For people who were abused and neglected in childhood, one of the cruelest ways the damage shows up is in romantic relationships. Too many of us go through life either alone, or in relationships where we’re not loved, not safe, and not happy.
It doesn’t have to be that way. If you have Childhood PTSD and you’re wondering why you keep attracting people who are either dysfunctional, unavailable or abusive — you’re going to want to read this. (and maybe watch the video).
This is an area where I struggled horribly for much of my adult life. I used to live my life stuck in a loop, between being alone, then in a bad relationship, then back to being alone,
I’m writing this for those of you who are in that loop right now. If you’re in a good relationship, keep reading because what I’m going to teach here can be applied to a lot of other aspects of life including work, creativity, and the fulfillment of dreams and goals you haven’t achieved yet.
For people with childhood trauma, romance is one BIG area where you can end up with not only less than you really want, but with something you never wanted.
Maybe you’ve been through this before: You try to meet someone you like — a solid person and someone you can trust. When you think you’ve found them, they let you down. They push you away or they turn out to have some giant problem, e.g., they’re already in a relationship, or they have an addiction, or for one reason or another, they just can’t be there for you.
And after each ending, you wonder, Why didn’t you see it coming?
If you’re like a lot of people with Childhood PTSD, it’s a blind spot you don’t even know you have. Everything seemed so good! They said all the right things! There were promises made. Your heart was wide open to them and you were feeling really good about the whole thing… and then BAM. You find out how wrong you were.
And the horrible truth is, a lot of us stay in those relationships (if we don’t get left first) because we just can’t face the prospect of the break up, or of being single again. It’s too triggering of old abandonment stuff. And so we hold on as long as we can, and whether it ends now or soon – the cycle continues, and many of us lose years of lives this way.
So if this is familiar to you – and your feeling drained and confused — I want to tell you why this experience — this moment where you’ve just lost what you thought was a good relationship, is an incredible opportunity to heal.
Not a tragedy, an opportunity.
When you get pushed out of a relationship with the wrong person, whether you know it or not, you’ve just taken a big step closer to finding the love of your life, because now, your path is clear. With some healing, the person who is going to love you deeply can find you.
If you’re feeling ready for this good thing to happen, I have some advice for you. The job in front of you is not to run out there and meet someone — not yet. Instead it’s to raise the brightness of what I call your “cab light.”
Cab light: Do you know this term? You know how a taxi cab has a light on top, and when the cab light’s off, it means there’s already a passenger in that cab. But when the light is ON, hey! It’s free! This is a metaphor that refers to the vibe of someone who is ready and open to meet a really great new person. That’s a cab light.
Now what happens when your cab light won’t come on? Has this ever happened? You feel ready to meet someone. You’re thinking about it all the time and maybe reaching out to people and putting in a lot of effort, but no one can see you! You’re not attracting interest, or you’re attracting interest, but not the right kind, or not the right people (that’s a broken cab light, by the way).
And if you’re feeling anxious to meet someone, it’s tempting to just rush in and think Oh well, I can make this work!
Have you ever done that? Where you bond with that person, then realize who they actually are and then spend the next two years trying to retrofit them into the person you HOPED they were the first time you met!
Well you know how that ends…
When your cab light’s working properly — and it comes on — good people show up in your life — people who are appropriate, wonderful, and totally thrilled to be with you.
So how do you make that happen? How can you get your cab light to shine bright, in just the right way, to attract just the right person for you?
To teach you this, I first need to what may have been standing in your way so far. If you grew up with trauma (for example abuse, being demeaned, going hungry, or not protected from danger), it can leave traces of hardship all over your life — wounds, blind spots, pockets of low self-esteem that leak out even when you’re on your best behavior.
So for example, If your aim is to have a family, then you would only want to attract people with the same goal, who are capable of caring for kids and supporting life as a family. If you want to have a marriage then you’d only want to attract a partner who could do that – someone who loves you, and is unmarried, and is able and willing to make a lifetime commitment to you, if things go well.
