When a person endures oppression or has been abused, his or her spirit can be crushed. Many who have experienced this sort of hurt are unaware that they are in fact survivors of trauma. Understanding what we have been through and how we have evolved into who we are in response to our traumatic pasts is important for both partners of a coupleship to learn and know about each other.
When we are victims of trauma and/or abuse as children, we often carry the burden of those memories into our adulthood. Certain events or actions can trigger these memories without warning, as well as the fear that accompanies them. We have not found the belief that “time will heal all wounds” to be true at all. In fact, many who have spent considerable time and resources resolving conflict from their past are often surprised to find that the hurt can continue to show up when it is least welcome.
This is typical, and it is to be expected. Coming to peace with our past does not mean it will no longer hurt. Coming to peace with our past means we understand and accept the reality of what has occurred in our lives and we are willing to move forward with the understanding that our past has become part of who we are.
What a beautiful and healing experience it is when we can learn about how our respective pasts have contributed to who we are and we can then share it with our partner. If you are in a relationship with someone who has been through oppression or hurt, the effects of their trauma on our adult relationships are certainly significant. When a person endures oppression or has been abused, this often results in an inability to believe in anyone or anything. Self-worth evaporates and we must rely on others for a sense of security and well-being.
Your partner may have been emotionally damaged early in life and carry the scars. If they seem to overreact to a situation that seems normal to you, they may be reliving a childhood experience and suffering from the reopened wounds that were inflicted on them. Your role is to offer compassion, patience, and love at these times. When your partner knows that you identify with their struggles, you become part of their healing process.
It can be difficult to reach such a person spiritually, but it can be accomplished. If your romantic partner has suffered in this way, you may find them running from you because they believe that isolation is their only recourse. Exercise patience and be there when they return. Do not reproach them; instead, offer your strength. Become their light in the darkness of their fears.
This article was written by John & Elaine Leadem, senior supervisors of the Leadem Counseling & Consulting offices in Toms River, NJ and East Brunswick, NJ. The content of this article is based on their book “One in the Spirit: Meditation Course for Recovering Couples.”
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Last reviewed: 3 Sep 2013