Childhood trauma leaves a deep scar.
Abuse, neglect, bullying, health struggles and more can leave an imprint that’s hard to recover from.
If you’re in a relationship with somebody who’s been deeply affected by childhood trauma it can feel overwhelming.
But here are some ways to effectively address the trauma without taking your partner’s problems on your own shoulders.
17 effective tips to help your partner heal from childhood trauma
1) Be a great listener
What do you do if someone you care about tells you something painful and traumatic they’ve been through?
The first thing you probably do is express sympathy and compassion.
Then you might offer advice on it or a way to “solve” it.
But one of the most effective tips to help your partner heal from childhood trauma is to be a great listener without feeling the need to always respond or give your own advice or input.
Advice can be helpful in some situations, but a person who has been through hell often doesn’t need you to analyze or solve something for them.
They just need to know that you’re there for them and that you care.
Sometimes that’s the most powerful message you can send:
I’m here, I care, and I’m not going anywhere!
2) Support and believe your partner
There might be nothing else in this world quite as sad as a child who is abused and mistreated and then disbelieved when he or she tells adults about it.
Those who doubt them can be their parents, peers, teachers and friends. The mark that this doubt or dismissal has on the child can be just as heavy as the imprint of the trauma itself.
This is why one of the most effective tips to help your partner heal from childhood trauma is to believe them.
If they are ready to open up to you in any way, or even if you only know the bare outlines of what they went through as a kid: believe them.
Do not ever minimize what they went through, try to rationalize it away, or act like it’s no big deal.
You didn’t go through what they did. That doesn’t make you inferior, but it does require you to approach this situation with a lot of care.
Elisabet Kvarnstrom’s advice about this is on point:
“Many survivors of childhood trauma experience deep fear of being disbelieved.
“This fear may be rooted in prior experiences in which their trauma was minimized or denied outright.”
At the same time, your partner has no right to use their trauma as a battering ram or shield to avoid criticism or communication with you.
But just be sure you’re remembering that disbelieving or dismissing them could open up old wounds that need to heal.
3) Strengthen your romantic connection
One of the most effective tips to help your partner heal from childhood trauma is to strengthen your relationship with him or her.
By making your partnership a place of refuge and strength, it can serve as a safe shore from the trauma in your partner’s past.
Sadly, far too often trauma gets in the way of a loving relationship and becomes a stumbling block for establishing deeper intimacy and communication.
Is your relationship in a rut?
If so, let me tell you:
I’ve been there, and I know how it feels.
When I was at my worst point in my relationship I reached out to a relationship coach to see if they could give me any answers or insights.
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This included real solutions to improving many things that my partner and I had been struggling with for years, including childhood trauma she’d been through that makes relationships very difficult for her.
The truth is that many victims of childhood trauma and abuse feel unworthy of love and sabotage the relationship to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
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4) Keep the lines of communication open
Childhood trauma is a very heavy subject. If you’re in a serious relationship, it’s likely going to come up sooner or later.
On the other hand, you may learn that specifically opening up about what happened as a youngster is not something your partner is willing to do.
And sometimes even if this makes you feel locked out of a part of them, you need to accept that some experiences truly are too painful to talk about even with the person you love.
At the same time, keeping the lines of communication open is among the most effective tips to help your partner heal from childhood trauma.
This doesn’t mean that you have to talk about how awful their childhood was or how they were sexually abused by their uncle.
It doesn’t mean you need to pressure them to open up about the illness that slowly took their dad’s life when they were 10 and caused them to spiral into depression.
It just means to keep the lines of communication open generally!
Trauma can cause many of us to really self-isolate, and those who’ve been through very traumatic childhood experiences may instinctively shut themselves in.
Keeping up a steady flow of communication with your partner ensures that they see the light at the end of the tunnel and know you’re there for them even when they feel lost.
5) Be understanding, but don’t write blank checks
If you’re looking for effective tips to help your partner heal from childhood trauma, it’s important to remember that you have rights, too.
The fact that your loved one has been through an awful time in childhood does not mean that you need to go through one now.
Making the decision to stand by your partner through their adult problems that came about from younger trauma is your decision.
But it’s important not to write a blank check.
In other words, be understanding, but don’t just attribute everything your partner does to their childhood experiences.
If they were beaten growing up, that is zero excuse for hitting you.
If they were neglected as a kid, that doesn’t mean they have the right to just ignore everything you say and walk away.
Even in a relationship with someone troubled, there is still a two-way street!
