People with difficult pasts often do these 9 things early in a relationship

Life can be pretty challenging at times (to say the least).

And I’m not just talking about missing the bus or getting caught in the rain! I’m thinking of those darker, more serious periods in our life.

Stuff that can really stay with you, like a partner cheating on you, losing a loved one, or even being the victim of abuse.

But here’s the thing.

It might not seem like it at the time, but those tough moments in our journey sculpted us into the resilient warriors we are today.

That’s not to say they don’t leave a mark. 

Especially when it comes to forming new intimate relationships.

With that being said, here are nine things that people with difficult pasts often do (early on in a relationship).

1) Have a problem with trust

At the end of the day, we’re all different and handle trauma in our own unique way (it also depends on the specific experience).

But one common issue that almost always resurfaces after a difficult experience, is a real struggle with trust.

This comes in two parts.

First of all, they have difficulty trusting themselves. It might not seem logical, but they tend to blame themselves for the unfortunate experience they went through, so naturally question their choices or second guess themselves.

Trauma survivors also struggle to trust others. After all, they’ve been betrayed before (by someone they trusted) so are afraid to get hurt again.

This can cause problems early in a new relationship and usually means they’re constantly on the defensive.

This leads to our second point.

2) Put up mental barriers

How can you get hurt if you never get close to anyone?

This is the logic behind putting up emotional barriers.

I’m talking about avoiding deep and meaningful conversations, hiding true feelings, and actively limiting the time they spend with you.

Sure, it can be incredibly frustrating if you’ve just started dating someone that’s not letting you in. 

But just remember, it’s a psychological defense mechanism designed to protect them from further harm. Give them plenty of space and try to accept things might take a little longer to move forward.

Barriers also come in physical form…

3) Avoid physical intimacy

Chances are, someone with a difficult past may also want to keep their distance in the bedroom (at least to begin with).

Especially if their traumatic experience involved a violation of personal boundaries.

Again, the best way to deal with this is to not rush things and wait until they’re ready.

If you’re smitten with them, you should be able to respect their needs and give them the space they need.

4) Self-sabotage

Self-sabotage is a destructive behavior often used as a coping mechanism.

It manifests itself in relationships in various ways and is often driven by deep-rooted fears, insecurities, or unresolved issues.

You may notice your partner pushing you away or deliberately creating distance to test your commitment.

They may even end the relationship for no logical reason other than to avoid potential pain.

5) Become incredibly jealous (for no reason)

behaviors you didnt realize were driving a wedge in your relationship 1 People with difficult pasts often do these 9 things early in a relationship

People who have experienced past traumas often have low self-esteem and struggle to truly love themselves.

In their mind, they’re probably wondering why anyone would want to be with them. This can lead to an unhealthy attachment and unjustified jealousy.

When you boil it down, it’s a form of self-sabotage and involves them constantly questioning your loyalty or becoming overly possessive.

This can really strain the relationship.

In fact, unjustified jealousy often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Their constant interrogations take their toll and eventually result in the relationship falling apart.

6) Suffer from anxiety

This one is huge.

In fact, anxiety is the world’s most common mental health disorder.

So it should come as no surprise that people with difficult pasts feel a ton of anxiety early on in new relationships.

Whether it’s fear of getting hurt, worrying about social situations, or regular panic attacks, anxiety can severely impact their life (and relationships).

It can lead to an inability to concentrate or make solid decisions, irritability, and even heart palpitations.

People who suffer from anxiety may also…

7) Take drugs and alcohol (to distract)

We all know that alcohol (in moderation) lowers inhibitions and helps us socialize.

But it can be incredibly dangerous to people with traumatic pasts. They sometimes use alcohol to numb their suffering and distract themselves from their pain.

Over time, they can become dependent on it.

This is bad news, and if you suspect your partner is self-medicating consider getting professional help

They may feel like a stiff drink takes the edge off, but it will only make things worse in the long run.

8) Disrespect themselves

This is another common maladaptive coping mechanism used by people with a traumatic history.

Early in a relationship, they can disrespect themselves in various ways.

For example, they may accept mistreatment or abusive behavior because they think they deserve it (or because it feels familiar to their previous experiences).

They can also self-blame, neglect self-care, prioritize the needs of others, and rely heavily on external validation.

That last one is important.

In normal healthy relationships, self-esteem should be cultivated from within (and supported by your partner). Not relying solely on your partner for a sense of worth.

9) Struggle to express emotions

When we enter into a new relationship, it should be exciting!

After all, it’s a time when we’re learning about our partner, discovering their passions, enjoying their company, and developing a strong mental (and physical) connection.

Unfortunately, this isn’t quite the same for people who have had difficult pasts.

Instead, they see it as a huge risk. A chance to get hurt and suffer once again. Which is why they often struggle to express emotions.

Think about it.

When you open up to someone and share your deepest thoughts, feelings, and desires, you become vulnerable. You open yourself up to potential harm or rejection.

It’s important to bear this in mind if your partner is creating distance (because it’s easy to get frustrated).

You’ll need plenty of patience, empathy, and support to rebuild their fragile trust issues.

Picture of Leila El-Dean

Leila El-Dean

Leila is a passionate writer with a background in photography and art. She has over ten years of experience in branding, marketing, and building websites. She loves travelling and has lived in several countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, Spain, and Malta. When she’s not writing (or ogling cats), Leila loves trying new food and drinking copious amounts of Earl Grey tea.

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