I was recently on a podcast talking about marriage and trauma, which you can find HERE. As I was preparing for the podcast, I was thinking about how there are so many manifestations of trauma that can show up in relationships that we may not even realize. First, we need to understand what trauma is. Pia Mellody defines trauma as “anything less than nurturing”. That is also the definition I use in my practice so let’s go with that today. With that in mind, think of all of the less than nurturing experiences you had in your childhood. Now, think of all the less than nurturing things that have happened to you as an adult. Overwhelmed yet? Those are all the little t and big T traumas that manifest in various ways in our day to day lives. Let’s go over a few.
*Reactivity- When thinking about our reactions and responses to what someone says or does, anything above a 3-4 on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being no impact and 10 being explosive is triggering past trauma. Now if we think of it in those terms, what are some ways we are triggered in our relationships. When our partner gives us a slight critique do we find ourselves explosive or with overwhelming emotions? When someone raises their voice do we notice that we shrink in our demeanor? When we are told to calm down do we have to find down rage inside? Those are all signs of a trauma response and more often than not, it is triggering unresolved childhood trauma.
*Love Addiction/Love Avoidance-While we don’t have enough time to go into all aspects of this in this blog post, the most simplified version is that if we were enmeshed my mom, we tend to see women as overwhelming, needy or suffocating and hold women at an arm’s length away (love avoidance). If mom abandoned us, we tend to me more clingy or close with women (love addiction). The same pattern is true with dad and men (ie. If dad was distance we are more love addicted with men and if dad was enmeshing we are more love avoidant). Now, keep in mind even though the term uses the word “love” this is not actually about love at all, it is about our interactions in relationships. If our parents were enmeshing and abandoning simultaneously, we tend to have highly conflictual relationships with a push/pull dynamic.
*Inability to communicate wants/needs-If we struggle identifying our wants and needs or sharing them with others, those are red flags we have unresolved trauma. Either our wants and needs were not met and so we learned to disconnect from them or were taught we were too needy or dependent and were taught to do everything ourselves and be anti-dependent.
I could go on and on about how trauma manifests in relationships but I think this gives you a good glimpse. So, what if you see these in you or your partner within the relationship? First, acknowledge that there is trauma and then seek help. That may be reaching out to a pastor, mentor, coach or counselor. Get some healing or support your partner in their healing so that your relationship is no longer dictated by trauma. It is not a quick or easy process but let me guarantee you, it is worth it. Live in Arizona and want to work on trauma? Reach out to me! Even if we are not a good fit I can refer you to many other providers in the valley. Remember, you are worth healing!
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Jocelyn is a Licensed Professional Counselor and course creator who desires to help clients heal and grow into who God created them to be.
Providing holistic mental health
counseling to help you find healing
and live courageously.