Relationship Trauma: Ways to correct the crazy

You simply cannot avoid relationship trauma.

Perhaps you’re balking as you read the words “relationship” and “trauma ” in the same sentence.  – or sighing with relief as you resonate with this. After all relationships are supposed to be our ideal spiritual home, the place we strive towards as a sacred ambition . Relationships are supposed to bring us ultimate happiness, freedom from sitting on the shelf of single loneliness and regular sexual activity and orgasms. Relationships are our safe haven , the partner being forever and a day  your  one and only “person ” who watches your back.

Trauma , on the other hand , is the exact opposite. Its when things get emotionally messy. Trauma is  an interrupted flow , it upsets our regular balance and that  leaves us feeling helpless and afraid. We feel stuck. Anxiety, anger, sadness flood us.

All you want to do when you have these feelings is run away or fight your way out of these horrid feelings. For example, maybe you literally get into your car and drive away.  Perhaps you engage , bombard , demand answers, invade until the bloodshed has happened..

You may also freeze, totally go numb and shut down- by swallowing a sedative, drinking too much alcohol,  hours watching porn, numbing out and staying silent. Or perhaps  your automatic learned strategy is to  submit – which means being super nice, trying to befriend  and appease .

You’re  getting the connection between trauma and relationships, right ?! You can see how the bliss of relationships can feel traumatic . And that’s before we get to the life changing traumatic events such as divorce,  ending of a relationship, death of a partner or infidelity. This is just every day pain, disappointment , that you have to manage in order to stay , stay sane , hopeful and even happy.

The very nature of deep connection sets one up for ongoing fluxes of  high and low moods. Seriously, who is brave enough to risk being that vulnerable , exposed, raw and trusting of another person – a stranger really?! So you use all kinds of protective behaviour , learned in early childhood, to ensure that you do not get too damaged – either from daily disappointments or deep pain of a definitive final loss of a partner .

Low moods of dis-ease may arise whilst  waiting for a text message, a  voice call,   hoping  a promise made will be kept. High moods  can occur whilst making love, agreements are made and kept, kindness , appreciation and acknowledgement shown.

Living in low moods constantly and consistently over a period of time will make you feel as if you are living in a war zone. You develop a hyper alertness , a feeling of walking on eggshells , which will keep your brain on fire – and pow – you experience all the symptoms of trauma , without naming them as trauma. You are experiencing relationship as trauma.

Think about your daily exchanges with your partner and tick off what applies to you. The more you tick off, the more likely you are living with too many trauma feelings in your relationship :

I feel :

  • powerless
  • disconnected from myself
  • disconnected from my partner
  • disconnected from others in my world
  • unmanageable stress around my partner
  • unable to control my emotions
  • unable to control, my behaviour
  • emotionally violated
  • little self value
  • emotionally unsafe
  • despairing
  • physically ill

Many of us carry a history of relationship trauma to one degree or another.

Let’s go parent bundu bashing. Let’s blame the folks or your primary care givers.  After all they are your  first  and most important relationship and mould your capacity for intimate relationships. .

If they as a couple or individually as a single parent,  were super stable, consistent and present for you, you got lucky. You have a excellent chance of having an ability to securely attach to intimate partner/s. This means when there is conflict, disagreements and disappointments, you are likely to hold on to yourself,  sit through the discomfort , self soothe and negotiate .  No fight/flight/freeze, faint/befriend response.

No trauma – unless you find yourself in relationship with  disorganised partner/s. This person has  had  so much  childhood physical  /emotional abandonment , so much push/ pull that they are unable to attach – but also cannot detach . Messy and traumatic to live with .

If you find you’re anxious , clingy and wanting enmeshment with a partner/s, you probably had care givers who were pretty absent , or highly anxious themselves. Any harsh or critical words from a partner, any feeling of neglect from your person , can get you  to spin you out of control , make you feel kind of crazy, and pow- you’re right into that fight/flight/freeze/ please response.

IDEAS ON MANAGING DAILY RELATIONSHIP STRESS – BEFORE IT BECOMES TRAUMATIC:

  • Acknowledge your own crazy.  Spend time self reflecting and owning what kind of attachment story is yours. Once you know this, you have something concrete to work with . For more on this, listen to Alain de Botton 
  • Integrate mindfulness into your daily practice. Relationships are tough, require toughness . Mindfulness allows you emotional regulation required to manage the ebbs and flows relationships naturally bring
  • Yoga stills the mind. Practice it regularly to avoid your usual coping pattern of fight/flight/faint/tend/befriend
  •  Excessive drugs/ alcohol use, excessive porn/internet use are typical ways of stilling the brain . They add trauma to your life through the secrecy, judgment  and shame that follows.
  •  Once your brain is still, you are able to think and  be more realistic about yourself, your partner/s and your relationship expectations.

For more information on Trauma in Relationships, contact me