Trauma is hard.
It creates a jumble of emotions. You find yourself feeling vulnerable, exposed, angry, and unsafe, even with the people you love and trust the most.
Even with the best of intentions, when we have experienced trauma, it can find a way into our marriages. It finds a way to hide in the deepest, darkest places in our hearts (especially when we have not taken the time to acknowledge our trauma or get help). We have arguments about things that don’t matter. We say things we don’t mean. We hold on to grudges that have nothing to do with our spouse. We do things out of fear.
I get it. I’ve been there.
For years I had little awareness of how the trauma in my life was spilling over into my marriage, preventing me from accepting everything my husband wanted to give.
Without even being aware, the impact of trauma overflows into our marriage. Whether you are overcoming emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, toxic parental relationships, death, or miscarriage, trauma has a way of impacting many of us. How we process conflict, disagreements, money matters, parenting decisions, or even sex, is affected by how we deal with our trauma. If we don’t allow ourselves to heal, we can push away the very person who loves us so dearly-our spouses.
Loving someone who has experienced trauma can be hard.
Your spouse may not know or understand just how deep trauma has impacted your heart, your perspectives, and your ability to show up in your marriage.
But we can help.
We can choose to give our spouses the tools to continue to show up for us.
Now I am not a therapist or a counselor. I am not a professional. Everything I share in this post are tips that have helped me as I processed my trauma while being married to a wonderful, loving, and patient man. I don’t have all the solutions. Hopefully, this is a start to including the one who loves you the most in being there for you completely.
Be clear about how your spouse can helpOur spouses have an essential role in our lives. Their love and support have a tremendous impact in providing safe space for us to heal and grow. Sometimes creating that space can be met with mixed responses. We can pull away, even though we want to be held. We can be moody, even when we want to be loving. We can mistrust, even though our spouses have given us no reason to mistrust. Even though we may be going through a challenging place, we can choose to play a vital role in involving our spouses in our journey to help decrease their feelings of helplessness and frustration.
Open and honest communication matters. Take the time to be clear about how your spouse can help you, especially when your trauma triggers you.
Share what you need when you feel triggered by your trauma. Do you need to talk through your feelings? Do you need a hug? Do you want 15 minutes alone to pray? Do you need to go for a walk? Do you want
Friend, be willing to provide space for your spouse to be clear about what he needs as well. Sometimes your spouse may need time to process our emotional responses, hurt, or reactions. You both must be willing to hear and help each other.
Go to God togetherFocusing on the shame and scars of your trauma keeps you frozen in what happened. You lose sight of the blessings God has given you in the now. You are not your trauma. You are not your pain. You are not dirty. You are not broken. You are a daughter of the King, chosen, redeemed, worthy, holy, set apart, and loved. Lovely, remember what someone did to you is not more than what Christ did for you on the cross.
Decide to include your spouse in going to God together. There is strength in walking toward healing and wholeness as one in your marriage. Communicate ways and specific areas your spouse can pray for you and how you can pray together. If you are struggling with anxiety, fear, worry, or rejection, say something. Get in God’s word together, pray for one another, and as one.
Reassure your spouse your feelings are not related to them.When our responses are connected to trauma, our spouses may feel hurt or confused. Your spouse may not understand why you have become distant, are unable to get out of bed, are irritable, or you turn down sex. Pulling away can cause your spouse to receive your distance as rejection, especially when your spouse doesn’t know or understand what you are dealing with.
Take time to let your spouse know the complicated feelings that come along with your traumatic experience have nothing to do with him (now I am not addressing situations in which there has been trauma in the marriage caused by your spouse). Take time to acknowledge your spouse’s efforts. Even a simple, “Thank you for being by my side” or “Thank you for giving me space to feel.”
Remember, your spouse is on your side. Keeping a healthy mindset of your spouse and your marriage will help during those difficult moments when we experience emotional triggers. Healing after trauma takes time and work. There is no shame in choosing wholeness, even if that means reaching out for help for yourself and your marriage.