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After a Traumatic Event: Starting to Date Again

by Dr. Seth Meyers - May 17, 2016

More men and women than you know are seated on the sidelines of dating because they have suffered some sort of traumatic event, and they are dealing with the psychological aftermath. People experience major traumas every single day and there are all types of trauma.

Direct Trauma

First, there are traumas in which a person is a direct victim. Examples: being mugged or carjacked, being physically or sexually assaulted, being the victim of identity theft; being the victim of a home robbery or home invasion; experiencing the sudden loss of a loved one; being involved in a bad, life-threatening accident; and many others.

Indirect Trauma

Second, there are traumas in which a person is indirectly impacted. Many of the traumas that impact people are indirect traumas, and this often includes witnessing a trauma. Examples: seeing someone get seriously physically injured or lose their life; witnessing any type of extreme maltreatment or abuse; or even being impacted by hearing news of a major traumatic event (e.g., a terrorist event, school shooting, and so forth).

There is no playbook on how people experience traumas or how they grieve. Everyone is different and handles traumatic events differently. Regardless of whether the trauma was direct or indirect, upsetting events of this scale can have a major effect on you psychologically.

When dealing with a trauma, most men and women who are single will shut down romantically and stop dating. This makes sense, too, because he or she is doing the best they can to keep going day to day; dating and finding a partner feels like a luxury when you’re just trying to get out of bed in the morning and avoid emotionally freezing or having crying spells throughout the day.

Common symptoms people have after a trauma

Men and women may have any of the following symptoms: feeling dazed or numb; feeling sad, helpless, or angry; getting into arguments more frequently; frequently changing moods; reliving the traumatic event through bad memories; difficulty paying attention; overeating or undereating; and weird, upsetting dreams or nightmares.

Deal with the trauma the right away with a trained professional

If you experienced a trauma, the best thing you can do for yourself is to go for a few sessions with a mental health therapist. If you need more sessions, they’re yours for the taking; if you don’t, then it’s time to move on. Therapists are trained in helping people work through traumas so that the symptoms don’t get in the way of your happiness and daily functioning. Make sure to exercise plenty, talk about the traumatic experience with friends, and spend extra time with pets if you have them.

How recent was the trauma?

After a trauma, it may be a matter of months before you feel like dating again – but it doesn’t have to be a matter of years. If you have gone longer than a year after a trauma and you still don’t feel like dating, you may have symptoms that rise to the level of PTSD, depression, or another mental disorder. Keep in mind that these disorders are totally treatable, but you may need to seek out treatment in order to get better.

Once you’ve decided you’re ready to date again

When your mood has improved and you have energy to date, don’t worry about sharing your traumatic experience with a new date in the very beginning. In fact, if the trauma was especially personal, you may want to wait a few months to tell your date. There is no rush, and you want to make sure that you know someone well enough to know that he or she won’t judge you or get freaked out when you share the details of what happened to you.


About the Author:

Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve