Dating is tough, even at the best of times, but when you’re trying to get back out there, after an abusive relationship with a Narcissist, it can seem like a daunting task.  Through various emails and comments I’ve received, it seems that many of us are sharing the same, post Narcissist dating experiences and  the process is leaving many, feeling upset, frustrated and fearful.

Many months after my relationship ended with a boomerang Narcissist, I decided that I was ready to date again. I had read a ton of books, was seeing a therapist and I looked and felt great. I met a wonderful guy. He was attractive, had his own house, good job, seemed emotionally healthy and treated me better than anyone had ever treated me. I should have been on cloud nine, but I wasn’t. I remember sitting at home crying, missing my Narcissist and I kept wondering, why he couldn’t treat me that way and why I didn’t have the same feelings for my new Mr Wonderful.

The closer I got to Mr Wonderful, the further I wanted to be away from him. When he would try to kiss me I would pull away. I was feeling trapped, suffocated and all I wanted, was to be left alone to wallow in my pain, for the guy who didn’t want me.

Why would I want to sit there all alone and pine for someone that treated me like gum on the bottom of his shoe, when there was someone so much better for me, who actually wanted to be with me? It defied logic and I couldn’t help but wonder  just what was going on here?

Where is Your Comfort Zone?

Imagine for a moment that you have a fear of public speaking. You’ve never done it and the mere thought of it terrifies you to no end. Then, suddenly you are thrust into the spot light – there you are, all alone, all eyes are focused on you, waiting….How do you think you would feel in that situation? Complete unadulterated terror, right?  And all your body would want to do, is flee.

When we have spent so much time in our relationships, feeling bad about ourselves and accepting poor treatment and then suddenly someone walks in and treats us like we’re the greatest thing since slice bread, it’s going to be a shock to the system.  It’s going to make us feel uncomfortable and long for what feels most like home, even if home is an abusive place. It’s what we know.

When poor treatment is all that we have learned to expect from our partners, the feelings that stem from that become our default setting. It’s our comfort zone. It’s familiar and because it’s been demonstrated to us, over and over again, we internalize the feelings and those feelings become our beliefs.

When we have a core belief that something is true about us, it won’t matter how much reading, exercising, or positive affirmations you do, nothing will change, until your subconscious mind becomes congruent with your conscious mind.

So, when you are still putting out energy at an, ‘I’m not good enough,’ vibrational level and someone walks in with a, ‘you are amazing,’ vibration, you will repel that vibration like it’s an opposite magnetic pole. You will find any fault, or excuse to get as far away from that person as possible.

Trauma Bonds

Another reason we will forgo our happiness and remain stuck in our pain, is because of Trauma bonds.

The emotional highs and lows of an abusive relationship strengthen our attachment to our abuser, because shared trauma deepens the connection.

Oppression creates dependency, so anytime we give, or someone takes away our personal power, we become bound to their will.  When we are suddenly given back the reigns of our own life, the tendency is to want to return to what felt normal – which is being treated poorly.

Many survivors of Narcissistic abuse have said that they have never felt such a deep connection to anyone before. They call their abuser their best friend, or even their soul mate. But the connection does not come from reciprocal love, kindness and trust. It lies in the high emotional charge from the trauma, so any relationship that does not provide those crazy highs and insane lows, will come off as boring and uninteresting. We’ve become accustomed to those soaring feelings and we mistakenly call them love.

Healthy relationships don’t have those immense highs and lows. Because we have come to believe that that’s what love feels like, when a normal relationship comes along and it doesn’t produce those same feelings, we will discard it quickly as, ‘not a love match,’ because we don’t feel the same level of arousal and we don’t recognize the unhealthy association we’ve made.

Post-Traumatic Stress

Trauma happens when we experience an event that is overwhelming, terrifying and involves the threat of death, or injury.

The symptoms of PTSD are commonly:  A re-experiencing of the traumatic event over and over, nightmares, flashbacks, or persistent, troubling thoughts. Sufferers will avoid similar experiences that remind them of the past trauma.

Many of you know that I was in a fatal car accident that took the life of my mother. I was diagnosed by two psychologists with PTSD and even today when I am driving on the highway and I pass a transport truck (the vehicle that ran us off the road) I can feel my heart rate shoot way up, I have difficulty breathing and I try to get as far away from the vehicle as quickly as possible.

The same thing can happen when you’ve been through a traumatic relationship. As you get closer and closer to a new person and the prospect of a new relationship, it can trigger the old terrifying feelings you’ve associated with being in a relationship. Exposure to similar stimuli can produce the same feelings that you associate with the traumatic experience you had with your Narcissists. It can bring you to a state of panic, where all you want to do is flee.

How Emotionally Available are You?

We’ve all been at certain places in our lives where we were just not emotionally available to anyone. This could be after a break up, or the death of a loved one, or it could even a conscious choice. But many people walk around with a perpetual emotional wall they’ve built up around them, to protect themselves from hurt.

Some will consciously say that they want a relationship, but subconsciously the entire prospect terrifies them to death. These individuals will consistently seek out other emotionally unavailable people, because somewhere deep down they know, they can satisfy their need for a relationship, while at the same time, they know that there is little chance of real intimacy. These relationships are always intense, painful and short lived. So, when an emotionally available person comes waltzing around and wants to break down those comfy walls we’ve built ,that concept is again, way outside of our comfort zone and we will flee from it every time. So if you want to have an intimate relationship with someone that’s emotionally available, you have to first make sure that you are emotionally available.

The bottom line is, if you are trying to get back out there and it’s scaring you to death and always leads to tears, then stop. Don’t do it. There’s no fire, no mandate that says, ‘six months after the break up, you must successfully date again.’ It doesn’t exist.  If you’re scared and it doesn’t feel good, then don’t do it. You’re not ready and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that you’ll never be ready, but at this moment, you still have some work to do.

If you do want to keep trying your hand at dating, then just remember this isn’t a marriage proposal, you’re not making a life altering decision here, you’re just two people going out for drinks, or dinner, or a walk along the beach. You’re just getting to know each other – that’s all. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself and just enjoy the moment.

Dating is supposed to be fun and feel good, so if it doesn’t, stop, take your time and wait until it does.

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Written by Savannah Grey

Savannah Grey is a Freelance Writer, a Hypnotherapist, Consultant, Sports Fanatic, and Philosopher and has a degree in Psychology. She is the founder of www.esteemology.com, a website dedicated to educating and healing survivors of abusive relationships.