There seems to be an assumption these days that people in their 20s are all caught up in “hookup” culture. Supposedly, young adults are not at all interested in committed relationships and use dating apps like Tinder only to have a series of casual, no-strings-attached, sexual encounters.
But, according to Sean Rad, the CEO of Tinder himself, roughly 80 percent of those who use the Tinder app say that they are looking for a long-term relationship. These days, many of us even know couples who met through Tinder or one of the many other dating apps and websites that are currently available.
No matter how you found your partner, maintaining a healthy relationship in the long-term requires a high level of emotional maturity. Both people in the relationship need to have the ability to express their thoughts and feelings appropriately, accept life’s many ups and downs, and take full responsibility for their decisions and actions.
Unfortunately, emotional trauma from a person’s past can interfere with their ability to grow on an emotional level and function well in an intimate relationship. Those with unresolved trauma tend to experience super-charged emotions, escalate seemingly trivial issues, and make effective communication seem impossible. They may also struggle with depression, addiction, and a whole host of additional mental health issues.
So, when you first meet someone and are caught up in the giddy, exciting, and dream-like state of new love, how can you know if you might be headed for a disaster?
There are signs you can look for in your partner and in yourself that may indicate that some emotional growth—and possibly therapy or treatment—are needed in order to build a strong and satisfying long-term commitment.
What to Look for In a Relationship
In a truly committed relationship, the effects of unaddressed emotional trauma are not one person’s problem to solve. What affects one partner affects the other and has an overall impact on the relationship. Unresolved emotional trauma can commonly turn up in a relationship in these ways:
- Very strong emotional reactions to common relationship issues.
- All disagreements, no matter how minor, tend to be fueled by intense emotion.
- Tendency to withdrawal, or behave in a distant, unresponsive manner.
- Avoidance of conflict and inability to discuss issues.
- Assumptions that the partner is acting against them when they are not.
- Constant doubt about the partner’s love and commitment.
- Difficulty accepting love, in spite of constant reassurance.
Pia Mellody’s Model (a.k.a. The Meadows’ Model) of Developmental Immaturity provides a framework for recognizing and understanding the impact of childhood trauma on a person’s ability to connect with others. The model looks at whether the person experiences appropriate levels of self-esteem, sets healthy boundaries with others, owns their own reality, understands their needs and wants, and expresses themselves appropriately.
Take a look at the chart below and ask yourself:
- Which areas does my partner do well in?
- Which areas does my partner struggle in?
- Which areas do I do well in?
- Which areas do I struggle in?
Once it becomes clear that your relationship is being negatively impacted by emotional trauma—yours, your partner’s, or both—reach out for help. Progress can be made through a combination of individual therapy sessions and couple’s therapy sessions. An inpatient or outpatient treatment program may even be necessary for one or both of you depending on the severity of your issues and behaviors.
Can Your Relationship Be Saved?
Many people don’t even realize they’ve had traumatic experiences or recognize painful events from their pasts as “trauma.” Trauma-informed therapy and trauma-informed treatment programs can help individuals and couples begin to identify their hidden pain and see how it still affects them and their relationships. Trauma-focused therapy also helps couples to better understand one another by sharing their individual personal histories and teaching them how to process and express their thoughts and emotions in healthier and more productive ways.
But, trauma work isn’t just for couples. If you’re currently single, now is the perfect time to focus on yourself and develop the communication skills and self-knowledge that will help you start any relationship—whether it’s with a spouse or partner, friend, family member, or employer—on the right foot. You can build a better future for yourself and those you love.
Call us for more information on how you can get started. 855-333-6075. Or send us an email.