So the question is, if you’re NOT attracting those things — if you’re getting entangled with the wrong kinds of people who can never be what you want, or aren’t even trying — what are you communicating about yourself that’s leaving these needs of yours just dangling out there, unmet, unseen?
If you’re not attracting what you want, your cab light’s not working!
You can think of a working cab light as the set of signs that you give off – signs that a partner who’s a good fit for you would be looking for when they meet you.
Healthy people LOOK for the signs of what they want, and they stay away from people who communicate something different than that.
The people who don’t really care what signals you’re sending are the messed up ones — people who aren’t healed yet, or people who are not looking for love, but for a quick-fix relationship. For them, the stakes are low: They don’t care!
So if you are not clear who you are and what you’re seeking, then your cab light can’t communicate it for you, and in that case, you’re going to get whoever you get, but not who you want.
Obviously, I’m simplifying it, but this, is how we end up in empty and miserable relationships. We often blame the other person for being who they are. But really, the problem began because we were carrying around enough trauma that we just could’ nt shine a light that could attract the kind of person we wanted.
The good news is, you have the potential to change this, and it starts inside, healing the hurts that dim your light. And you do this, both through brain healing and through a loving and honest self-assessment around where you might be putting up a barrier between where you are, and what you want.
What kind of barriers might be blocking you? Maybe you’re not taking care of yourself, or you’re letting TV and spacing out take up all your free time. Or you’re being way over-busy. Or (this is a big one) you’re isolating. Nowadays it’s easier than ever to do, and if this is your tendency, I urge you to fight it, and to fight the hundred ways your light gets turned off, right when you need it.
What are some things that hide your light? Here are some big ones: First, already being in a relationship that’s not healthy or happy for you. Bad relationships wreck your sparkle and they squash your confidence!
And though you might be thinking that you can stay in that bad relationship until you meet the right person, healthy people don’t want to meet you like that. They don’t want to be involved with people who are already attached, or with people who are too insecure to be on their own when that’s the right thing to do.
Believe me, you WANT a person who’s picky like that — not someone who gets into a relationship that’s compromised or demeaning. You want someone who cares about themselves enough to hold out for a good person, someone bright and shiny and whole and available. . That’s what healthy individuals do.
Some other barriers that hide your light are addictions. Drugs, drinking, and porn, for example, are all things that people feel like they’re doing privately, but in reality they change your energy, change your countenance. Unhealed people might not be able to tell the difference but healthy people can tell pretty quickly, and they’re not attracted.
Carrying a lot of anger is another barrier, or having a lot of drama or conflict. Not that you can always control this, but a lot of times, a pattern of anger, drama and conflict could point to a lot of wounding, and a high probability that this is what you’d bring to a relationship. So just like addictions and anger, drama and conflict deserve to be at the top of your list for where to focus your healing when you’re working on shining that light of yours.
Another barrier is when your romantic energy isn’t “contained” within you, ready to be shared with another person when the time is right. You could be leaking that potential — that emotional availability all around you — with things like staying too connected to an ex (or two), or being caught up in casual relationships where you have only some vague plan to just get rid of them if the right person comes along.
It’s easy to think that these entanglements (with exes and hookups) are a small thing, and that if no one really knows about it, it won’t affect your ability to meet someone new. My painful experience has taught me, though, that it dims your cab light. Healthy people who are looking for someone emotionally whole and capable of sharing their lives in a good way are just not likely to be interested in someone who has one foot in another relationship, even if that’s a fantasy relationship! (Healthy people can sense that too!)
Healthy people are looking for a bright cab light — someone who is totally there, mostly healed, and free of past entanglements. It might be harsh to hear, but it’s a very powerful shift to make.
This is all stuff I teach in my DATING & RELATIONSHIPS course for people with Childhood PTSD. I have found, that people with a rough childhood CAN have great relationships. It just takes a little extra healing sometimes!
You can change your negative relationship patterns: Register for my online course, Dating and Relationships for People with Childhood PTSD here.
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