As Kvarnstrom says, those who’ve been through heavy childhood experiences “may experience seemingly irrational emotional reactions—including emotional numbness or mood swings—or the inability to participate in ‘normal’ behaviors, including sexual situations…
“It’s important to remember, however, that not taking things personally doesn’t mean being unaffected by your loved one’s behaviors.”
6) Take note of triggers
As I said in the previous point, even a traumatized individual still needs to take ownership of their adult self and their actions.
Nonetheless, triggers are very much a real thing.
And as the partner of someone who’s been through a horrible experience as a kid, it can be very helpful for you to know which triggers to watch out for with regards to that.
One way to find out is to ask them directly: ask your partner if there are a few specific things that really bring back bad memories or strongly reactive emotions.
The hard way to find out is once a trigger has already sent your partner into a tailspin and they’re melting down.
Here’s the thing:
Not all triggers can be avoided. If your partner freaks out in traffic, for example, it may not always be possible to avoid.
Or if they have emotional meltdowns when financial topics come up because of being financially cut off by an absent parent, there’s only a limited amount you can do to never bring up this topic and shield them from it.
Still, whenever possible, avoid triggers!
7) Have some stress-buster activities
One of the most effective tips to help your partner heal from childhood trauma is to give them a time out.
And there’s nothing better for this than having a few great stress-buster activities that the two of you can do!
Playing volleyball outside? Going for a swim? Taking salsa lessons together? What about signing up for a boxercise class?
Hell, why not go on a weekend trip to a waterfall and jump off or try out motocross racing?
Whatever you both find exhilarating and fun, go for it.
It doesn’t have to be daredevil stuff, either.
It could be something like getting together around a board game and opening a few beers, or playing a video game together and having a few laughs.
This can be an awesome way to have fun together and connect without having to always focus on the darker undercurrents that your partner may be dealing with and still struggling with.
8) It’s not a trauma competition
There’s a real trap which can occur when two people are together and one of them is struggling with some serious childhood trauma:
What happens is that you begin comparing scars and competing in the Trauma Olympics.
Trust me: these are a twisted type of olympics that nobody wants to win. The only prize is to be doused in a humiliating shower of tears and feel even worse than you did before.
If you’re reading this, I would bet good money that you too have been through at least some trauma as a kid.
Hell, even being left alone too long after school waiting for a ride or finding out your mom is dating a new guy can be downright disturbing and alienating.
Maybe your own childhood trauma was also something much worse, and you’re feeling overshadowed or minimized by your partner being so wrapped up in their own struggle.
So your trauma is equal or greater to your partner’s?
That’s hard! And you also deserve to be recognized and faced with empathy and compassion.
But you should do whatever you can to avoid competing or pressuring for empathy and compassion.
That never turns out well.
And it’s likely to make your partner feel that they are being minimized or marginalized in their own struggle.
This in turn could cause them to behave disrespectfully, triggering you.
As you can see, this is a very vicious cycle to get into, and one you are better off avoiding entirely by never comparing or competing in your traumas.
9) Pay attention to your most important relationship
When we have a partner who’s suffering from childhood trauma, it can be overwhelming.
Even if you know it’s not their fault, the consequences of the trauma they went through can be harsh and lead to misunderstandings, fights, and real low periods in your relationship.
Instead of putting the whole burden on yourself, it’s also important to support your partner by supporting yourself.
Let me explain:
The truth is, most of us overlook an incredibly important element in our lives:
The relationship we have with ourselves.
I learnt about this from the shaman Rudá Iandê. In his genuine, free video on cultivating healthy relationships, he gives you the tools to plant yourself at the center of your world.
He covers some of the major mistakes most of us make in our relationships, such as codependency habits and unhealthy expectations. Mistakes most of us make without even realizing it.
So why am I recommending Rudá’s life-changing advice?
Well, he uses techniques derived from ancient shamanic teachings, but he puts his own modern-day twist on them. He may be a shaman, but his experiences in love weren’t much different to yours and mine.
Until he found a way to overcome these common issues, including the impact that trauma can have on two people who love each other and how they can resolve it.
And that’s what he wants to share with you.
So if you’re ready to make that change today and cultivate healthy, loving relationships, relationships you know you deserve, check out his simple, genuine advice.
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10) Remember to encourage mutual respect
Part of the journey with a traumatized partner is to encourage mutual respect.
You need to be aware of your own boundaries and your partner’s boundaries and both agree to respect those.
