The Past’s Impact on the Present Marriage: Trauma Podcast

Many explanations for our present realities harken back to our past. After all, who of us has not been shaped by the layers of life upon life? The marriage relationship is a crucible whereby these past experiences have a very present voice. In this episode of Breaking Bread, Kaleb Beyer explains the impact past trauma plays in present marriages. Understanding this unwelcome visitor in our today marriage relationship provides a great deal of explanation for the interactions we experience between spouses. It also, unlocks a hopeful path for an increasingly healthy marriage.

What is trauma? Sometimes our present experiences trigger danger, even when we are objectively safe. This may be a sign of trauma. In our past, traumatic experiences threatened our safety. Today, experiences may trigger that past offense and send negative reactions surging through our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Trauma can affect all areas of our life including the marriage relationship.

Thoughts are triggered by trauma: Trauma strikes at the perceived safety of an individual. The offense against a spouse’s safety in the past leaves them vulnerable to this perceived lack of safety in the present. Triggers prompt thoughts that say “I’m not safe in this moment!”

Feelings are triggered by trauma: Past painful memories hold intense negative emotions. Thoughts of jeopardized safety cause feelings of fear, unwanted exposure, a sense of helplessness and feelings of loneliness.

Behaviors are triggered by trauma: Perceived “over-reactions” can occur by those wounded by past trauma. Present situations trigger a reaction conditioned by the past. Individuals might fight, take flight, or freeze. They might pull away to avoid vulnerability. This can be disorienting to the individual and their spouse. Relational connection is broken and reception of love in these moments are difficult.

Understanding is helpful: Understanding when past trauma is speaking in the present can be helpful. It can provide explanation for the unwanted reactions that happen in present situations. This can lead to compassion and empathy.

Moving toward healing: Establishing safety within self and with spouse is the first step in moving forward. Couples will need to work on establishing trust and allowing vulnerability to happen. Being curious is key and seeking not to personalize present triggers to past trauma. Some question prompts can be helpful:

  • Help me understand when you feel this way?
  • What is it like for you to experience _________?
  • How do my actions contribute to your distress?

Couples who want to make healthy gains in this area can make use of resources.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma amazon.com
Author: Bessel van der Kolk
To develop a solid understanding of how trauma impacts the whole person and to understand how it can be effectively treated.

The Impact of Trauma in Marriage Webinar [ACCFS]
In this recorded webinar, Kaleb Beyer discusses how to identify the effects which trauma can have on a marriage relationship as well as some of the ways a couple can begin to move forward toward healing in these situations.

How We Love: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage  amazon.com
Authors: Milan & Kay Yerkovich
This book seeks to show how early life experiences create an underlying blueprint that shapes your beliefs, behavior, and expectations in your marriage. The authors identify four styles or blueprints and provide principles to help you break free of negative patterns and enhance intimacy.

In some situations, uncovering the trauma and finding healing may require a counselor.