Oftentimes, the advice given to those who have experienced trauma due to another person is to separate themselves from that relationship. For example, if you were abused by your romantic partner, then you should leave and go somewhere safe.
That advice is still true. However, what happens afterward? What if you and your partner still want to mend the relationship?
Or what if other people in your life have caused trauma for you, but they are not your romantic partner? For instance, your teen may have traumatized you by hitting, punching, making threats, etc. But they are still your child, after all, and you still love them.
So, what are you to do?
Here are some thoughts on how to survive being around the person who traumatized you.
Physical Safety First
Before going any further it’s very important to recognize that you can’t be around this person unless you feel physically safe. Period. If you don’t, then you must remove yourself from their presence.
It’s important to emphasize that this is okay. You need to be safe.
Maybe in the future, there could be the possibility of you being around this person again. But if that isn’t possible for now, then you need to take the steps necessary to maintain safety. Even if you have to leave your home. Reach out to your local crisis center for help or contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or go to www.thehotline.org.
Separating the Person From Their Actions
Once the above issue has been addressed, consider how you can survive to be around this person. For one, you can try separating the person from their actions.
For example, let’s say that the person who has traumatized you is great most of the time. However, you know that they struggle with anger problems. Although, you know that deep down they want to be kind and empathetic.
Creating this separation helps to avoid labeling someone as “bad.” You can certainly say that their behavior is inappropriate, without saying they are inappropriate. If there are mental health issues involved, that can certainly help with making this separation. When the person is struggling, it’s the mental health problem, not them, that is the issue.
Creating Strong Boundaries
Another way to be around someone who caused trauma in your life is to create and maintain strong boundaries. For instance, both of you agree that certain actions or behaviors are unacceptable. If they happen again, then there will be consequences.
That may include, for example:
- You leaving the home
- Calling law enforcement
- Separation or divorce for romantic couples
It’s important for that person to know that you and they are not living in a vacuum. Actions have consequences.
Neither of you has to be wedded to the past. However, that doesn’t mean that both of you should forget what happened, but it means making informed choices about how to move forward in the future.
Improving Your Communication
Communicating will be important if you are to continue to be around the person who traumatized you. This includes discussing what happened and acknowledging the situation.
Yet, it also means learning and practicing communication skills so that situation doesn’t happen again in the future. That can be tough, especially when there are a lot of strong emotions to deal with. Make sure that both of you take the time to communicate and focus on one skill at a time.
Getting Professional Support
It should be no surprise that these kinds of issues require professional help. Talking to a therapist who understands trauma will be necessary for both of you.
Consider seeing a therapist together, as well as individually. If you are to get through this, you will need someone who can provide the big picture, teach the necessary communication skills, and who is a safe person to talk to.
Relationships are complicated, and sometimes, the situation calls for maintaining a relationship with a person who caused trauma. Consider doing so only after you know you can be physically safe. And remember, if the situation gets worse, don’t hesitate to do what you need to do to maintain safety.
Finally, make sure both you have professional help from a therapist experienced in trauma therapy. If you would like to know more about how I can help, please contact us, 256-686-9195.