How to Be in a Relationship With Someone With a Traumatized Past

Counseling may be necessary to help your partner overcome past trauma.
... Andrea Morini/Photodisc/Getty Images

Being involved with someone who has suffered from trauma such as physical or emotional abuse, the tragic loss of loved ones, accidents or abandonment in the past can expose you to a whirlwind of unstable emotions from your partner, including fear, shame, confusion, mistrust, feelings of helplessness, guilt, isolation and hopelessness as your partner strives to move past the trauma, according to the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. However, if you are up for the challenge you can enjoy your relationship while helping to facilitate healing for your partner.

1 Encourage Outside Help

More extreme cases of traumatic experiences may require more help than you are able to offer. Serious cases of trauma may affect how your partner interacts with you and could place a strain on your relationship. If you realize that she is having a hard time coping with her past, suggest that she talk with the guidance counselor or a therapist experienced with cases of trauma, suggests the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. Helplines are also available for people facing many different issues. Your partner may feel more comfortable speaking with someone anonymously. Be understanding if there are some details of her experiences that may be too painful for her to share with you.

2 Get Educated

Learn all that you can about the particular issue with which your partner is struggling, suggests professor of medicine Edward Creagan, writing for the Mayo Clinic website. Start with the guidance office at school or the office of your family doctor -- these offices often display informational pamphlets on various subjects that are free for the taking. Take advantage of the wealth of valuable information that the Internet has to offer. Make sure to choose reputable websites, such as those published by medical doctors or government agencies, because they are more likely to present accurate information. The more you know, the better able you may be to deal with certain behaviors as they arise.

3 Be Ready to Listen

Encourage him to talk to you and share what he is feeling. Be willing to listen whenever he wants to talk. Expressing his hurt to someone he knows truly cares for him can be a form of release and healing, suggests psychotherapist Jennifer Lehr in "How Past Trauma Impacts Current Relationships." This may go a long way in helping to break down some of his barriers. Hearing about his issues may also draw you closer as you learn about his fears and start to understand him. Use these moments to open up and share your own experiences and feelings about coping in the relationship.

4 No More Than You Can Bear

Being involved with someone with a traumatized past may put you in uncomfortable positions. You may be forced to tread cautiously around her for fear of how she may react based on her current state of mind. If you find yourself in a relationship with someone who requires more time and energy than you are able to give, then you must make a decision on what is best for you. When you continually interact with someone who suffers from past trauma, you may not leave the relationship unhurt. Recognize when you just need to be a friend and nothing more.

Latoya Newman is a novelist who wrote and published her first novel in 2012. She has a background in education, research and counseling. She taught at the elementary level for eight years, and has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from York University in Toronto, Canada.