We hear the colloquial term “damaged” quite regularly in describing a person, especially in the dating/relationship topic. When a person is considered “damaged,” it usually means they have been affected emotionally or psychologically as a result of a traumatic experience.
The negative effects of the trauma that they have experienced in the past make it hard for them to experience, control, and cope with their emotions, which would have consequences on their perception of themselves as well as others.
The symptoms include emotional instability (such as mood swings and persistent/frequent feelings of anger, sadness, anxiety, and numbness), trust issues, low self-esteem, intimacy difficulties, avoidance behaviors, hypervigilance, flashbacks and intrusive thoughts, and self-destructive behaviors.
The degree of emotional damage may vary in its severity and duration in each person.
Some of us have a fixer mentality, and often find ourselves falling for someone emotionally damaged or broken.
We find satisfaction in fixing and taking care of people. While those with this fixer mentality generally have issues on their own that they themselves also need relief from, such as past pain and constant need of approval, it is not necessarily wrong for them to fall in love and build a relationship with a damaged person as long as they understand the limits of what they can do for and expect from them.
Patience and understanding are two things of utmost importance that you must be confident of having before you get into a relationship with them.
The most practical solution to help these emotionally damaged people is, of course, to seek professional help, yet there are several ways that we, as partners and friends, can personally do that are hopefully effective to help them get through the difficult phase. Here are five important tips on what we can do to make them feel our love and support:
Being willing to be with them means being willing to be in their position with them without expecting them to instantly break out of it. Nobody can know exactly how long they are going to be in that position or if they will ever break out of it.
Accept that fact on your part. By doing that, you will find yourself doing things for them sincerely without expecting anything in return. Sacrifices are very much needed to have a relationship with a damaged person.
They have so much burden on their shoulders, and they probably have so much guilt for us and so many expectations from the surrounding people (e. g. expectation to be better), that the last thing they need is more expectation.
Keep in mind that it is not their choice to be there, nor is it their plan to drag you with them. Hence, listen to them, be understanding, and convince them that they are not alone and will always have you by their side.
Do not force them to talk, especially about the events related to the trauma, yet be open when they want to. Be careful with the remarks that you give them. You do not want to come off as indifferent or critical of what they have gone through.
When they ask for advice, try to offer them the most beneficial ones. If you don’t have any, be truthful that it is out of your capability and expertise to offer any, while at the same time, assure them that you can still offer an ear and a shoulder whenever they need them. Also, ask them from time to time how they’re feeling. Show them you care.
One of the things they need from you is trust. Do not disclose any of their past stories or issues to anyone. Avoid discussing them or their problems unless you have their permission. Respect them if they make any special requests, such as not wanting to make your relationship public.
Make them confident and comfortable to share things with you, as this is the thing that they are most likely to want in a companion. I mean, don’t we all?
Find out their hobbies or what they are most likely to do to find relief and comfort. Arrange time to do these activities with them. They might not be in the mood to do demanding activities, so don’t force them. In this struggling time, they would probably enjoy reclusive activities at tranquil places; hence, going on a trip of this nature might help.
Make sure only the two of you are going on that trip unless they specifically request to have certain people that they are comfortable with along. Use this time to talk to them, understand them, and show them the beauty of life around them. If you have a pet, bring it along.
Studies have suggested that having a pet(s) around helps reduce stress and loneliness, thus improving a person’s mental health.
Being “damaged” is an effect of something psychologically traumatic, hence a damaged person requires treatment to be recovered or at least relieved of some of the pain. As a person close to them, it is our responsibility to encourage them to start treatment, or if they have done so, continue it.
Make sure they see a mental health professional regularly and follow the requirements set (medication, therapy, etc.). If they express a desire to quit, try to reason with them. Share with them the success stories of people experiencing similar things of breaking out of the “damaged” shell, and convince them of the progress and difference that you, as an observer, have seen in them.
Ultimately, it is their decision whether to go through with the treatment, yet as their companion, it is our role to help and convince them to take the best action for a better future.
Despite the overwhelming feelings and thoughts that they are struggling with, they are still humans with a tendency to feel love. The love, however, could be quenched due to fear, anxiety, guilt, and low self-esteem. To be and stay in a relationship with them, we must give our full commitment and constant assurance so as not to make them feel pressured, which would subsequently hinder their recovery.
While it is natural to expect the person we love to love us back, please remember to ease on that in this case. It is unfair to demand their love for other people (including yourself as the partner) when they are struggling even to love themself.
Give them time and let them heal. However, don’t bottle in. You can always tell them how much love and affection you feel for them. Although they might not show that much feeling toward you, keep reminding yourself that they appreciate what you’re doing for them.
With the support they get as well as the treatment they receive, they will recover and get back to their former self. Yes, this requires a lot more than patience, but if you have that, why not?