Emotional Wounds: Ways They Can Show Up in Your Relationship

Do you believe things that happened in your past can impact how you function in your relationships?  If you don’t, you’re not alone.  Being a therapist who works with individuals and couples, I’ve heard something like this many times:

“It’s in the past.  There’s no point in rehashing old stuff.”

It’s certainly not useful to get stuck on a topic and let it replay over and over like a broken record – but acknowledging the experience and working through if it’s been an obstacle or block for you is pretty important.

Here are some of example of possible emotional wounds:

  • Abuse or other physical/emotional trauma
  • Emotional or physical absence of one or both parents during childhood
  • High levels of criticism and lack of acceptance during childhood
  • Peer rejection or bullying during school years
  • Pattern of loss in friendships or love relationships
  • Pattern of betrayal in friendships or love relationships
  • Pattern of maltreatment in friendships or love relationships

There are many other ways people can experience pain can stick with them.  Keep in mind that some people are more vulnerable to these types of experiences than others due to other factors (resilience, etc).  The earlier the relational disappointments and pain occurred, the more likely you may struggle as an adult emotionally or in your relationships.  Never underestimate the impact of childhood wounds.

Now let’s look at ways emotional wounds can show up in your relationships:

  • Tendency to attract and be attracted to partners who mistreat you
  • Tendency to attract and be attracted to partners who are emotionally unavailable
  • Tendency towards self sabotage in relationships
  • Fear of getting close in relationships
  • Tendency to have high expectations of others, personalize their behavior and be easily disappointed when they fall short

A primary reason why much of the above happens for those who carry emotional wounds rests in their belief systems about themselves (lacking value and worth), others (lacking trust) and the world (lacking belief things will work out).  It actually makes good sense considering what might have been learned!  For children who didn’t begin their earliest years in an environment of trust, security and love (during the most important time when the brain is rapidly developing), it’s no wonder they can become adults who don’t necessarily believe that good can come – or that they deserve it.  Beliefs, assumptions, reactions and often maladaptive coping mechanisms become second nature, they are wired into their brain.

Many blindly cycle through unhealthy relationships with no awareness of how their past has blocked them from achieving one of the most rewarding of human experiences, a loving relationship.  These relationship patterns are often toxic; high conflict, abusive, emotionally unavailable or otherwise painful, not only being with people like this too but possibly not being a good partner themselves!

The good news is that positive change can and does happen.  If you have an awareness that your current struggles are connected to your past, you can then unpack pack then take the steps to change for a a more peaceful experience individually and in your intimate relationships.  (These patterns can also play out in friendships.)  Family of origin work can be the key to that which can be done with therapists with a focus on that type of therapy.

It’s brave work to tackle your past and move forward doing something different to yield different results.  But it can one of the most rewarding things you ever do for yourself.

If you have a specific relationship question you’d like quick feedback on, see my Relationship Consultation services.

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of with emotional and relationship health articles, guides, courses and other tools for individuals and couples. She is a frequent consultant for the media having appeared in,, and others. Lisa has a private practice in Marin County, CA and offers Emotional Health and Relationship Consultations via email, phone or video conference.

Add comment