The effects of trauma

Portait of a senior woman standing in a field while at a farm in Autumn, smiling while looking at the camera.

It is unlikely that many people will go through life without experiencing some sort of trauma, challenge or difficulty. 

This is particularly the case when considering violence, abuse, or harm imposed by another person or situation. 

We all carry emotions linked to experiences from the past, and for some these emotions can be very powerful and lead to behaviour that has a negative impact on an intimate partner relationship.

When thinking about relationship conversations and money, previous trauma can cause one or both parties to view things through a ‘victim lens’. 

For some, this perspective may leave them feeling the need to be in control due to not having any in past relationships. 

Or the fear they have experienced in the past could cause them to be overly cautious and struggle to engage.

Either way, it is important to understand that what has happened historically can, if not managed, cause difficulties in the present.  

Being aware of your own journey and that of your partner can help shape your conversation.

Take time to check in with how each other is feeling and make an effort to understand the pressures that could be impacting the conversation, each person’s level of engagement, and the decisions that are being made.

Below are examples of how understanding your partner’s trauma can shape your response. 

Click the boxes below 👆


“I never get it right, maybe you should just manage the money.”

Possible response:

“We all make decisions that don’t always work out as we hope – let’s just look at things together and work out a plan.”



“I haven’t had control of my money in past relationships so I will take care of the budget.”

Possible response:

“I understand your need to have control over your money – what if we plan a way to have money for bills and our own spending money to do what we like with?”

© Good Shepherd NZ and AUT, 2021

Good Shepherd NZ has built this toolkit in collaboration with Dr Ayesha Scott of AUT’s Finance Department.