Doing relationship after trauma



A lot of us have experienced some trauma in our lives. Trauma is commonly defined as an event that left us feeling helpless, hopeless or in horror.

Sometimes we think we’ve worked through it.

Then we end up in a relationship. In the beginning it’s good. We are doing well on our end.

But suddenly our past trauma rears its head. Our behaviour gets defensive. We sound angry all the time but we are feeling emotionally threatened and scared.

Our limbic system takes over from our rational brain during times of stress and we revert back to our survival instincts of flight, flight or flee.  In relationship this may look like numbing out, distancing, arguing/blaming, or escaping into an addiction or another person.

These ways of coping are very normal during a traumatic event or ongoing trauma. They kept us safe when we needed to be. But now we are in a safe relationship and we need to turn the alarms off and stop reverting to these behaviours that are ruining our relationship.

It can be hard to unlearn these skills on your own.

Have compassion for yourself. You are doing the best you can, with what you’ve been given.

Have hope. In most couples I come across one or both members have a trauma history.

They are learning how to make it work. It’s possible and it can be great.

It’s helpful to learn why you or your partner acts the way they do. Why the behaviour is normal, given a traumatic past but functioning to create chaos right now.

Call me to learn what skills you and your partner can use to help your brain and you partner’s brain see relationship actions as less threatening. Learn skills to respond to emotional threat in a helpful way. Create a relationship that feels more stable and secure, and less chaotic.

The more positive experiences we can create in our relationship the more our brain will create stronger trust grooves.

Over time, these brain paths will become deeper and our new coping skills will supersede the old behaviours that were once vital to our survival but that are now no longer needed.



Herman, J. (1997). Trauma and recovery: The aftermath of violence- from domestic abuse to political terror. NY: Basic books.