When it comes to trauma, it’s like this big, black hole that constantly weighs you down, and also trauma affects your trust on your partner when you are in a relationship.
Trauma comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be a huge event or a more subtle pain that you try hard to overlook, though it still haunts you. Collective traumas are suffered by many. They include war, terrorism, an accident, or a catastrophic weather episode that results in death or other forms of mass loss and upheaval.
Individual traumas are those that happen uniquely and specifically to you, such as threats, assaults, abuse, family strife, and physical or mental boundary violations. Individual traumas are often experienced silently and can feel like your own personal prison.
When you’re traumatized, there’s a driving internal force to feel safe and cared for, especially by your partner. Whether you’re conscious of it or not, this can become your central focus as you try to heal. You delve into if/then scenarios in an effort to soothe yourself and look for a way out of that uncomfortable place you are in. If your partner can just reassure you, support you, and help you deal with your pain, then you will feel protected, validated, and able to heal.
However, it’s essential to be aware that what you’re hoping to receive from the relationship may be unrealistic or disproportionate to what your partner can give.
Trauma is so overwhelming and creates such internal chaos that it distorts your ability to gauge what your partner can realistically offer. This may be in part because they have been traumatized too, whether or not either of you realizes it. Not only does your trauma affect how you perceive the comfort you receive, but your partner’s trauma affects their ability to provide what you’re looking for as you seek out safety and security.
When you’ve endured collective or individual trauma, your trust in how things are supposed to be is drastically altered. In turn, your sense of safety and connection to yourself and others is negatively impacted. You are bracing for the next impact, whether or not one will follow. Understandably, there’s a need within you to secure your foundation and establish or re-establish a sense of stability in the world.
Whether you’re in a new relationship or one that’s established, you may be looking to your partner to do the impossible: fill the void created by trauma.
Be aware that being traumatized is akin to being betrayed, and that you might carry feelings of vulnerability, exposure, and pain. The last thing you want is for your relationship to create further feelings of betrayal and disappointment because you don’t feel understood or validated. Therefore, it’s crucial to remember that your partner comes from a different background, life experience, and has different communication patterns from you.
They exist in a different body and have a different brain. The onus is on you to communicate with your partner and to describe as best you can what you’re feeling and why. Try to resist slipping into a thought process of expecting them to “just know” what you are feeling and experiencing. While your pain may be all-consuming, and those thoughts in your head may be very loud, understand that these feelings belong to you. You might have to power through your own trauma just long enough to help your partner help you to feel better.