12 minute read –
Relationships can be both a source of profound joy and deep pain. Some form of trauma tends to show up in most people’s lives under the realms of family, past relationships, or the weariness of dating exhaustion and rejection. Trauma refers to something that can be deeply distressing or a disturbing experience that can have lasting emotional or psychological effects. Trauma can show up as life uncertainties, developmental challenges, interpersonal relationships, cultural or societal factors, or even biological factors.
What most fail to discover or make conscious to learn more about is how our own personal trauma shows up in romantic relationships and how it can impact another human being. If one of the main purposes in life is to evolve as a human species, then you would think we should be delving deeper into our own minds with the goal of overcoming barriers and gaining further wisdom.
Understanding Relationship Trauma
Family Dynamics: Unraveling the Past
Family is the cornerstone of our early experiences and can be a source of both comfort and conflict. Childhood wounds, whether from emotional neglect, abuse, or dysfunctional dynamics, can cast long shadows on our adult relationships. Psychologically, this phenomenon is rooted in attachment theory, where early experiences shape our expectations of love and connection. In healing, it becomes crucial to acknowledge and understand these patterns, realizing that the past doesn’t define the present. Drawing on stoic philosophy, the power to change lies in our response to these past wounds rather than in the wounds themselves. Past events don’t have to define you as a person, but they can shape you into who you choose to become, or how you ultimately show up in relationships.
Previous Relationships: Navigating Heartbreak
The end of a romantic relationship, especially one marked by betrayal, infidelity, or emotional abuse, can leave a person grappling with profound emotional scars. Psychologically, it is also linked to attachment styles, trust issues, and a fundamental fear of vulnerability. With evolution in mind and a goal for personal peace, happiness, and detachment, singles would be wise to delve into the stoic philosophy of accepting that we cannot control the actions of others but we can control our own reactions. Stoicism teaches us to find strength in our resilience and cultivate inner peace, even in the face of heartbreak. One of the more admirable Stoic philosophies to follow is Amor Fati, which means to “love your fate”. It means to choose to love your scenario or situation, regardless of it being good or bad, but for the courage to appreciate situations as either blessings or lessons. In the words of Jay Shetty, “Your past does not define you, but your present and future are shaped by how you respond.”
Dating Exhaustion and Rejection: The Weariness of the Heart
Modern dating, with its swipe-left culture and constant search for the ideal partner, can be a breeding ground for exhaustion and rejection. Sophy Singer, the CEO and co-founder of Sophy Love Matchmaking has coined the term ‘micro rejections”. You can experience little cuts or pushbacks every time you log on to a dating app. The attempts at little mini interactions with potential matches often fall off or ghost which ends up leading nowhere. The repeated experiences of feeling unseen or unlovable can wound the spirit deeply, impacting self-esteem and a person’s belief in the possibility of a healthy relationship. This psychological fatigue can contribute to feelings of loneliness or unworthiness, where the need for belonging and acceptance is ingrained in human nature. The way to combat this is by pouring into yourself. Show up as the person you wish to meet. Self-care, self-expansion, self-growth, personal understanding, and self-appreciation through gratitude can all be great tools to shift any negative thinking and bring you back to your authentic center.
Healing from Trauma While In A Relationship
Mindfulness and Present Moment Awareness
Your life essentially is a collection of memories. Moments that have impacted you, taught you lessons, made you laugh, cry, or experience pure bliss. However, these moments don’t define you. If you’ve experienced past trauma that is affecting how you show up in a relationship, then it’s time to do some inward reflecting. Your inner world is a projection of your internal reality. Sometimes we may find ourselves in relationships that trigger us. A boyfriend does something that repeatedly angers you, or a girlfriend has a habit that you may feel annoyed by. Any time we experience an extreme emotion, it’s unveiling personal healing that has yet to be conquered. Emotions are energy in motion. The starting point to overcoming your own limiting beliefs and emotions is to recognize when it’s happening. Become present to the frustration, trigger, fear, or annoyance and try to understand where it’s coming from and why.
Cognitive Restructuring: Shaping Positive Thought Patterns
Cognitive restructuring involves identifying and challenging a negative thought pattern. In the context of relationship trauma, this means reevaluating limiting beliefs about oneself, love, and trust. You have the power to cultivate a rational and balanced perspective. We are not meant to venture through this life alone either. Finding a mentor, coach, therapist, or experienced teacher to lean into can be key to mastering your mind or any negative thought patterns. Olympic athletes don’t become the best in the world just from being, they find a coach, or multiple coaches at that. Outer knowledge is your greatest asset. There is always something to learn, be inspired by, or become.
Self-Compassion: Nurturing the Inner Self
Compassion towards oneself is a crucial element in the journey of healing. Self-compassion involves treating oneself with the same kindness and understanding that one would offer to a friend in times of distress. Self-love is the foundation of a healthy relationship. When you can understand yourself, love yourself, and value yourself, then it opens up the door to the same kind of love finding you and honoring the same. Journaling, podcasts, taking courses on trauma, relationships, dating, or even stoicism can all be great tools to nurture your inner self. Lead with compassion, and find the courage to want to understand what makes up all the facets of your mind.
The Formula for Healing in a Relationship
The past is the past. You can not fight or change it. Learn to see it as a tool for becoming a better and stronger person. Let go of unnecessary attachments, pointing blame or not taking responsibility. Your life is your life, it’s yours to own, and it’s yours to choose to love or to hate. Regardless, that is your choice. Cultivate mindfulness to observe your thoughts and emotions without judgment. By staying present, you reclaim the power to respond to life’s challenges with grace and wisdom.
Challenge and reshape limiting beliefs about love, trust, and self-worth. There are millions of tools accessible to support you through these challenges and trauma-inflicting beliefs. They exist for a reason. Treat yourself with kindness and understanding. Embrace the journey of self-discovery and self-love, recognizing that your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have.
Adopt the evolutionary principles of virtue and self-improvement. As you heal, focus on becoming the best version of yourself. True happiness lies in aligning your actions with virtues such as wisdom, courage, patience, and temperance. Healing from relationship trauma is a profound journey that intertwines psychological principles with timeless wisdom. Draw from the experience of others and be humble enough to realize, that no one has all the answers and everyone’s path to healing looks different.
More importantly, if you find yourself in a relationship while healing from trauma, make sure it is a safe place to be. Being with a partner who supports you, is compassionate, and wants the best for you is crucial for the longevity of the relationship but also for personal healing and growth. Relationships can be a tool for self-discovery if utilized respectfully and compassionately. Remember, every person, situation, or circumstance is offering you a lesson or a blessing.
Epictetus Quote: "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak."