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What is a Trauma Bond?

female body wrapped in chains from abuser

Are you stuck in the toxic cycle of forgiving your partner just to have them break your heart again, and again, and again. Usually for the same offense that you forgave them for multiple times already? You may have even accepted that they are toxic and not good for you, but it feels like your soul dies when you’re apart from them. If this sounds familiar, keep reading because you may just be in love with a trauma bond and not your partner.

I know when you read “you may not be in love with your partner” you may have become upset. How could I say such a thing when your love for them is so intense and you have given them your whole heart?

Many victims equate the feel of a trauma bond to love and these relationships are intense, passionate, feel like a soul mate connection, overwhelming, and absolutely amazing… in the beginning, and then it’s hell.

Patrick Carnes coined the term trauma bonding and described it as the misuse of fear, excitement, sexual feelings, and sexual physiology to entangle another person.

It is a powerful emotional attachment that a victim of abuse has with their abuser and they are loyal to their own detriment.

The victim will even make excuses for their abuser’s behaviors to protect them and justify their relationship even though their partner has patterns of hurting them. The victim will often hold onto the hope their abuser can change and they can help them, they are needed.

The bond develops from a repeated cycle of abuse and random acts of rewards that will feel like love to the victim. This intermittent reinforcement that is unpredictable creates an addiction to the cycle.

There is a chemical reaction that is literally addictive and if you have tried to leave and have obsessive thoughts about your ex to the point of going back even though there is abuse, then this is a good indication you are stuck in the cycle.

You are usually isolated from your support system over time which will give an abuser more control.

It’s important to point out that the abuser may not be a psychopath or narcissist, but they are emotionally abusive even if the victim has not accepted their behaviors as abusive.

If you are in this type of relationship, you have probably been told by friends and family that this is toxic and been asked why you just don’t leave.

To outsiders, the relationship defies logic.

They can clearly see this is toxic and just don’t understand why an attractive, smart, and good person like yourself just doesn’t leave.

But don’t be hard on yourself, this is a normal response to being abused in this way.

It’s common for victims to say

“Why can’t I just leave?”

“I keep going back no matter what they do wrong”

“It’s like s/he has some kind of control over me”

Victims of trauma bonds have little or no sense of self and little to no life outside of their partner.

When you are emotionally abused and trapped in the trauma bond, you probably have thought about leaving many times but you stay or return for small scraps of affection and rationalize the relationship with who they were at the beginning. The person you fell madly in love with.

You will even gaslight yourself to excuse your partner’s behaviors so you can justify staying in the relationship.

Breaking these trauma bonds is like breaking a hard drug addiction, literally.

It is harder to leave a healthy relationship than a trauma bonded relationship, especially with a narcissist. But it is very possible and one thing, unlike a drug addiction, is once you heal you won’t ever want to go back!

Do you believe you are in a trauma bond or know someone that is? Leave a comment below

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  • This is exactly what I have been experiencing for the last 10 years of my life. No commitment, empty promises, cheating, and no love. He leave me when a new one comes along that will let him move in and then comes knocking at my door when it goes left. I tell myself I am not going to allow him in my life, and I’ll be damned if every time I don’t end up opening the door and having him wrapped around me in bed that evening. Sometimes I just think, WTF is wrong with me. The best explanation I could come up with was I must really love him and nothing can tear us apart. I want to let go. I’m tired of it.

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