Trauma Bonding: What It Is And How To Avoid It


Have you ever mistaken your partner’s negative behavior for love, care, or protectiveness? You dismiss the signs and the red flags because you love them and want to believe their intentions are good?

Sometimes manipulation can increase your generosity in these situations. Consider whether trauma bonding is involved…

“I’d lost myself in the abyss of someone else’s tyranny…again.” ― Cassandra Giovanni, Love Exactly

Trauma bonding should not be confused with Stockholm Syndrome (a condition in which hostages develop a psychological alliance with their captors during captivity).

What is Trauma Bonding?

A trauma bond is a relationship where a bond develops between an abuser and the abused. You feel unable to break free even though you are being treated wrong. 

Trauma bonding happens when you experience psychological and sometimes physical abuse by your partner and you believe that this is how they show their love. You are made to believe that this is how your partner expresses their love and concern for you, and you turn a blind eye to the abusive or bad parts of the relationship. It’s basically manipulated loyalty to a partner who is controlling you.

If you have grown up in an abusive household or have been in previous abusive relationships, you are more likely to become trapped in a trauma bond, since it may feel pretty similar to how you’ve previously received love. But the longer a trauma bond lasts for you, the harder it becomes for you to leave.

Why Is Trauma Bonding Harmful?

Trauma bonding is rooted in toxicity. The person causing the trauma leads you to believe that you are in a happy, healthy relationship by rewarding your loyalty (in all kinds of manipulative ways, but especially by love bombing). 

As time goes on, the toxic behavior patterns become more constant, and you start to feel trapped in your relationship. They will often behave as if total obedience is normal and expected in a relationship.

Trauma bonded relationships can also be harmful by causing you to withdraw from loved ones; you may lose sense of your self-worth, and your confidence could suffer too. The bond that is formed becomes difficult to detach yourself from, especially because at first, it gives an illusion of the perfect relationship. 

How Shared Trauma Can Help a Relationship

Shared or collective trauma is different from trauma bonding; it’s when two or more people experience the same or similar trauma. The trauma could be in a group setting, where the trauma is inflicted on the entire group (e.g. 9/11 attacks or natual disaster survivors); or people may have had similar trauma inflicted in their individual experiences (e.g. survivors of domestic violence, child abuse). Here’s how shared trauma (not trauma bonding) can help relationships between people:

Real Bonding

When people can relate to each others’ experiences through feelings and emotions, this brings them closer and will help them to build trust again. It’s easier to open up to those who have already shared their trauma.

Empathy

Being able to understand each other’s feelings brings about compassion and caring, and helps you understand each others’ difficult times. This helps strengthen relationships between people.

Motivation

Motivating someone who has experienced a similar trauma as you will not only help them, but will in turn help you. Knowing that you have been able to get someone through something negative will build your confidence and the bond between you. 

Support

We often feel like we don’t want to be alone when we’ve experienced trauma. Having someone around makes us feel like we’re not alone in whatever it is we are going through. Just how we need people, people need us; and providing support to others at probably their lowest point may help bring relationships closer.

If you feel like you want to talk to someone, share your experiences, or connect with others who have experienced similar – you can chat on Supportiv anonymously.

How to Avoid Trauma Bonding

There is no definite way to avoid trauma bonding as it is different with each person. But it helps to examine your relationships in a few different ways: 

Get to know your partner:

When you meet someone and the attraction is strong, it’s easy to get carried away and start a relationship without knowing the person well enough. Their intentions, past, and true personality can be hard to actually see.  

So it’s good to take a step back: start with friendship and dating before pursuing a full-on relationship. Getting to know someone well means talking (a lot), sharing thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and spending time with the person.

Check your feelings: 

You need to be honest with yourself here – only you know how to truly feel. Trauma bonding can bring up feelings such as self-blame, confusion, doubt, numbness, etc. If your relationship is bringing up negative feelings for you, talk about it to your partner or someone you are close to, or read more about toxic relationships.

Question everything:

Opening up discussions about your feelings and your partner’s feelings may help change your perspective on the relationship. Ask questions about what is happening, about behaviors you don’t like, and about how to best change what isn’t working.

Reach out:

Whether it means getting support from family or friends or in more extreme cases, help from the police; reach out to anyone who will be there for you and help you avoid getting into a trauma bond. Getting an outside perspective will help you in making the right decisions to move forward.

“If you walked away from a toxic, negative, abusive, one-sided, dead-end low vibrational relationship or friendship — you won.” ― Lalah Delia

Identifying and admitting to trauma bonding, and getting out of an abusive relationship means that you are strong enough to look out for yourself. Sharing your experiences of trauma bonding can help others avoid the manipulation.

You can talk to someone, get help with your situation, and help others – all anonymously, here at Supportiv.

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