Have you ever questioned your love for someone? Being unsure about your relationship is normal, but when it comes to “trauma bond”, many people tend to miss the signs. In fact, most people would assume this means bonding with someone who shares the same trauma. But actually, trauma bonding is the formation of a deep and emotional attachment between a person and their abuser, and it often makes the victim of the abuse feel compelled to stay in the relationship. People who have a history of abuse, exploitation, or emotional codependency in previous relationships are more prone to develop this kind of bond.
Though trauma bonds show up most frequently in romantic relationships, it also extends to platonic relationships, or relationships that are familial in nature. Regardless of the situation, they are easily mistaken as love and commitment towards another person, since they’re about dependency on someone abusive to fulfill all your emotional and spiritual needs. Sounds scary, since it can happen so subtly, but there are some signs that you could look out for. Take a look:
1. You look past red flags to stay in the honeymoon phase
When we think about abusive relationships, we might imagine constant fighting, name-calling, and even violence. However, not all forms of abuse are overt. Like most relationships, a trauma bond begins with promises of love, trust, and safety. Your body releases happy chemicals that cement your attachment. It can feel like you’re addicted to them, and you’ll be holding on to the instances where they are kind to you. This is where you’ll start to ignore the red flags in the relationship. That’s why many people who are in abusive relationships experience intense periods of pain followed by peace throughout the relationship.
2. You make excuses for your partner’s bad behaviours
Do you find yourself constantly making excuses for your partner? Whenever they do something hurtful your immediate reaction is to come to their defense and justify their actions toward you. This is a key sign that you’re in a trauma bond. You might even find yourself feeling like you deserved their mistreatment. In a healthy relationship, both of you should take accountability for your actions. If they keep blaming you for their problematic actions and can never own up for their mistakes, that’s a big red flag.
3. They are emotionally unpredictable
Abusive partners are often emotionally manipulative, so it can be hard to predict their emotions. They might say demeaning things to you one day, only to shower your with kindness, apologies, and promises to change (which they never do) the next day. And even if they do make the changes that their partner desires, they will return to the abuse shortly after. Just remember that those brief periods of happiness are not indications that the abuser is capable of changing; rather, they’re attempts to pressure the victim into staying.
4. You maintain loyalty even in the face of danger
Loyalty is an essential part of a healthy relationship. However, loyalty to an abusive partner is a key sign of trauma bonding. This is when you try to remember the good times and dismiss the bad times to stay in the relationship, even when the bad times involve patterns of threats, intimidation or any sort of manipulation so they have power and control. If you find yourself staying persistently loyal to them, despite feelings of fear, emotional pain, or distress, that could be a sign that you’re in a trauma bond with them.
5. You feel drained & emotionally numb
Have you been feeling numb, or distant? While there are some happy interludes in the relationship, for the most part, your partner doesn’t make you feel “alive”. Rather, you feel drained. This might be your mind’s way to cope with all the abuse, and feelings of anxiousness and powerlessness. When you’re numb, you might not wanna dig deeper to find out the source of the problem since fighting is debilitating, so you just hope for them to change (but they never do).
Last but not least, don’t blame yourself for what happened. It’s not easy to leave an abusive relationship. You’re going through a myriad of emotions that can be hard for anyone to deal with. So be kind to yourself, and congratulate yourself for making the first step to recovering from trauma bonding.
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