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How to stop projecting past traumas on you Partner

As the rain pounded against the windows of her apartment, Anna found herself lost in memories of her past. 

Her past traumas were holding her back from really connecting with her partner. Every time they argued, all the hurt and frustration of the past came gushing back.

Can you relate?

Try these tips to stop projecting past traumas onto your partner and build a healthier relationship

What is projection in relationships?

Imagine scenes of a projector shining a movie onto a blank canvas. 

The images and sounds projected onto the canvas are not really happening there, but rather originate from a source somewhere else. Similarly, projection in relationships is when you take unresolved issues from your past and unconsciously project them onto your partner. 

The emotions you feel about past experiences become redirected onto your partner, which can cause confusion and conflict in the relationship. Your partner may not understand why you are behaving a certain way, and you may not even realize that your behavior is not related to your current situation.

Recognizing triggers to prevent projection in relationships is important. 

Triggers can be anything that reminds you of past hurt, betrayal, or trauma. 

Triggers can be a specific word, tone of voice, or action that your partner does that unconsciously makes you react in ways not necessarily related to the present situation. 

You may find yourself being overly critical, judgmental, or defensive towards your partner. Recognizing these triggers and understanding that they come from past experiences is a key step in preventing projection in relationships.

Understanding how to stop projecting past traumas onto your partner is a process. 

While it can be difficult, it is possible to work through past traumas and heal from them. 

By recognizing triggers and taking responsibility for your own emotions, you can work towards healthier relationships. 

It is important to communicate with your partner openly and honestly about your feelings and work together towards a better understanding of each other.

How can I identify my triggers in a relationship?

 To identify your triggers, you need to pay attention to your emotional responses to certain situations or behaviors of your partner. 

These emotional responses are generally intense and disproportionate to the current situation. A trigger can be a person, place, thing, or situation that reminds you of a past trauma. 

It can also be a behavior or an attitude of your partner that resembles someone who hurt you in the past.

Triggers can be difficult to identify because they often operate on a subconscious level. You may not immediately recognize that you are being triggered because the response is automatic. 

However, once you become aware of your triggers, you can work on managing them and preventing projection in your relationship.

Identifying your triggers requires self-reflection and introspection. 

You need to ask yourself questions such as, "What do I feel when my partner does/says this?", "Does this behavior remind me of someone or something from my past?", "Do I feel threatened or unsafe in this situation?", and "Why am I reacting this way?".

Once you have identified your triggers, the next step is to communicate them to your partner. 

This will help them understand why you react the way you do in certain situations. It will also give them the opportunity to support you and work with you to avoid triggering situations.

In conclusion, recognizing your triggers is crucial for preventing projection in relationships. 

To do this, you need to pay attention to your emotional responses and ask yourself questions to identify the root cause of those responses. 

Once you have identified your triggers, communicate them to your partner to work together in managing them.

What are some common triggers that can lead to projection?

 One common trigger that can lead to projection is unresolved trauma. 

When you have unresolved trauma, it can be difficult to separate your past experiences from your current reality. 

This means you may assign negative qualities to your partner that are actually a reflection of your past experiences. 

Another trigger is fear of vulnerability. 

When you feel vulnerable in a relationship, you may project your insecurities onto your partner as a way of protecting yourself. This can lead to unnecessary conflict and distance in the relationship. 

Additionally, unmet needs and expectations can also trigger projection. 

When your needs and expectations are not met, you may unconsciously project those unmet needs onto your partner. This can lead to disappointment and frustration in your relationship. 

It's important to recognize these triggers in order to prevent projection and create a healthy, fulfilling relationship.

Communicating openly with your partner about trauma history

Why is it important to share my trauma history with my partner?

Imagine this: every time you communicate with your partner, your past trauma is a silent third party in the conversation. 

It's like a ghost that haunts every interaction, influencing the way you see and interpret things. 

Sharing your trauma history with your partner allows you to bring that ghost into the light and confront it together. 

It promotes understanding, compassion, and empathy between partners. When you communicate openly about your trauma history, you give them the chance to support you and help you heal. 

It also creates a safe space for you to express your emotions and thoughts without fear of judgment or rejection. 

Opening up can be scary and challenging, but it can also be a step towards a healthier, happier relationship.


How to tell if you are communicating openly with your partner about trauma history

Here are some clues that indicate how well you are expressing yourself and listening to them. For example, when you talk to your partner, do you tell them how you really feel and what you really need? Do you say it in a way that is respectful and honest, without blaming or accusing them of anything? This is a sign that you are communicating openly, because you are sharing your emotions and needs with your partner, and not hiding or suppressing them.

