I have known I'm bisexual from a long time now, but in 2014 I was on an abussive relationship with another female, and it scared me deeply. So much that I'm scared of dating again, but mostly women. Whenever I start talking to a girl, and they start flirting with me I start to panic, and I simply end the conversation, I try not to be rude but I can't help it but to think that is my ex I'm talking to or someone she knows, I just don't feel safe anymore with women, (1/2)
(2/2) but I still feel attracted to girls. I never knew that can be possible, whenever I see a girl I like at first it’s like a normal crush but it quickly escalates to extreme fear, and it happens with boys too but just when things are getting serious is when the fear of suffering begins, and I ruin every potential relationship I have, I really don’t know what to do anymore. Being called “baby” triggers me, just like every flirty action or word, it makes me physically ill. I need help…
I’m so sorry to hear what you’re going though. I’ve been where you are. Know that your reactions- the fear, the triggers, the attraction- all of it is normal. And it is perfectly okay to, regardless of attraction, decide not to date people of a certain look or body type based on how it reminds you of past trauma.
But if it is something you want to work to move past, here are my suggestions:
- 1. Know your triggers.
It sounds like you are already doing this. It is so important to know what triggers you and what doesn’t so you can avoid ones you aren’t ready to address and monitor/control your exposure to those you are ready to or capable of dealing with. There are many resources online focusing on how to address specific types of triggers which after a certain point are far more useful than trying to simply eliminate all your triggers all at once.
I think it would be helpful for you to identify exactly when the fear starts and why. Is it at a certain time period (say, 3 weeks into dating) or is it related to a certain level of intimacy (say, after the first kiss, or the first deep conversation)? And what is it exactly that you are afraid of? Trauma trains our bodies to react in instinctual, knee-jerk ways. People survive trauma by reacting immediately to red flags; waiting to see how things turn out can sometimes put the person in a lot of danger. This reaction doesn’t stop once we’re in a safer place. Sometimes we may get scared because we project past red flags onto current people. For example, someone raising their voice doesn’t mean it will escalate into physical violence. But if your body has come to expect that violence, someone raising their voice will elicit the same fear as the physical violence itself creates. When our bodies feel that fear, it can help to take a step back and think logically.
Ground yourself by going over the facts of your current situation. Is the person you have a crush on actually showing the same red flags as your ex? What are your resources to deal with something like that now, as opposed to in the past? Is it genuinely likely that the person you’re talking to knows your ex and is actively contacting them about you?
- 2. Communicate your triggers.
You don’t have to go through this alone. You also don’t have to reveal every detail about what you’ve been through, if you don’t want to. You’re allowed to be uncomfortable with things without having to explain yourself. But it is really important to let people know how you’re feeling and what they can do to help, for your sake and theirs.
For example: “I don’t like being called baby. How about sweetheart?”
“I do like you, but when you [insert flirty action], it’s a little bit too much/ too fast for me.”
“I’m a little nervous. Can we take this slow?”
More explicit examples: “My ex called me baby. Please don’t call me that.” “I’ve been through some stuff, so I need to take this slow.” “I don’t mean to be rude, but I am feeling triggered right now and I am going to take some space.”
- 3. Move at a pace that is right for you.
If you push yourself to do too much too fast, it can actually intensify your triggers as your body fights back against it. Be patient with yourself. Some wounds really do need time to heal.
It’s also possible you just haven’t met the right people yet, or you’re not in a stable enough situation yet. Maybe the type of relationship you need right now will look different from the types of relationships you’ve had in the past. All of that is okay. You might be worried about “scaring away” partners by being open about your past and present. I cannot stress enough that a good person, a good partner, and a good match for you will respond positively to these messages. If someone cannot handle taking things at your pace and making an effort to ensure you feel comfortable and safe, they are not a good partner and they are definitely not what you need right now.
These are all reasonable things to expect from a partner regardless of whether one has been through trauma or not. I feel for what you’re going through and remember you’re not alone. We at BWSN are always here for you!