How to Help Your Partner Heal From Trauma

how to help your partner heal from trauma

Trauma occurs when a someone has some sort of encounter to danger or physical or sexual violence. Approximately 70% of adults in the United States experience some sort of traumatic event at least once in their lifetime.

The central nervous system serves the body and brain as an information response system. When someone experiences trauma, their sympathetic nervous system can get activated in order to move their body into action to find safety. This real-time response can include:

  • Release of stress hormones (cortisol + adrenaline)
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration
  • Stress and hyper-arousal

The response system is a survival mechanism designed to move us into fight or flight in response to danger. The complication occurs once the real-world danger has passed, and the nervous system does not realized the body is no longer in danger, therefore becoming easily activated into stress responses. This can lead to the nervous system continuing to work on overdrive and symptoms over time such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Hyper vigilance (I.e. scanning the environment)
  • Sleep difficulty

These stress responses alter someone on an individual psychological level, but they also have huge impacts on close relationships. Intimate relationships can easily trigger stress responses, leaving partners responding to one another’s fight or flight systems in a response to past traumatic experiences that may not be present in their current reality. This can make a close relationships with someone with a traumatic past feel challenging and defeating over time.

However, relationships are also a huge potential source of healing for someone who has experienced trauma. Working through a traumatic event can heal both partners and the relational system, meaning, the work can decrease individual symptoms of stress and anxiety and strengthen the secure attachment bond between partners.

The process of healing through trauma, and supporting someone you love heal through trauma, is not intuitive and takes intention, time, and patience. Continue reading for practical and effective strategies on how to help your partner heal from trauma, on your own and with a therapist in couples counseling.

How to Help Your Partner Heal From Trauma

Here are tips for supporting your partner heal from trauma.

Some people who have experienced trauma end up internalizing their experience, feel shame, and think what they endured is their fault.

A safe, accepting space to explore and share their experience is the antidote to shame. Follow their lead on the amount and way they wish to talk about the trauma, and be patient as they look for words.

You could be the first person that has made them feel safe enough to revisit the experience, so allow the process time and let them know you are open to hearing about what they’ve been through.

how to help a partner heal from trauma

Emotional trauma can result in trauma reactions or responses. This occurs when someone responds to a present event as if they were in the danger they were in the past, activating the fight or flight response system.

In these moments, try to keep yourself calm and avoid taking things personally and further escalating conflict. If it seems like the intensity of the reaction you are receiving does not match the present situation, that may indicate you have touched the traumatic material in some way.

If this happens, it’s okay to feel frustrated. Resist the urge to defend yourself, which will only intensify the trauma response in the moment.

couples trauma therapist

Trauma responses can be confusing to witness and understand. You may even finding yourself judging your partner for not expressing their pain the “right” way, even though there are many “normal” ways to express the effects of trauma.

Educating yourself regarding the impacts and responses to traumatic experiences can prepare you to support your partner, and also shows your partner you are committed to healing together (continue reading for recommended resources).

couples therapist trauma healing naples florida

Part of the trauma healing will involve both partners, and some of it will also occur on an individual level. Validate your partner for what they have been through and support them in their individual practices that help them heal. These could include:

  • EMDR (eye movement desensitization + reprocessing) therapy
  • Somatic practices
  • Yoga and meditation
  • Internal Family Systems Therapy

Support them how you can, but also acknowledge they may need to heal in ways that you have to let them do on their own. As much as you love them, your partner’s trauma is not yours, and you cannot do this work for them.

how to help a partner heal from trauma therapy

One of the difficult parts of trauma is feeling isolated or misunderstood. If your partner has gone through a traumatic event, they may have certain situations they do not want to put themselves in to protect their mental health. Advocate for them and support them to set boundaries that will make them feel safe and comfortable.

Your partner also may wish to keep their experience private, even from family or close friends. Support their wishes in the extent they share, and if you feel you need your own support, speak to a therapist instead of someone in your life who could impede on their privacy.

how to help a partner heal from trauma couples therapy

Relationships can act as a mirror and be a clear place where partners can see unhealed parts of themselves and of one another.

However, one of the most healing experiences for someone who has experienced trauma is a secure attachment with a partner. A secure attachment provides the safety and security that a trauma survivor can share their experience without shame or fear of scaring off their partner.

A couples therapist can help create the safety to process traumatic experiences in an organized way so you can become even closer.

More Resources for Trauma Healing

The most important part of healing from trauma is individual and couples therapy.

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