Do you think you can’t leave your abusive partner? Do you feel hopeless when you go back to a relationship filled with pain? Or, do you dwell on your toxic ex and struggle to stay away? This might suggest that you’ve caught yourself in a trauma bond – but don’t fret, this toxic relationship can be put to an end with the right attitude and course of action.
What is a trauma bond?
A trauma bond is a relationship that has been built due to intense, emotional experiences, often with a toxic and abusive person. A trauma bond holds us emotionally captive to a manipulator who keeps us “hostage” – which could be through physical or emotional abuse, much like the Stockholm Syndrome.
Trauma bonds are extensive mainly among toxic, abusive and unhealthy relationships. The dominant partner develops a pattern of giving out punishments and rewards which makes the hostage physically and emotionally dependent on their abusive partner. They do this by showing periodic affection, small yet hollow acts of kindness and making false promises just so their partner remains entangled in their trap of emotional abuse.
“…powerful emotional attachments are seen to develop from two specific features of abusive relationships: power imbalances and intermittent good-bad treatment.” – (Dutton and Painter, 1981)
Related: You may not be aware of the various ways in which emotional abuse can change you and your lifestyle. Here are 6 Painful Ways Emotional Abuse Changes You.
Are you having a difficult time trying to understand why it is so hard to let go of a violent or abusive relationship?
Here are five signs that a trauma bond may be holding you back:
1. You’re aware you’re in a violent or abusive relationship, but you don’t know if you’d survive without your dominant partner.
Trauma-bonds instigate from an intense attachment to an individual who is causing you pain. It isn’t a surprise that at this point you feel like your mental and physical well being depends on your partner. You put their needs above your own, every time and let them dictate when you feel safe, and when you are scared.
They establish disruptive unwritten rules by which you’re punished if they think you’ve broken them. Often, you’re caught out because you are not made aware of these rules, or they change these rules without your notice. This is not accidental – they’re doing it on purpose to destabilize you and to demonstrate their power as the ultimate Rule Maker.
2. You live for the good times.
The dominant partner becomes a source of relief and comfort; because once they decide to reward you, they will not hit or shout at you. They may even apologize for their behavior and be extremely affectionate for a while, which they do intentionally.
Unfortunately, the relief that they provide is short-lived and you are once again at the hands of the inevitable abuse of your dominant partner. There is a blatantly uneven balance of power in this relationship, much like a twisted parent/child relationship in which you are treated like a puppet; having your strings pulled by your dominant partner. Small wonder then, that it is hard to imagine a world in which they aren’t there to govern your behavior and emotions.
3. You lose all sense of your worth and value; you are willing to lower your standards to meet the needs of your toxic and abusive relationship
Your dominant partner has convinced you to believe that you are not worthy of affection, attention and love even in areas that you were confident in. They make you feel like you are not enough and like you have to fight for their approval to make sure you meet the needs of your relationship. You’ve been made to feel invisible, pushed to compete with others for their approval, and have been used for their benefit. You end up lowering your standards and expectations for what a healthy relationship should actually be. This puts you in a position of spiraling down to self destruction and loss of self-worth.