Relationships are complex things to navigate for everyone. The ups and downs of a relationship can be even more challenging if you or your partner have experienced childhood trauma. Here are eight ways that childhood trauma can affect your relationship. Recognizing these signs can help you cope with these issues better.

Poor Emotional Regulation

Poor emotional regulation, or emotional dysregulation, refers to emotional responses that are disproportionate to the situation. Examples can include:

  • Extreme tearfulness.
  • Angry outbursts.
  • Throwing or destroying objects.
  • Aggression towards self or others.
  • Threats of suicide. 

Low Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is strongly related to how you view and react to the things that happen in your life. Childhood trauma can significantly undermine one’s ability to develop a healthy sense of self. Low self-esteem can present itself in a relationship as:

  • Fear of trying
  • Lack of self-care
  • Low resilience to negative situations
  • Self-harming behaviors


Depression is far more likely to affect those who have experienced childhood trauma. Depression can make it difficult to maintain supportive relationships. Depression can cause several difficulties in your relationship, such as:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling drained and exhausted
  • Feelings of powerlessness
  • Feeling like a depressed partner is a burden.
  • Feelings of guilt

Discomfort with Emotional Openness

Discomfort with emotional openness can be challenging to pin but can slowly erode healthy relationships. Childhood trauma can make emotional vulnerability difficult and can appear in a relationship in the form of:

  • Avoiding sharing emotions or feelings
  • Not making their partner a priority when they should be
  • Reduced ability to name or express emotions
  • Difficulty empathizing with another person’s feelings

High Value on Independence

Extreme independence is a response some people have to childhood trauma. They might feel like relying on others makes them feel vulnerable to being hurt or disappointed. Extreme independence can be detrimental when:

  • Failing to ask for help when they need it
  • Feeling weak if one seeks out emotional support
  • Inability to trust other people
  • Support systems are shunned or seen as a sign of weakness

Fear of Intimacy

Avoidance or fear of intimacy refers to any situation in which you share your true self with another person to gain closeness and connection. Examples of fear of intimacy can be:

  • Avoiding sharing thoughts or ideas
  • Not sharing feelings or opinions
  • Fear of engaging sexually

Difficulty Trusting Others

Trust in others is something that one learns to depend on in early childhood. When someone experiences childhood trauma, their trust was violated. Trust issues can show up in a relationship as:

  • Seeking evidence of betrayal
  • Difficulty with commitment
  • Genuine mistakes are seen as breaches of trust
  • Secretive behavior, even when it is not warranted

Seeking Constant Validation

Those who seek constant validation are seen as clingy, but this is a form of anxiety. To grow up whole, children need a solid foundation of people who love them. Those who experience childhood trauma lack this in their lives. Validation seeking can present as:

  • Taking a disagreement personally
  • Fear of disapproval
  • Gaining attention or acceptance through gossip
  • Fishing for compliments

Childhood trauma can affect your relationship on multiple levels. Gaining perspective on how childhood trauma shows up in your relationship can help you work through these issues. If you or your partner find your relationship is unnecessarily complicated, and you suspect childhood trauma might be the root cause, don’t despair; seek out help!

Counseling from a licensed trauma-informed therapist can help you gain perspective on the struggles in your relationship. A trauma-informed therapist can recognize when trauma is a root cause and offer solutions to help. You do not need to struggle in silence. 

Family Strategies Counseling and Mediation is a trauma-informed therapy office located in Homewood, IL. We specialize in couples counseling, family therapy, child therapy, and trauma based therapy center. Call (708) 798-5433 or email info@Family-Strategy.com for appointment details and information.