As a couples and relational specialist, I often hear questions about the impact of past relationships on one’s partner. Clients frequently discuss issues that are not the result of their actions, but for which they are “paying.” These issues often involve triggers and emotional dysregulation that were not apparent at the beginning of the relationship. So, what is a person to do when it seems like no matter what they do, their partner lacks safety and security, to the point of lashing out at the seemingly harmless person sitting in my office?
My answers to this situation are quite simple. What are you doing to create safety and challenge the internal narrative of your partner’s experience? Abuse or trauma, even at a minimal level, shapes our experiences and is often the factor that ultimately creates instability and mistrust in intimate relationships, including romantic ones. Many times, simply showing up and creating a “new normal” that fosters safety, stability, and security can change the narrative of the experience with an intimate partner.
Despite the negatives of the past, one can be present, providing a stable and consistently compassionate relational partnership. This can change the experience by not repeating the negative behaviors of the past, but instead creating a safe, secure, and stable relationship for their partner. You cannot fix the past, but you can create a healthier, different future.