Trauma: The Third Person in Your Relationship

Severe trauma can cause some serious problems in relationships. If you have experienced it, it may feel like it is a third person in all of your relationships. It is always there, lurking in the back of your mind, waiting to influence your reactions. Here are some things you can do to keep that third person from damaging your relationships. 

1. Set appropriate boundaries. People who have gone through trauma are often triggered when others do not respect their boundaries. Unfortunately, these people often also have a hard time setting appropriate boundaries. Spend some serious time writing down boundaries that would be helpful for you. Practice saying "no" kindly and firmly. If there are people who don't respect these boundaries (or who trigger you often and you don't know why yet), it is fine for you to avoid them while you are healing.

2. Make an escape plan. Sometimes you may find yourself triggered during conversations and you aren't sure why. It is best to escape so you don't damage your relationship by saying things you don't mean. You can say that you forgot something you need to do, create a keyword you can text to someone close to you to signal them to call you, run to the bathroom, or whatever feels appropriate in the situation. Honor your feelings, accept that they are ok, and go to a safe place where you can examine your emotions. 

3. Think of the trauma as another person. This may sound strange, but it can help you separate your reactions from the other person in a relationship. There will be many things they will say or do that will cause strong reactions, but they are usually not "wrong." Don't let these things destroy your relationship. Assign them to the correct "person," which is the trauma. Neither you nor your partner are at fault most of the time. If you both acknowledge that the trauma there, it will be easier to stay close to each other.

4. See a counselor. This is important to do both alone and with your partner. The counselor can help you learn to control your thoughts, understand your behaviors, and uncover your underlying belief systems. 

5. Create space. You may need to get a hotel room from time to time so you can get the space you need to deal with your trauma. Take "healing" weekends and read books, journal, listen to music, meditate, see your counselor, or talk to other survivors. 

As you do these things, you will be able to work through your trauma while still keeping your relationships strong. For more information, talk to a professional like Meiers Gary J Hammond/Meiers J A & Associates Ltd edmonton.