How Childhood Trauma Impacts Your Romantic Relationships
We all want to both receive and give healthy love. Unfortunately, for some of us, this desire is more difficult to achieve than for others. If you have difficulties maintaining an emotionally and sexually satisfying relationship, it may be due to childhood trauma.
As a life coach specializing in addictions and trauma, I would like to help you understand your past, so that it doesn’t ruin your future.
In this article, we will discuss how past childhood trauma can impact your current relationships.
Emotional incest, a form of childhood trauma
As children, we learn how to relate to others through the relationships we have with our parents.
An emotionally safe and healthy parent shares age-appropriate information with their child at each stage of their life.
Unfortunately, an emotionally disabled parent may be desperate for attention and love, leading them to turn to their child to fulfill their emotional needs. This behavior is known as emotional incest, where a parent turns to their child for the emotional intimacy they should find with a romantic partner.
Kenny, the “man” of the house
To illustrate emotional incest, I will explain a potential scenario. As I write this, I know that you or someone you know has experienced a past that is eerily familiar to this story.
Kenny is eight years old and the oldest of three siblings. His Dad is frequently away from home due to his busy job. Mom is very lonely. Mom tells Kenny that he has to be the man of the house while Dad is gone.
In addition, to making sure he keeps tabs on his younger siblings, Kenny spends many hours listening to his mom talk about her loneliness, problems at work and insecurities about her body.
Kenny feels a mixture of pride and confusion. He likes that his mom trusts him, but he doesn’t have solutions for her adult problems.
Kenny is the victim of emotional incest.
He grew up way too fast. And as an adult, Kenny might find himself attracted to narcissistic or sociopathic women.
Let's talk about emotional incest.— Denise Lee (@DeniseGLee) August 10, 2023
This is when a parent turns to their child for the emotional intimacy a romantic partner should provide, it becomes emotional incest.
Picture this scenario:
Dad is frequently away from home due to his busy job. Mom is very lonely.
Growing up too fast?
If you were raised in a dysfunctional family filled with pain, it may feel natural to bear the pain of others. Your mom may be scared, dad may be angry, and everyone may feel confused about how to handle their emotions.
Emotionally damaged parents are so consumed with their own issues that they can’t see how their children are exhausted from trying to keep everything together.
Is that your story? Have you been the “rock” for so long that you forget that you were once a child who needed parenting, instead of parenting your parents?
If so, you unconsciously replicate this dynamic with others in intimate romantic relationships.
The next section explains this concept in further detail.
Replicating childhood dynamics
I will never forget how my former fiancé, Jason, and I ended our relationship. We were arguing about something and I blurted out, “I am sorry, but I cannot be your mother!” Jason immediately broke down in tears.
My ex didn’t want me; he wanted someone who reminded him of his closest intimate relationship, which was with his mother. I cannot blame him. Studies have proven that as adults, we replicate and mirror the tendencies of our parents or caretakers.
Monkey see. Monkey do.
It is common to see multiple cycles of intergenerational trauma in romantic relationships.— Denise Lee (@DeniseGLee) August 6, 2023
For example, a daughter sees her mom get beat up by her father.
Then as an adult, her daughter unconsciously seeks to find the turbulent, yet familiar relationship with a new lover.
Healing your childhood trauma so it doesn’t ruin your romantic relationship
As I write this, I know that you may have ended a past relationship or perhaps your present relationship appears to be beyond repair. While I am not a couples therapist or coach, I can provide you with tools to help you relate to yourself better.
That being said, healing from childhood trauma is not an easy process, but it is possible to not let it ruin your love life or any other area of your life. Here are some tools that can help you:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Past trauma has a sneaky way of creating a lot of faulty beliefs about ourselves and others. CBT will help you understand how your thoughts impact your behavior with yourself and others so that you refrain from self-destructive behavior.
While I am not a therapist, I use CBT tactics with my clients.
Peer-Based Group Support
There are many support groups designed to help you safely navigate romantic relationships.
You can get past your past. It will take time, effort, and a willingness to heal. You and your significant other will benefit from addressing your past childhood trauma.
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MENTAL HEALTH ADVICE
The information in this article is for informational purposes only. No material in this article or website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical and/or mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Also, this article is not designed to diagnose or treat yourself or anyone with a suspected mental health illness.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read from me or anyone else online.