How do you have a healthy relationship if you never witnessed one?

We like to talk about creating evidence in the coaching and healing industries. Creating evidence for business and career success, financial success, relationship success, romantic success…all the evidence for all the success. Here’s a problem I tend to see with this advice… it’s either largely reliant on looking at moments from our past to draw evidence from or it minimizes the difficulty of that when there’s been long-term trauma.

For instance, if you grew up with both parents/caregivers and/or your entire family being narcissistic, abusive, emotionally immature, etc. how tf do expect someone to easily just seek out the complete opposite of that like that’s not traumatizing in itself to our nervous systems?!

My mom’s entire family is narcissistic and toxic as hell and my dad while being the stable and good parent is still emotionally stunted and never dated again after divorcing my mom. My aunt, his sister, was in an abusive marriage and while my grandparents had love for one another they both had PTSD from WWII and didn’t even sleep in the same room, hug, kiss, or anything like that. My whole ass nervous system from the time of birth is wired for toxic, abusive, and emotionally disconnected relationships. I bet yours is too if you grew up with anything similar. We love a good red flag, don’t we?!

So, for one, we don’t have evidence of anything emotionally stable, healthy, and supportive, and two, that shit doesn’t even feel natural to us! Even if you don’t consider your family dynamic to be super abusive and it feels like it’s just void of emotional connection and affection that’s still pretty damn harsh and hard to live with. It’s also not a great example of a healthy, stable relationship.

Where do we turn for evidence and how do we make it feel safe to seek out said evidence? Certainly not Disney, although many of us learned to seek out that fairytale love because it was the only other thing, we were fed. News flash, that shit isn’t real! I guarantee after five years of being together prince Philip and Aurora will be in a screaming match over why he thinks it’s her responsibility to take care of all the housework because she’s fed up with him treating her like his mother and maid, not his wife. Real love comes with arguments, uncomfortable conversations, hardships, struggles, and growth along with all the other good stuff.

But when we’ve been raised in chaos, harm, abuse, and neglect with images of unrealistic fairytales our inner children turn into these little Smeagol creatures holding onto the fairytale while seeking the chaos like it’s their precious. I know this because hello, I’ve done it and have clients that have/do as well.
So again, where do we seek the evidence and safety to get our inner Smeagol on board with something different? Well, to me the answer isn’t to start by looking for the extreme opposite because that throws us off. Just as cutting our narcissistic parents off cold turkey is usually not done till we’ve explored boundaries and limits within the relationship we need to titrate towards the desired healthy, supportive, emotionally mature, and loving one. I started to figure out what I wanted based on looking at what I had growing up. But as I looked at it, I started noting how I felt when I saw or experienced certain dynamics and actions and I paid attention to how my family members seemed to feel. My dad seemed lonely all the time and closed off, so I sat with being alone and asked how that made me feel, not great but I also noticed it didn’t seem to bother me thinking about not getting married or living with someone. When I looked at my relationships and put aside the toxicity of my past partners, I realized I also felt very stifled living with someone and being married. That wasn’t even something I wanted when I was younger, and I noticed when I looked at my grandparents sleeping in separate rooms that didn’t bother me, but the lack of affection did. I noticed how sad and scared I felt looking at anything that my mom’s family did and how angry it made me look at my aunt’s marriage.

Like the little researcher I am, I looked at all the gathered evidence from my lived experience and how that all made me feel and I compiled it to start figuring out what I definitely didn’t want and I continuously presented that to my inner child while telling it “see I know you really like dating people who are emotionally abusive and have violent outbursts or bouts of silent treatment to get us to comply but notice how that made you feel when your mom did that? It doesn’t feel so good does it so what if we try someone who will talk about their feelings even when they get mad?” In conjunction with all that I started grabbing books on relationships and looking at other sources of info while continuing to check in with my inner Smeagols to see what I could do to make them feel safe exploring something new. Given I have massive issues trusting people I had to find small ways to trust to build up the muscle.

Not a damn bit of this started with me looking for evidence of the type of relationships I have now or want as I continue moving forward. It was all based on what I knew and building up the muscle to trust having something different while acknowledging what I knew what hot garbage and didn’t feel as good as my inner child believed it did. This often works for any aspect of our lives for those of us that don’t have the evidence to support going the complete opposite and while yes there’s definitely some pain in this process, I personally got a lot further approaching the changes I wanted from this angle over trying to affirmation my way into believing I deserved better. That’s because it had nothing to do with what I consciously believed I deserved and everything to do with what I was conditioned for. Hope that helps!

by Valerie Schrader

I’m your resident generational trauma coach, sex educator, and earth witch!

For over 2 decades I’ve been doing Somatic Experiencing, Childhood Trauma Integration through practices like IFS Parts Work, Somatic Movement & Embodiment Work, EFT, Meditation, Breath Work, and Intuitive Guidance.

I’ve supported thousands of Women, AFAB, and Couples in that time and I’ve spoken at dozens of events about healing mother wounds, generational trauma, sacred sexuality, and my own experiences growing up with a narcissistic mom, being a former sex worker, business baddie that’s owned and run 3 businesses and I’ve led dozens of group programs. As a practicing witch for nearly 3 decades that works with ancestral, elemental, and herbalism I bring a special edge to my practice because I believe we can hold the dualities of science and mystical practices while working with the mind, body, and spirit.

I’ve gone from food stamps to building a 6-figure business as a single mom. I’ve gone from being hospitalized for a suicide attempt, losing my fiancé, and friends, nearly losing my business and feeling worthless to turning it all around by developing radical self-love and worth as I released the old wounds, toxic patterns, and people and welcomed in success, abundance, and joy in all areas of my life along with wildly fulfilling relationships. I’ve seen many clients do the same inner work to drastically change themselves and their outer world, so I know it’s possible for all of us.

A few other fun facts about me: I’m a mama of one amazing non-binary daughter who's in college, I’m a huge animal lover with 2 dogs and a crazy cat, I’ve experienced housing and food insecurity and building my business to 7 and 6 figures each and started both with under $1,000 because I’m resourceful AF, I was a professional aerialist for 17 years and trained jazz & blues singer. Social justice work is hella important to me and I come from a long line of activists (my German Jewish grandma legit stood up to Nazis like the badass she was)!


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