How to Cope with Relationship Trauma Triggers

trauma triggers strategies

Strategies and Tips

Most of us come out of childhood, or past relationships, with some sort of emotional trauma. It could be an absent or inconsistent parent, a physically abusive boyfriend, or a mother who was really critical. These past hurts will make it more difficult to trust and feel emotionally attached to others in the future. I call these hurts relationship traumas.

When your current partner does something similar to what happened in your previous relationship trauma, you are triggered into feeling fear and shame. The trauma triggers take you back to the emotional place you were when the original trauma occurred. So, how do you cope with traumatic triggers and regulate? Here are strategies and tips on how to cope with trauma triggers.

Name Your Triggers

If you become angry or end up in a fight whenever a certain topic is brought up, start to name your trigger.  Gently tell your partner, “When you say you’re leaving, it reminds me of…”. This helps you partner understand what your trigger is and how they can avoid bringing up these negative emotions in the future. A trigger can be related to a behavior, tone of voice, choice of words, or even the look on your partner’s face. Naming your trigger also helps you acknowledge the emotional wounds that you are still working through instead of pushing them down and trying to ignore them.

Don’t Give in to Fight or Flight

When we face a confrontation and negative emotions, your most primal instincts will kick in. This means fight or flight. If you are triggered by an emotional trauma, don’t run away from it. For the sake of your emotional attachment to your partner, it is important for you to work through it together. When you to choose to stay and fight for your relationship and through the trauma together, your secure attachment can be strengthened.

Tell Your Partner What You Need

To help you regulate and cope with your triggers, your partner will need to play a very important role. Tell your partner what you need. Let him know that you need him to stay physically close, hold you and tell you “I am here for you and I am not going anywhere.” Your partner cannot help you heal and create a safe haven for you if he doesn’t know how to help you cope. Instead, your emotions may confuse or overwhelm him and he can do things to make it worse.

Get Help

Sometime emotional traumas are deeply rooted and a counselor can help you and your partner navigate the choppy waters in a healing way. You will learn how to feel safe being vulnerable, and your partner can have a safe space to talk about any issues that your past trauma brings up for him.


About Jennine Estes, MFT

Think of me as your relationship consultant, I'm your neutral third party that can help you untangle the emotions and help you figure out what's really going on. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. Certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. Supervisor. I write relationship and self growth advice for my column Relationships in the Raw. Creator of #BeingLOVEDIs campaign. MFC#47653