Parental Separation And Children’s Relationships

A link between adverse childhood experiences and various physical, emotional, and mental health challenges in adulthood was established long ago and is well documented. Childhood adversity is generally linked to multiple difficulties in adult life, even when it’s not as severe as emotional and physical abuse or neglect. One such example is parental separation. Studies show that children of divorced parents are more likely to suffer from mental health issues like anxiety and depression. However, recovery from divorce trauma is attainable.

Since children lack the capacity to deal rationally with difficult emotions and develop healthy coping mechanisms, it’s up to parents to make their separation transpire as smoothly as possible. Allowing the child to witness verbal or physical violence or be pushed aside can make them feel unimportant, abandoned, rejected, or even blame themselves for the separation. Keeping a level head when you’re going through such an emotionally turbulent time yourself might seem impossible, but establishing some basic rules with your partner could help ease the transition.

Does Parental Separation Affect The Relationships Of Your Children?

Our adult relationships are influenced by a large number of distinct factors, both internal and external. For example, depending on the circumstances, parental separation might be devastating for one child, while another, living in an unstable home environment, might feel relieved to have the constant verbal or physical violence finally stop. Therefore, in some cases, the separation itself may not be as crucial if that type of relationship was presented to the child as ‘normal’ or usual. The influence of each parent as a role model is also significant.

Despite many links between parental separation and dysfunctional adult relationships of their children, many of those children manage to form meaningful and stable relationships as adults. This might depend on the nature of the separation or divorce and the type of relationship parents continue to have after. The emotional hardship and stress children experience could also stem from trying to please both parents, which can significantly influence their future ideas about love, relationships, and marriage.

divorce trauma recovery

How Can Your Separation Affect Your Children’s Future Relationships?

Despite every marriage and separation being different, some of its effects can be harmful in most cases, and they usually involve the child’s inability to cope with the emotions, as well as the influence on theattachment patterns they would form in adulthood. Results of the research into the link between attachment patterns and lower oxytocin levels contributed to the ever-growing body of evidence that connects childhood adversity with various adult life difficulties.

Parents’ separation or divorce is considered one of the adverse childhood experiences, and research suggests that it can predict the likelihood of mental health issues. For example, one study used oxytocin levels to predict the influence of parental divorce on an individual’s adult relationship and behavior patterns. Oxytocin is a hormone that plays a crucial role in parent-infant bonding, particularly during and after childbirth. It also affects other aspects of human behavior, like trust and romantic attachment.

The study presumed that oxytocin output gets altered by a perceived lack of parental care and the dissolution of parental bonds. It found lower oxytocin levels in people whose parents were separated or divorced during their childhood. The same research found that the same individuals are less comfortable with intimacy and closeness and prone to isolation from others – even through they craved it.  Their attachment styles were also described as “less secure” compared to participants whose parents stayed together.

Children of divorced parents were more likely to describe their parents as less caring or indifferent and exhibit:

  • Trust issues.
  • Avoiding marriage, choosing cohabitation instead of marriage, out of fear that it won’t last.
  • Indifference or insensibility towards divorce; growing up with the idea that divorce is inevitable.
  • Not expecting to marry.
  • Higher chances of getting divorced:
  • Lower quality of marriage.
  • Recognizing parental behavior patterns in their own relationships.
  • Afraid of repeating the same mistakes.

How Can Parents Help Children Cope With Separation Or Divorce?

The negative influence of a divorce is not the same for all children, and even though it poses considerable risks, harmful outcomes can be avoided. Since children experience their parents’ separation very intensely, parents can do their best to reduce the risks. Some of the factors are entirely within their control:

  • The nature of conflict, duration, and presence of hostility.
  • The overall quality of parenting before and after separation.
  • The quality of the relationship between the parent and the child.

Parents can positively affect their children even during divorce if they’re in a position to manage the separation and their behavior in a controlled manner. This can be quite difficult for some parents as they might be going through a challenging time themselves. Many factors may seem out of control. Over disclosing details about the divorce, emeshing emotions with the child – usually from the parent who did not decide to end the marriage, and continued fighting amongst the adults creates more trauma and drama. 

Sometimes protecting the child from conflict is not always possible, depending on the stability of the household and each parent individually. This is particularly evident in abusive marriages. Additionally, socioeconomic factors can prevent adequate monitoring of the child’s activities, and parents might not be fully aware of the child’s feelings and thoughts.

