5 Things You Can Do To Start Creating Healthy Relationships After Childhood Trauma
Hi Love! I'm Morgan and I'm a childhood trauma survivor, certified trauma-informed coach, and the creator of Rising Warrior Collective, a safe community for survivors of childhood trauma to begin healing. If you're ready to take your healing to the next level, let's connect and talk about what it looks like to work 1:1.
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Childhood trauma survivors can experience a multitude of challenges as we travel into adulthood, and one of the most complex aspects of our trauma is the impact it has on our interpersonal relationships. By this, I mean our ability to call in, create, and sustain healthy and safe adult relationships. Not surprisingly, as trauma survivors, we experienced neglect, abuse, and abandonment by the people closest to us, the people who were supposed to love us the most. Understanding this does not mean it’s going to be easy to heal from these experiences, but it is a start forward on the healing path.
I have found that creating healthy interpersonal relationships, as part of our trauma recovery, to be the most challenging piece of our recovery as well as the most rewarding. The trauma we experienced in childhood, and how we were affected by it, is really complicated. It shows up deeply in our lives, both internally and externally, with our repeated stories, patterns, and behaviors. The abuse and neglect we experienced left a lasting imprint on us. As such, this imprint impacted who we became as adults, how we showed up in our relationships, and the type of relationships we called in.
In order to heal, we have to take responsibility for what we were left behind with, and slowly begin to change our stories, our patterns, and the way that we show up in relationships.
Until we start to bring awareness to our trauma and what happened, and live differently, this can hinder us in creating those loving, supportive, and respectful relationships as adults.
As a childhood trauma survivor, and given my own healing journey these past 8 years, I have found the following 5 building blocks very helpful, to begin calling in and creating healthy and intentional relationships.
The very first thing we can do to start making shifts in our relationships is to have awareness. This is my top foundational piece of advice for almost every aspect of trauma recovery. We can’t start to truly heal what we have been through until we understand what we have been through, and how it has impacted us. This awareness in turn, will be very helpful in our adult relationships, to understand our trauma, as well as the trauma of the partners we choose to be with. Once both parties understand what they have been through, and how it shows up (via triggers, emotions, patterns, what makes us feel good or bad), once we share this, it helps us grow with each other in an intentional and supportive way.
What this means is that you start to have a very clear understanding of the things that are important to you in your relationships. You also start to understand the things that you are not willing to tolerate. For example, one of my values is that I insist that in my most intimate relationships, my partners are also bringing awareness to their own trauma. Those who are in denial or unwilling to identify or share their trauma aren’t a good match for me. I have learned that I need to be around people who are willing to change, expand, and go through self-development, with open hearts and open minds. You will want to start to explore what your own personal values are, what is important to you, and what are your non-negotiables that create a relationship you can thrive in.
This is an instrumental piece of creating intentional relationships. As trauma survivors, we’ve lived most of our lives afraid to communicate our wants, needs, and truths. We’ve spent our childhoods being quieted, told to stop speaking, or to make ourselves small and insignificant. Clear and honest communication will be a critical building block for every single healthy relationship that you create and nurture. Learning how to communicate what you need, who you are, and what expectations you have around building and sustaining relationships, is paramount to everything you do in this space and on your journey of healing.
Creating healthy boundaries is going to be challenging for us as we have spent a lot of our lives without boundaries. For trauma survivors, there usually isn’t space for us as an individual, and one who is able to set and keep boundaries. Rather, in our trauma experience, everyone tends to be meshed together, emotions and actions intertwined between multiple people. For us to move forward, we have to learn that not only are we allowed to have boundaries, but we are also allowed to say yes or no when we want. We build the confidence to say yes or no, trusting ourselves and knowing what is best for us. It’s also important that the people who are in a relationship with you can hold their own boundaries, and that there is mutual respect for both parties. Setting and keeping boundaries are foundational pieces for building healthy relationships for all involved.
As survivors, we can very quickly jump to the assumption that why someone is doing something, or why someone is saying something, is directly related to us – without truly knowing the why behind their actions or words. Instead, we need to turn to compassion over assumption. When we are walking through life with someone, we want to have the ability to show up for that person from a place of compassion for where they are at, versus holding the assumption that what they are doing is meant to hurt us or disappoint us. When we navigate with compassion, we aren’t letting our boundaries down. Rather, we’ve already created a strong foundation for ourselves, so by the time we are having and showing compassion, we know that we have built healthy and safe relationships.
One final consideration to mention is that these foundational steps and changes are going to be much easier to implement with new relationships coming into your life. A new relationship is an opportunity to start fresh, to begin at the beginning, with clear expectations and open communication. With regards to older or current relationships, when you start to set a new standard by implementing these 5 steps, this could be challenging for those who expect you to be or act a certain way. Keep this in mind and have compassion for yourself and for others during this transition time of change and growth. Communication with people at this time will be critical, as it will help to set the tone as you navigate those relationships, along with the new ones of your choosing.
I know how overwhelming it can be to create intentional relationships, so as a reminder, I’ve created a free resource for you, to help you begin.
Click the link below to download the workbook and I hope this helps you as you start your healing:
If you are looking for additional support on how to start and/or navigate your healing journey, I would love to chat with you further. Let’s build a strong mental health community together, raising awareness and support with resources, compassion, and understanding.
Click here to book your free 1-hour discovery call.
You never know how one conversation could shift the direction of your life.
Lots of love ~ Morgan
August 22, 2022