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How Can Abuse Affect Future Relationships?

* I generally write using the pronouns he/him when referring to narcissists, but females are just as likely to be narcissists or exhibit narcissistic traits. So please don't think just because article uses the word him or he that it could not be a woman in that same role.

Abuse in any form can have serious effects on the lives of victims. Those who have experienced abuse as a child, can carry this trauma into their adult lives, and it can have a massive effect on how they form relationships in the future.

How Can Abuse Affect Future Relationships

This article will be discussing how abuse can affect future relationships, paying particular attention to those who experienced abuse as children, and how that affects their ability of forming relationships in the future. 

Abuse And Childhood Trauma

Abuse and childhood trauma are intrinsically linked, and refer to any distressing experiences they may have faced.

Some of these include physical violence, sexual abuse, loss of a loved one, abandonment, and any other event where the child may have felt significantly scared, overwhelmed or helpless. 

Childhood trauma can affect future relationships because we learn about human connection from a young age.

If those who are meant to look after us treat us with neglect, or abuse us, it can have a serious impact on how we view human connection, and how we choose to connect with others. 

Age is also an important factor. Your brain develops very quickly when you go from being a newborn to a toddler, so the older you are when the trauma occurs, there’s a chance it may have less of an impact. 

There are an array of other factors at play, however. These include the intensity of the trauma, and whether you had any other important figures in your life who made you feel safe, such as extended family members or teachers. 

The Impact Childhood Trauma And Abuse Has On Relationships

While it doesn’t happen to everyone who experiences abuse as a child, many who do experience these unfortunate events may act a certain way when it comes to future relationships. 

Attachment Styles

It is your early years that shape how you view the world, and how you establish connections with other people. 

This is where attachment theory becomes relevant. This theory states that what you experience, as a child, shapes the kind of relationships you have with others.

For example, you may be open to establishing intimate relationships, or you may avoid them, depending on your childhood experiences. 

Secure Attachment

Those with a secure attachment style are hoping to having trusting, and intimate relationships. 

Individuals who fall into this category are likely to not have experienced any significant abuse, and had caring, loyal parents. 

They also tend to be open to sharing their feelings with others, and have a general good self-esteem, not feeling the need to depend on others. 

Anxious Or Anxious-Preoccupied

This attachment style can occur when someone has experienced trauma or abuse as a child. They may low self-esteem, but seek out intimacy from romantic partners.

However, they can become overly dependent on these partners, and can experience worry and panic at the idea of being left by them. 

This can be the result of feeling abandoned as a child, or not receiving the appropriate care from a primary care provider. 

Dismissive-Avoidant

Those who have a dismissive-avoidant attachment style value themselves but are usually skeptical of others.

They may get nervous when someone gets too close to them, and may sometimes avoid attachment altogether. 

Similarly to the above attachment style, this behavior could stem from not being cared for appropriately as a child.

The child may have had to fend for themselves, making them self-sufficient, but can lead to them not trusting others in life, as they were likely to have felt a distrust towards their caregivers. 

Fearful-Avoidant

Individuals with this attachment style do crave intimacy and relationships with others, but they don’t feel comfortable with closeness and may find it hard to trust others and depend on them. 

They are fearful of getting hurt, and will often end up avoiding intimacy altogether. 

Trust Issues

If someone experienced certain abuse early on in life, then it is not uncommon for them to struggle with trusting others. 

They may find it difficult to trust that their partner is going to be there for them, or trust what they say. 

Communication

Those who experience abuse as a child may also find it difficult to communicate in their relationships as adults. 

Their communication style may be in line with what they saw as a child. For example, if someone had parents who were verbally abusive with each other, then they may re-enact that behavior in their adult years. 

They may also have trouble expressing their feelings in general, especially if this was never modelled for them as a child.

Sexual Abuse And Future Relationships

Sexual Abuse And Future Relationships

Whether someone was sexually abused as a child, or as an adult, it can still affect future relationships. 

Trust Issues

Those who have suffered from sexual abuse will find it very difficult to trust others. This can make relationships hard, and it may lead to them avoiding relationships altogether.

