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It is commonly understood by psychologists that our childhood greatly impacts our attachment style. When we have happy childhoods and develop healthy bonds with our parents, our relationships later in life thrive. Conversely, when the opposite happens, our relationships suffer.

That is the cliff notes version. The long version is that attachment trauma is not a rare occurrence. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 76% of children are neglected, traumatized, or otherwise treated in a way that falls under the guidelines of ‘maltreatment.’

Attachment trauma is the result of what happens when a young child endures overwhelming stress at an early age. Examples of this can be when the caregiver is unable to protect their child from harm, when they are unable or unwilling to emotionally regulate their child, or when the caretaker is unreliable.

But, trauma is not just the result of abuse or neglect. Other situations that throw a child off guard like divorce or witnessing a parent in a bad situation can also impact your development later on, especially in regards to relationships.

Because of that, many survivors of trauma may have a hard time discerning what a healthy relationship is because their attachment mechanisms were disrupted in their early development. You may cling drastically to people who don’t deserve it, while pushing away the ones that do deserve your attention. In many ways, you may not even realize what makes a good partner.

If any of that sounds like you, here are some tips on discerning a good partner.

1. They understand healthy boundaries.

Boundaries, especially for those who have endured past trauma, are so important. Oftentimes, when someone has endured an attachment trauma, there can be a lack of boundaries. However, the good thing about boundaries is that we can learn them at any point in our life. If you have a partner who doesn’t overstep the line, who respects you, and who also demands respect (empathetically) then you have found a good partner.

2. They hold realistic standards for themselves & of you.

Everyone has standards, for themselves and others. That is not to say that a good partner should ever try to change you or expect you to be perfect. But, much like boundaries, everyone has their limits. And everyone also has expectations. It’s normal to expect respect, to expect love, to expect time, and to expect a partner who shows up consistently. These are signs of someone ready for a healthy relationship.

3. They support and encourage you.

In relationships, eventually, the initial spark will begin to die down, and when it does, what matters is if this person is someone that is a teammate that will be by your side. Signs of this are support and encouragement. Your partner should be your biggest cheerleader. And vice versa.

4. They make you want to be a better version of yourself.

When you are with someone, if they make you want to do better and be better, they are someone you want to have in your life. Once again, this is not to be confused with dating someone who tries to force you to be something you are not.

5. You share similar values.

Similar values are so important in relationships. Once again, the initial spark fades, and then, what you are left with is a common bond and a common thread, as well as a common interest for your future.

6. They are emotionally intelligent.

Another important factor for those who have attachment trauma and really everyone is finding an emotionally intelligent partner. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and process your emotions. It’s the ability to continue to stay attuned with your emotions and learn how to manage them reasonably throughout your life.

7. They communicate clearly and effectively.

And lastly, communication is KEY. Without proper communication, it’s nearly impossible to make it through the inevitable hurdles that will try to break your relationship apart over time. Because perfect relationships don’t just happen, they take work, time, effort, communication, and TRUST.