Have you ever seen a friend or a family member struggle in a relationship and wondered why they still chose to stay? Did it seem unreasonable? It tends to be much easier to detect an abusive relationship from the outside. What happens when you’re the one experiencing abuse in a relationship? Why is it so difficult to leave, despite all the red flags that may be so obvious to people around you?
A part of the answer to this question has to do with trauma bonding. This common pattern occurs when an individual develops an unhealthy attachment to an abusive partner. Trauma bonding is also often tied to codependency, an excessive reliance on a partner who is narcissistic, or suffers from an addiction or illness.
If you have experienced trauma bonding in your relationship, you may be unaware of the many ways it can impact your emotional wellbeing. In this article, we will explore how trauma bonding occurs, whether it can become healthy, and how it can be released with appropriate intensive coaching. Read on to find out how to stop it in its tracks.
What Is Trauma Bonding In A Relationship?
Trauma bonding can happen when a partner repeatedly abuses another person, yet fuels their need for love and validation. You are most likely to experience trauma bonding in a romantic relationship, It is also possible for this pattern to occur in your professional life or your family.
While other aspects of an abusive relationship can often be easily detected, this is not the case with trauma bonding. One reason for this is the persistent emotional manipulation done by the abuser. Through gaslighting, love bombing, and numerous other manipulation tactics, the abuser may convince you that their harmful behaviors are normal.
As a trauma bond forms, you may feel like you need more and more validation from your partner, develop a sense of loyalty, or rationalize their behaviors. This gives the abusive partner more power, enabling them to continue the manipulation.
Signs Of Trauma Bonding
Unfortunately, it may take months or even years for you to realize that you are in an abusive relationship in which a trauma bond has formed. You may be aware of the hurt and confusion, but unable to distinguish between true reality and the one created by your partner. To help you avoid or break this dangerous pattern, here are some common signs of trauma bonding:
- Defending and justifying the abuse
- Agreeing with the reasons for the abuse
- Arguing with close family members and friends who are trying to help
- Distancing from family members and friends
- Being hostile or defensive when someone tries to intervene
- Not being able to break the trauma bond despite seeing the signs
- Maintaining the sense of loyalty and love toward the abuser even after leaving
To illustrate the point further, a person in a trauma bond may say:
- “I don’t plan on leaving her. I’ve never been more in love. You’re just envious.”
- “He is treating me this way because he’s obsessed with me. He just loves me too much, I know you don’t understand.”
- “I just can’t stop being dumb and making him angry… It is all my fault, I’m so stupid.”
How Does Trauma Bonding Happen?
Abuse reinforcement is at the core of trauma bonding. The manipulative partner may alternate abuse with highly positive experiences, especially at the start of the relationship (known as love bombing). Once the trauma bond starts to develop, it gets strengthened over time, as the manipulation continues. As time passes, you may find it more and more difficult to detect the signs of abuse, as the abuser may isolate you from your close friends and family and ‘train’ you in a way, to stay in the relationship.
Even if you are aware of the toxic behaviors, you may be so conditioned to keep forgiving your partner that leaving becomes near impossible. You may feel stuck, confused, and incredibly lonely, all without support.
Can A Trauma Bond Become Healthy?
Since trauma bonding can cause the abused person to deny toxic behaviors, they may maintain hope that the relationship can be saved. For example, you may think that your partner will love you more if you become ‘better’. They may change their ways with your love and support. Unfortunately, transforming a trauma bond into a healthy attachment rarely happens, although it is possible to stop one from forming before it’s too late.
If you know that you are in a toxic relationship, seek help. It may seem difficult, even impossible. However hard it may seem, it is possible to break the bond and manage the symptoms of trauma with appropriate support.
How Do You Release A Trauma Bond?
Releasing a trauma bond can be a difficult, time-consuming process, but it’s entirely possible. You can try:
- Focusing on the present moment:
If you keep hoping that your partner will change and keep remembering the good old times, you may find it increasingly difficult to leave the relationship. Try to focus on attention on what is happening right now and reflect on it.
- Notice negative self-talk:
Do you often catch yourself thinking or saying how weak, stupid, or unlovable you are? This is known as negative self-talk. It can reduce your self-esteem and increase your dependence on your partner. Try to notice it and replace it with more positive alternatives.
- Practice self-care:
Learning to love and care for yourself can help reduce stress and give you more confidence. This may include meditation, physical exercise, journaling, hobbies, and talking to trusted friends.
- Learn more about toxic relationships:
If possible, try to learn about the different signs of abuse and unhealthy behaviors in order to prevent them from happening or escalating. Also, explore what healthy relationships tend to look like.
- Seek professional help:
You don’t have to endure the pain of a trauma bond on your own. Experienced coaches can help you gain a new perspective on your relationship and find ways to figure out your problems.
Attend A Codependency Retreat And Find Relief
Speaking with a compassionate relationship coach, whether online or in person, can help you manage the difficult emotions involved in trauma bonding. At PIVOT, we specialize in helping individuals like you break apart from unhealthy relationship dynamics. It is natural to seek love and validation, and we are here to help you gain insight into your feelings and thoughts.