How Childhood Trauma Can Wreck Your Adult Relationships

childhood trauma

[5] Did you often or very often feel that … You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?

[6] Was a biological parent ever lost to you through divorce, abandonment, or other reasons?

[7] Was your mother or stepmother:
Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?

[8] Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?

[9] Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?

[10] Did a household member go to prison?

Related: The Impact and Long-Term Effects of Childhood Traumas and Complexes

These experiences actually change the way our brains function and cause us to develop beliefs about ourselves that make us hunger for a relationship where we can heal but also are triggered by stresses that arise in our relationships.

Here are seven common self-limiting beliefs.

Check off the ones you feel may be operating in your life today. They probably don’t have these thoughts all the time, but they often play out in our subconscious and act like a program running in the background, undermining our peace and well-being and coming out more strongly when we feel stressed.

1. I am not safe.

2. I am worthless.

3. I am powerless.

4. I am not lovable.

5. I cannot trust anyone.

6. I am bad.

7. I am alone.

Which of these beliefs have you noticed in your own life? Which ones do you feel may be operating in the life of your partner?

The bad news is that unhealed trauma can change our brains. Trauma can cause us to be constantly “on alert.”

Our brain never shuts down and relaxes. Even when we’re with a loving partner, our brains are constantly scanning for danger. We often misinterpret things our partner says or does as an attack. We become locked in a negative loop, where we see our partner as a source of danger, rather than support.

Related: Growing Through Trauma: How To Not Let A Bad Childhood Define Your Life

The result is that we experience physical, emotional, and relationship problems that cause our marriages to fail. Even good marriages bend under the weight of misunderstandings and lost hopes and dreams. What’s worse is that we come to blame our partner or ourselves and we fail to recognize the real cause of our problems in our early experiences with our first love objects, our parents.

The good news is that healing can occur. There’s a lot we can do ourselves. I highly recommend the book, Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology and How You Can Heal by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. You’ll learn about how our childhood impacts our health and well-being and more importantly the things we all can do to heal. Let us know what you’ve experienced, what questions you have, and what healing has worked for you.

In case you want to know more about childhood trauma, check out this video below:


Written by Jed Diamond Ph.D
Originally appeared in The Goodmen Project
How Childhood Trauma Impacts our Physical, Emotional and Relational Health
How Childhood Trauma Impacts our Physical, Emotional and Relational Health
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How Childhood Trauma Can Wreck Your Adult Relationships
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