Trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience that can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Trauma can result from a range of events, including childhood abuse or neglect, sexual assault, combat, natural disasters, or other life-threatening events. Trauma can have a significant impact on a person’s relationships, including their marriage.
Trauma affects marriage in a variety of ways. Some couples may experience difficulties communicating or feel disconnected from one another, while others may find that their trauma has brought them closer together. The impact of trauma on a marriage depends on a range of factors, including the severity of the trauma, how long ago it occurred, and the individual’s coping mechanisms.
One of the most significant ways that trauma affects marriage is by disrupting communication. Trauma can make it difficult for individuals to express their emotions, thoughts, and feelings, which can lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings. True empathy can be especially difficult when each spouse’s experience of the trauma is radically different. Communication is the foundation of a healthy marriage, and when it is disrupted, it can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection.
Trauma can also affect a couple’s ability to trust one another. Trauma survivors may struggle with trust issues, which can make it challenging to build and maintain a healthy relationship. Trust is essential in a marriage, and when it is lacking, it can lead to feelings of insecurity and anxiety.
Another way that trauma can affect a marriage is by causing one or both partners to become emotionally distant. Trauma survivors may withdraw from their spouse as a way of protecting themselves from further harm or as a result of the shame and guilt they may feel about their trauma. Emotional distance can make it difficult for couples to connect and can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Trauma can also impact a couple’s sex life. Trauma survivors may experience sexual dysfunction, such as decreased libido or difficulty achieving orgasm. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and frustration, which can further strain the relationship.
Trauma can affect a couple’s ability to cope with stress and conflict. It can also reinforce existing stressors or introduce new ones, such as concerns about money and household duties. Trauma survivors and/or their caregivers may have a lower threshold for stress and may become easily overwhelmed by everyday challenges. This can make it difficult for couples to navigate conflict and may lead to arguments and disagreements.
Despite the challenges that trauma can bring to a marriage, there are ways to overcome these difficulties. Couples can work together to improve communication, rebuild trust, and find ways to cope with stress and conflict. Seeking professional help, such as counseling or therapy, can also be beneficial in addressing the impact of trauma on a marriage.
Trauma can have a significant impact on a marriage. It can disrupt communication, lead to trust issues, cause emotional distance, impact the couple’s sex life, and affect their ability to cope with stress and conflict. However, with patience, understanding, and a willingness to work together, couples can overcome these challenges and build a stronger, more resilient relationship.
Geralyn Ritter is an accomplished corporate senior executive, miracle survivor of the 2015 Amtrak train derailment, and author of Bone by Bone: A Memoir of Trauma and Healing. Geralyn is the executive vice president at Organon & Co., a new Fortune 500 healthcare company dedicated to the health of women.