However, when it comes to marriage separation advice, one of the crucial ways to reassure a child is to affirm their love for them constantly. If children are too young for conversation, love can be expressed through physical gestures like hugs, attention, and spending time with them. This will show them they’re not being pushed aside, abandoned, or disregarded.

One way to ensure you’re not neglecting your child’s needs is by creating routines for activities they enjoy. You can also pay particular attention to verbal and nonverbal cues, so you don’t miss your child’s attempts to express their feelings and provide them with comfort when needed.

marriage separation advice

PIVOT Can Help You Protect Yourself And Your Children From Divorce Trauma

Going through a divorce might feel like your whole world is falling apart, and you don’t know how to escape the chaos. Divorce is one of those “putting your own oxygen mask first” situations if you have children. You need to take care of yourself to be able to take care of your child. Unfortunately, there are no magical solutions or universal marriage separation advice. Loving yourself during a divorce may seem impossible, but loving your child comes naturally without hesitation.

What might be challenging is remembering that loving your child and showing it means loving yourself. Being a good role model has nothing to do with divorce. The best role model for your child is a strong, independent, self-sufficient, and, most importantly, happy parent. You can find that person within yourself with guidance and support from our experienced relationship advocates. Alternatively, stepping away from the negativity for a few days may help you find that inner strength in the safe environment of our Glass House retreats.

Post-Traumatic Growth: What Is It & How Can It Help Me?

People can have significantly different responses to experiencing any type of trauma. Some of them might struggle with post-traumatic stress or relationship disorder for a long time. Others will find a way to cope through various defense mechanisms, some unhealthy, some constructive. Those who manage to emerge from traumatic events enriched by their own strength and healing capabilities can experience post-traumatic growth.

While some are left with post-traumatic flashbacks, fears, anxiety, depression, and the inability to trust others and view the world as anything but a dangerous, scary place, there’s another side to these experiences. It will undoubtedly depend on the personal characteristics of each individual, the type of trauma they went through, the support they get, and other circumstances. However, overcoming trauma and coming out of it with a sense of personal growth is not uncommon either.

What is post-traumatic growth?

Post-traumatic growth is usually described as a positive transformation after experiencing and working through specific traumas. This theory, developed by psychologists, suggests that individuals who manage to endure and fight through emotional and psychological struggle following a traumatic experience or a prolonged period of adversity can emerge from it transformed and enriched by the strength they found within themselves. Naturally, not all people have an equal predisposition to handle trauma in such a positive way.

Studies suggest that people who are more extroverted and generally open to new experiences are more likely to be able to transform their trauma treatment into something meaningful and positive. It takes an active approach in their response to trauma to be able to reconsider and change belief systems, thought patterns, and behavior. Extroverts are also more likely to seek help from others, be more open, and share the details of the traumatic events or circumstances they were subjected to.

Another essential factor pertaining to post-traumatic growth could be an individual’s age. Young children lack the cognitive capacity to determine or change their worldview. Instead, they’re mainly led by emotions, and the negative, scary ones can become deeply ingrained if a traumatic event is experienced during childhood. Moreover, those deep-seated traumas typically carry over to adulthood and significantly influence relationships with other people, including the closest friends, family, and romantic partners.

What are the characteristics of post-traumatic growth?

People who go through these types of experiences might also develop changed perceptions and understanding of themselves and the world. Post-traumatic growth can also influence the way they relate to other people. Becoming more sensitive and sympathetic to other people’s hardships is also one of the positive characteristics of post-traumatic growth. And, the growth that helps you form closer and more meaningful relationships starts with the relationship you have with yourself.

Post-traumatic growth happens when people experience an event that forces them to change their beliefs so significantly that they change their perception of themselves and their worldview. These changes can be so profound and lifelong. Of course, not everybody with a traumatic experience will experience post-traumatic growth. Many people are capable of overcoming trauma, but there’s a difference between resilience and overcoming challenging circumstances and actual spiritual change. One of the main characteristics of post-traumatic growth is the ability to reflect and shift one’s perspective.

overcoming trauma

What are the positive effects of post-traumatic growth?

