Some time ago, I started dating this amazing guy. Everything was great and we got along in every way. However, he had finished a two-year relationship right before we started dating, and after a few months he said he wasn’t ready. We concluded that probably not enough time had passed since his previous relationship, and that he could not be emotionally available to me or anyone else. My heart was broken, but as we both really liked and admired each other, we decided to stay friends. Now we spend time together, but I am still in love with him. How do I know if he is ready for a relationship? When that happens, how can I make him see me as a romantic interest once again? P.S. We are gay. Thank you so much!
– Hopeful Underdog Not Giving Up
Dear HUNG UP,
It sounds like the first question is how honest your friend is being with you. Is he really “not ready” to be in a relationship, or is he hesitant about being in a relationship with you? If you truly believe that your former flame can keep burning like a Chanukah miracle, then you need to have a conversation. Ask him how he feels about his ex, and how he feels about you. Remind him of the fun you’ve had together, and tell him you want to keep having adventures with him. However, I would caution you to examine your expectations, because you don’t want to play dreidel with your heart. It is possible that he will remain your friend, but fall for someone else. If that time comes, make sure that you are open to other matches whose flames are burning brighter for you.
Do you have advice for guys who want to find love when they have PTSD due to a history of child abuse, sexual abuse or bullying? I’m talking about guys specifically because it seems that guys have to be confident and seductive, yet abuse hinders that confidence.
– Concealing Overly Personal Emotions
First of all, I want you to know that you are not alone. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), about
8 percent of the U.S. population will have post-traumatic stress disorder at some point in their lives. I’m going to channel Jewish mothers everywhere and assure you that you can still find love and get married. In fact, support and connection are two of the best defenses against the isolation and self-doubt that often accompany trauma.
After a trauma, your nervous system is on heightened alert and needs reassurance that it’s safe to ease into an evening of candlelight, scotch and innuendo. Practice mindfulness to increase your awareness of the present moment. Focus on the colors, scents and textures in the room. Notice the necklace your date is wearing, the way she holds her hands and the sound of her laugh.
One of the hardest things about dating after a traumatic event is not being able to fully trust your instincts. You might feel jumpy and insecure despite your date’s positive feedback. Remember that your gut reactions might be based on past experiences instead of the emerging relationship. Try to evaluate your feelings about the woman sitting across from you based on her words and actions – not the hurtful actions of other people from your past.
As your relationship develops, you can start to open up about your symptoms. One of my clients had vivid nightmares that woke him in a cold sweat. When his girlfriend slept beside him, she would reassure him and help him fall back to sleep. After many exhausting nights, they were both able to sleep peacefully.
Your life experiences shape who you are, and your exposure to trauma may have allowed you to develop greater empathy, gratitude and courage. The right woman will admire your strength and honesty.
Elana Averbach is a dating coach and psychotherapist who hopes to be just as in love with her husband-to-be at 70 as she is now. Learn how coaching can help you find romance and companionship at kickstartlove.com.
Looking for love? Send your dating questions to AskElana@jstylemagazine.com.