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Are Past Relationship Triggers Keeping You Stuck in the Past? – How Couples Counselling Can Help

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Are Past Relationship Triggers Keeping You Stuck in the Past? – How Couples Counselling Can Help

Counselling Australia | Trudy Jacobsen

If you have ever experienced trauma in the past, you’ll likely feel that it still affects your life today.

Healing from trauma can be a long-term process. But if you do not make an effort to heal, you can easily become stuck in the past. Even if you want to move forward, you may feel like past triggers are impeding your journey—especially if you experienced trauma within the context of a relationship.

To learn how to live in the here and now, you’ll need to develop a new way of being. Healing and setting boundaries can help you avoid getting stuck with one foot in two different worlds—your past and your present. Dwelling on painful memories and re-experiencing past emotions can be confusing and frustrating for yourself, your partner, and others in your life.

But couples counselling can help you understand and work through your past trauma in a safe environment. Here is how counselling can teach you to respond to these triggers in a healthy way and embrace your future with your partner.

Disrupting Emotional Fusion

When you’re dealing with past trauma, you may have a tendency to turn individual issues into joint issues. I’ve been triggered and it’s your job to make me feel better!

For instance, perhaps you experience anxiety after being triggered. In order to cope with these strong feelings, you may try to “fuse” your emotions with your partner rather than differentiating them. That is, rather than holding yourself steady and talking to your partner about your emotional experience, thoughts, fears, memories, anger, expectations and desires, you fuse with your partner. Which means, rather than being vulnerable and open to sharing your experience, you skip the vulnerable, honest conversation in preference to using strong emotions and words to push your partner to soothe and reassure you.  If your partner is able to see past your anger and is able to offer you comfort, it may give you some relief. But, in reality, it’s only temporary. Ultimately this pattern of behaviour serves to hold you back. Issues haven’t been adequately identified and addressed, and your partner doesn’t fully understand what just happened. 

Reacting to triggers in this way will not allow you to process your past trauma, integrate it, or learn to manage these feelings in a mature way. In couples counselling, you and your partner will understand what emotional fusion looks like. You’ll be offered coaching, education and counselling to develop the skills and personal capacities to create a more effective way to manage triggers and integrate trauma.

Repairing Relationship Ruptures and Trauma

Revisiting your past trauma may be a very difficult experience.

For example, if you’re exposed to a trigger during an otherwise happy moment, you may find yourself pulled out of it. Suddenly, you’re back in the past again. You’re going through those familiar emotions. You’re visualising the event, behaviour and/or words which hurt you. You get caught in the past and bring it into the present moment. You can end up feeling stuck in your old mindset.

This generally interferes with your relationship. Your partner may worry that they don’t know what to do to make things right. But in couples counselling, you and your partner can learn to face these traumas together. You can mend your relationship instead of rupturing it.

Increasing Capacity to Handle Tension

It can be hard to handle tension. Sometimes, you may genuinely feel that you just don’t have the capacity to do so without falling back on old, unhealthy coping mechanisms. This is something that you can work on with your partner in couples therapy.

Together, both of you will need to build up your abilities to handle tension. Couples counselling can help you along in that journey. Eventually, you will learn the skills to work through tensions together as they arise. 

Re-engaging in New Behaviours

Finally, couples counselling will help you and your partner develop new behaviours, habits, and practices that you can rely on. After all, healing is not just about letting go of your past behaviours. You need to cultivate brand new habits and approaches to dealing with anxiety and conflict within your relationship.

Couples counselling is a great place to learn the interpersonal skills you need for a happy future together. The guidance of a counsellor is invaluable for this process.

Have you found yourself struggling to fully connect with your partner because you’re still trying to deal with reminders of difficult experiences from your past? If the scenarios mentioned above sound familiar to you, couples counselling might be the right next step. Reach out to us today to discuss my approach and your options.

 

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