This often does mean that you’ll need some alone time away from each other, and that’s perfectly fine.
Sometimes one of the most effective tips to help your partner heal from childhood trauma is to give them their time and space to themselves.
Even the person we love most in the world can become stifling if they’re around us 24/7!
Just ask any long-time married couple.
That’s why part of a successful relationship with a partner who’s had a very difficult childhood can involve allowing them their own private life at the same time.
Let your partner know you’re always there and you love them, but also learn to read their emotional and verbal signals that they just want to be left alone a bit right now.
11) Make mindfulness your friend
Another one of the effective tips to help your partner heal from childhood trauma is to help them practice mindfulness and meditate when things are getting very tough.
You can show your partner a few techniques, such as breathwork, meditation and mindfulness practices that help them process chaotic memories and feelings they are having.
You can sit with your partner and help guide them through some of these techniques…
Or just share links and courses that you find helpful which could help them along in their own healing journey.
Remember to emphasize that the pain and anger or sadness they are going through isn’t “bad” and nor does it make them weak, wrong or broken in some way.
It’s a human experience with value and validity. And mindfulness is all about letting these emotions exist in a safe forum without having to label or analyze them.
12) Work on becoming a very patient person
Having a relationship with someone is hard work even in the best of circumstances.
And when your partner is dealing with significant childhood trauma it can be even tougher.
As you navigate the ups and downs, try to become as patient as you can.
These things can take time to work out.
And good and bad days can make you lose sight of the big picture.
Just keep in mind that there will be times you feel like you’ve had enough, but don’t give up from one bad day unless and until you feel you’ve truly given this a chance.
As relationship writer Shruti Sood puts it:
“Patience is key because your partner might exhibit behavior that you find frustrating or sad.
“For instance, people with a history of trauma often have difficulty trusting people, accepting love, and dealing with conflict.”
13) Educate yourself on what they went through
As I was saying earlier, sometimes your partner won’t want to open up about what they’ve been through, and that’s fine.
But if you have a general idea of what it involved, this gives you the opportunity to broaden your understanding of the issue.
For example, maybe your partner had a speech impediment growing up and was mocked and bullied in grade school for stuttering.
They’re now terrified of stuttering again when they speak and rarely talk to others or want to make new friends out of fear they will be found to be “stupid” and “worthless” like their peers called them as a kid.
These kind of deeply-held traumas are very difficult, and by reading up on the impact of bullying and social exclusion, for example, you can gain extensive insight into becoming more understanding about what your partner has been through and how important it is to be sensitive to their struggle.
14) Get far away from gaslighting!
It can be very tempting to gaslight a partner who’s struggling with trauma.
I know the first reaction is to say that you’d never do that.
But gaslighting can take subtle forms.
When it comes to a partner who’s still healing from childhood trauma, the most common form of gaslighting is to basically try to fix them and ask why they’re not “better” yet.
The reason this can happen so easily is that it’s well-intentioned!
After all, wanting them to feel better means you care, right?
Well, yes. But these kinds of struggles don’t have a time window on them and your partner is likely to feel they are being loved only on the condition that they start measuring up.
15) How bad is it right now?
Another helpful practice when it comes to effective tips to help your partner heal from childhood trauma is to give it a scale.
This is a way to just check in with your partner about how bad things are.
They won’t always be 100% upset or 100% OK, and sometimes it can help to have a little more variety in describing how we feel.
It can also be convenient because it gives your partner a way to describe their state without using words.
Like therapist Christy O’Shoney advises:
“It can be really helpful to develop an emotional scale with your partner. This could look like asking: ‘On a scale of 0-10, how distressed are you feeling right now?’”
16) Be understanding about your partner’s doubts
Individuals who faced a lot of hardship growing up can have a hard time in romantic relationships.
They find it hard to trust, to relax and to be vulnerable.
Try to be as understanding as possible about your partner’s doubts and insecurities.
They may be highly annoying at times, or even make you feel insulted by not being trusted or feeling overlooked.
But you can rest assured that they’re not trying to upset you.
Make them aware of what’s bothering you and communicate as much as possible.
17) Don’t take it personally
The last point relates directly to this one.
As much as possible, try not to take your partner’s behavior personally.
This can be difficult to do, since your partner’s more antagonistic behavior may also trigger you.
As much as possible, maintain your boundaries while also being empathetic and realistic about what your partner is going through.
With hard work, patience and understanding, you can make this work.