[The Outcomes of] C-PTSD and Relationships

I hadn’t thought of feeding my blog with something this personal again any time soon – other than reblogging -, as I had made up my mind to focus on socializing more again, warts and all and despite my really harsh monetary contraints (there is basically just enough for food and shelter, heating and electricity, any extras can only be accomplished by skipping meals). But two very recent situations drive me to writing up this as I think it might be relevant information to share. I must issue a strong trigger warning with this following blog, though, as it speaks about some of the other, new – let’s call them post-healing – challenges you might face as you go about your (new) life. This might even be the humdinger of them all as it deals with intimate, romantic relationships – hence the trigger warning.

So, let’s try and establish a common denominator first: I think it’s safe to say that whomever had the “misfortune” of experiencing abuse in their past history will come away from that with a distorted image of relationships altogether. When I say “distorted”, I mean to say this from the perspective of a healthy person – and since I’m affected by abuse myself, I can only imagine – or rather: extrapolate – what “healthy” really means. Some of the cornerstones I’d like to postulate in regards to a healthy romantic, significant relationship with a partner will include qualities like setting and respecting boundaries, an ability of negotiating conflict in a respectful manner by leaving the other person “intact” in so far as we acknowledge their needs as being as important as our own (again: This applies to people coming from a healthy rearing, where I’d assume them to have learned and seen some, if not all of those postulates – and I gather that list is by no means anywhere near complete). With C-PTSD resulting from any form of major abuse, be it physical, sexual, emotional or verbal – with the first and latter two “pairs” of adjectives possibly somehow intersecting somewhere -, naturally we never really experienced what it feels like to be in a healthy relationship. In fact, chances are that at some point in our lives we repeat the unhealthy pattern of committing ourselves to a relationship that brings more abuse as being abused is at least “known territory”, i.e. territory we’ve learned to “safely” navigate (“Safe” in quotation marks, as with abuse the very notion of safety is a non-given). So far, this is almost boilerplate, standard “shrink” stuff with lots of empirical and scientific evidence. (spare me having to look for URLs and sources, they are around and Google is your friend… ;-)).

Now, here’s the situation that sparked this blog: As I had recently decided to socialize more again – in my case this translates into trying to find a band to be a part of and perform with -, my new friends see that I’m single. They see me for the person I present to them and I’d like to think that I am doing my best to be as authentic as possible with the unharmed parts of my personailty, not falling for old patterns of self-abuse or self-exploitation when I spot them, but articulating my needs and expecting them to be met as best as possible. Again: Standard stuff, any healthy person will not even need to mention. Ok.

So what happens next is: Apparently, I’m being perceived as “healthy” and “normal” and maybe even “likeable”. So far, so good – or not. Now they do the friend thing, which is: We got to get this guy a girl! I understand that and again, from assuming a healthy position, I’ll almost say “I appreciate it”. This is where shit gets real: I’ve been there before. Not once. Not twice. In fact, as many as some 20 times. In other words: I have known and been in relationships with about 20 women, all of whom I had seen as potential partners in life, this number and quality culminating in my marriage in 1997 after six years of living together, then getting divorced in 2003. Why, what happened?

Here’s what happened – every single time of those 20 times: They couldn’t handle my being broken so deeply and badly. (I did issue a trigger warning, didn’t I?) One of my first girl friends confided in me later that she left me, because she had to protect herself from feeling my pain (she is an empath and she just couldn’t handle the degree of pain I was in and had been lugging around forever). So she sort of “had” to leave me. And the same thing before and afterwards, ad infinitum (well, not really ad infinitum, but I’m getting ahead of myself…).

Uhuh – and where’s the bright side of this? I don’t know. I’ll try this: I have learned the really hard, brutal way that as long as I maintain even the tiniest shred of “emotional armour” as the most reverred Jeff Brown often terms it in his excellent posts on Facebook, as long as I so much as not fully submit myself to getting hurt in the exact same places I was so badly hurt before – a relationship simply can’t be sustained. Not a profound one, anyway and not “for good”. (I don’t know about you, but I can’t seem to have anything “casual” going on without inevitably finding myself investing some real feelings at some point; been there, done that, too – not often, but enough times to know this about myself today: “Casual” is not for me).

“The bright side, please!” I don’t exactly know. Maybe just letting you know, what you’re up against before letting things go any deeper – for your own as well as your potential partner’s sake and each other’s timely protection. Recently, I’ve tried to assume a position with potential partners to “tell them up front” – but with little success or rather: It kills whatever may evolve from there from the get-go (and I had meant to yield that effect, just sayin’). I may have to add at this point that I have never really had c-ptsd-specific therapy in my life, nor do I have access to it now for several reasons. In other words: Maybe I’m still broken and haven’t healed one bit, in which case all of the above is a mute “point” to make (as it might or will change for those, who actually resolved their “emotional debris” – again a term I’m borrowing from Jeff’s wall and posts).

My feeling is this, though: As with anything else in life, in order to “get some” you need to “pay some” (as if we hadn’t already…, doh!). In other words: If experiencing yourself in a significant relationship is one of the things you want to explore, then being ready to sacrifice is probably a thing that “comes with the program”. I guess, I’m saying that although we already suffered just about enough to last us several lifetimes over, “we” can’t expect others to cut us some slack for our history. Maybe I’m wrong – I seriously hope I am! – and maybe you have had experiences of an altogether different nature. If so – feel free to say so (or even share, if comfortable).

As for myself: I think, I have taken a vow not to go there again in life. There are so many wonderful, exciting, beautiful things to explore that happen outside of romantic relationships that they should be reason enough to stay curious and more importantly: Stay around for a while longer. I do miss the part, where you get to experience things together, though. But the latter is by no means restricted to a significant other. I’ll settle for companionship, friends, co-workers for Chrissake!

(The bright bit? Your turn…)

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