Going through post-traumatic growth is challenging and might take longer than you’d like, but its benefits are life-changing. If you embark on this journey of self-discovery and reclaiming your sense of agency and self-worth, you can:

  • Rediscover appreciation for life. Nothing makes people appreciate all the good things in life like being confronted with loss. This is when we realize how often we overlook or undervalue everything we have.
  • Improve relationships with others. Strengthening relationships with people usually happens as a form of support after a traumatic experience. It can lead to building new relationships with people who can offer support through challenging times and trauma victims with similar experiences. It can also make you grateful for those already present in your life. Crises are generally bonding experiences, however difficult and painful they might be.
  • Open to new possibilities in life. This is about adapting to new and unique circumstances and accepting the fact that some of your old habits and strategies don’t serve you anymore. Finding a new path in life and, more importantly, discovering the motivation to do so can present a massive opportunity for personal growth.
  • Find personal strength. You might surprise yourself with your own resilience and skills to handle trauma. You will also be better equipped to deal with any future challenges.
  • Experience spiritual change. Being spiritual doesn’t come naturally to all people. Some individuals are deeply pragmatic and quick to dismiss anything beyond the material world. Change happens when they experience emotional hardship that makes their world crumble. This is a true challenge to one’s core beliefs that could lead anyone to existential contemplations. However, changing for the better shouldn’t come out of fear. Instead, being more ethical, empathetic, and kind can come as a natural result of the previous effects.

Can post-traumatic growth positively affect my relationship?

All the benefits of post-traumatic growth can help you understand your needs better and take the time and effort to respond to the needs of others. You can bring your newfound optimism and appreciation for life into your relationship and make your partner feel more special and appreciated. You can feel and show that you’re thankful for having them and advance your relationship in new directions you may not have thought of before. Expressing your love and not fearing rejection is also immensely liberating and possible with your newly discovered strength and self-reliance.

Strengthening and deepening the connection in your relationships can make everyday interactions and minor conflicts easier to handle. As your self-image improves, so will the belief that you’re worthy of love. This confidence can help you resolve any potential ambivalence or unhealthy attachment. If you’ve been caught in a toxic or abusive relationship, you can finally find the determination and strength to leave it behind. You will know that you deserve better and won’t allow yourself to settle for unfulfilling relationships or manipulative partners.

trauma treatment

Achieve Personal Growth By Overcoming Trauma With PIVOT’s Help

The most important thing about post-traumatic growth is allowing yourself to believe and understand that it’s possible. Achieving post-traumatic growth doesn’t mean minimizing anyone’s pain and its significant impact on their lives. It certainly involves addressing unpleasant emotions and reliving experiences you might want to forget. However, this challenging process is also highly rewarding.

Sharing your story with people who went through similar experiences can be profoundly liberating and healing. You can rely on the guidance of our highly trained coaches in relaxing and intimate Glass House workshops. Individual sessions with PIVOT’s relationship advocates are also an option for those who don’t feel comfortable in group settings. Whatever option you choose, you can rest assured that our experts will safely lead you to healthier relationships through personal growth.

PTRS & New Relationships: Is It Possible To Find Love Again?

Experiencing an overwhelming mix of feelings after a breakup is perfectly normal. Even after a healthy relationship ends, both partners are often left wondering about various aspects of the relationship, behavioral patterns, things left unsaid, and other unresolved emotions. However, when it comes to intense turbulent relationships, things can get confusing, and the feelings you were left with could seem overwhelming and even scary.

You might have conflicting emotions after your breakup or feel like a lot of negativity is suddenly coming to the surface, you may be suffering from post-traumatic relationship syndrome (PTRS). PTRS-related emotions go far beyond the ordinary sadness or anger many of us feel after a relationship ends. If you’re haunted by intense negative feelings that persist for months after a breakup and those feelings are becoming increasingly disturbing, you might want to look into the symptoms of PTRS, find out what causes trauma, what being traumatized means, and address your unresolved issues before entering any new relationships.

Post-traumatic relationship syndrome is caused mainly by the stress experienced in an abusive intimate relationship, including:

  • Physical abuse, physical injuries, or threats.
  • Sexual abuse, rape, sexual coercion, and other types of sexual assault.
  • Emotional abuse, controlling behavior, possessiveness, manipulation, gaslighting.

Can PTRS Affect New Relationships?

Since abusive relationships are the most common cause of post-traumatic relationship disorder, it makes sense that unresolved issues from one or more toxic relationships can easily transfer to others. To some people, this could even be a pattern of behavior that they repeat over and over again, even though it typically ends badly. 

