In this episode we go to the vault for a classic episode of Think Unbroken as I discuss some tools and mindset shifts on how to date with CPTSD and Trauma...
See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/dating-with-cptsd-and-a-trauma-background-cptsd-and-trauma-coach/#show-notes
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In this episode we go to the vault for a classic episode of Think Unbroken as I discuss some tools and mindset shifts on how to date with CPTSD and Trauma.
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My name is Michael Anthony, and I'm an author international speaker and advocate for adult survivors of child abuse. Today, I wanna talk to you about dating with trauma. So, recently I did an AMA on Instagram, which I do every few weeks and if you don't know what that is, is it's called ask me anything, which means you can literally ask me anything and I will give you my opinion, my thoughts. And someone who is in the community of dating coaches, relationships and things of this nature asked me to talk about dating with trauma. Dating as someone who is an adult survivor of child abuse.
And I think that this is one of those very touchy and tricky subjects for people. And so, I'm just gonna give you my honest opinions as always and I hope that with this, you'll have a better understanding of why I think this is an important narrative that needs to be talked about in dating.
One of the things I've learned about myself is in the past that I have been in codependent relationships and that is not intentional, it is because I didn't understand that codependency is something that's very indicative of a past trauma life. We seek as trauma survivors’ comfort, support, love and systems. But also, one of the things that we probably don't realize, which was my case scenario and a couple of relationships is that we often go towards the people who are like the people that we were around as we were coming up because we mimic our family systems. And so, if you are in an abusive household as a child, you may go towards abusive people in relationships, and that's not necessarily physically abusive, this could be mentally abusive, emotionally abusive, it could be all kinds of different things that lead you to find attraction in another human being, because it was the baseline of your understanding of what a healthy relationship looks like. And I was in a relationship in my early twenties that was hyper abusive, not physically, but emotionally and mentally where we were just draining on each other, we were daunting on each other. But I wanna start at the beginning of that for a reason, because I was recently listening to a podcast and I don't remember this woman's name and if anyone knows who she is, please tell me who she is, I cannot find this podcast again and is driving me crazy. And she said something that really blew my mind. She said, if you meet someone and you bond over the chaos of your past, there is a spark and you feel that thing you need to run, you need to hit the eject button because you are about to be in a codependent relationship again. And the reason she said that is because your trauma in which I totally in reflection after like looking back on this and having an understanding of what this actually looked like from my perspective, I believe this entirely.
If we are bonding with someone over the chaos of our lives, would it not make sense that moving forward that chaos is the thing that's going to keep us afloat. That's mind blowing. Are you mind blowing right now? Cuz I am. When I heard this, I was like, holy shit, that makes so much sense because I bonded with this woman because her background, her childhood was as insane as mine was and all of our conversations were about the crazy shit that happened to us. Right. And then you track on drinking, you track on smoking, you track on like really insane sex and not necessarily having like boundaries set up and not talking about our wants, needs, interest, values, futures, all the things that happen. Eventually when that relationship exploded on itself, I was left wondering like, what went wrong? How could this thing possibly go wrong? Well, it's really simple. I was dating myself and that's a thing that a lot of people don't understand who have trauma is that you have to look out for the signs of whether or not you are in a healthy relationship. But I think before you can even go down that path, before you can even consider being in a relationship.
Let's say this, you have recently got out of a relationship and it was awful. It's the worst one ever. Right? Look for things that you learned about yourself in that relationship. What kind of understanding have you come to gather about yourself, about who you are, about the things that you want about the things that you need from another person and the things that you were willing to give to someone else? Not every relationship is a failure. There's always a lesson to be learned. There's always something to be taken away from the experiences that we have. We have a better understanding of, I want to be talked to like this. I wanna be touched like that. I want to have communication like this and so on and so forth. You can gather those things from relationships that did not succeed. You know, Dan Savage, if you don't know who he is, is a sex columnist out in Washington. And he has a podcast called Savage love, which is incredible if you haven't listened to it, go listen to it. He's one of a few relationship podcasts that I listen to. And he always says every relationship that you have is going to fail until it doesn't. And I agree with that to an extent, because I think while every relationship may not be successful, I don't know that they necessarily fail because we can put ourselves in a situation and an understanding to learn and take from them. Before you can get to that point though, coming back to where I was a moment, you need to take time and especially if you're recently out of a relationship, you need to take time to be alone completely and utterly alone, miserably alone, bored alone, lonely alone, because it is only in the time that you have for self-reflection and being with yourself that you're really going to start to understand who it is that you are as a person.
I jumped from relationship to relationship, to relationship. And now heading at almost four years of being single, I have a better understanding of who I am than I ever have before. And more importantly, I think that not only do you get this understanding of yourself, but you learn to understand who it is as a person that you are. Cause I didn't really understand or know who I was because I was in these relationships again and again and again. And I always just felt kind of like, well, I guess I'm just in this relationship, I guess this is just who I am not realizing that I didn't know what my wants needs and interests were. Also being single gives you time to do the work. There is no better time to start going and working through the trauma, through the childhood, through your teen years, through the crazy shit that you've done, because we have all done some crazy shit, then when you are single. This is the time where you can grow independently. I think one of the really sad things that happens in relationships is people lose their identity.
And if you come from a background with CPTSD and you have dissociation and you may either have other mental health issues and then you're in a relationship, and then you're not suddenly you're in this whirlwind of like, who am I? This is a perfect time to start getting into healthy habits.
