• Healing Traumatized Relationships

    In a previous post, we explored the ways in which trauma from years or even decades ago could affect your relationship today. Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) is an effective way to combat those aftereffects and get your relationship to a more stable and satisfying place.

    The echoes of trauma can wreak havoc on relational attachment, accelerating and intensifying patterns of behavior that disconnect us from our partners. When memories of past trauma are triggered, they can override our ability to clearly read what’s happening in the moment and send the traumatized person into a fight, freeze or flight response. These reactions can confuse or frighten their partner, who may then respond back by reflecting confusion, anger or withdrawal.

    As an EFT therapist, when I work with a couple dealing with past trauma, I strive to create a safe environment, so clients feel secure enough to talk about the way trauma affects their relationship. I say “clients” because, while the trauma may have happened to one partner, it can steal joy and create fear for both, with both people frequently experiencing the loss of emotional connection and safety. In treatment, I work as an ally to both partners without framing either as “the problem.”

    One of the first steps in treatment is to slow conflicted interactions and help the couple understand what’s happening within and between each of them in the moments that trigger traumatic memories. Though the responses of a partner coping with trauma are many and varied, common ones include anger or emotional numbing. These reactions may have been appropriate and even helpful at the time the trauma occurred. For example, a person who becomes emotionally numb during a sexual assault to protect themselves makes perfect sense, but can create difficulties for a relationship when they resurface in the present.

    Both partners need to feel heard as they explore their inner worlds. This does not mean that they expose and share every factual detail of the trauma. Instead, the focus is on sharing longings, emotions, intentions and the ways we view themselves and the world. As partners start to understand each other more deeply, they can stop seeing trauma-related behaviors as personal rejections and failings — and they begin to see these responses as a misunderstood effort to connect. This empowers them to break the negative pattern of triggering and often misunderstood reactions they’ve been experiencing.

    When the conflict cycle has been calmed, a couple gets accustomed to sharing more vulnerable emotions whenever they’re beset by traumatic memories. Just as important, they learn how to accept and respond when their partner is affected by past trauma. The traumatized person learns to reach out and to make themselves vulnerable so that each partner can have the experience of being emotionally engaged with the other.

    Sometimes EFT alone is enough, but at other times, clients may benefit from supplementary counseling. For example, if the traumatized partner doesn’t want to share the details of the traumatic event(s), individual counseling may be beneficial. If trauma is affecting your relationship, Couples Therapy Orlando is available to assist you. Call 407-579-2070 today for a complimentary phone conversation to see if EFT is right for you.

    Therapy services available via Telehealth.