Unresolved issues from previous relationships, particularly toxic or abusive ones, can significantly influence our behavior and thought patterns and cause misunderstandings and difficulties with new people in our lives. Most individuals suffering from various types of trauma tend to self-isolate and avoid sharing their experiences and feelings with other people, even close friends, family, or romantic partners. A romantic relationship can be a minefield in this regard, as the closeness, intimacy, and a lot of time spent together allow for numerous opportunities for seemingly inexplicable friction and annoyance.

People suffering from PTRS could experience significant problems with connection to new people and trusting them if they’ve been traumatized by a previous relationship that might have been abusive and never managed to liberate themselves from feelings of fear, shame, guilt, or anger. When these issues are left unaddressed, emotional and physical intimacy become challenging and negative thoughts of feeling not worthy will continue to be on repeat in your thoughts and messages that you say to yourself. 

what causes trauma

What Are The Negative Effects Of PTRS On New Relationships?

When you enter a new relationship with PTRS issues left unaddressed, hoping they would simply go away on their own isn’t a safe bet. Even if you’re not repeating the pattern of choosing abusive partners repeatedly, you might still feel isolated and alone in a relationship with a genuinely caring and devoted person. These feelings can sabotage an otherwise healthy relationship, as you may not be able to feel safe or still blame yourself for the abuse you were subjected to.

It’s difficult to open yourself to new love, connection, and trust if you still feel scared, helpless, or unworthy. For these reasons, some people who experienced relationship abuse avoid getting into new relationships and may even turn away from friends and family. The most common effects of PTRS that can prevent you from forming a new relationship or negatively affect the current one are your unresolved feelings that reflect in how you relate to others.

Some of the common ones include:

  • Believing that you’re not worthy of a healthy relationship.
  • Unconsciously repeating toxic dynamics and going from one unhealthy relationship to another.
  • Having difficulty trusting even your family and close friends.
  • Self-isolation caused by feelings of guilt and shame.
  • Thinking that your loved ones blame you for staying in an abusive relationship.
  • Not having any support because you’re unable to share your experiences with others fearing they wouldn’t be able to understand or that they would blame you for putting up with an abusive partner.
  • Having trouble maintaining the sexual aspect of your relationship or completely losing interest in sex.

How Do I Overcome My PTRS Before My New Relationship?

The first step toward overcoming PTRS is to ask the question: what does being traumatized mean? Understanding what you are battling is a big step forward that will help rationalize your problems and help you to start thinking about them instead of just feeling the feelings that are provoked by your thoughts. Having a lot of feelings about traumatic experiences is perfectly valid and expected. Still, they can be so overwhelming that is is hard to start deconstructing what happened to you in a rational manner. Shifting out of unpleasant feelings requires changing your thoughts and behaviors.

Overcoming PTSD is not an easy process, but it’s necessary. Finding peace within yourself and coming to terms with what you went through can help you move on to better things in life, including close connections and healthy and loving relationships. To overcome the trauma of an abusive relationship, people usually go through some typical stages:

  • Understanding what they went through and realizing that it is, in fact, trauma, and allowing themselves to call it that.
  • Accepting that it happened and reflecting upon it, however painful it may be. This is best done with the guidance of relationship trauma experts or other professionals.
  • Understanding the emotional scars and effects trauma has on your mind and body.
  • Finding the strength and empowerment to go through It and emerge on the other side feeling more positive and hopeful about life.
what does traumatized mean

Find The Support You Need To Overcome Relationship Trauma With PIVOT

Being able to process what happened to you with expert guidance is support is the essential step in getting through PTRS. Then, you can learn to deal with your feelings safely and flexibly until you slowly overcome them. Navigating post-traumatic stress responses and feelings can require challenging work, but realizing that you’re not alone can help you with the feelings of isolation so you can allow yourself to trust people again and openly talk about your experiences.

Our Glass House retreats offer an ideal intimate setting for small group workshops led by experienced experts. If you don’t feel ready to discuss your issues with others, individual coaching sessions are also available, and our relationship advocates can guide you through the process, respecting your pace. With the support of PIVOT’s knowledgeable and experienced experts, you’ll be able to find your way back to trusting, healthy relationships.

PTRS: What Is It And How to Cope With It?

Most of us are no strangers to bad romantic relationships. Throughout our lives, we experience a wide range of scenarios that leave us hurt in ways that make it seem like the pain will last forever. Sometimes we’re the ones to make mistakes, take the people who love us for granted and end up hurting our partners badly. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that we can’t govern our emotions or choose who we love and how much; and neither can the person we’re in a relationship with. What we can choose, however, is what we do and how we act and treat one another.

