self-esteem and self-worth, it is easy to blame yourself and mark yourself as the villain rather than those who inflicted your trauma.
You are not broken. Your trauma doesn’t define you.