Healing From Trauma Together: 7 ways to support your partner and yourself

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When you commit to a relationship with someone, you both commit to helping each other through some of life’s physical and emotional burdens. While no romantic partner has to be a personal therapist, it is healthy to offer support and empathy when your partner is struggling.

With about 70% of adults in the U.S. having experienced some traumatic event, chances are likely that you will find yourself in a relationship with someone who may need to work through some harrowing experiences.

If your partner is healing from trauma themselves, it may not be easy to know precisely what they need from you. Trying to work through traumatic healing together is challenging. It is possible and can be a beautiful healing experience for each of you. 

Regardless of when your partner experienced their trauma, working through it is a non-linear lifelong process. There will be ups and downs, good and bad days, which is typical and expected.

This article is here to help you navigate the process of understanding and helping your partner when they’re feeling the effects of their trauma. We will cover the seven tips to consider as you help your partner work through their experiences while caring for yourself. Keep reading to learn more.

Does the source of the trauma matter?

Many people are unfamiliar with the idea of trauma or trauma-related conditions outside of the world of military veterans. It’s a common (and harmful) misconception that you can only have valid PTSD or other types of emotional trauma from serving in the military or working in different “dangerous” professions. 

In reality, trauma can stem from anywhere. It can start with childhood neglect or abuse, isolation, a violent event, a death in the family, or anything else that might be upsetting that caused a shift in worldview or how you see yourself.

Keep in mind that something that causes low levels of distress for you can be traumatic for someone else.

The source of the trauma doesn’t matter when it comes to how much support your partner needs. Measuring trauma in terms of the severity of the event is not a helpful metric for knowing how much support to give to your partner.

Each person is different, so talking to your partner and understanding their needs in their own words is crucial to being a supportive partner.

1. Show Empathy

On the topic of measuring trauma, empathy begins with trying to understand that you might not understand why your partner is traumatized. That’s okay, and you don’t have to be able to put yourself in their position in that way.

Diminishing your partner’s experiences can lead to further traumatization. Even if it is hard to understand why their experience is so visceral, validate how they feel and create a safe space to speak about it and feel what they feel when they feel it.

Telling your partner that their experience “wasn’t that bad” or that they should try to “be more positive” and get over it can cause symptoms to worsen by adding guilt and shame on top of how they already feel. This is called toxic positivity, and it’s invalidating instead of helpful.

When someone is acting out as a result of trauma, it can be confusing to know how to react. Educating yourself on trauma, like reading this article, allows you to understand some of the reasons that your partner may act the way they do when triggered. 

2. Recognize triggers

While it’s your partner’s responsibility to manage their triggers, you can help by learning what they are and helping them avoid triggering events or situations when they’re not mentally in a good place.

Talking with your partner can cue you into what causes them distress.

This is also an excellent time to notice how your partner responds to these triggers. Catching early signs of distress allows you to get your

3. Allow room for “bad days”

When you have a partner who’s working through trauma, you need to understand that some days will be more challenging than others.

While you should never accept bad treatment from your partner, there are a few things that you can anticipate on these “bad days” that might make them more challenging.

1. Bad days can happen for any reason. 

There may have been a triggering event, or your partner may have woken up in a more sensitive mood. That’s normal.

2. Sometimes, bad days may make your partner more irritable than usual.

If they’re being unkind to you, acknowledge their feelings and assert your boundaries. 

3. Some stormy days will mean your partner needs to be up to specific tasks or activities. 

They may be unable to clean the house or get out of bed. It’s not your job to heal your partner. Understanding when and why these bad days are happening is helpful when you’re accompanying them on this healing journey.

No matter the reason for the rise in symptoms, meeting your partner with a compassionate and understanding heart can help bring down the intensity of feelings and create a safe space to ease your partner’s emotions.

4. Engage In Fun Activities

If your partner is up to it, it’s helpful if you can engage them in activities that they enjoy when they’re feeling bad. Trauma lives in the back of people’s minds, often nonstop. By engaging in interesting activities, you create a distraction.

You may also be able to rewire some traumatic thoughts or triggers by associating bad days with fun activities. A fun day won’t heal your partner. It does provide a bonding experience.

Many people feel isolated by their trauma and worry that it will cause cracks in their relationships. Bonding and having fun together can provide comfort and relieve some anxiety.

