How To Date A ‘Damaged’ Person
There is a saying — ‘damaged people damage other people’, but the inverse is also true — People who have healed or are healing can heal other people as well.
I am a ‘damaged’ person. I have deep seeded traumas that haunt me to this day (on the wrong side of 35). I’m working on them, and this year I’ve been doing so harder than ever before. There has been lots of crying and lots of growth. Have you ever broken up with a family member? Not fun, but sometimes it is absolutely necessary.
Some people honestly think that a damaged person can never be fixed. Those people are dead wrong. Maybe they don’t want to have to get their hands dirty, and that’s their choice. Thing is, you will learn so much more about your own self if you help a damaged person heal.
I just started dating someone new, a wonderful person, who is also ‘damaged’. We share one specific trauma which we have bonded over, and she has other traumas that I do not, but which thankfully I can help her with.
The thing about ‘broken’, ‘damaged’, generally traumatized people, they either will blame everyone else for their problems, or they will blame themselves for everyone else’s problems.
Me and my new girlfriend both do the latter. We both assume that everything is our fault by default. I only really recognized this bad habit in myself this year. Whenever anyone was mad at me, or just generally mad, frustrated, unsettled — my first instinct was to ask myself ‘okay, what did *I* do and how can I make it better?’
We are also both extremely empathetic and forgiving, which leads us both to be taken advantage of to a ridiculous degree. We have to be pushed to our very breaking point before we push back and stand up for ourselves, and often by then we’re in quite the mess already. This can take weeks, months, years, even decades.
We are both conflict averse. We have been taught through our traumas that we deserve the sadness, pain, and misery that we feel, that our present situation is the best we can hope for and we’re just not good enough for anything else. We both had one particular authority figure in each of our lives literally and figuratively beat the self-esteem right out of us at a very young and vulnerable ages.
As I said earlier, we often default to taking the blame for everything. A couple of times recently this has happened for me specifically, and I’ve been able to dig into it and actually realize that while the other person seemed upset at me, they were actually upset at themselves and projecting it onto me.
Being able to recognize that and stand up for yourself (gently!) is such a critical skill. Likewise, being able to recognize with another person that they are taking on unnecessary blame, and helping them see that so they can begin to stand up for themselves — that’s empathy, and that’s relationship building.
‘Damaged’ people have the tendency to recognize our failures — and give them far more weight of significance — than we do to our successes. It’s often ‘yes, I did X good thing, but I did 5 bad Y things so I still suck.’
When two ‘damaged’ people get together, they can either amplify their damage and hurt each other even more, or they can be gentle, patient, and kind, and help mend each other.
Either way it will be messy, but in the latter case, the mess will be short lived, and before long a garden will start to form. And after a little while, that garden will be blooming with beauty. It won’t be a perfect garden, but it will be very obvious to any outside observer just how much TLC was put into that garden.
When you start dating a ‘damaged’ person, you have to have patience. You have to be kind, empathetic, forgiving, and supportive. You have to know they will lash out sometimes, they will run away sometimes, they will push you away sometimes, and these are all trauma responses. They have to learn that you’re safe and reliable. You have to learn to trust them and let them in.
Likewise, when you are a ‘damaged’ person dating someone new, communication is key. As best you can — communicate your boundaries, and be prepared to enforce them. If the other person is good for you, then frequent boundary enforcement shouldn’t be highly necessary.
And as I learned from my new partner this week — if there is a set back, a relapse, or an incident that triggers being re-traumatized temporarily, you have to let them tell you what they want or need from you (even if that’s letting them confront the situation themselves and work through it themselves). If you always try and do hard things so your partner doesn’t have to, they won’t grow. You just become an enabler.
It’s valuable to be able to recognize when someone else is better off to face their demons their own way and when they absolutely could use your moral support. Learn how to do both.
It’s kind of like teaching a kid to skateboard or ride a bike — they’re probably going to wipe out once or twice, and you hate to see them get hurt, but that’s how they learn to be safer next time. Don’t allow them to suffer excessive unnecessary pain, but don’t bubble wrap them either.
‘Damaged’ people often feel like we don’t deserve happiness and love. We often feel like we deserve what we’ve got or what we get. Because i’s easier to ‘accept it’ and live with it than it is to fight through our pain, to be vulnerable and put ourselves out there at the risk of failure or rejection which further validates our low self esteem.
And we’re just ‘obviously damaged’ people. There are lots of people out there who maybe don’t yet realize they are ‘damaged’, or don’t think it’s that bad, or are afraid or ashamed to seek help. Those people deserve happiness, love, and support as well. Empathy is a great tool for anyone to have. I have ‘damaged’ friends, and they can be supported in the same ways.
There have been lots of ups and down with my new relationship, but patience and persistence and steady, healthy communication got us through. And now I feel like we can take on pretty much anything — together.
We were both lucky to find someone else who was ‘damaged’ in just the right way that our rough, uneven edges fit together pretty nicely. Not perfectly, but that’s okay.
So if you are a fellow ‘damaged’ person reading this, don’t lose hope. If you are actively working to heal yourself, the results will come. It might take a really long time, but they will come. I believe in you and I’m rooting for you. I look forward to seeing your garden ❤