Childhood trauma has a myriad of negative effects that begin shortly after the trauma and reverberate well into adulthood. And while it’s common knowledge that our childhoods affect our relationships as adults, so too does the traumas we experience.
Trauma is different to each of us and can include several different circumstances. However, the effect early childhood trauma has on our adult relationships manifests in similar ways. If you endured trauma, or have been in a relationship with someone that has trauma, then the following will likely hit home with you.
Below are 12 ways early childhood trauma impacts our adult relationships.
1. They have trust issues.
Growing up in a situation in which you learn that people are not to be trusted early on sticks with you. While people who don’t endure trauma or neglect may feel safe and secure with other people, those who have endured trauma do not.
2. They feel like no one could love them.
Small children are hardwired to seek out love and comfort from their caregivers and the people around them. When trauma happens, it can be confusing on a small mind. A lot of times, rather than seeing themselves as a victim of a bad situation, they may believe they have done something to deserve what has happened to them.
3. They are afraid of abandonment.
When you are neglected or abandoned early in life by someone who should have given you love, it makes it hard to trust that people won’t leave you later in life, too. Many live with an underlying current of fear that one day, their partner will leave them too.
4. They carry their trauma with them.
Once trauma happens to a person, it can stick with you for a lifetime. And while you may carry it with you in the form of symptoms or traits, it can stay with you in your mind. In relationships, a partner who was traumatized may always believe their partner will do what has already been done to them again.
5. They have low self-esteem.
Much of our sense of self comes from the relationships and interactions we forge early in life. When we are abandoned, neglected, or abused, we may grow to believe that we are less than. Or on the other hand, we may lose sight of our sense of self.
6. They have attachment issues.
In a very interesting article by Bridges to Recovery, they say that most people who have endured trauma encounter attachment problems. This can make it hard for them to trust, but it can also make their attachment style seem either avoidant (distant) or ambivalent (clingy) attachment styles. In some cases, you can go between the two, which can be disastrous.
7. They are defensive.
People who have been abused or traumatized early on grow to believe the world is inherently bad. Due to that, even the slightest thing can make them defensive or put them on guard.
8. Physical intimacy is more difficult for them.
It can take those who had endured trauma a while before they are comfortable enough with themselves to be able to connect with others on an intimate level. Even in cases where they are in a loving relationship, they may still struggle and retreat inward at times.
9. They are easily irritated by others.
Growing up in chaos can cause us to develop several traits. Some of those can make it harder for victims of trauma to regulate their emotions correctly. And in turn, they may easily get overstimulated and lash out.
10. They need a lot of time to themselves.
When you have lived in intense chaos, especially from a young age it’s a lot on your nervous system. In adulthood, this can cause those who have endured this chaos to need more time alone to refresh themselves. This is especially true when times get stressful.
11. They tend to settle for bad relationships.
Because young people who are traumatized often grow up believing they are unworthy, they may settle for people and relationships that are bad for them. Another reason for this is likely that they have grown so accustomed to toxicity, that they end up unintentionally seeking it out like adults.
12. They have a hard time managing conflict.
Conflict management is something we learn early in life. When we are traumatized, we grow up in fear of conflict, because we are apprehensive about the world. In adult relationships, we may either avoid conflict altogether or resort to poor coping techniques when conflict occurs.