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Connecting With Your Partner After A Traumatic Event

Trauma can manifest in many different ways and can be triggered by various events including motor vehicle accidents, diagnosis of a chronic illness within the family, loss of a family member or close friend, loss of a family pet, job loss, financial distress, a natural disaster, and more. These are all scenarios that can lead a couple to feel incredibly disconnected because each partner may feel overwhelmed by the various stressors that occur following the incident and may find themselves feeling emotionally isolated. When a couple experiences a traumatic event together, they now have what we call a “shared trauma”. This can be an incredibly challenging journey to navigate for the couple because they each may be too mentally, and even physically, drained to comfort and show up for one another during this difficult time. If you and your partner have recently faced a traumatic event, read along to find ways to reconnect with your partner.


1) Be Honest and Feel Those Feelings


Allowing yourselves to be transparent with what occurred and how it impacted each of you and your relationship is incredibly important. Acknowledging that there is a disconnect in your relationship following a traumatic event and talking about that disconnect will allow you to begin to heal and reconnect. Pushing your feelings aside by distracting yourselves with things such as alcohol, television, food, and more can lead to problems down the road. Often, these distractions are simply a band-aid. These distractions work short-term but long-term leads to significant issues. Eventually, these distraction methods will no longer be effective and your feelings will make themselves known. I often use the coke bottle analogy when working with clients to discuss the importance of allowing yourself to feel your feelings. If you continue to stuff your feelings down and refuse to acknowledge them, you are essentially shaking up a coke bottle. After some time, the pressure will cause that coke bottle to pop and those feelings will release. So…take the time to acknowledge and name what you are feeling. Have an open conversation with your partner and allow yourselves to cry, scream, or any other response that arises.


2) Respect Your Partner’s Process


Healing is not a linear journey and each of you may be in very different phases of your grieving and healing process. It is important to be mindful that you are not projecting your process onto your partner or assuming what they are feeling. For each partner to feel emotionally safe to share their emotions, there must be open dialogue without fear that the other person will begin to take their partner’s emotions or behaviors personally. Give yourself and your partner grace throughout this process. Remind yourself that your partner’s emotions or how they choose to cope are their own. Resist the urge to mirror what your partner is feeling and remember that what works for you may not work for your partner and could potentially end up further triggering them. Trust that your partner is navigating their healing or grieving journey at the pace that they need to.


3) Ask Your Partner What They Need


If you are unsure how to show up for your partner following a traumatic event, ask them! Many times, we treat others how we want to be treated without taking into consideration what they may need. Instead of assuming what you think your partner may need at this time and assuming what support can look like, turn towards your partner and ask them. Support may look like space to allow them to emotionally process, a comforting hug, or intentional quality time together as a couple engaging in something that both of you enjoy. Everyone copes and processes in their own way and asking your partner to share what they need may foster emotional connection and intimacy to reconnect.


4) Seek Professional Support


Ultimately, reaching out for professional support after experiencing a traumatic event can be incredibly empowering and help you and your partner begin the healing journey. A licensed mental health professional can help each of you process the traumatic event, identify healthy ways to self-regulate and assist you with exploring how you can reconnect as a couple in the aftermath of trauma. If you feel that you and your partner need support, discuss what option for support may be the best fit. You can seek support from a therapist or attend support groups led by a licensed mental health professional to hear how others are coping with a traumatic event similar to what you experienced. It can be comforting to hear from others who are on their own unique and complex healing journeys.


There is hope following a traumatic event for your relationship. The willingness and vulnerability to acknowledge that you both are struggling is the first crucial first step to beginning the healing journey. Be proud of yourself for being honest and identify how you and your partner can move forward to reconnect during this challenging time in your lives. If you and your partner have faced a traumatic event and are struggling to navigate how to reconnect as a couple and process the traumatic event, our counselors are available to walk alongside and support you. Please reach out for a free 15-minute consultation to see if our counselors would be a good fit today. You are not alone in this.