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 it out in the Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, volume 31, issue 3.
For practitioners, learning how to help trauma survivors connect with their loved ones is an important part of the healing process.
How have you seen trauma impact romantic relationships? Please leave a comment below.