LoveWorks Podcast

Ep 38: How Trauma Impacts Relationships. Tania Choi, MFT

I’m talking to Tania Choi, LMFT, psychotherapist. Tania specializes in trauma for teens, couples, and individuals. She’s an EMDR specialist and Recovery specialist, and a former tech designer.

We talk about how trauma shows up in relationship and for individuals. Trauma is the unconscious that drives us to do things we know aren’t good for us. Any time you have one of those reactions where you go from 0 to a 100 in no time, you’re in trauma, and not using the conscious thinking part of your brain.

Tania defines trauma as any moment in time where we lost our sense of choice.

When we were children, there’s a little camera in our hearts that always takes pictures of the world, of how people love us, or don’t. As adults, we find someone whose pictures match ours. That’s what has us feels like we’ve known someone our whole lives. It’s also what sets us up to reactivity, because that person’s painful “pictures” are likely to match ours.

Tania says one of the main ways she works with couples is using a tool she learned at LoveWorks, which is to examine the stories and “make ups” we create based on our individual traumas. Simple example: Instead of saying to your partner, “Every time you don’t put the cap back on the toothpaste, you’re disrespecting me!”, you could say something like, “When you leave the toothpaste cap off, the story I tell myself is that ….”.

When you get into arguments with your partner, it’s hugely important that you talk about just the issue at hand – say, someone doesn’t put the toothpaste cap back on – and that you don’t spout off your “trauma soundtrack”, which says, “You don’t love me, you don’t respect me, no one loves me, I never get what I want, I never get the respect I deserve” or some variety of this.

What determines whether a relationship survives or not is whether the partners take ownership of the stories they tell themselves. In therapy, it’s called Narrative Therapy.

Tania says she still practices this in her own relationship with her partner, and stresses the importance of making your relationship a practice. She and her partner still attends LoveWorks workshops every three months. It’s like going to the chiropractor for an adjustment to keep your alignment. Going to a workshop is a relationship adjustment that puts you back in alignment.

When you get too focused on what your partner is doing wrong, on their dysfunction, you’ve have displaced the source of your power. Even if your’e right about your “analysis” of your partner’s dysfunction, you still give away your power if all your attention is on trying to fix your partner.

If you’re a partner of someone who has a diagnosis such as borderline personality, or Aspergers, here are few things Tania says to consider:

  • Get yourself in community; find a tribe that understands your situation.
  • Be clear about the needs your partner can provide for and which the cannot provide for. Be clear about what your limits are.
  • Approach your situation with consciousness and compassion.
  • Be big on your self-care piece. Take good care of yourself. Get the support and care you need to take care of you.

There’s much more on the podcast, such as four steps to check when you’re looking for a partner.

Find Tania’s work at traumatreatedtenderly.com