Past experiences can shape who you are and how you experience the world. All of your experiences meld together to create your unique perspective.
Past trauma can also impact the way you approach relationships. According to research from the National Center for PTSD, 60% of men and 50% of women will experience at least one significant traumatic event in their lives. Whether the trauma is from childhood, a romantic relationship, a job, or something else, its impact can affect your relationships, attachment style, and communication.
If you’re reading this, you may be wondering, “is my past trauma affecting me now?” Here are six signs your past trauma may be impacting your relationships.
But First, What Is Trauma?
Trauma falls into “big T” and “little t” categories. “Big T” trauma tends to be the things you typically recognize as a traumatic event. This could be a natural disaster, serious or life-threatening injury, physical or sexual violence, or another event that feels entirely out of your control.
“Little t” trauma tends to refer to exposure to situations you felt like you could not cope with alone. This may look like losing a meaningful relationship, emotional abuse, divorce, prolonged conflict, or persistent stress.
Childhood traumas, both “big T” and “little t,” greatly impact adulthood. For example, adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are linked to poorer physical health, mental health concerns, substance use disorders, and challenges with relationships and professional opportunities in the future.
Regardless of the nature of your personal trauma history, these events play a significant role in how you see the world. So, how do you know that your trauma is affecting your relationships?
You Feel Anxious or Fearful
Feeling insecure in your relationship may be a sign that your past trauma is having an impact. If you had an unreliable caregiver or instability in past romantic relationships, you might have an anxious attachment style. Anxious attachment may look like jealousy, insecurity, distrust, or fearing rejection.
As a result, relationships can be challenging. You may push people away or become overly clingy. You might also fear abandonment and find intimacy difficult.
You’re Ignoring Your Needs
Ignoring your own needs is a sign your trauma may be affecting your relationship. For example, if you feel anxious in your relationship, you may ignore what you need to feel safe.
Your needs are important. But if you feel anxious, you may suppress your needs out of fear of losing the relationship or being a burden.
Over time, this can result in resentment. Neglecting yourself consistently can also deteriorate your emotional well-being.
You Struggle to Commit
Whether it is committing to plans with friends or committing to a long-term romantic partner, this may be a sign that past trauma is affecting your relationships. Trauma due to emotional or physical neglect or an inattentive caregiver may result in an avoidant attachment style.
Avoidant attachment may look like pushing a friend or partner away to avoid rejection. Similarly, commitment issues may stem from worrying about hurting others- you avoid making a decision because you don't want to face difficult consequences.
You Struggle With Your Physical Boundaries
Past trauma may impact your ability to listen to, trust, and respect your own physical boundaries around closeness and intimacy. For example, this may look like saying yes to sexual intimacy when you are not actually in the mood.
This struggle often comes from feeling like you don't "deserve" to respect your physical needs. If you notice that your relationship with physical touch and intimacy feels out of whack, it may be a signal that your past trauma is affecting your relationship.
You Repeat Patterns
If you have past trauma in a friendship, you may find yourself seeking friendships that mirror that dynamic. In a way, this recreates the trauma.
In a romantic sense, you may continue to be attracted to people with similar challenges to a past partner. This pattern could be your brain’s way of trying to process your past trauma and “fix” the traumatic event in your next relationship.
You Have Difficulty Trusting
Trust is one of the most important aspects of all relationships. Trust helps you feel safe and secure in relationships with friends, romantic partners, and family members. If you have past trauma, you may find it hard to trust new relationships. If you had an inconsistent caregiver as a child, this could show difficulty trusting new partners as an adult.
Is Past Trauma Affecting Your Relationships?
Trauma is common, and understanding the ways it may impact your current relationships can be empowering. Most people experience some combination of “big T” and “little t” trauma throughout their life. In addition, trauma can impact your attachment style, which indicates the ways you behave in relationships.
If you notice any of these signs in your own relationships, it indicates that trauma is affecting your relationships. That said, healing from trauma is possible.
At The Resurface Group, we understand the impact trauma has on recovery, self-esteem, and relationships. Wherever you are in your journey, we are here for you. Contact us today to learn more.