Trauma Bonding – Warning Signs and How to Cope
At the beginning of a new relationship, you may feel an instant spark or immediate connection and it can be tempting to ignore any red flags that may arise. We often ignore these red flags due to the passion and intensity of the newly established relationship. “True love” can sometimes be disgusted as a trauma bond if you’re not self-aware.
For those of us who have struggled with our own mental health or have experienced trauma during our childhood, it can be difficult to distinguish between true love and trauma bonding. Fostering a healthy meaningful relationship takes time and doesn’t happen overnight. Understanding trauma bonding, the warning signs and how to navigate a toxic relationship, will help you to build those meaningful connections and recognize what it means to be in a healthy relationship.
What is Trauma Bonding?
Trauma bonding is a psychological response to abuse and often occurs when an abused individual forms an unhealthy relationship with their abuser. The abused person will begin to develop sympathy or affection for their abuser1. This bond can develop quickly or overtime, but it’s important to remember not everyone who has experienced abuse, will develop a trauma bond.
From birth, we are hard-wired to turn to an attachment figure (a caregiver) when we feel threatened2. We will naturally turn to our romantic partners for comfort, even if they are the ones providing the abuse. This then creates a bond, where we rationalize or make sense of the abuser’s actions. In turn, this strengthens the bond, making it harder to leave the toxic relationship.
Signs of Trauma Bonding
Your significant other should add value and create a positive impact on your life, not leave you distressed and upset. You should never feel scared for your safety, worthless or depressed. Occasionally, you may have a disagreement, but this is completely normal. Once your interactions with your partner start to become more negative than positive, it’s time to consider if this is the best relationship for you to be in.
Although, your partner may try to convince you otherwise and promise change, they will continue to repeat their abusive behavior creating a vicious cycle. It’s time to break the habit of trauma bonding relationships and find real true love.
Here are some signs to help you identify if you may be in a trauma-bonded relationship:
Conflicting emotions about the abuser.
Individuals who have endured long-term abuse, may often find themselves feeling conflicting emotions about their abuser. At times, they may hate their abuser, then make statements about the relationship to appear better than the truth of the situation3.
You cover for the abusive person.
One typical behavior for those individuals who have been abused by their significant other, is to make excuses for their abuse. More often than not, the abused will use terms like “I deserved it” or “s/he was jealous” to make sense for their mistreated. Additionally, individuals may feel the need to protect their abuser and stand up for them.
Feeling like you “owe” the abuser.
Some individuals may feel a sense of gratitude toward their abuser for something they have done for them3. They stay with their abuser because they feel like they owe them.
Displaying emotions you don’t truly feel.
Often times, individuals in a trauma-bonded relationship will mask their emotions and mimic their abusers. If you are feeling sad one day and the abuser is happy, you will hide your emotion and display what the abuser is feeling.
Desiring love, no matter the cost.
Many individuals who are victims of abuse desire love and affection from their abuser, despite being hurt. They will do anything they can to achieve that love and affection, no matter what the situation is, as long as they receive it from their abuser.
While there’s no single foolproof way to avoid trauma-bonded relationships, investing in your own mental health, self-development and understanding the signs of trauma bonding can help you navigate future relationships.
How to Heal From A Trauma Bond
Now that you may have realized you are involved in a toxic relationship or have recently left your significant other due to trauma bonding, it is important to start the process of healing from the cycle of abuse. Here are some steps you can take to help break the pattern of trauma bonding relationships and recover from the toxic environment you were in4:
- Live in reality
- Live in the moment
- Take it one day at a time
- Make decisions to support your self care
- It’s okay to grieve
- Understand what was the need
- Make a list of behaviors you will not tolerate in a relationship
- Plan your future – set goals
- Build healthy connections
- Seek professional help
When you’re ready, All Points North Lodge is here with the programs and expertise you need to face your trauma bonding issues with confidence. Our team of expert clinicians are ready to help you take the next step towards healing and recovery. We offer programs designed to treat addictions and mental health disorders. Nestled in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, APN Lodge offers a luxury rehab experience that is surrounded by the perfect environment for healing, personal growth, and recovery. Using evidence-based treatment approaches, our team of clinicians has the expertise to guide you through the process from referral through program completion.
To learn about all that the APN Lodge experience offers, reach out to one of our Contact Center team members at 866-525-9107. Let us help you find your way forward.
- Zoppi, Lois. “What Is Trauma Bonding?” Trauma Bonding: Definition, Examples, Signs, and Recovery, Medical News Today, 26 Nov. 2020, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/trauma-bonding#definition.
- Rachel. “Identifying & Overcoming Trauma Bonds.” Identifying & Overcoming Trauma Bonds - The Hotline, 22 Sept. 2020, www.thehotline.org/resources/trauma-bonds-what-are-they-and-how-can-we-overcome-them/.
- Hill, Tamara. “9 Signs of Traumatic Bonding: ‘Bonded to the Abuser.’” Psych Central, Psych Central, 9 Sept. 2015, psychcentral.com/blog/caregivers/2015/09/9-signs-of-traumatic-bonding-bonded-to-the-abuser#1.
- Stines, Sharie. “10 Steps to Recovering from a Toxic Trauma Bond.” Therapy Blog, Good Therapy, 21 Aug. 2017, www.goodtherapy.org/blog/10-steps-to-recovering-from-toxic-trauma-bond-0110175.