How trauma can manifest into our relationships
Our experiences, emotions, and relationships during developmental years can have a huge impact on the way we view ourselves, the world and the people around us. For many, childhood trauma can leave a lasting impact on adult relationships. In this blog post, we will explore the ways in which childhood trauma can affect our adult relationships and offer insights into healing and growth.
Understanding Attachment styles
Attachment theory suggests that the bonds formed in early childhood with caregivers significantly shape our attachment styles in adulthood. Children who experience consistent love and support tend to develop secure attachment styles, while those who face neglect or inconsistent care may develop insecure, anxious or disorganised attachment styles. To develop a deeper understanding of yourself, your mental state and how your trauma manifests, look into your own attachment styles and consider what may have caused their development. You can learn more about attachment styles here.
Trusting those we love
Childhood trauma can cause deep trust issues with those we love, making it difficult for survivors to trust their partners fully. Trauma can lead to trouble opening up emotionally, leading to difficulties in forming deep, meaningful connections. The fear of vulnerability can hinder intimacy and prevent us from fully engaging in their relationships.
Individuals who have experienced trauma may unknowingly choose partners who resemble their abusive or neglectful caregivers. This can lead to further pain and dysfunctional behaviours and relationships, many individuals may not know they are in an unhealthy situation as they may see this behaviour as normal from the people they love the most.
Childhood trauma can disrupt the development of healthy emotional regulation skills and further trauma in relationships can prevent the development of healthy coping mechanisms into adulthood. They may struggle with intense emotions, experiencing frequent mood swings, anger, or emotional detachment. These challenges can strain even healthy relationships as partners may struggle to understand and cope with these emotional reactions. Childhood trauma can make relationships even harder for partners to understand when individuals struggle to express themselves clearly, this is a very common behaviour in individuals who were punished or ignored for trying to speak up around a caregiver. The effect on communication skills can also affect their ability to listen, adults who experienced trauma can get very used to being put down and therefore a partner may struggle to express their feelings surrounding issues in a relationship without the partner becoming defensive. Our research found that 60% of couples feel judged by their partner. Trauma survivors may struggle to articulate their needs and feelings, leading to misunderstandings and conflicts with their partners.
Working on Healing
It is important to remember trauma is different for everyone and it may not be helpful to compare our trauma with that experienced by others. Healing from childhood trauma is possible and there is a lot of support available from therapy to support-groups:
Therapy: Professional therapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), dialectical-behaviour therapy (DBT), or trauma-focused therapy, can help survivors work through their trauma, develop healthier coping mechanisms, and improve their relationships.
Support Groups: Joining support groups for survivors of childhood trauma can offer a sense of community and validation. Sharing experiences with others who have faced similar challenges can be incredibly healing.
Self-Care: Practising self-care, including mindfulness, meditation, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle, can help survivors manage their emotional and psychological well-being.
Understanding how trauma affects you is the first step toward healing and growth. With the right support and resources, individuals and couples can work to overcome the impact of their past and build healthier, more fulfilling adult relationships.
Trauma manifests in many ways and it doesn’t always result from severe circumstances such as childhood abuse. Listen to our newest podcast with Dr Willow Brown and Leah Piper and discover the hidden protective patterns we use to keep ourselves safe and how they sabotage our relationships.