Restorations Therapy Blog

How Trauma Affects Relationships

by on Monday, August 24th, 2020

How Trauma Affects Relationships

Trauma is a complex response to an intense, disturbing event that causes a person’s coping mechanisms to backfire. Trauma causes feelings of hopelessness and causes individuals to feel unsafe. Survivors of trauma can constantly feel intense emotions and have difficulty with trusting people.

Relationships and intimacy can often feel unattainable for trauma survivors. They fear becoming close with another person after a traumatic event, or they may feel like a burden to those around them.

The effects of trauma on relationships extend not only to the survivor but also to their partner. Understanding the ways in which trauma affects both people in the relationship is crucial for the process of healing and being able to maintain a healthy relationship.

Trauma: Types & Symptoms

Trauma typically comes in two different forms. A single traumatic event could cause distress, such as a car crash or another short-lived experience. Complex trauma, on the other hand, involves a longer period of time where the trauma is repeated, such as a war. Complex trauma could be the same recurring event or separate events that are continually occurring.

Common symptoms displayed by trauma survivors include:

  • Compulsive behavior
  • Eating disorders
  • Depression
  • Flashbacks
  • Panic attacks
  • Substance abuse
  • Low self-esteem
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Trauma & Attachment

There are four different types of attachment styles that people may adapt throughout their lives. Trauma plays a big role in the reasons why people change their attachment styles.

Secure Attachment

Secure attachment is healthy, often involving people that have had supportive caretakers throughout their life. These people tend to trust others easily, asking for help when needed, and being able to connect on emotional levels.

Emotions are shared in a healthy way, and their self-perception is positive. They tend not to live in fear of rejection or abandonment. Healthy coping mechanisms are also known to be included.

Dismissive-Avoidant Attachment

Also known as “insecure-avoidant” attachment, this attachment characterizes those that were neglected or rejected by their primary caregivers in life. These individuals tend to be more independent, avoiding intimacy and forming tight bonds. Their independence is usually on an extreme level, and they fear anything that appears to be a threat to that independence.

Fearful-Avoidant Attachment

Individuals that were abused or neglected by a caregiver in their lives commonly have this type of attachment style. The attachment usually forms as a result of a loved one causing the person’s pain. Many adults with this attachment style are afraid to be alone but are unable to get close to others and trust them. Intimacy is almost impossible, as they shift between getting extremely close to others and completely avoiding people.

Anxious-Preoccupied Attachment

When primary caregivers in a person’s life switch between being nurturing and neglectful, the anxious-preoccupied attachment style forms. Individuals that go through this tend to be more clingy and have anxiety concerning their close relationships. This hypersensitivity can drive others away, causing the trauma survivor to come off as needy.

The Impact of Trauma on Relationships

Trauma can have lasting effects on the survivor, causing an impact on their relationships with romantic partners. Emotionally fueled disagreements can lead to more intense arguments about commonplace relationship issues and concerns.

The survivor may withdraw a lot, sometimes even being completely unresponsive when their partner is trying to communicate with them. This stems from the survivor’s false belief that their partner is working against them; the survivor has doubts about the love and commitment in the relationship. While the partner may be constantly trying to give love to the survivor, it can be hard for the survivor to accept it, despite the constant reassurance of love.

Partner Communication

Partners must learn to communicate in healthy ways when dealing with issues related to past trauma. Being aware of your emotions and regulating them can be extremely helpful. Couples should practice mindfulness techniques together to understand their environment and the triggers present in it.

Making key phrases that serve as codes can also help for when things become overwhelming. Some examples include:

  • “A trigger seems to be present right now. Can we work together to identify it and see what’s going on with us?”
  • “Can we slow down?”
  • “Are we moving toward understanding past issues?”

Seeking Out Help

When a relationship involves a trauma survivor, it is a good idea for not only that individual, but both partners to seek therapy or counseling together. Trauma-informed therapy is a good option, as it helps couples examine the ways trauma can affect the relationship. Separating past issues from present ones also helps. Individual and couple sessions are typically available.

Make sure you have a good support system in place for both parties to reach out to. Making you both feel loved and positive about the future of the relationship is crucial. Also, try to find resources for you both to use, such as community support groups.

Both partners in a relationship should be educated about trauma. Learn how you can care for yourself and your partner, practicing mindfulness to help with the healing process. Always be considerate and slow to react so unwarranted issues don’t arise in the relationship.

Getting treatment for trauma can minimize the risk of isolation and restore hope in a relationship. It also opens up a safe space for the discussion of traumatic experiences and the feelings associated with them.

Trauma is a complex subject that requires delicate care and treatment. Learning how to take care of yourself and those closest you, especially intimate partners, can mean the difference between healing or stagnated recovery. The effects of trauma on a relationship can be intense and leave lasting impacts. However, treatment can help minimize the risks involved and teach both partners how to care for each other on a deeper level. For help in your relationship concerning past traumatic events, reach out to Restorations Therapy at (720) 446-6585. The kind staff will offer you support and answers to any of the difficult questions you may have.

About Restorations Therapy Center

Stay informed on new services and projects