Codependency and Relationship Trauma
By Kevin Petersen, MA, LMFT.
Relationship trauma is more common than you think. Surfacing from relationships with parents, friends, siblings, or significant others, relationship trauma is a challenging emotional reaction that affects multiple facets of your life. And for someone struggling with an addict in their relationship, relationship trauma is also related to codependency.
What is relationship trauma?
Relationship trauma is an emotional reaction tied to an unhealthy relationship. Typically caused by a series of events instead of a single event, relationship trauma can also be seen as “relationship PTSD.” You can experience common symptoms like anger toward the other person, distress, guilt, shame or a mix of emotions. These symptoms often occur when a partner tries to control or manipulate the other, and it can leave you feeling powerless. It affects your self-image and relationships with others, including parents, friends, and other family members.
How codependency arises from relationship trauma:
If you persistently put that other person’s needs in front of yours, it’s likely you may be codependent. A codependent relationship makes it difficult to set and enforce boundaries, wreaking havoc to yourself. By continually putting others’ needs before your own, you overfocus on trying to fix the other person’s problems, rather than them focusing on these problems.
Codependency can arise in a relationship with an addict because the giver is scarred by trauma, such as emotional abuse, verbal abuse, or emotional neglect and fears of being rejected or abandoned.
How to heal from relationship trauma and codependency:
Many of us have found ourselves in a relationship that wasn’t right. But some people find themselves consistently in relationships with the wrong people. Managing relationship trauma and codependency starts with working on yourself with a trained mental health professional, and then learning how to allow safe people to be part of your life. Everyone has quirks, mannerisms, and challenges. It’s okay to acknowledge the other person’s behavior. But what isn’t okay is if that person engages in domestic violence, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
This is when it’s critical to set and enforce boundaries. It’s essential to set boundaries with people who treat you poorly and hold them accountable and to learn how to stand up for yourself.
Managing relationship trauma:
Coping with relationship trauma is difficult, but there are some strategies that can help you manage it.
Therapy is one of the most effective ways to heal from relationship trauma. A licensed therapist can help you understand the effects that relationship trauma has on your thought patterns and behaviors.
Self-care strategies are also a great way for managing relationship trauma. Start with identifying ways to destress and unwind, such as exercising regularly, eating healthfully, journaling, or meditating. Although coping with relationship trauma is difficult, it’s possible to effectively manage it. Note that trauma won’t go away, but you can learn how to manage it healthfully.
Kevin Petersen, MA, LMFT and Founder of The Chronic Hope Institute. We help families heal from addiction and codependency. Contact us to learn more or set up an appointment with our team of experts. https://www.chronichope.us/