Each painful romantic experience, whether we’re the ones being hurt, or the ones hurting someone who loves us, leaves a mark that influences and shapes our future relationships and our sense of self. In usual circumstances, all these experiences teach us something – how it feels to be hurt, how it feels to be the one causing pain to others, and hopefully, how it feels to push through the bad times and finally move on. Healing from heartbreak, and learning from it, is one of life’s essential skills and, if we’re lucky, one which helps us get better at choosing partners and treating them the way we want to be treated.

Some relationships, however, leave a mark so deep that moving on from the damage they’ve caused seems impossible. Experiencing severe trauma in a romantic relationship creates emotional and psychological distress far more complex than simple heartbreak. Despite not being an officially accepted mental health diagnosis, PTRS, or post-traumatic relationship syndrome, is widely accepted by many experts as a subcategory of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

What is PTRS, Post-Traumatic Relationships Syndrome?

PTRS results from a traumatic experience of an abusive intimate relationship. As opposed to PTSD, it isn’t caused by a single traumatic incident. Instead, it’s the effect of an entire abusive relationship that can manifest itself after the relationship is over, influencing one’s emotional and psychological well-being and the way they act in subsequent relationships. After the relationship ends, the affected partner may get a new perspective on the relationship and realize that it was, in fact, abusive. As a result, they could start having trouble forming or maintaining new relationships.

In some ways, PTRS is similar to PTSD as it may manifest itself through a set of the same or similar symptoms. However, the main difference is the lack of avoidance behavior as a coping mechanism. People who suffer from PTSD do their best to block out distressing feelings and memories by avoiding triggering situations, places, people, or even objects that would make them relive the traumatic experience. Unfortunately, those suffering from PTRS may do the opposite – repeat the same behavior patterns and place themselves in similar circumstances.

Some become unconsciously drawn to toxic relationships and might continue to repeat the traumatic experience with new partners. One of the reasons for this counterintuitive behavior might be the tendency to blame themselves for the severe trauma they experienced. The feelings of guilt and shame can cause them to isolate themselves even from close friends and family and never turn to them for support, thinking they would be able to understand them.

It’s not uncommon for people suffering from PTRS to keep revisiting the experienced trauma, preventing them from moving on and healing from it. As a result, they might become unable to form safe and healthy relationships with new people or believe they don’t deserve them. In addition, their ability to trust people may become severely damaged, preventing them from trusting not only new romantic partners but family members and friends as well.

recovery from trauma

What Are The Causes Of PTRS?

The main cause of PTRS is an abusive intimate relationship. Different types of abuse can happen in a relationship, and some are not as obvious as others. It’s easier to spot the most severe ones, like physical, sexual, or highly aggressive verbal abuse. However, there are also a lot of less noticeable and nuanced behaviors that can severely undermine one’s sense of self-worth and tear down their emotional and psychological well-being. Some of the less obvious causes of PTRS and signs of a toxic relationship can include:

  • Harsh criticism
  • Insults
  • Belittling
  • Snide remarks
  • Controlling or overly possessive behavior
  • Gaslighting
  • Emotional abuse and manipulation.

Some of the most common risk factors for PTRS could include:

  • A history of abuse or trauma
  • Certain types of mental health disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Family history of PTSD
  • Chronic stress
  • Poor coping skills.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of PTRS?

The main signs of PTRS are pretty similar to those of PTSD, with intense emotional reactions generally related to social interactions. However, PTRS can be challenging to recognize and diagnose because its symptoms don’t appear immediately after a single isolated traumatic event. Instead, they usually develop and build up gradually, over time, as a sum of all elements of abusive behavior someone was subjected to during the entire relationship.

Affected people may feel like they did something to provoke or deserve the abuse, causing them to feel guilt or shame, and like those suffering from PTSD, they feel unsafe, out of control, and struggle with intrusive thoughts.

Other typical signs of PTRS can include:

  • Getting easily irritated or angry.
  • Not being able to concentrate.
  • Having trouble sleeping.
  • Always being on edge (hypervigilance).
  • Having anxiety or panic attacks.
  • Feeling unsafe.
  • Difficulty trusting others.
  • Feelings of loneliness.
  • Isolating from people.
  • Not being able to form or maintain healthy relationships.
  • Jumping into new relationships too quickly.
  • Self-blame.
  • Shame.
  • Guilt.
  • Sexual dysfunction.

