We polled the experts and compiled their top tips on how to break the hold of post-traumatic relationship disorder
1. Create a new blueprint
"Stop focusing on what you don't want in relationships," says life coach Valorie Burton, "and reframe the issue: What is healthy and acceptable to me? What are my nonnegotiables? At the top of the list should be respect-in both romance and friendships."
2. Handle yourself with kindness
Therapist and radio host Audrey Chapman, Ph.D., likens the compulsive patterns of PTRD to long-term addiction such as alcoholism. "Once you stop drinking," she says, "you don't necessarily get rid of the tendency or desire to drink. That's why it's so important to seek help. You develop new tools to manage the desire. But you have to be patient with yourself because the healing can take years."
3. Challenge your hidden assumptions
"What is your self-talk?" asks psychologist Michelle Callahan, Ph.D. "Do you believe deep down that no man would want you? We carry so much guilt and shame about what we've been through that we start to tell ourselves things like, I'll take what I can get." Once you identify the hidden beliefs that govern your behavior, you can replace those thoughts with ones that serve you.
4. Cut the new man some slack
Avoid dire conclusions and gross generalizations-such as "all men are dogs." Remember, some dating problems are plain old signal misses. When a man doesn't call, for instance, his disappearance isn't necessarily a sign of disinterest, says Ronn Elmore, Psy. D., therapist, minister and author of No-Nonsense Dating (Harvest House). "Let him be the one to find his way back," suggests Elmore. What he does next determines the level of his interest. If he plans a day with you or cooks you a five-course meal, you know he's feeling you.
5. Find your own cheering section
When you feel panicked or scared, girlfriends and platonic male friends can remind you of how unique and wonderful you are and what you have to offer in a relationship, says Elmore. A pastor or professional counselor can also help you sort out your patterns and encourage you as you create new ones.
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