Is my past trauma ruining my relationship?

Have you ever felt like your past experiences mess with your current relationship? Do old wounds make it hard to bond with your partner? You're not the only one. Loads of people lug around their past relationship trauma without even knowing it's affecting the way they connect to others.

In this blog, we'll explore the potential impact of past trauma on relationships, offer guidance to recognize signs of trauma’s influence on your relationship and discuss strategies for healing together.

Understanding relationship trauma and its impact on you

Trauma, in its various forms, can profoundly affect how we relate to others. Whether it stems from childhood experiences, past relationships, or other life events, trauma can leave lasting emotional scars that influence our behavior and perceptions. Its impact on your intimate relationships is also well documented in research.

To paint a picture, an experience of betrayal in a past relationship might make trust feel elusive, leading to guardedness or suspicion in how you approach your current one. If you have previously endured emotional, sexual and/or physical abuse, you may find it challenging to open up and be vulnerable. The risk of harm, violation, or “making the same mistakes again” may keep you from trusting yourself, much less someone else. These types of avoidant trauma responses may contribute to a difficult relationship, even when there is more than enough love to go around.  

Signs your trauma is impacting your relationship

Recognizing the signs that past trauma is impacting your relationship is the first step toward healing. These signs may manifest in various ways, including:

  1. Difficulty Trusting: Constant doubts and suspicions about your partner's intentions or fidelity.
  2. Emotional Withdrawal: Feeling emotionally disconnected or numb, even when in the presence of your partner.
  3. Hypervigilance: Being constantly on edge or alert for signs of potential danger or harm.
  4. Avoidance of Intimacy: Struggling to engage in physical or emotional intimacy with your partner due to fear or discomfort.

If these signs resonate with you, it's important to remember you're not alone. Trauma is something that happens within you, a response to something you’ve been through. Carrying that pain is not your fault, and it is not a reflection of your commitment or love for your partner in your current relationship.

Will communication help us heal?

Open and honest communication is your golden ticket in working toward a healthy and safe relationship for walking your individual and shared healing paths. But it requires work and commitment, so before you can heal your relationship, it's important to connect with yourself and reflect on how you communicate.

Your body language, eye contact, and physical awareness of one another are key to the way you communicate with your partner before you even speak, so try to take a big breath, relax your shoulders, and release any tension from the face and body before starting a conversation.

Once you can engage with your body, it’s time to bring the heart and mind together to talk things through. Using spoken communication that fosters a sense of curiosity, understanding, and authenticity will be key to creating a supportive space to work through even the most difficult conversations.

Here are a few ways you can begin working toward better communication:

  • Share Your Story: When you feel safe, share your past experiences and how they affect you with your partner.
  • Practice Active Listening: Be present and supportive when your partner talks about their own struggles.
  • Use "I" Statements: Instead of blaming your partner, express how their actions trigger you (e.g., "I feel anxious when you leave late at work because it reminds me of..." ).
  • Set Boundaries: Let your partner know what you need to feel safe and supported (e.g., needing more time to process after a stressful day).

Seeking therapy for relationship issues can be scary

When you’re ready to start therapy in Chicago for yourself or alongside your partner, consider reaching out to licensed clinicians specializing in trauma-informed care. At Pure Health Center, we offer compassionate and expert guidance for individuals and couples seeking to heal and strengthen their relationships.

It can be overwhelming to choose a clinician, especially when you feel like the health of your relationship depends on it, so we’ve got a starting point for you.

Chicago relationship experts: Patricia Lutz and Kaila Zimmerman-Moscovitch

If you are looking to start therapy for relationship trauma issues and begin repairing the health of your connections or overcoming trauma, Patricia and Kaila are both experts in guiding care and healing through these difficult times.

Patricia Lutz is a dedicated and skilled licensed clinical social worker with expertise in trauma recovery and EMDR therapy. With a compassionate approach and extensive experience, Patricia assists individuals in overcoming past traumas and fostering resilience for a brighter future.

Kaila Zimmerman-Moscovitch is a compassionate and experienced licensed clinical social worker specializing in trauma-informed care and couples therapy. With a focus on providing personalized support and evidence-based interventions, Kaila helps individuals and couples navigate the complexities of trauma and strengthen their relationships for lasting healing and growth.

Pure Health Center is ready to welcome you for individual therapy, couples therapy—or both! We can meet you where you are across Chicago, with a new location in Lincoln Park opening soon.

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