Another clue is how you listen to your partner. When they talk to you, do you pay attention to what they say, or do you get distracted by other things? Do you repeat back what they said or ask for clarification if you are not sure what they mean? Do you show that you understand and care about their feelings and point of view? This is another sign that you are communicating openly, because you are giving your partner your full attention and showing empathy and validation for their emotions and needs.

Communicating openly with your partner can make your relationship stronger and happier. It can help you avoid misunderstandings and conflicts, and make you feel more connected and supported. It can also help you grow as a person and as a couple. So why not try it today? You might be surprised by how much it can improve your relationship.


What are some healthy ways to communicate my triggers with my partner?

So start by being aware of your triggers and what specifically sets them off. 

This will allow you to communicate them to your partner in a clear and concise manner. Use "I" statements rather than "you" statements as this makes it less likely for your partner to become defensive and more likely for them to understand your perspective. 

It's also important to establish boundaries when discussing past traumas with your partner. 

This means being clear about what you're comfortable discussing and what you're not comfortable discussing. 

If at any point the conversation becomes overwhelming or triggering, it's okay to take a break and come back to it later. 

When communicating your triggers, try to remain calm and stay focused on the specific event that triggers you rather than generalizing it to your partner's behavior. 

For example, instead of saying "you always make me feel unsafe," try saying "when we argue, my past trauma makes me feel unsafe." This way, you're expressing your feelings while also acknowledging that your partner may not be intending to trigger you. 

In order for healthy communication to occur, it's important to also listen actively to your partner's perspective. 

This means acknowledging their feelings and thoughts without immediately becoming defensive or dismissive. It's important to remember that both parties in a relationship have their own traumas and triggers, and both need to be heard and acknowledged for the relationship to thrive. 

 How can my partner support me after I've shared my trauma history?

Sharing your trauma history with your partner can be a brave and vulnerable act. It can also bring up a lot of emotions for both of you. 

Your partner may want to support you, but they may not know how. 

One of the best ways your partner can support you is by listening to you. 

They can give you their full attention and respect what you choose to share. They can avoid judging you or blaming you for what happened. 

They can also use the same words you use to describe your experience, whether you call yourself a victim or a survivor. 

They can show that they believe you and care about you.

Another way your partner can support you is by learning your triggers. 

Triggers are things that remind you of your trauma and make you feel emotional. They can be people, places, situations, or even words or sounds. 

Your partner can ask you what triggers you and how they can help you cope when you are triggered. 

They can also avoid doing or saying things that might trigger you on purpose.

A third way your partner can support you is by helping you get help. 

You may benefit from seeking professional help to heal from your trauma and develop healthy coping skills. Your partner can encourage you to find a trauma-informed therapist or counselor who can guide you through the healing process. 

They can also help you find other resources, such as support groups or online forums, where you can connect with other trauma survivors.

Your partner can also support you by taking care of themselves. 

Supporting someone who has experienced trauma can be stressful and exhausting. Your partner may need to have their own support system, such as family, friends, or a therapist. 

They may also need to practice self-care, such as getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, or doing things they enjoy. 

By looking after their own well-being, they can be more present and supportive for you.

Sharing your trauma history with your partner can be a challenging but rewarding experience. It can help you feel closer and more understood by your partner. 

It can also help your partner understand you better and support you more effectively. 


What if my partner is not supportive or understanding of my trauma history?

If your partner is not supportive or understanding of your trauma history, it can be very hurtful and frustrating. You may feel like they don’t care about you or your feelings. 

You may also feel alone and isolated in your pain. 

Here is an attempt to explain without using a list, but making the explanation exciting and interesting:

One of the reasons your partner may not be supportive or understanding is that they don’t know much about trauma and how it affects people. 

They may have some myths or misconceptions about trauma, such as thinking that it only happens to certain people, that it should be easy to get over, or that it’s a sign of weakness or fault. 

They may also not know how to help you or what to say or do when you are triggered or upset.

Another reason your partner may not be supportive or understanding is that they have their own issues or challenges that prevent them from being empathetic or compassionate. 

They may be dealing with their own stress, anxiety, depression, or trauma that makes it hard for them to focus on your needs. They may also have some fears or insecurities that make them feel threatened or uncomfortable by your trauma history. 

They may worry that you will leave them, cheat on them, or hurt them because of your trauma.

A third reason your partner may not be supportive or understanding is that they are not emotionally mature or healthy enough to handle a relationship with a trauma survivor. 

They may lack the skills or tools to communicate effectively, listen actively, respect boundaries, or cope with emotions. They may also have some unhealthy patterns or behaviors that harm the relationship, such as being abusive, controlling, manipulative, or unfaithful.

