The Past and The Present
Unresolved trauma can have the ability to manifest into triggers and have a damaging effect on relationships, more so with partners.
One way triggers can emerge can be how we replay past events and apply them to current situations. Take, for example, Jane, a 35-year-old woman entering into a new relationship with John, following the breakdown of her marriage. She notices that John does not comment on her cooking when they sit down for dinner. John simply talks about his day and asks Jane about hers. Jane becomes withdrawn from the conversation and struggles to settle for the remainder of the evening.
It is difficult to see why John's behaviour has triggered Jane. So, let us delve a little deeper.
Jane’s ex-husband would emotionally abuse her. He would make comments on the way she looked, the way she dressed, and even how she cooked. Jane became used to seeking her ex-husband's approval - and could not settle until he specifically stated he was happy - for fear of repercussions.
Going back to the scenario with John and Jane, we can see that John did not confirm with Jane that he was happy with dinner, resulting in Jane fearing how John will behave later on in the evening. Here, Jane's past trauma has turned mealtimes with John into triggers, whether she is consciously aware of this or not. Yet John is oblivious to all of this.
Sometimes, we can never truly understand the power our past memories have on how we behave moving forward.
In relationships, we are very good at blaming a partner instead of looking at ourselves and taking responsibility for our behaviour. It can sometimes feel easier to place blame than address our own behaviours.
As a reader, you may have opinions about Jane's relationship with John. Jane could have communicated with John about her triggers so that John was better prepared to provide support to Jane. John could have paid more attention to Jane’s body language. Left unresolved, Jane may become irritable over time from John’s lack of sensitivity. John may start to think that Jane is becoming overly sensitive. Due to a lack of communication, arguments can start to manifest, leading to a breakdown in the relationship.
This is where self-understanding (the ability to understand our own behaviour and reactions) can play a significant role in a relationship alongside communication. We begin to learn what triggers lead to our behaviours, and accepting this can be a part of our healing process.
Addressing unresolved trauma can be difficult and takes time. However, the following strategies can support you and your partner to find ways in managing any related triggers.
Self-understanding can support your own learning and understanding of triggers and associated events. Learning how unresolved trauma impacts your relationship can prepare you and your partner to find ways in managing the occurrence of triggers.
Communicate and take the time to check in on each other at least once a week to discuss how things have been, both as individuals and as a couple.
With additional responsibilities like parenthood and work commitments, time as a couple can become not existent, leading to a lack of intimacy. Providing time for one another builds trust between partners, allowing each other to feel appreciated and heard.
Healing takes time. Triggers can sometimes feel like the third partner in a relationship causing a barrier between you.
If you are struggling and require professional support, you may well find yourself benefiting from couples counselling. This is a talking therapy where you can chat freely and openly about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours within a relationship. This can often help you understand your partner better and also help them understand you better. In this way, you can relate more easily, and appreciate each other’s motivations and thoughts, which goes a long way towards bringing a couple closer again. This counselling also helps you communicate more effectively with each other, allowing you to express your needs and expectations.
Call today to find out how I can support you and your partner on 07305 920 437