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  • Writer's pictureBeth Tellez

The Lingering Shadow: How Trauma Impacts Adult Relationships

Updated: Apr 24


Trauma is a deeply complex and personal experience that can cast a long shadow over one's life if not addressed. It often goes beyond the initial event, affecting various aspects of an individual's life, including their relationships in adulthood. In this post, we will delve into some of the ways in which trauma can impact adult relationships, shedding light on the challenges it presents and offering insights on how to navigate them.

The Impact of Trauma

Trauma can manifest in numerous forms, from childhood abuse and neglect to experiences of war, accidents, or natural disasters. Regardless of its origin, the effects of trauma can be lasting and pervasive if not identified. Here are some ways trauma can affect adult relationships:

  1. Trust Issues: Trauma can erode an individual's ability to trust others. Whether it's due to betrayal during the traumatic event or a general sense of vulnerability, survivors may find it difficult to open up and build trust in their adult relationships.

  2. Emotional Regulation: Trauma can disrupt one's ability to regulate emotions, leading to heightened reactivity or emotional numbness. This can make it challenging to navigate the ups and downs of relationships effectively.

  3. Attachment Styles: Trauma can influence one's attachment style, often leading to anxious and/or avoidant patterns. Those with an anxious attachment style may cling to partners and fear abandonment, while those with an avoidant style may struggle with emotional closeness and vulnerability.

  4. Communication Challenges: Trauma survivors may have difficulty expressing their feelings and needs, as well as listening and responding to their partner's communication. This can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts.

  5. Triggers and Flashbacks: Trauma survivors may experience triggers or flashbacks related to their past trauma. If left unaddressed, these experiences can be distressing for both the survivor and their partner, disrupting the opportunity for a healthy and secure attachment.

Navigating Adult Relationships After Trauma

While the impact of trauma on adult relationships can be profound, there is hope for healing and growth. Here are some strategies to help navigate relationships after trauma:

  1. Seek Professional Help: Therapy, especially trauma-focused therapy like EMDR, CPT, or CBT, can provide invaluable support in processing and healing from trauma. It can help individuals develop coping mechanisms and communication skills necessary for healthy relationships.

  2. Build Self-Awareness: Self-reflection is key to understanding how trauma may be affecting your behavior and reactions in relationships. Developing self-awareness can empower you to make conscious choices and break unhealthy patterns.

  3. Communicate Openly: Honest and compassionate communication with your partner is essential. But it must be safe to do so. Share your needs with your partner about safe and healthy conversations. Once safety is established, discuss your experiences and feelings. Work together to create a safe space for both of you to be open and honest.

  4. Practice Self-Care: Prioritize self-care to manage the emotional and physical toll of trauma. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, and consider mindfulness techniques to ground yourself in the present.

  5. Set Healthy Boundaries: Healthy relationships must have boundaries. Setting healthy parameters will provide the roadmap for a relationship to flourish and thrive.

  6. Be Patient: Healing from trauma takes time. Be patient with yourself and show yourself compassion. You are so brave for doing the work.


Remember that healing is possible, and you are not alone in your journey toward building resilient, loving relationships in adulthood. If you would like to connect with a counselor, email us today at


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