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How Can Childhood Trauma Affect Your Adult Relationships

It isn’t a secret that childhood trauma can have a serious impact on our adult relationships. Chances are, you know at least one person who jokes about how they married a parent. But jokes aside, if you have experienced any form of trauma during your early years – physical, mental, or sexual – it can change the way you look at people and relationships, even in your adulthood. Maybe you struggle with boundaries or behaviors that others might take for granted. Maybe you don’t feel safe all the time. Or maybe you hesitate to express your feelings.


When you are growing up, you look to the adults around you for guidance on how to interact with the world. And when those adults, who are your supposed caregivers, behave in unhealthy ways, there is a high chance that you, too, will mimic the same behaviors. And in most cases, that can stay with you and trickle into your own adult relationships.


Here are a few ways in which childhood trauma can affect your adult relationships:

  • Attraction to toxic or destructive relationships It is quite common for people with a traumatic childhood to end up in relationships that are toxic or destructive. Even when you are trying hard to improve your life and make better choices, you might somehow find yourself attracted to those who have a similar traumatic identity. It could be someone who is emotionally unavailable, narcissistic, or abusive.

  • Fear of abandonment Fear of abandonment is especially strong among children who were neglected or abandoned by a parent or any other caregiver. You may not be aware of these feelings on the surface level but they might manifest in the form of a fear that your partner will leave you. In some cases, it can also lead to extreme jealousy and possessiveness.

  • Constant conflict, or avoiding it altogether Conflict is unavoidable in all relationships. But if you grew up in an environment where your caregivers constantly argued, or avoided the conflict altogether, it is likely that you didn’t learn the skills necessary for healthy and effective communication, including how to navigate situations of conflict.

  • Getting easily annoyed or irritated with your partner If you grew up amidst frequent criticism – whether your own or someone else’s – you might develop a mindset that it is the only way to express disagreement or displeasure in a relationship. And you are more likely to project that behavior onto your partner.

While it might take some time to unlearn such dysfunctional behaviors, they can be changed.

If you and your partner are experiencing trouble in your relationship due to your childhood trauma, it might be time to get professional help. Therapy can prove to be helpful as it can help you identify and come to terms with the past wounds that you have been carrying with you. It can help you connect with your partner and understand each other’s feelings so that you let yourselves and your relationship heal.


Get in touch with us at KC Life Counseling for couples therapy in Kansas City. Check out our website if you need more information.

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