After experiencing the trauma of sexual abuse, victims may not know who to trust, and the idea of getting close to someone will likely feel scary to them. 

Shame

Shame is something that many victims of sexual abuse feel. They may constantly judge themselves in their mind, and feel they may never be good enough for anyone else. 

Therefore, they may avoid relationships because of this, or they may end up in relationships where they aren’t treated well, as that is what they feel they deserve. 

Over-Giving And Expecting Little 

If someone was sexually abused as a child, they were asked to give what no child ever should. This mind set can carry on through to adulthood, which can mean that the victim is used to over-giving in their relationships and expecting little in return. 

Similar to the previous points, this means they may end up in other abusive relationships where they aren’t treated well.

If the victim has not faced their trauma and sought help, they may end up in a series of abusive relationships, as that is what they are used to. 

Issues With Intimacy

Victims of sexual abuse may have issues with intimacy later on in life. Intimate moments may bring back memories of molestation and abuse, and this can impact their adult relationships. 

They may not like being touched, and the idea of this may make them anxious. It may be the case where the victim isn’t aware of this after-affect until an intimate moment takes place. Therefore, it is very important to seek help after abuse. 

Seeking Help

Those who have suffered any kind of abuse may find it difficult to seek help. However, reaching out to those who care for you is a step in the right direction. 

There are also several support groups you can join, where you can meet individuals who have gone through similar. 

Together, you can work on how you can proceed with life, and not let your trauma get in the way. 

Final Thoughts 

To conclude, trauma can affect future relationships in a number of ways. It can lead to trust issues, intimacy issues, among many more. 

Seeking out help is the best way forward, and opening up to those who care about you is a great way to start. 

We hope this article has been able to shed some light on this issue.

Read More about Narcissist Abuse and Domestic Violence

Emergency Numbers

Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) is the nation’s largest organization fighting sexual violence: (800) 656-HOPE / (800) 810-7440 (TTY)

988 Mental Health Emergency Hotline: Calling 988 will connect you to a crisis counselor regardless of where you are in the United States.

911 Emergency

The National Runaway Safeline: 800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929)

Self Abuse Finally Ends (S.A.F.E)

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Trauma & Child Abuse Resource Center

Domestic Violence Shelters & Resources

Futures Without Violence

National Center for Victims of Crime

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Sexual Violence Resource Center

Prevent Child Abuse America

Stalking Prevention, Awareness, and Resource Center (SPARC)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine: 1-800-950-NAMI, or text “HELPLINE” to 62640. Both services are available between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET, Monday–Friday

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255); www.suicidepreventionlifeline.orgOr, just dial 988

Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support: www.suicide.org

Crisis Text Line: Text REASON to 741741 (free, confidential and 24/7). In English and Spanish

Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONT CUT (1-800-366-8288)

Family Violence Helpline: 1-800-996-6228

American Association of Poison Control Centers: 1-800-222-1222

National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency: 1-800-622-2255

LGBTQ Hotline: 1-888-843-4564

National Maternal Mental Health Hotline: 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262)

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 678678. Standard text messaging rates apply. Available 24/7/365. (Provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning—LGBTQ—young people under 25.)

The SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline connects LGBT older people and caretakers with friendly responders. 1-877-360-LGBT (5428)

The Trans Lifeline is staffed by transgender people for transgender people:
1-877-565-8860 (United States)
1-877-330-6366 (Canada)

Veterans Crisis Line: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net

International Suicide Prevention Directory: findahelpline.com

The StrongHearts Native Helpline is a confidential and anonymous culturally appropriate domestic violence and dating violence helpline for Native Americans, available every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT. Call 1-844-762-8483.

‘Find a Therapist’ Online Directories

Canada

UK & Republic of Ireland

  • Emergency: 112 or 999
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 (UK – local rate)
  • Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 91 92 (UK minicom)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 90 (ROI – local rate)
  • Hotline: 1850 60 90 91 (ROI minicom)
  • YourLifeCounts.org: https://yourlifecounts.org/find-help/

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