5. Soothe Distress

Engaging in fun activities is one part of soothing distress in your partner. You can implement calming techniques, such as breathing exercises, to guide your partner through their triggers.

Again, it’s not your responsibility to handle your partner’s trauma or educate them on how to manage it. By learning a few self-soothing techniques, you show your partner that you’re willing to understand and help when they’re in distress.

Many self-soothing techniques revolve around the idea of mindfulness. Mindfulness is when you connect with the world around you and your senses instead of whatever is going on in your head.

The most popular method of practicing mindfulness is meditation. Because many people find it difficult to meditate, you should start practicing together when your partner is having a good day.

For sudden events, you can encourage your partner to connect with their senses. The most popular way of doing this is the “5-4-3-2-1” method. 

During the 5-4-3-2-1 method, your partner should try to recognize: 

  • Five things they can see
  • Four things they can feel
  • Three things they can hear
  • Two things they can smell
  • One thing they can taste 

This should ground them and help calm them down. Grounding is when you are in the present moment, not in the past or future, often where anxiety and stress get worse.

It’s also helpful to have sensory objects on hand. They can be as simple and mundane as a piece of flavorful gum or headphones so your partner can listen to music or something more interesting like a squishy toy or keychain they can fiddle with. Use what they are comfortable with to bring them to the present moment through their senses.

6.  Create your boundaries

It would help if you kept yourself in mind when you’re supporting a partner through trauma. Trauma support can take a toll on your mental health, as well, especially if your partner is prone to lashing out on bad days.

Setting and asserting boundaries (with yourself and your partner) will protect both of you.

Consider your limitations. How much support can you give each day before you burn out? Knowing this lets you recognize when it’s time to step back and take time for yourself. You won’t be helpful to your partner if you’re burnt out.

You also need to know what kind of treatment you expect from your partner. While lashing out during an episode is normal, that doesn’t mean that you have to allow your partner to mistreat you.

Once you determine your boundaries, talk to your partner about them. It would help if you always discussed boundaries with partners regardless of their mental health. It is crucial to share these, especially when there are mental health struggles in play.

7. Encourage professional help

At some point, your partner may benefit if they seek out a professional to help them. There’s only so much that you can do or provide, and seeking out a therapist will help both of you.

Trauma-related therapy is complicated, and healing from trauma takes a long time, and trauma recovery is a life-long process.

You can’t (and shouldn’t) force your partner to seek out a therapist. Some people may feel invalidated by that suggestion, especially if they’re having a bad day. Talk to your partner when they’re not experiencing a trigger and see if they’re comfortable making an appointment with a professional.

A professional can teach your partner coping methods or guide them through past events to help rewire them so they do not feel so triggered. Being the sole support for your partner puts a lot of pressure on you to be precisely what they need. Therapists are trained in trauma therapy. Recognize that your help is valuable and where your limitations are.

Please encourage them to seek help and talk with someone who can help them navigate traumatic emotions and who will create a personalized plan to help them handle triggers and emotions and create a healthy worldview despite what they have experienced.

Healing from trauma is more manageable with support

Healing from trauma is a difficult task. With support from loved ones and a specialized therapist, Witt is manageable. Remember that your partner is going through something difficult, even if you cannot fully understand it. Offer love and support. Also, remember to take care of yourself in the process.

Are you or a partner seeking out professional counseling for a trauma-related condition? We want to help you heal. If you are ready to get the help you need to reduce the effects of your trauma symptoms, get started here or call us at (833)-274-heal to get connected with a specialized trauma therapist who can help. 

More resources:

How To Heal From Trauma And 7 Signs You’re Dealing With Trauma

Understanding Trauma Bonds: The 7 Steps To Breaking The Cycle And Living Free From Abuse

What Is Trauma-Informed Care?

Picture of Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

All articles are written in conjunction with the Makin Wellness research team. The content on this page is not a replacement for professional diagnosis, treatment, or informed advice. It is important to consult with a qualified mental health professional before making any decisions or taking action. Please refer to our terms of use for further details.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Heather DeCarlo

    This article was very helpful. I feel my whole family could benefit from counseling.

  2. Pingback: The Silent Killer: Understanding The Root Causes For Lack Of Communication In Marriage - Marriage&Bliss

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