I’ve posted here previously working through some past relationship trauma in therapy right now. I’m really stuck on something in particular and need to get it off my chest, and tbh some encouragement would be helpful. CW for sexual abuse stuff but I’ll keep it brief.

I have an ex named Daniel (not his real name) I have had/sometimes still have a very hard time getting over. At times I’d say he was the closest to the “one that got away”. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to see that he would be terrible for me for a lot of reasons- he was manipulative and immature, couldn’t be by himself, was narcissistic, and had a habit of concealing the truth and compulsively lying. I even saw him recently, back in November, and this is all still true, almost 7 years after we originally dated.

It hit me today that part of why I think I’m so hung up on him at times is because it’s not really about him- it’s what happened inside of me when things between us didn’t work out. He was the first person I really felt attraction to, and had excited, romantic feelings for as an adult.

The relationship I’d before him was with a guy I’d known for most of my life, and had a crush on throughout high school. We got together when I was 21 and it was easily one of the worst things that ever happened to me. He sexually assaulted me many times over the course of our relationship, violently, where I’d be covered in bruises afterwards. I hid it from my family and the friends that knew about it weren’t supportive (in the years since, I’ve cut them all out) - this was ten years ago and it felt like the conversation around rape was different then. I fully believed it wasn’t rape because he was my boyfriend, because that’s what people around me said, and I didn’t have a lot of solid support telling me that what was happening was wrong. I was suicidal through most of it and fully immersed in the idea that it was my fault. When I finally got away I couldn’t put into words what happened to me for a long time. I started talking about it in therapy 3-4 years after it happened, only then did the word “rape” come in.

I had no desire for sex or romance of any kind for a couple of years after that. I went out on dates, but things stayed extremely surface level. At one point I had a short-ish term boyfriend who lived in a different city hours away. I’d shut down anytime sex was brought up and not being close to him distance wise was a good way for him to be at arms length, physically and emotionally. We slept together some or tried to but most of the time my body wouldn’t even respond and we’d drop it. After we broke up I didn’t try again for some years.

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Meeting Daniel changed that. We had a ton in common, he understood my sense of humor and loved bantering back and forth, he was handsome and smart and I got super infatuated. It was also the first time I’d had real chemistry with and true emotional and physical desire for anyone since my horrible abusive relationship. I wanted to kiss him for hours and hours and felt ready to explore being close to somebody in that way.

Things ended because of what I said in the first full paragraph- for all of his shimmer and shine, Daniel had some serious issues that would have been really bad for me, especially at the point I was at in my life when we first met. I was falling in love and he was saying all the right things to me but he was still wanting to date other people, but didn’t disclose that until we’d been seeing each other for quite awhile. He was divorced and then had just broken off an engagement when we first met. When I saw him just a few months ago, not much had changed. He looked me up, told me he was single, apologized for the way he’d acted, told me I was the one that got away. Then we met up, and guess what? He was married, to wife #3, and barely-sort of-not really-separated. He’d been living in his wife’s house while he started texting me.

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Through all of this, I feel like I’ve been in a non starter place when it comes to relationships. I want companionship so bad that it actually hurts sometimes. But I feel like something broke in me back when I was 21 that I haven’t been able to get back in a decade plus of therapy, hard work on myself, trying to push myself out of my comfort zone, etc. And it sucks. And I’m fucking angry. I’m angry and I am scared that I’ve completely missed out. I want to get to a place where sex and closeness will feel happy and safe and enjoyable. Where relationships won’t terrify me to the point of crippling anxiety or where I’ll feel like I’ve got to overcompensate because I’m “messed up”, or tell myself people don’t want to deal with this kind of baggage.

And I’m having these persistent vivid dreams about Daniel that I know aren’t really about Daniel as a person, but more about what he represented and what I’m trying to work through in counseling. Meeting him and clicking with him so well I think blew up to seem bigger in importance, in relation to the hell I’d been through prior. I want some part of feeling like a good relationship and the “magic” and chemistry involved is possible for me, because that has been dead or at least dormant. I truly gave up on it, but I know I still want connection to someone in that way. In these dreams, we are happy and in love and I feel good, and I wake up suddenly feeling like everything has been torn out of my hands. It sucks waking up in that place.

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Realistically, with all of this boiling up inside of me, I don’t think I’m in a place to try and date at all. Maybe in a few months when I’ve gone through some more EMDR I will be in a different mindset. I can’t help feeling super discouraged and sad right now though and could really use some encouragement.

Thanks for reading if you got to this point.