The new dating-world disorder
THE Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Crazy Chick Mental Disorders, 114th Edition, has added a new psychological disturbance: Post-traumatic relationship disorder.
This ailment is woefully common among thirtysomething women who have been traumatized by years of bad dating experiences -- lying, cheating, double-talking, disappearing, gaslighting, drug taking, stalking, rearranging furniture without asking, chewing ice.
The disorder manifests itself when a nice, normal guy comes along and we women become, speaking clinically, completely wigged out. Paranoid, touchy, prone to fits of all kinds including bouts of weepy gratitude. This response leaves the fellows who genuinely adore us baffled and perturbed.
Is this behavior a variation on post-traumatic stress disorder? Let’s compare symptoms:
* Intrusive emotions and memories (check)
* Nightmares (sometimes)
* Avoiding emotions (certainly)
* Avoiding relationships (definitely)
* Avoiding responsibility for others (indubitably)
* Avoiding situations that are reminiscent of the traumatic event (yes, even fine restaurants)
* Explosive outbursts (‘fraid so)
* Extreme vigilance (oh yeah)
* Irritability (a lot of the time)
* Panic (most of the time)
According to one website on PTSD: “Intrusive memories and emotions interfere with normal thought processes and social interaction.”
Which means, when we apply that statement to women with post-traumatic relationship disorder: Those chicks act crazy!
It wasn’t until I got into a good relationship that I realized how traumatized I’d been by the bad ones.
When my new guy, who brought me homemade chocolate-dipped strawberries on our second date, innocently mentioned talking to an ex-girlfriend, I went into a complete tailspin. I contemplated never speaking to him again or immediately ending the relationship, whichever came first.
I cannot count how many friends ordered me to “chill.”
Steve: “You must chill! Don’t use your past experiences to start a fight with someone when all is going well. It’s like you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop so instead you throw all your many shoes out the window.”
Milo: “Be cool. Just breathe, chica. Open up and trust a little and don’t let the angst get in the way.”
Betty: “You’re just psyching yourself out.”
(Unfortunately, this can lead to compound paranoia: You’re paranoid your paranoia is going to ruin your relationship.)
My friend Milo’s new girlfriend was practically reduced to tears when he jokingly made fun of her taste for pork rinds, and she began seriously wondering (aloud) if he was the man for her. But then he made her ridiculously happy by bringing her a handful of almonds, because he’d noticed what she liked.
My friend Carolyn mentioned to her new boyfriend on the phone that she would like to go to a writer’s retreat, and he made a dumb crack about getting Tolstoy to write her a recommendation. “Thank you for making light of my dreams. I’m hanging up now,” she replied.
She then refused to respond to a sweet e-mail he later sent about how he believed in and admired her. At that point she turned her phone off.
This was after he had driven her two visiting sisters around all the previous Saturday, cooked her a birthday feast and bought her not one but two red velvet cakes, in case she wanted one all to herself.
“That’s PTRD right there,” she said of her behavior.
A message for the nice, normal boyfriends: Thank you for your patience. The craziness should dissipate in a couple of months. In the meantime, ignore 75% of what we say, and you might consider earplugs.
To my fellow PTRD sufferers: Stick your feet in a bucket of ice and suck on a Popsicle. Everything is going to be all right.