Another highly unpleasant and debilitating symptom that PTRS shares with PTSD is the presence of common intrusive thoughts about the abusive relationship and the trauma that the person went through. They might experience flashbacks, vivid mental images that make them feel like they’re reliving the abuse again. Nightmares about the trauma are also common, as well as intense feelings of distress triggered by thinking about the person they were in a relationship with.

severe trauma

How To Achieve Recovery From Trauma Of An Abusive Relationship?

Coping with the severe trauma caused by an abusive intimate relationship may require serious commitment over an extended period. The guidance of professionals with extensive experience with relationship dynamics and trauma can help you learn new coping strategies and use them to change distressing thought patterns and damaging behaviors. By adopting new ways of thinking about trauma, you will be able to gradually influence your emotional responses and overcome the traumatic experience.

You can rely on PIVOT’s relationship advocates to guide you on this challenging journey through individual sessions or by participating in small group workshops. Our Glass House retreats’ intimate setting can offer the ideal conditions for cultivating positive thoughts and regaining your strength. As a result, you can rediscover your sense of self-worth and the ability to form deep connections and maintain healthy relationships.

Relationships And Developmental Traumas: Is There A Negative Correlation?

Developmental trauma is a term used to describe the type of trauma that happens to a person during childhood. This is a vulnerable period of emotional, cognitive, and social development. Children don’t have the ability to process and understand events the same way adults do, so any negative experiences, particularly severe ones like any type of abuse or neglect, remain deeply rooted in a child’s emotional and psychological framework.

If children are continuously overwhelmed by negative emotions they’re not equipped to understand and handle, like all human beings, they find a way of adapting to environmental circumstances and developing their survival mode emotional responses. However, they lack the tools to do so constructively and rationally, leaving them with coping mechanisms that can, in some cases, be highly damaging to their sense of self, other people, and the world as a whole.

Individuals who experienced profoundly harmful events as children (physical, emotional, sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment) may grow up to view these patterns of behavior as usual and use a set of complex and frequently maladaptive defense mechanisms to cope with their emotions and life in general. Unfortunately, relationships with others suffer the consequences of these coping mechanisms because the affected individuals might be unable to recognize and change those behaviors even when they’re safe, and there’s no objective threat.

Can Developmental Traumas Affect Adult Relationships?

When left unidentified and unaddressed, developmental traumas can affect every aspect of a person’s life. Aside from one’s self-image and the general view of the world and people around them, this type of trauma can impact all adult relationships, professional and private ones. Since emotional bonds are something we adopt very early in life, if the recovery from childhood trauma never occurs, the feelings of mistrust and danger can carry over to relationships with coworkers, friends, family, and romantic partners.

The most intimate relationships naturally make us particularly vulnerable and susceptible to the influence of unresolved traumatic experiences. This type of relationship generally carries the high potential of bringing all our insecurities to the surface, which is, to a certain degree, to be expected. Loving someone makes us vulnerable by default. However, when we add the consequences of developmental trauma into the emotional whirlwind of a romantic relationship, things can get far more complicated and sometimes very painful and challenging for both sides.

Living and loving with unresolved trauma can feel like being a scared child trapped in an adult person’s body and life. The emotions and reasoning driven by this fear and irrational thought patterns can make you negatively perceive your partner’s behavior. Particularly if you’re already struggling with a sense of low self-worth, guilt, shame, or instinctive need to protect yourself aggressively even when there’s no real threat present.

developmental trauma

What Are The Negative Effects Of Developmental Traumas On Relationships?

Adult interpersonal relationships are primarily shaped by the relationships we had as children with our parents or caretakers. They form our relationship skills, attachment styles, and general outlook on life. If one’s childhood lacks affection, attention, and security, those feelings can become deeply ingrained and affect a person’s adult relationships in multiple ways.

Some of the most common ones include:

  • Irrational fear of abandonment. It can manifest as jealousy, possessiveness, and inability to trust others.
  • Establishing boundaries. Setting your own healthy boundaries and respecting other people’s is essential for mutual respect in a relationship.
  • Not asking for help. As a result of not having anyone to turn to as a child, some people might feel that they can only count on themselves and avoid showing vulnerability and turning to others even in times of crisis when the emotional support of a loved one can make all the difference.
  • Fear of conflict. As opposed to some trauma survivors whose emotional responses lead to escalating objectively harmless situations, others avoid conflict at all costs in an attempt to stay safe even when there’s no actual danger. Nevertheless, conflict resolution skills are a necessary part of every healthy relationship.
  • Causing objectively unnecessary conflict. Dysfunctional childhood development can also cause issues regulating your emotions, leading to frequent fights, annoyance, or resentment.
  • Staying in toxic relationships. Clinging to partners and relationships that are unsafe, disrespectful, or simply don’t make you happy and avoiding separation at all costs. Such relationships may be what they’re used to, so paired with the fear of abandonment, they might feel safer than being alone.
  • Isolating from people. This might be viewed as independence, but it can also lead to self-destructive behavior patterns, particularly if you feel you can’t trust anybody and rely only on yourself. Self-isolation can be caused by anxiety, depression, or being overwhelmed by interaction with others.

