Romance can be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling, but for many people it can also be quite a challenge.
Beyond the normal hurdles of developing and sustaining relationships, recent research suggests that childhood abuse and neglect might make people more vulnerable to troubled romantic relationships in adulthood.
Professor Golan Shahar and Dana Lassri, of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel (BGU), conducted two studies with college students to see how early-life trauma and emotional abuse affect romantic relationships later in life.
Participants were asked to complete the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire to determine whether or not the participants had a history of Childhood Emotional Maltreatment (CEM).
Then, participants responded to questionnaires about both the quality of and their satisfaction with their current romantic relationship.
The researchers found a link between childhood emotional abuse and self-criticism, and a further link between childhood maltreatment, self-criticism, and dissatisfaction in romantic relationships.
Participants with a history of CEM tended to have low self-esteem and many also exhibited PTSD symptoms.
While many practitioners have already seen first-hand how unresolved childhood trauma can impact relationships throughout life, the key here is self-criticism.
It seems from this study that there’s a strong tendency to self-criticize in many people who’ve experienced CEM, and this is what leads to problems in intimate relationships.
This new connection between childhood trauma, self-criticism, and relationship problems may be a key factor in helping couples heal their relationship.
Please remember that because this is a non-randomized study with correlative findings, we have to be careful about the conclusions that we draw from it.
For the full story, you can check out the March issue of the Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology.
For practitioners, learning how to help trauma survivors connect with their loved ones is an important part of the healing process.
That’s why we created the Trauma Therapy Webinar Series – to share the wisdom of experts like Sue Johnson, EdD author of Hold Me Tight and Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy with Trauma Survivors.
This week, Sue will explain how we can use intimate relationships to treat trauma, the unique challenges and opportunities of couple therapy – and why the best place to heal from trauma could be in the arms of someone you love.
It’s free to listen to the webinar at the time of broadcast – here’s the link to sign up.
Have you ever met a patient whose trauma affected their romantic life? Please leave a comment below – we would love to hear what you think.