Navigating a Healthy Relationship After Trauma by Lauren from Rebranding Mental Health

We can do all the inner work but the real healing starts when we get close to someone new.

If you have experienced trauma, getting close to someone new can feel incredibly daunting. We build up walls for protection and will do anything to stop history repeating itself. If this resonates, know that it is normal and our body’s way of keeping us safe. Letting your guard down might seem impossible but it can be done (I know this because I have managed to push myself through the fear and get to the other side).

1. Take your time. Go at your own pace. Friends and family can be an amazing support but only you will know when you are ready. Putting our trust in someone is challenging for anyone so make sure you are in the right headspace to date and get to know someone.

2. Red flags. List the non-negotiables and check them regularly when getting to know someone new. It is also important to identify what you need from a relationship. We are not talking an endless list of ‘must haves’ but things you need from a long-term relationship in order to thrive.

3. Friendship first. If it is possible, try and build up a friendship with this new person first. Find out if you could actually work together before going all in (easier said than done, I know). It’s a great way to ‘dip your toe in the water’ and see how they respond in certain situations. New relationships can be triggering for someone who has experienced trauma and not everyone knows how to respond. It is a learning journey for both of you.

4. Communication. This is the BIG ONE, and the most common reason for relationship breakdowns. Learn how to express your needs and speak up. It takes practice but it gets easier and you will feel empowered when you can create healthy changes within a relationship without an argument. If you find that your needs are not being met and you have communicated this, you have the power to walk away.

5. Boundaries. If you’re used to being a people pleaser this one may take a little work, but remember your needs are so important. In the early stages of a relationship, learning to trust can feel daunting and overwhelming so don’t be afraid to ask for space if you need it, or say no to situations you don’t feel comfortable with yet. If they are the right person they will understand and have patience.

6. Regulating Emotions. Getting close to another person can instil fear and panic. This is usually based on our past experiences rather than what is happening in the present situation. Mindfulness can really help to bring us back to the moment. Taking a few breaths or practising mindful meditation for just ten minutes a day can create changes in the brain that make us less reactive and more responsive.

7. Acceptance. Accept that the process of getting close to someone new might be a little messy at the beginning, but it does get easier as you build up trust over time. If this new relationship doesn’t work out, you will learn new navigation tools to equip you for the next one.

8. Be Kind to Yourself. Always be kind to yourself along the way. There isn’t anything wrong with you, you are not ‘broken’ or ‘damaged’. You are going through a healing process which takes time and energy. If you’re having a wobble, call a close friend, make a cup of tea, soak in a hot bath or whatever else you may find relaxing. Give yourself some love.

Hopefully these steps will make it a little easier to navigate your way through the early stages of a new relationship. It takes guts and courage – but I promise you it’s worth it!

Any trauma survivor has an inner strength like no other and you deserve the world...

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