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How To Be A Trauma-Informed Partner? A Clinical Psychology Podcast Episode.

How To Be A Trauma-Informed Partner? A Clinical Psychology And Relationship Psychology Podcast Episode.

In recent years, there has been an increase in awareness within clinical psychology about the importance of a trauma-informed approach to mental health care. As well as considering trauma is relatively common, there is a chance we will meet and maybe form romantic relationships with people who have experienced trauma. Therefore, in this clinical psychology podcast episode, I wanted to combine clinical and relationship psychology to expand upon a list of tips and ways to be a trauma-informed partner. Since this will allow us all to become more trauma-informed and this might be an extremely useful guide if you learn your partner has trauma. This could be the difference between a relationship working or not. If you enjoy learning about relationships, mental health and trauma then you’ll love today’s episode.

This podcast episode has been sponsored by Working With Children And Young People: A Guide To Clinical Psychology, Mental Health and Psychotherapy. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also available as an AI-narrated audiobook from selected audiobook platforms and library systems. For example, Kobo, Spotify, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Overdrive, Baker and Taylor and Bibliotheca.

Note: as always absolutely nothing on this podcast is any sort of official medical, relationship, career or any form of official advice.

Why Do We Need To Learn About Trauma-Informed Approaches?

Personally, I think there are three main reasons why it is critical to understand trauma-informed approaches. Firstly, this is a psychology podcast that aims at providing psychology students, professionals and other people with psychological knowledge and we mainly focus on clinical psychology. Since this is my main interest. Therefore, trauma-informed approaches are becoming more and more recognised and valued within clinical psychology so you need to learn about them. In fact, if you’re in the UK, then you will probably be asked about trauma-informed approaches when you go for your interview to get onto the DClinPsych. You don’t want to risk not knowing about an important area that might pop up.

Secondly, humans, like you and me, are social creatures, we all like social relationships, and these include romantic ones. Therefore, there is a good chance that at one point in our lives, we will date and maybe even fall in love with a person has experienced trauma. These relationships will have unique challenges at no fault of either party, but how these challenges are dealt with might become problems in their own right. Therefore, in this podcast episode, I want to give you the knowledge so you know how you might want to navigate these challenges and make your partner feel safe.

Finally, I just think this is a great topic and personally, I am fascinated by the concept of trauma-informed approaches because of my own abuse and trauma. I seriously want to understand this better and maybe I’ll find some extra healing or relaxation in this knowledge. I don’t know but that’s why I’m here learning and having fun along the way.

Also, I should note the main points for this episode came from the University of Kent’s Student Support Service’s Instagram page from a post they did on the 16th of February 2024.

Understand What Your Partner Needs

At first, this might seem like a very simple and almost silly point to make. Due to I can imagine a lot of people just dismissing this idea because surely we all know what our partner needs. They only need a bit of love, support and some fun and then they’ll be happy. Surely, it’s as simple as that?

Maybe in other relationships that don’t involve trauma but even then I highly doubt it.

Since when it comes to trauma and life in general, we need to remember that everyone has had different experiences with intimacy, sex and sexual relationships. Some people would have had brilliant relationships and they have no relationship issues or baggage. Yet other people might have been abused, assaulted or hit in past relationships so this can bring complications into relationships.

As a result, it is critical that you try to understand your partner’s experiences to find out what they were, how positive or negative they were and if they were negative then you need to approach this relationship with a trauma-informed manner or mindset.

Personally, drawing on my own experience here, whilst I have never been in a relationship, more than enough mental health and trauma stuff pops up in close friendships for me to understand (even roughly) how I would react in romantic relationships. And it’s good that everything I do and all my reactions, I can trace back to a particular event so now it’s just about overcoming them. Yet in a relationship I would need a partner who was willing to be patient, support and listen to my experiences.

Communication Is Key In Relationships

Of course, this is a brilliant rule for life because honest conversations are extremely powerful, but not everyone is ready to share in relationships.

One example I can think of, is how it took me two months to tell my closest friend about my past, how traumatised I was and everything that can happen to me at times because I was so scared of losing them because of it. That had happened before and then it took another two months for me to kill that fear outright, and now I am a lot more open with them. That’s just an example of how people aren’t always willing to open up about trauma, how it affects them and how all types of relationships can be difficult.

Therefore, when it comes to relationships, it’s important that you try to create and encourage a safe emotional and physical space where your partner and yourself are both comfortable enough to share things openly.

Understand Trauma

Given how I sometimes feel that laypeople use trauma as a buzzword with absolutely no understanding of what trauma actually is, I can understand why some people in relationships might not understand the role of trauma and how it affects people. Yet if you truly care or even love your partner then you need to understand what trauma is.

Since trauma affects a person physically, emotionally and psychologically. No part of a person’s life escapes trauma completely. When it comes to their physical body, your partner’s nervous system will be affected by the trauma. For example, my heart rate can make me have extreme reactions in certain situations because of my trauma and what people have done to me before. Like two Sundays ago at the time of writing, my friend started texting me in a strange way because it turned out they wanted to ask me something massive. But considering I had made an innocent mistake a few days before (that turned out to be nothing) my heart rate was pounding because my trauma made me believe my really, really close friend was going to end the friendship with me.

It still took me another five minutes to get my heart rate back to normal, because it had “only” been caused by my friend texting me.

