Happy Tuesday to all of you who stop by every week to gather more information on how to break through to new levels of understanding in your marriage. I know I don’t say this often, but I appreciate all of you who listen and take what I share and put it into action in your own life; you are the reason I show up every week, so thank you. This week I am sharing a personal growth experience/realization that I think will help many of you listening; if not personally, it might help you see something in someone else, maybe your spouse, friend, or co-worker. What I’m sharing today may help you better understand common behaviors of loved ones that you previously found yourself taking personally. It might help you generate more empathy for what the “other side of the table” is struggling with. Mostly I want you to consider yourself when listening to what I have to say today because wishing to focus on someone else’s behaviors could also be a sign that you are avoiding cleaning up your side of the relationship by looking to “control” the other. Today let’s talk about how past trauma may be affecting your marriage.
Before we dig into the heart of this discussion, I do want to recognize that I do not specialize in trauma coaching, and I am not a trauma therapist; what I am sharing is what I have learned in my journey of growth. I know that there are many things we can learn intellectually about development. Still, through persistent committed steps to continue the journey of growth and the desire to never settle into the comfort of being “ok” with ok, we will begin to experience the intellectual on a more visceral level. When this happens, I have a deeper understanding of myself, giving me a wider range of awareness of what might be going on for my clients.
To be clear, many of my clients work with various other mental health professionals based on what it is they are working on in their growth journey. There is space for all, and each professional compliments the others. There are times when working with my clients; I will discuss the possibility of wanting to find a more specialized professional to work through ways their past might be affecting how they are showing up in their current relationships.
The other space I will not dig into today is the difference between traumas. A definition that has helped me better understand the wide variety of types of trauma is an event that happens in one’s life that they are not emotionally or psychologically prepared for, causing an emotional response we call trauma. There is also Large-T, ex: car accident, war/combat, sexual assault, and Small-T trauma, ex: divorce, infidelity, loss of job but today’s discussion is primarily looking at how any trauma from our past might be interfering with the work you may be doing to improve your marital relationship dynamics.
How your past trauma (recognized or not) might be interfering with a marital relationship breakthrough
I’m going to begin with a bit about my story and how I came to understand this phenomenon more personally. As you all know, I have been a self-growth enthusiast my whole life, only to 100% discover seven years ago that the motivation behind my desire to grow was so that other people would like me. Seven years ago, we had a crisis in our marriage that had me letting go of what was going on in my marriage to focus on myself. I discovered life coaching in that journey, became a certified life coach, dissolved my 30-year fitness business, and started dipping my toes into relationship coaching. These are all decisions I have never regretted, especially deciding to go all-in on relationship coaching because that has been the work that has challenged my self-growth the most. Had I chosen weight-loss coaching, business coaching, or time management coaching, I might not have ever gone as deep as I have with my relationship with myself.
A few weeks back, I was taking time to write about all of the ways I help my clients feel powerful, and I was thinking about my journey and places where I got stuck. One of those places was getting past the intellectual knowledge of what I needed to do while struggling with some areas of implementation. I knew intellectually that I was protecting myself, not fully opening up to vulnerability. Still, there was a wall in the way of moving forward that I couldn’t identify on my own.
That wall was a developmental coping mechanism I implemented early in my life to protect myself from what was happening outside and inside of me. Once I started seeing the connection between how I would respond to threats as a child, once I worked through my desire to feel love from my parents, and how I project those responses onto others, I was able to open up to new responses to my adult life. Once I realized that protecting myself from the potential hurt someone else might impose upon me as an adult was coming from learned behaviors as a child: opening up to getting the love I needed and interpreting the response as me being unlovable, unworthy, insignificant, unwanted it started to make sense and I was able to start letting go of the old response. This recognition of my actions being related to old trauma allowed me to open up to something different because I knew that I create my own love as an adult. I now know that I am entirely lovable, wanted, worthy, significant, adequate, and whole. I now know that anyone else’s reaction to me and my desire to be loved has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them; if only the little ones could know this truth.
When I made this connection, what I knew on an intellectual level sunk in more clearly on an emotional level and opened me up to a new way of dealing with conflict in my marriage. I share this to possibly open you or someone you know up to the value of working through some of your past trauma; it’s significant, whether you believe so or not. It’s also some of the best work you can do, though initially it might feel awful but cleaning all of that stuff up will be the best work you can do. It is your life; you get to decide whether you open that door and walk through it; I’m just here to tell you that it will open up a whole new life you never imagined possible.
Some common signs that you might be responding in your marriage from past emotional trauma
Marital relationship work often brings up people’s past trauma; let me share a few signs that might indicate you have trauma to work through:
- Continuing to be stuck and not getting how to move forward
- Emotional upset, which is ongoing and intense
- Depression and anxiety
- Having a difficult time regulating your emotions
- Avoiding, disconnecting, withdrawing, extreme independence
Then there are the four common trauma response patterns that you might notice yourself resorting to; I’ve done them all:
- Fight: arguing, fighting, being easily irritated and aggressive, moving towards the person you are in conflict with
- Flight: withdrawing, avoiding, anxiousness, panic, fear, perfectionism, chronic worry
- Freeze: disassociating: leaving the body, spacing out, not being able to move, shame, feeling stuck, depression
- Fawn: needing others to like you (people-pleasing), conflict avoidance, saying yes when you want to say no, difficulty setting boundaries, prioritizing others over yourself
If some of these responses are familiar to you and you are struggling in your marital relationship, I want you to know that you are not broken and that change and a better life are available. I also know that if any of this resonates with you, you might have difficulty reaching out and asking for help, but what if that help was your ticket to feeling better and having a healthy, happy marriage? That is a ticket you will never regret purchasing, my friend. I’m here for you, and I would love to talk to you about what has you stuck in your marriage. I look forward to meeting you, and until then, ciao!
I am a marriage coach who helps women and couples go from feeling powerless to change how they feel about their marriage to feeling powerful and taking ownership of how they feel. My process isn’t about changing your partner; it’s about discovering who you are so that you can AwakenYou in your marriage, and through this process, you will begin to find that your partner will change as well! If you’re ready to take yourself to a place where you can finally fall in love with your life and your spouse, then schedule your program inquiry call today and let’s talk about the next steps to making your dream life your reality.