Relationship trauma counselingOctober 30, 2023
Many couples come to see us for things like communication issues or feeling disconnected.
However, we have a lot of couples who seek couples therapy because there has been a trauma in their relationship history.
What constitutes trauma in a couple’s relationship? A common one is a betrayal of some sort. A betrayal might be an affair, visiting prostitutes, gambling, addiction issues, violence, persistent lying in a relationship and so on.
There are also other types of traumas that bring couples in for couple therapy. For example, traumatic births, death of a child or other significant person, diagnosis of an illness or disease, legal cases and more.
Sometimes couples live with a traumatic event for quite some time, suppressing it and hoping it will go away. In other situations, the discovery of something like an affair brings the couple in for therapy straight away.
What can you and your partner can do if there’s been a trauma in your relationship?
- Seeking professional help is an obvious one. But sometimes couples are confused about whether they should do couples therapy or individual therapy – the answer is often both are required.
- Set some ground rules around when you will talk about the trauma. Conversations can very easily to turn into conflict if one or both people aren’t resourced enough to talk about the trauma. Both parties need to be ready to talk.
- If a betrayal has occurred in your relationship, be careful who you tell. Responses to the trauma can change over minutes, hours and days. This means you may want to break up with your partner one day and stay with them the next. It can be difficult for others to continue to support you both if you have told them all the sordid details of an affair, for example, but then decide to stay with your partner.
- But also choose one trusted person each to talk to. Pick someone who will listen without giving an opinion. If you don’t have that person in your life, do seek individual counselling.
- Don’t shut down or self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. It is completely normal to feel extremely distressed if you have discovered a betrayal or something like a loss of a child has happened to you both. But self-medicating will cause other issues in your relationship and for you personally. If you think you need help with this, please visit your GP in the first instance.
- When a traumatic incident has occurred in a relationship it is very common for at least one person’s mental health to be affected. It is worth getting an assessment for depression and or anxiety and professional help for this is this is you.
- Some traumatic events that happen to a couple (for example, loss of a child) really impact the relationship because each person responds and processes grief differently. Couples therapy can be extremely helpful in this situation. Couples therapy will help you both understand how you are processing the trauma and what each person’s needs are.
- Self-care is vital when a traumatic event has occurred. Are you exercising? Getting some “time out” from the trauma to do something that is supportive and enriching for you? Don’t feel guilty about this – just do it.
Can a couple overcome trauma in their relationship?
The answer comes down to how each person processes the trauma, how long the couple have lived with the trauma, how willing each person is to make the necessary change to repair aspects of the relationship that have been impacted by the trauma. Many couples achieve this and come out of couples therapy not only much closer but with a deeper understanding of themselves and their partner.
Have you experienced a relationship trauma? Wondering when the best time is to access couples therapy? It’s right away. The sooner the better – couples therapy will help you both immediately contain the situation, and help you sort out your thoughts and any decisions that need to be made. Plus you both have a safe place to work through the relationship trauma with an expert to guide you.