If your partner is not supportive or understanding of your trauma history, you have some options to consider. 

You can try to educate them about trauma and how it affects you and what you need from them. 

You can also ask them to join you in therapy or counseling to work on your relationship and learn how to support each other better. You can also seek support from other sources, such as friends, family, support groups, or online forums, where you can find people who understand and care about you.

However, if your partner is not willing to learn, change, or help you, you may need to rethink your relationship. 

You deserve to be with someone who loves you, respects you, and supports you through your healing journey. You don’t have to settle for someone who makes you feel worse instead of better. 

You have the right to end a relationship that is unhealthy or abusive for you. 

Developing coping mechanisms to manage intrusive thoughts


What are intrusive thoughts and why do they cause projection?

Intrusive thoughts are unwanted thoughts, images, or urges that suddenly pop up in your mind and cause distress or anxiety. These thoughts can be violent, sexual, or blasphemous and are often the opposite of your personality and values. 

They can occur due to past experiences, trauma, or due to anxiety and stress. 

If you have experienced past traumas, these intrusive thoughts can be triggered easily and can lead to projecting those past traumas onto your partner. This can cause misunderstandings, arguments, and can even ruin relationships. 

How can I differentiate between intrusive thoughts and normal thoughts?

Intrusive thoughts and normal thoughts are both products of your mind, but they differ in how they affect you and how you react to them.

Normal thoughts are thoughts that you have intentionally or voluntarily. They are usually related to what you are doing, feeling, or planning. They are not disturbing or upsetting to you, and you can easily control or dismiss them if you want to.

Intrusive thoughts are thoughts that you have involuntarily or unintentionally. They are usually unrelated to what you are doing, feeling, or planning.

They are often disturbing or upsetting to you, and you have difficulty controlling or dismissing them. They may also cause you to feel anxious, guilty, ashamed, or angry.

One way to differentiate between intrusive thoughts and normal thoughts is to ask yourself these questions:

  • Did I choose to have this thought, or did it just pop into my mind?
  • Is this thought relevant to my current situation, or is it out of context?
  • Is this thought realistic or exaggerated?
  • Is this thought helpful or harmful?
  • How do I feel about this thought? Do I accept it or reject it?
  • How do I react to this thought? Do I ignore it or obsess over it?

If you answer yes to the first three questions and no to the last three questions, then you are likely having a normal thought. If you answer no to the first three questions and yes to the last three questions, then you are likely having an intrusive thought.

For example, if you are cooking dinner and you have a thought like “I need to chop the onions”, that is a normal thought. You chose to have it, it is relevant to your situation, it is realistic, it is helpful, you accept it, and you act on it.

But if you are cooking dinner and you have a thought like “I might stab myself with the knife”, that is an intrusive thought. You did not choose to have it, it is not relevant to your situation, it is exaggerated, it is harmful, you reject it, and you worry about it.

The key thing to remember is that intrusive thoughts are not facts, but just thoughts. They do not reflect your true feelings, beliefs, or intentions. They do not mean that you will act on them or that something bad will happen. They are just thoughts, and you can learn to cope with them and let them go.

What are some good strategies for managing intrusive thoughts?

When faced with intrusive thoughts, one common coping mechanism is to practice mindfulness and grounding techniques. 

Mindfulness involves bringing attention to the present moment and observing thoughts without judgment. By practicing mindfulness, you can learn to recognize and accept intrusive thoughts as they arise, rather than becoming overwhelmed by them. 

Grounding techniques involve using your senses to stay present and connected to the world around you. For example, you might focus on the feeling of your feet on the ground or the sensation of your breath moving in and out of your body. 

By staying present and connected to the present moment, you can learn to separate past traumas from present reality. 

Instead of projecting your past experiences onto your partner, you can focus on the present moment and respond to your partner based on their current actions and behaviors. 

This can help you build a healthier and more positive relationship with your partner. 

While practicing mindfulness and grounding techniques can be helpful, it's important to remember that everyone's journey is unique. 

What works for one person may not work for another.


In conclusion, projecting past traumas on your partner can be harmful to your relationship and your mental health. It can cause you to misinterpret your partner’s actions, create unnecessary conflicts, and prevent you from healing and moving forward

You can free yourself from the burden of your past and embrace the present and the future. Remember that you are not defined by your traumas, but by how you overcome them. You deserve love and happiness, and so does your partner. So don’t let projection get in the way of your relationship. Instead, let it be an opportunity for growth and healing.

 Go back to>>> How to cope with Common Signs of Trust Issues After Trauma

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Written by Adewale Ademuyiwa


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