When deep and hurtful rejection occurs, it can create a trigger response of what we call “fight, flight, or freeze.” Ironically, trauma survivors can sometimes resort to pushing away those they care about most in efforts to avoid experiencing the vulnerability of close relationships. However, others can sometimes hold on just a little too tightly in efforts to control the situation and reassure themselves they are ‘safe’ in some way.
Healthy relationships are built upon strong foundations of equal respect and care. However, this doesn’t mean that there is a constant 50/50 balancing act of support happening. It is perfectly natural for one partner to need more aide at certain times in life, and the same in return. But when does fair requirement switch to neediness?
Let’s take an example:
‘Anna has suffered terrible reaction in her childhood which has lead her to seek unhealthy relationships in her young adult life. She later goes on to meet a kind and genuine partner who has no interest in manipulating her in the way her former partners have done. However, Anna finds herself demanding her partner’s full attention and reacting extremely emotionally when her needs are not satisfied. This causes tension in the relationship as her partner feels unfairly treated. The relationship ends, despite them both still feeling strongly about one another.’
In this example, we can see that Anna has unhealed wounds that are causing her to demand more than her partner can reasonably provide. She is seeking full and absolute validation, despite this being an impossible and unrealistic goal. Anna could benefit from taking time to heal from her past with the support of a professional therapist to help her overcome her battles. From a place of healing she may be able to remedy her attachment issues and rebuild her relationship.
Let’s take a look at a positive example of balance within a healthy relationship:
‘Martin has suddenly become responsible for the care of his elderly mother who has become incapacitated by a previously undiagnosed health condition. He finds himself struggling to balance his roles at work and at home. This is causing him significant distress. Martin’s partner sees what he is going through and offers to help him. Martin’s partner takes on more chores and drives him to work each day to allow him time to talk through how he is feeling before each day begins. His partner understands that the situation is extraordinary and helps Martin where possible until a longer term solution of care provision is found.’
Fundamentally—our partners do not need to ‘fix’ everything that might occur in life. They simply need to be willing to offer loving support without causing detriment to their own wellbeing.
No one likes to see their partner suffer. But it is a true privilege to know we have introduced genuine positivity to a difficult situation that our partner is facing. This is the true nature of loving connection, after all.