One of the major side effects of trauma is that survivors often experience difficulties and abuse in their relationships, even after they’ve begun their healing process. Let’s explore a few ways trauma harms relationships and what steps you can take to make all of your relationships safe and nurturing:
Relationship Trauma Symptoms
Isolation: Many trauma survivors become so mistrustful of people that they prefer to be alone because they fear getting hurt. While this may provide temporary relief from the fear and risk that’s a natural part of forming bonds, in the long run it is unhealthy and can lead to loneliness and mental health issues.
Premature attachment: Latching onto strangers early on in a relationship is common among trauma survivors. But attaching yourself to anyone, no matter how nice they seem, before you can assess whether or not they’re safe and healthy, is dangerous.
Extreme caretaking: In an effort to make others like them, some trauma survivors go overboard trying to please people. Giving too much of your time, energy, and resources to someone who is not equally giving to you is a sign that you’re engaged in extreme caretaking. The danger of this type of behavior is that you will end up with attachments to people who are users or who may like you but feel overwhelmed by your ‘nurturing.’
Relationship blind spots: One of the most dangerous pitfalls facing trauma survivors is failing to catch early warning signs that a person is abusive, dangerous, or simply not that into the relationship. If you’re overly eager to attach quickly to the new person or take care of their needs, you will not be able to see if they are engaging in the type of behavior you want in your life.
Creating Safe Relationships
Trust your gut: One of the first things you must learn is to listen to your gut. Because trust is earned by watching a person’s behavior over time, it’s important to listen to your gut early on in the relationship. If you just met someone, whether they’re a new friend, distant relative or a potential romantic partner, listen to your inner voice. If you feel something just isn’t right about them, steer clear.
Take your time: Make it a habit to never rush into relationships with others. Remember, trust is something that is earned, never given away. It’s healthy to not fully trust strangers because you don’t know them or their motivations. But you can give people a chance to prove their trustworthiness. By allowing people a little access to your life over a long period of time, you can watch their actions and judge if their behavior matches their words.
Use a sounding board: When assessing a potential new friend or romantic partner, bounce ideas off of someone your trust. This could be a friend, family member or even your therapist. If you’re unsure about the appropriateness of a person’s behavior or words, don’t be afraid to discuss it and consider the advice of others. But remember, always listen to and follow your own instincts, even if it contradicts with what your friends believe.
As you continue your recovery journey, understand that it’s natural to face challenges with building healthy relationships. But no matter how many challenges you face, there are tools you can use to build the safe and nurturing relationships you deserve.