Many military couples are impacted by the experience of traumatic events, and this can take a toll on the relationship. In this podcast episode, Elizabeth Polinsky interviews trauma expert Karen Robinson on ways to heal from trauma while in a relationship.
IN THIS PODCAST:
Introduction to Karen Robinson
Karen is a trauma recovery expert and also a trauma survivor herself. She grew up in Canada and Maine, and got her masters degree from the University of Maine over 20 years ago. She has worked with the Department of Defense as a therapist and social worker for most of her career. Currently she has her own private practice where she does counseling (Virginia only) as well as coaching for those in other locations. Check out her website at www.healthrivedream.com
Symptoms of Trauma
A traumatic event is an adverse event that is disruptive to a human and it can impact people in several ways. It is important to note that people may experience trauma in different ways. (Learn more about symptoms of trauma here).
If you wouldn't say something to your best friend, then you shouldn't say it to your spouse."
How trauma impacts relationships
Marriage is already pretty challenging and take a lot of work. When one person has experienced a traumatic event--then it can be more challenging and require more work to keep the relationship in a good place. Couples who have fun together, who are best friends, and who can have a light hearted playfulness quality tend to do better in their relationships.
However, after a traumatic experience, many people loose their sense of playfulness. Therefore it can be important to work on doing exercises that help you de-stress so you can be more playful in your marriage.
Ways couples can work on improving communication after trauma
Even if you think you are a great communicator, it can be helpful to take a communication class. Karen offers this as one of her services, and these workshops help you practice what it feels like to be an effective speaker--sharing in a concise matter and using active listening to fully understand.
Techniques that can be helpful:
Another important skills is learning to resolve conflict well with your partner. This is especially important when trauma has led someone's nervous system experiencing really intense emotions. On the extreme end, when emotions feel disregulated and out of control, then there is a risk saying something you don't mean, domestic violence, someone storming out and getting in a car crash.
Tips for conflict resolution:
Tips for increasing playfulness as a couple:
Both people need to be able to say what they need to say, and to feel heard"
Individual and relational healing after trauma
When there has been trauma, there is an individual trauma healing journey as ell as a couple healing journey.
The Individual Journey:
Both people need to make sure they are practicing self care, eating well, getting enough rest, and getting exercise. If you can't take care of your basic needs, it is going to be really hard to be healthy in your relationship.
She often recommends that people have a mindfulness or meditation app of their phones to help help decrease stress. She tends to recommend the Calm phone app which is free, and the one that she loves that is paid is called Headspace. This can be a great prevention method.
The Couple Journey:
Couples counseling is a great way to work on improving relationships together. There are several types of therapy for couples who are recovering from trauma, including: Imago Therapy, Conjoint Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for PTSD, and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. (Learn more about types of marriage counseling here.)
Outside of couples counseling, if you are working together as best friends and you see your partner struggling, go get their coping bad or coping toolbox. This could include sticky notes to having them call a friend or to do something else that will help them feel better. In the coping skill bag, you will want sensory things that are enjoyable to feel, hear, smell, etc. Since you know your partner best, ask yourself, what is one thing you can do for your partner? And it you are struggling to find empathy for your partner, try to see the child in your partner and this can help you find empathy so you can be more gentle with your partners struggles.
Working with Karen Robinson
Liz's Useful Links:
Podcast Sponsor: This podcast is sponsored by Elizabeth Polinsky Counseling, where marriage counselor Elizabeth "Liz" Polinsky provides online marriage counseling, weekend long marriage intensives, and therapist training in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy.
Thanks for listening!
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The Communicate & Connect Podcast
In Communicate & Connect For Military Relationships, I provide educational tips for relationships, communication, and navigating military family life.
Hey, I'm Dr. Elizabeth "Liz" Polinsky and I am a marriage counselor in Virginia Beach. I provide online counseling across the states of VA, MD, NC, SC, AR, and NV.