As a result, I wanted to highlight how trauma can make partners react in ways that aren’t always in their control and most of it is just automatic. These responses aren’t done on purpose and the partner isn’t trying to hurt you, this is just how the trauma has affected them.

Then over time hopefully, as you both work on helping each other and your partner tries to improve their life and deal with the past, these responses will decrease or maybe stop entirely.

Be Observant In Relationships

There are a lot of different ways this point can be applied to relationships, but let’s take the most innocent and probably most common one. You and your partner have just had a great night out, you had a lot of fun and you laughed a lot. Then you start acting flirty and you press them a little to come back to your place for a “nightcap”. Even if you seriously mean it as a nightcap and no adult fun.

Watch your partner’s body language.

It might change to show they’re uncomfortable but they’re too nervous or unsure how you’ll react if they try to say anything.

If their body language changes then just step back, relax and act if their feelings escalate. Since not everyone communicates verbally all the time.

For example, when a friend of mine stayed over a few months ago, I could tell they were uncomfortable and slightly bored whilst we were talking with my parents. And then later on they told me, they were anxious and nervous and they only did that for my benefit.

I know this was a friendship example but the same could apply in a relationship. If this was a relationship then I should have asked my friend what was wrong and if they were okay. They would have been better than noticing it and not recognising it for whatever it might have been. In this case it was anxiety. Which for this particular friend does go back to trauma.

Just Be Open

As we slowly take some steps towards dealing with adult activities in relationships, it’s important to know you need to have open conversations. Since people who have experienced trauma can have very difficult relationships with sex and similar things.

That’s why it’s important to talk to your partner about both of your likes, dislikes and just talk about sex beforehand. You need to make them feel comfortable and what they need from you if they get overwhelmed.

Personally, I am flat out terrified of sex. I will happily admit that and I have no doubt it will cause massive issues in the future. Part of my fear comes from the touch difficulties in autism, but 90% of it is trauma-related because without saying too much, I am scared to let people close enough to me to touch me where they could hurt me. Logically, it is a silly fear but from a trauma perspective it is very practical.

Which is why there are only really four people that I’ve met in my 22 years of living that I wouldn’t mind twice about having sex with. Simply because I know these four people would never hurt me, none of those things happened though.

Anyway, it just comes to show you how trauma can seriously affect sexual relationships and why it’s important to be honest and open in conversations. Due to I know when I eventually find someone, I won’t be comfortable with the idea of sex until a deep conversation about it. As that is another test to see if they care about me very much. If they don’t want the talk then they clearly aren’t that bothered by me.

Check In With Your Partner During Sex

I’ll fully admit that I have never spoken about or said the word “sex” so many times in my life than this episode, and you realise how uncomfortable you are with the idea when you struggle saying and writing it a lot. I suppose that’s why I write sweet romance instead of steamy romances.

Anyway, building upon the last section, when you and your partner finally decide to have sex and it is perfectly okay if this doesn’t happen for a while. Be it weeks, months or even years. It’s important to check in with them during sex to see if they’re still okay.

You can do this by occasionally asking your partner if what you’re doing is okay and if they’re still enjoying it. Also, you can remind that them you can stop at any time and they can withdraw their consent whatever they want. As well as you can agree on safe words or another way to communicate that means this needs to stop immediately.

This is just flat out critical I think to making anyone who’s been through trauma feel safe, secure and cared for.

Learn Grounding Techniques

Finally, if your partner starts reacting or panicking or having some sort of negative reaction during sex then help them. One of the forms of help could be encouraging them to use grounding techniques so they become grounded in the present moment and not their traumatic past.

These grounding techniques can include reassuring them that they’re safe, referencing the present location, date, time and other immediate sensations. Like anything you hear or whatever you see. This is all about helping to ground them in the present moment and making it harder for them to focus on the past and traumatic event they’re re-experiencing.

Clinical Psychology and Relationship Psychology Conclusion

At the end of the day, when it comes to being a trauma-informed partner, it’s about realising none of us can remove all the harm that the trauma has caused our partner. It simply cannot be done. Yet what can be done is you can understand and support your partner by being patient and supportive and then you can do your best to minimise the harm caused by their trauma.

This isn’t going to be easy and I have had friends that have found dealing with my trauma difficult to say the least. So I have no idea how a future boyfriend or partner would find it. Yet I know if they care about me or even love me, then they will be patient, understanding and supportive.

That’s what you need to do to if you want to be a trauma-informed partner.

Therefore, just as a reminder here are the ways you can be an informed partner:

·       Know what your partner needs

·       Communicate with them

·       Understand trauma

·       Be observant

·       Talk openly about adult activities

·       Check in with your partner during sex

·       Use grounding techniques

Just because a partner has trauma in their past, it doesn’t mean they can never be loved. A relationship with a traumatised person can still be as magical, wonderful and loving as a relationship with anyone else. But only if you both put the work in and you become a trauma-informed partner that loves, supports and understands your partner.


If you want to learn more, please check out:

Working With Children And Young People: A Guide To Clinical Psychology, Mental Health and Psychotherapy. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also available as an AI-narrated audiobook from selected audiobook platforms and library systems. For example, Kobo, Spotify, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Overdrive, Baker and Taylor and Bibliotheca.

Have a great day.

Clinical Psychology References

University of Kent Student Service Instagram Post on 16th February 2024

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