How Can I Stop Childhood Traumas From Affecting My Relationship?

One of the essential first steps toward recovery from childhood trauma is accepting it. This, of course, doesn’t mean surrendering to it and giving up. Instead, it means acknowledging its existence, identifying the main issues, making a plan to address them, and learning better ways to respond to situations which may trigger unfavorable behavioral patterns. After recognizing and accepting that you need to change how you think and act, you can begin this transformation process.

Not knowing how to do it and where to start is perfectly normal. There are trained and highly experienced professionals that can guide you along the way and help you learn new coping strategies. There are also things you can do to help yourself. You can:

  • Keep reminding yourself that healing takes time. So don’t get discouraged if you don’t feel significant improvement immediately. Sometimes you might feel like you’re stagnating, but even the smallest steps are leading you in the right direction.
  • Awareness and knowledge about your issues can help you get a new perspective on your experience. For example, you can read books dealing with the type of issues you’re facing or talk to people with similar experiences.
  • Sharing the details of your traumatic experience with your partner. You might not feel ready to do this for a while, but having your partner know what you’re dealing with will help them understand you better and offer support and care that might make the process easier. This, of course, applies to partners you feel safe with.
  • Making your needs a priority. Working through traumatic experiences can be scary, challenging, and exhausting. Make sure to take care of yourself by eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, exercising, and taking the time to reflect on your thoughts and feelings. Keeping a journal and meditating can help you with emotional regulation.
recovery from childhood trauma

Improve Your Relationships by Learning How to Cope With Developmental Trauma

Even though childhood trauma may seem like an unsurpassable obstacle in your relationship, it can certainly be overcome with commitment and proper guidance. Accepting that your developmental trauma issues are not your fault and changing your perspective will lead you to healthier thought and behavior patterns.

The extensive experience of PIVOT coaches can help you along this healing journey step by step. You can practice sharing your experiences with others in the comfortable and safe setting of Glass House retreats. Our small group workshops are guided by experienced professionals who will offer guidance and show you that building a loving and stable relationship is not an impossible ideal.

Unresolved Traumas And Relationships: What Are The Effects?

Most untreated injuries, both physical and emotional ones, either keep getting worse until we’re forced to do something about them or leave scars and damage we learn we learn to live with. Unlike physical scars, emotional and psychological ones are not as obvious. Some people might feel a vague sense that something’s wrong, while others simply accept them as a part of life. However, the effects of trauma can make our lives and relationships with other people significantly harder than they need to be.

The scars and wounds of unresolved trauma can leave us with a distorted sense of self and the people around us. They act as a filter through which we observe the world, preventing us from seeing it objectively and showing us only the bad and the scary. When we bring this type of mindset into a relationship, when we’re scared and always expecting the worst, we incorrectly attribute bad intentions to people and instinctively react to protect ourselves. Unfortunately, these reactions are often led by fear, anger, or other negative emotions.

However, trauma response is not always easy to recognize. While initial reactions to acute trauma can be overwhelming and hard to miss (fight, flight, freeze, fawn response), people with lasting unresolved trauma frequently try to bury hurtful emotions and repress painful memories. As a result, they often manifest as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and addictive or high-risk behaviors, leading to an inability to connect with others and form healthy, meaningful relationships. The causes of trauma can be different, but many symptoms and effects are quite similar.

Can Unresolved Traumas Impact Your Relationship?

People who never uncover the trauma they experienced, or alternatively, never address it, usually develop defense mechanisms to protect themselves from reexperiencing it and feeling the same pain and suffering. Unfortunately, some people’s coping mechanisms can be particularly unhealthy or ‘maladaptive’ and cause significant difficulties that prevent them from forming or maintaining healthy relationships with others. All types of relationships can get affected: the ones with friends, family, children, or romantic partners.

