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When Communication Doesn't Feel Safe: Recognizing Past Trauma in Current Relationships

One of the things I like to write about for these blogs are current issues that come up in session. I truly enjoy working with couples. Watching the dynamic between two people and hopefully, with a lot of work, grow and flourish is always exciting.

A Lack of Communication is Common

A common theme that I find in these relationships is a genuine lack of communication between couples. There are usually a dozen or so excuses that start to fly back and forth on why communication has broken down, if it was ever there to start with. The typical flow of these sessions goes from accusations, misunderstandings, and then what is under it all. The “core” issue that I want to discuss is lack of trust. People usually immediately assume that infidelity is the reason for this lack of trust. I cannot say that this never comes up, but much of the time it comes from past trauma in the home they grew up in.


We're Taught to Hold it all In

For men, expression of emotion can be seen as a weakness, and then punished as such: “I will give you a reason to cry.” Imagine growing up where tough love was thought of as making tough men. Tough love does not always lead to trauma. That depends greatly on the severity of the situation.


I think it is safe to say that not being given a safe place to express oneself does not lend itself to open communication in future relationships. If someone isn’t given an outlet for emotion, it will eventually boil over. That boiling over can look like screaming, throwing things, substance abuse, and unfortunately, abusive relationships. Inflicting the same trauma that they endured growing up is all too common.


So how do we break this cycle?


Breaking the Cycle

  1. The first step is learning the vocabulary that fits the emotions that you are feeling. If your first response to this question is anger, keep looking. There is something under that anger, wanting to come out.

  2. Second, let it out slowly, in a safe place, with rules. Set some time aside several times a week for short conversations about what is actually rolling around in your head. This isn’t an inquisition seeking out weak points in your character. The idea here is to vent so that you don’t blow up.

  3. The last thing I will say is that when you have spent your life not communicating due to fear, fear is going to come up. Try to lean into it a little at a time. Who knows you might save a lot of sheetrock repair in the future.

At Mind Works Counseling Services in Lubbock TX, we are ready and willing to help you learn to move past your limitations and into a fresh new world away from past trauma and heartache. Please feel free to give us a call.


Learn more about the Trauma Counseling services we offer.


Contact us to schedule an appointment or to let us answer any questions you may have.

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