Love Isn't the Problem: How childhood trauma affects adult relationships

Updated: Nov 29, 2019



Ever wonder why you keep finding yourself in unhealthy relationships? Maybe you jump from one relationship to the next with no time in between. Maybe you really do want to be in a relationship but find it difficult to let someone in and self-sabotage when they get too close. Sound familiar?

Many of my clients talk about these types of relationship patterns and make conscious efforts to find “the right one” only to find pain again and again. Why is this? This is because they are unconsciously reenacting patterns from earlier in life, most often patterns that developed in childhood. This is a common result of those who have experienced childhood abuse or neglect. For some, often those who have experienced physical or sexual abuse, the writing is on the wall. Yet, for others they look back perplexed. They don’t see themselves as having been abused or neglected. Many clients tell me, “I had great childhood.”

Understanding you experienced abuse or neglect DOES NOT equate with your parent having been a terrible or evil person.

Often times, people reject the notion of childhood trauma because they think it has to mean that their parent is vilified by having intentionally hurt them. Though this can happen in some cases, in most cases I come across, there were extenuating circumstances that made it difficult for parents to really be nurturing or present in their child’s life. Things like financial hardship, marital conflict, divorce, mental illness, substance abuse, or even being the product of transgenerational trauma themselves led to their parent struggling to cope or self-soothe and thus unable to do so for their child. This can take the form of saying hurtful things, lacking positive reinforcement, low tolerance for disappointment, avoidance, or simply not being around.

As children, we need to feel safe, secure, and reassured that we are good and worthy. When we see our parent constantly out of control with anger towards another parent or our parent sad and seemingly fragile all of the time, we learn that we cannot rely on them to provide this for us. This leads us to turn inward, lash out, or completely numb out. In adulthood, we recreate these patterns.

This is our way of keeping ourselves emotionally safe. Yet, this only perpetuates our childhood experience becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What are some signs I may have experienced attachment injuries related to childhood trauma?

  • You constantly feel the need to make your partner prove their love for you.

  • You avoid committed relationships and if you do enter into a relationship, you really struggle with letting the person get too close.

  • You avoid conflict at all costs.

  • Your always ‘on the lookout’ for any potential criticism and react.

  • You have a history of toxic or abusive romantic relationships.

If any of these things are ringing true for you, allow yourself to sit with it for a moment. Yes, it’s tough, but it also doesn’t have to be the end of the world. You can change these patterns. Finding a therapist that is trained in attachment, relational/childhood trauma can be critical in healing and creating healthier relationships in your life. There is hope. Call today for a free phone consultation.

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