One of the things that happens in relationships, one person may start growing and the other person doesn’t, well guess what, the only person that has to grow when you're a single is you or in my case, me, and in my case, this has been one of the best periods of time in my life, because I've had nothing but time to reflect on who it is that I want to be, who it is that I am, who it is that I was and the things that are important to me.
And my next relationship, whenever that may be, I think that one of the most important things that I can do, and I'm just gonna speak from my aspect and this may relate to you is have really honest conversation about what it is that my expectations are. I thought about this the other day, everything that we do in life, every transaction has a receipt or a bill of sale or a contract. We know what we're getting at a restaurant, we know what happens when we buy a book, we know what happens when we get a new job or an insurance, or buy a car or get on the bus or take a train or buy a candle or anything, any transaction that we ever do. We know what we are getting for what we put in. We know the reciprocal value of what we're putting in except dating, except relationships, except love, except marriage. And so, I think, and this is for me, and I don't know, because I've never tried this before that the way to make the next relationship that I'm in, work or at least similarly work better is to sit down and have a very candid and honest and open conversation start to finish about what our expectations are, what it is that we want from each other, what our future looks like and sit down, write it all out, every bit of it, top to bottom, from the way we spend time together to the way that we have sex and the way that we're a communal and all of these things and write down the baseline, Hey, this is our starting point. These are the promises we make to each other and then revamp it every three months, every six months, every year, just so we're always in understanding there's no confusion to be had if it's all written down. Also, I think this creates accountability. One of the major areas that I faulted in previous relationships, I had no accountability for who it was that I was, or in my relationship and I there's a lot of blame being passed and a lot of excuses being made and ultimately this period of being singles made me go, oh, I don't want to.
So, as I date, I don't want trauma to be the baseline. I don't want lies to be the baseline. I don't want excuses to be the baseline. I want open honesty, communication, and growth to be what it is that is created next. And I think that's the best thing that we can do as people who have survived trauma is to put ourselves in a situation where growth is the number one thing that we want; honesty is the number one thing that we want. And being in relation with someone who respects us is right there as well. And I think that's something that we have to talk about also like the person that you're with, if historically based in my scenario, I know that the person that I've been with in the past has been a person that is my mirror. I want the polar opposite of that. And I think that what I have done is written down, okay, this is what it looks like for this person that I want to be with. This is, you know, how they act, how they speak, how they think about the world. Do they read, do they write, are they athletic? Do they listen to music? Do they like opera and plays? Do they only watch reality television? Like all the things, right? I wrote down a baseline of who it is as a person that I want to be with. And from that, I want to, you know, get to a point where I can meet this person, cross reference them versus this list. I know you're probably thinking this as insane, but hear me out and get to a place where I go, okay, if I wrote a hundred pieces down, maybe they match 65% of that and that's a D minus passing grade. And I think for me, that's a good enough number.
And the reason I say this is because as someone who is a self-proclaimed perfectionist, I've come to realize perfection isn't real. Putting people on pedestals is not real. A beauty is not real it's in the eye of beholder as they say. Right. And I think ultimately the biggest thing is I know that we are going to change. We are going to ebb and flow and grow and become different people in time. But if we can support each other in the process like that, to me is invaluable, there's nothing more beautiful or better. But you also have to be willing. I was listening. I'm referencing a lot of podcasts today. I was listening to Tom Bilyeu’s podcast called Relationship Theory, I should say with his wife, Lisa Bilyeu.
One day they're having a conversation and Tom goes, you know how I knew I was ready be in a relationship with you. He goes because I was willing to reciprocate my own expectations and that hit me like a brick to the face, because what it made me realize was that until that moment and that light clicked, and this was probably about eight or nine months ago, I had never ever in any relationship I've ever been in, been willing to reciprocate my own expectations. Part of that is perfectionist. Part of that is being a control freak. Part of that lies in trauma and wanting to be in this place where I know everything that's going to happen and I realize that's just not how life works. And again, I don't know that I would've had this revelation without being single.
So, there's so many caveats and dating with trauma is not probably the easiest thing to do, but I think if you have a better understanding of who it is, that you are the expectations that you have of your partner and your relationship. And if you have intention while dating, I think this is a big mistake that people make, they don't know why they're dating. If you're dating to get laid, like keep it real. If you're dating to find a relationship, be honest about that. If you're nonchalant, like I'm just dating to date, you might wanna take a step back and think about why, what is the purpose? What is the intent of doing this? Don't get lost in the shuffle of I'm just doing it ‘cuz I think that's what I'm supposed to do. Are you in a place mentally and emotionally that you can be dating or should be dating? Do you need to be single? Do you need to learn how to be alone and in love with yourself first? So, many questions you have to ask yourself.
Guys, this podcast has run super long. I know I tried to keep it under 10 minutes. I could talk about this for hours and I think I'm gonna have my friend who's the dating coach who asked me this question, come on the podcast on Think Unbroken. So, we can have this conversation a bit more in depth, cuz there's so much more here and there's a lot to impact.
So, I'm gonna wrap it up there, but if you have questions as usual, feel free to hit me. My new book Think Unbroken Overcoming and Understanding Childhood Trauma comes out on January 1st, 2020. It is available right now for pre-order at think unbroken.com/paperback and there's over a thousand dollars in bonuses if you order before Christmas. I'm super excited, a ton of people have already pre-ordered it. I am so grateful for you all who have thank you so much. I'm excited for its release. It'll be on paperback and it will be on digital for Kindle and Amazon and things of that nature.
So, I look forward to releasing this it's everything that I know about healing trauma in my journey.
So, guys, thank you so much for taking the time to listen.
And Until Next Time.
My friends, Be Unbroken.
I'll see ya.