Trauma changes people and makes relationships more difficult, but there are ways to cope.
First, let’s assume the trauma that caused the PTSD is interpersonal.
Someone did something to you, as opposed to a natural catastrophe like an earthquake or flood. Those results might be a little different For interpersonal PTSD, the following are important considerations:
1. Trusting others is difficult.
When someone has done something to betray your basic trust in humanity, it becomes harder to trust others. You are quicker to anger, and quicker to see the person you are with as bad or evil when disappointed.
2. You fear being close to others.
Because others have become the things to be feared, you are uncomfortable with crowds and more likely to want to be alone.
3. You're always on the defense.
Some men and women were burned so badly by the opposite sex that the burn never leaves them. They are always defensive and on guard.
But, there is a way to cope with this. The first thing to do with any problem is to recognize the problem. You might be telling yourself you're better off alone because then you can’t be hurt. True, but your life loses a lot more than you gain that way.
Humans are social animals. We are happiest in the company of others we love. You may need a time of healing, but sooner or later you will have to try reaching out again.
4. You're always disappointed.
Once you've decided to take the risk of loving, the biggest problems you will face might be in continuing the relationship. There are going to be disappointments. The other person will inevitably let you down in at least minor ways.
Healthy people who have never been seriously traumatized have reasonable expectations and find it easy to forgive when most of those expectations are not met (of course, there are some relationship deal-breakers like abuse, drug addiction, or unfaithfulness).
People who have been traumatized react to minor disappointments as if they were major traumas.
For example, I had a client whose mother would repeatedly yell at him and beat him when he was young. This felt so out-of-control and scary to him that he thought he might be severely hurt or even killed. He had PTSD from it.
Once he grew up, he was emotionally OK getting into relationships with women, because they would not trigger him early on. But once the relationship got more serious and they were spending a lot more time together, his partner would raise her voice at some point and that was it.
He couldn’t recover, he couldn’t forgive. He would say he accepted an apology if it was offered, but he never felt the same security and comfort with her again. By the time he was 30, he had a dozen relationships that all lasted from several months to a year and ended badly.
5. You push others away.
Some people with PTSD push others away after being triggered. Some push others away before the triggering even happens, in anticipation. Others just find that the irritability and anger that runs through their lives poisons every relationship.
Not everyone affected by trauma has the full diagnostic picture of PTSD. PTSD involves nightmares, flashbacks, repeated thoughts of the trauma. The memory haunts the sufferer.
Once the full PTSD syndrome has been there for more than six months, there is a good chance it will stay there forever without professional help. Thus, seeing a therapist trained in techniques for treating PTSD might be a necessity.
The good news is that PTSD is treatable. Even more, it’s curable. I suggest you start out with safer topics, focusing on the present. When you feel safe and comfortable and have built up enough trust in the therapist, however long that takes, then process the trauma.
Most trauma does not result in PTSD. It just might make you over-react to things that remind you of the trauma.
For example, a woman beaten by her drunk father might have a very strong reaction to a man drinking even a single glass of wine with dinner. That could seriously limit your dating pool. It might help you to identify where the feelings came from and assign them to that place.
In other words, take deep breaths and say to yourself "I am not in danger because this guy is having a glass of wine; those feelings are from back then. Now, I’m safe." That can give you greater flexibility and freedom.