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Protecting Your Heart: Overcoming Past Relationship Trauma

This week we return to the story of exes Haley and Luke, reunited after years apart. Join That Love Podcast as we dive in on Haley's and Luke's story once again.

In the last episode, a major misunderstanding was cleared up. Luke apologized for wrongly accusing Haley of cheating with his father years ago. They have a warm, fun dinner together, bonding over steaks and reminiscing.

When Luke asks Haley to date again, revealing he never stopped loving her, at first she seems receptive. But then Haley shockingly rejects Luke's romantic overtures, saying she can't risk the potential heartbreak.

As Haley explains, she still carries deep scars from trauma in past relationships. Let's explore her experience and see what we can learn about protecting our hearts after being hurt.

Healing Takes Time

Haley hints at a painful dating history beyond just her breakup with Luke. She mentions an especially "terrifying" stalker ex who assaulted and harassed her. Trauma wounds our ability to trust. Haley is protecting herself by refusing to jump back into romance.

Rather than judging Haley, have empathy for her position. The heart doesn't follow neat timelines. However long it takes to process relational trauma, even years, is valid. Emotional recovery can’t be rushed.

Look Out For Triggers

Haley flinches when Luke innocuously touches her hand, signaling trauma. Even small things can subconsciously trigger memories of abuse or cause us to relive painful feelings. Tuning into triggers helps us understand our boundaries.

Communicate Your Needs

Haley could have spared Luke hurt by explaining why she wasn’t ready for romance rather than rejecting him without context. But communicating requires vulnerability that may feel too risky. If you need to set limits or take things slow, voice it compassionately.

Don’t Numb Pain

Turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms to avoid facing trauma only prolongs the hurt. Drinking, jumping into casual flings, staying perpetually busy - these temporarily numb but deny us the chance to truly heal. Feel the feelings fully.

Do The Emotional Work

Working through trauma requires bravery. Haley may need counseling to process what she’s endured, grieve her losses and rebuild her self-worth. Peeling back the layers slowly with professional support can transform pain into growth.

Practice Self-Care

Strengthening your whole self facilitates recovery. How can Haley practice radical self-love? Affirmations, boundaries, saying no, nourishing activities that connect her to joy, feeling worthy. Make self-care a priority.

Forgive Yourself

Trauma survivors often blame themselves, reliving what they could’ve done differently. Haley may feel guilt about not leaving unhealthy relationships sooner. But we make the best choices we can at the time with limited knowledge. Forgive yourself.

Release Anger

Harboring anger at those who’ve harmed us gives them power over us still. Haley may be unable to open her heart fully until she releases indignation through journaling, therapy or support groups. Anger repressed is anger expressed.

Trust Your Instincts

Haley’s avoidance of intimacy likely serves a protective purpose, shielding her from additional wounding. Trust that intuition. Take new relationships slowly, keeping them low stakes until trust builds. It's ok to delay exclusivity until you truly know someone.

The Only Timeline is Yours

There are no “shoulds” when healing trauma. You get to decide when you’re ready to open up again, no matter how long it takes. Don't let others rush your journey with judgments. Recovery unfolds at the pace that’s right for you.

In romance, our hearts never stop hoping. But Haley's story resonates with anyone who has experienced relational hurt and became guarded as a result. Her choice honors the truth that protecting our peace is the deepest act of self-love.

Here are some reflection questions on re-entering dating after heartbreak:

  • What past relationship patterns or wounds may I still be carrying?

  • Where do I still feel anger or regret? How can I seek resolution?

  • What parts of myself do I need to reconnect with and heal?

  • Am I ready to be vulnerable again or do I need more time? What would make me feel safe?

  • How can I build trust slowly with potential new partners?

Haley and Luke's story reminds us that love worth having takes patience. There is no perfect solution or single “right” path. Listen to your intuition. Your heart will open when the time is right.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What if I want to get back together with an ex who really hurt me in the past?

A: Proceed with extreme caution. Make sure they have taken concrete steps to grow and change harmful behaviors. Take it very slowly and establish firm boundaries. Consider counseling.

Q: How can I stop feeling worthless after an abusive relationship?

A: You are inherently worthy, regardless of how anyone treated you. Give yourself compassion, surround yourself with safe people who affirm you, practice self-care, get professional support if needed. Be patient with your healing.

Q: Is it healthy to stay in contact with an ex after breaking up?

A: It depends. Light contact may work for some, especially if you plan to stay friends. But typically a clean break for a period of time helps you heal and gain needed perspective on the relationship.

Q: What should I do if an ex won't stop contacting me after I asked for space?

A: Set firm boundaries. Make it clear verbally and in writing that contact is unwanted and you will involve authorities if needed. Block their number, email, and social media. Share concerns with friends/family.

For Haley and Luke’s story, visit That Love Podcast. Get more relationship advice on our blog.


Healing from romantic wounds takes courage, self-compassion and patience. Haley's story powerfully captures the lingering impact trauma can have in holding us back from love. But the human heart was made to mend. In time, with care, we can rediscover our ability to trust in depths of connection again. Wishing all those carrying hurt peace and the reassurance that you will love fully once more.

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