The main reason behind this is usually a distorted sense of self. When we don’t feel good about ourselves, have low self-esteem, and feel unworthy of attention and love, it’s easy to presume that others see us that way too. This is far from the truth. This phenomenon can be compared to twisted images of carnival mirrors that we used to find funny as children. In other words, we become unable to see ourselves objectively and recognize that others don’t see the exact same thing we see.

From where they’re standing, they could see a different distorted version without being aware of the underlying causes of your behavior, reactions, and hurt. Not expressing your fears and worries and channeling them through harmful behavior patterns can make it impossible for others to reach through to you and provide the support you need. Or they’ve been trying to do it for a long time, but the lens you’re looking through prevents you from recognizing genuine affection and love.

acute trauma

How Does Unresolved Trauma Impact Relationships?

All the negative events and experiences we were exposed to during childhood or as adults leave their mark on our sense of self and others. The behaviors we adopt to protect ourselves, adapt, and survive strongly influence our ability to form and maintain healthy, loving relationships. Early childhood trauma usually shapes our attachment style and sense of self-worth. But even when we experience acute trauma later in life, as adults, it can still make us feel unsafe, anxious, and mistrustful while still feeling the vital need for the comfort of a loving, healthy relationship.

This creates a specific type of ambivalent behavior that may seem very confusing to romantic partners. People with unresolved trauma can often exhibit some unhealthy behaviors that could complicate even minor issues and disagreements:

  • Fear of being alone.
  • Fear of abandonment.
  • Difficulty trusting people.
  • Controlling behavior.
  • Bullying.
  • Perfectionism.
  • Constant fear or even panic.
  • Isolating from others and pushing people away.
  • Fear of change and anything new.
  • Indecisiveness.
  • Codependent relationships and attachment styles.
  • Excessive people-pleasing.
  • Needing validation from others.
  • No healthy boundaries
  • Self-deprecation.

People who experienced some type of acute trauma often suffer from one or more behavioral and mental health issues that prevent them from forming close connections with other people. Some of the most common emotional and mental health hardships that stand in the way of healthy relationships and attachment styles include:

  • Adjustment disorders
  • Acute stress disorder
  • PTSD
  • Mental health conditions
  • Phobias
  • Substance abuse
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Obsessive or compulsive behavior.
trauma response

How Do You Prevent Traumas From Affecting Your Relationship?

Even when people are aware of the underlying causes of their relationship difficulties, simply knowing what the problem may be is usually not enough. Aside from being identified, trauma-related issues need to be thoroughly addressed. This might, depending on their severity, require expert guidance and support.

The first step to overcoming trauma is understanding what it is and learning about its effects. This will help you accept the fact that your issues are fixable and give you the incentive to:

  • Uncover your trauma. Share it with people you trust or a professional if you feel you can’t confide in people in your life or they wouldn’t understand what you’re going through.
  • Practice awareness and mindfulness. Notice what triggers negative emotions, identify them, name them, and allow yourself to feel them. Resist the urge to push them down or distract yourself away from what you’re feeling.
  • Rely on your own strength and self-care for comfort. Think about the things that make you feel good about yourself and use them to lift yourself up in tricky situations.
  • Notice your progress. Keeping a journal might help you get a new perspective on painful experiences and the ways you’ve been dealing with them before.
  • Remember that it’s not a race. Take the time you need, and don’t get discouraged if you feel that you’re not progressing as fast as you’ve hoped. You can slow down if it gets hard and pick up where you left off when you feel ready again. 

Going through the journey of your trauma may feel long and painful, but the benefits of persisting are numerous and will help you improve your well-being and relationship dynamics. You will learn to:

  • Protect yourself when necessary.
  • Create boundaries.
  • Become assertive.
  • Find courage.
  • Accurately assess danger and avoid or leave high-risk situations, including unhealthy relationships.
  • Be present in the moment and your life.
  • Have Compassion for yourself and others.
  • Compromise.
  • Listen more actively.

Learn Healthier Ways To Manage Your Trauma Response And Improve Your Relationships

By practicing more constructive thought and behavior patterns, you can unlearn harmful coping mechanisms that may have made you feel isolated, misunderstood, and unseen. PIVOT’s relationship advocates can guide you through identifying your feelings, sharing them, and connecting with others within healthy boundaries.

If you feel isolated and alone, you can address your emotions in a safe environment of a small group workshop with people with similar issues in Glass House workshops led by our experienced coaches.