Advice For Dating Someone Who Has Been Hurt Before

by Brianna Wiest

Classifying people who have "been hurt" regarding anything to do with dating or love or other people is asinine. We've all been there — most of us are still there to some degree, and to pretend that anybody isn't or that there are some people more affected than others is counterproductive altogether. But the reality is that while we've all been scorched by the romantic blowtorch, we seldom realize, or accept, that other people's hearts are as damaged and salvageable as we want to hope that ours are.

We seek love under the premise that we are people of many emotional dimensions but that we're settling if we don't find someone who has a crack in their foundation that they trip on now and again. We don't think of people in all their broken, beautiful glory because we'd rather not address their pain, as it forces us to face our own. We think that with each budding relationship, we're stepping onto a clean slate; no wonder we implode so intensely when we realize that we carry every bit of our pasts with us, however healed they are or not, and that it will infiltrate even the happiest and most loving of relationships if they aren't addressed outside of them.

Learning to love someone who has been hurt before is really just learning to love someone, and to see them for their whole truth (and your own, as well.) Here are all the things you need to know before you date someone who has a past (so, you know, a human being in general):

Everyone Has Been Hurt

The only difference is where they are in their healing. Some people are still smashed open, others are scarred and cautious, but most people fall somewhere in the middle. Everyone has had hopes dashed, everyone has sought someone else's love to save them. Everyone has had someone get away, and a good many others walk away willingly. We're all scarred and we're all insecure and nobody is completely convinced they're worth loving. Understanding this doesn't just help you find a genuine relationship — it facilitates it. It helps you speak into those parts of someone, the parts that need you to address them, not fix them.

Trust, Like Love, Is Something You Earn

The insane cultural complex of instantaneous love and maddening passion that consumes you day-in and day-out isn't just unrealistic, it's dangerous. It sets up an idea that will lead you to closing yourself off to genuine love because you can't identify what it really is. Rebuilding our ideas about what it takes to really love someone starts here: love is something you earn. It's not something you get, or deserve, if you're "good enough." It's what happens when you open up to someone, bond with them, accept each other for the good and bad and everything in between. It's not your fault if you don't have someone's love instantly, and it's not theirs either — it's that you both made the decision, whether out of perceived incompatibility or just a lack of interest, not to bond at that level.

Hurt Comes From Attachment

It's not love that hurts. It's not loss, either. It's an attachment to an idea that love would save you, or loss was an impossibility because your love seemed so genuine and strong. The things we can't, and don't, get over are the things we feel didn't completely fulfill their purpose in our lives; the relationships we wanted us to carry us through decades, or the love we thought would heal our broken self-image. If you want to actually love someone in a way that you haven't before, you have to do it without an attachment to any results. It seems difficult, if not impossible, but you learn to accept that it's not something that gets figured out during a relationship — it's what you figure out beforehand.

Relationships Intensify Every Part Of You

The parts of you that are lovely and lovable and kind and shimmeringly light are only made brighter; the parts of you that are insecure and hurt and hidden in the shadows become clearer. This is why romantic relationships are so painful and hard to release: it ultimately says more about us than it does about what we could have been with someone else. If you want it to actually work, you have to be able to address the fact that it will put a huge magnifying glass over your soul. It's not your partner's problem that you're suddenly fiercely insecure — it's yours. It's not your partner's problem that their completely benign behavior is reminiscent of a former flame's. It's your job to address the part of you that's not over it. Your history is yours to reconcile, no matter how you want to project it out on to your present.

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