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What is Trauma Bonding?


One thing often asked by those in the helping profession when confronted with a person in an unhealthy relationship is, “Why do you stay?”  This question has implications of weakness and…

12 thoughts on “What is Trauma Bonding?

  • April 13, 2016 at 2:21 pm
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    I can totally relate to this. I was in such a dysfunctional marriage for 38 years and when it finally ended it has taken me 9 years to finally feel “normal” again. Within the first year of our marriage my husband so debased me, confused me and gaslighted me that I totally lost the strong, independent woman I was and became a robot that tried everything in my power to please him. When I found he had been having an affair the last five years of our marriage I snapped and threw him out. So then he uses that to say I’m the one that broke up the marriage! I might have left sooner but I gave up a good paying job to raise my handicapped granddaughter. At 70 I am no longer employable and dependent on spousal support to survive. He now regrets what happened but I could never trust him again or go back to that situation again.

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    • November 20, 2018 at 1:28 am
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      I can relate, the question I asked myself was why I tolerated 33 years of abuse to me and my children and I didn’t protect them or myself, and i couldn’t let go of the relationship even after finding out he had never been faithful to me and had a secret life seeing prostitutes for the whole time I knew him. I suspected but I never had proof and when I asked directly he lied. When I did have proof I felt so lost that i sought comfort from him, he pushed me away and said I was crazy. He was right, I was crazy for not standing up for my self or my children. It took me three years to be okay with him moving out and getting a divorce. Three years later I am happy with my decision, and am enjoying my autonomy. There is a part of me that grieves the loss of what I never had, but thought I had. I was a classic case of someone trapped in a trauma bond, believing that someday he would change and become the nice person he could sometimes be. That hope kept me hanging on. My therapist asked me to read Walking on Egg Shells and a book on Narcissistic behavior. The next week I asked her if she thought I had a borderline personality disorder or was narcissistic. She laughed and smiled really big, so I asked her what she thought my issue was, she said dependency, yep she nailed it a classic codependent. I finally realized that he was not going to change and that I had too because my life depended on it. Now I am a gratefully recovering codependent.

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  • May 12, 2018 at 9:02 pm
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    Ive been searching for answers to my confusion on why I still feel for this no good, manipulative, narcissistic bastard…..this article makes sense! Thank you for it. Would like to read/know more.

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  • August 2, 2018 at 9:29 pm
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    I relate to Trauma Bonding in more than one area of my life. Most significantly my adult (39) year old son, an addict, not abusing drugs for over 5 years, but with all the Addict behavior fully engaged and ready to resource as he feels the need. His love fed has been a little get full of crisis, of every sort. As a child, school behavior and anger, as a teen the drugs started and he was kind caked out of every possible school and eventually went into o a “therapeutic” treatment center out of state where he was raped and given heavy sedation. With that as a foundation, all the years to the present I have always been his go to, bank, rescuer extraordinaire. All while he lied, stole, repented, raged, cried, begged for forgiveness, married a woman sicker than him, had a son (now 6), divorced, lost custody. Car wrecks, homeless, working, not working, legal issues- write big checks. I am traumatically bound and for my health and sanity, want to break free. I am further along than any other time. Sadly, his behavior towards me makes it easier. Love to hear other’s thoughts.

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    • August 5, 2018 at 5:26 pm
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      Debby, you are clearly in pain, my heart goes out to you.

      I have a question for you about your son. He, too, is clearly suffering. It sounds like his suffering began at a young age when he began acting out. Where do you think that pain comes from?

      Best to you both.

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    • September 22, 2018 at 3:46 pm
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      Bless your heart, i know this pain of being trauma bound to family, you tell yourself but he is mine and i love him how can i just walk away. It seems absured to walkaway, who would do that…my story is slightly different but i know those thoughts and pain and fear

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  • August 21, 2018 at 1:11 am
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    I am a survivor of sexual assault and rape along with years of emotional abuse from parents and partners. I’m currently in a relationship that started off by spilling our deepest secrets and traumas to one another. My partner is arrogant about a lot of things and almost always speaks on my behalf, acting as though I’m incapable of taking care of myself. There’s also a lot of possessive behavior that makes me uncomfortable in certain situations. I have tried to place boundaries and have conversations about expectations but the progress doesn’t last long before it’s back to the same old behavior and problems. People in my life (therapist, friends, family, coworkers) have said I should cut ties, but the thought brings me to tears. I believe he’s a good person, but I don’t want to go down that road of being abused again and prolonging my stress and anxiety. Should I end the relationship or see if the restated boundaries will stick?

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    • October 28, 2018 at 3:34 am
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      You should end the relationship. You are experiencing a traumatic bond that sounds like it resembles the dysfunctional, abusive bonding that you experienced in childhood. You may not know it now, but you deserve a healthy love. If your partner is allowing your distress they are likely manipulating you and are incapable of giving you the love that you deserve.

      I grew up in a household with a narcissistic father who was severely verbally and physically abusive to my mother; an abuse that spilled over to myself and my siblings. My father has punched me in the face, choked me, called me names, etc. I have recurring dreams of sexual abuse but I am truly not sure because the memories are fragmented. Fast forward, I recently ended a 7 year relationship with a man with whom I was traumatically bonded who is also a narcissist. He love bombed me at first, sweeping me off my feet with promises of a stable, gentle love. I had never experienced that before, and the hope that I saw at first convinced me to tolerate his selfishness, entitlement, withholding/ignoring punishing behaviors, disrespect, and verbal attacks for 7 years. He gaslighted me so often that I truly doubted my interpretation of his behavior and would tell myself that I was being sensitive or even crazy. I, too, would tell myself that my partner was a good person and convinced myself to tolerate his abuse and try to change him. I truly was not able to see how damaging his behavior was on my self-worth and well-being until now, two months after cutting all ties completely.

      Eventually, he became so disrespectful that I could no longer speak to him at all. That was the best thing that could have happened to me. Although it’s only been two months since we last spoke, I’ve finally been able to see that situation for the cycle of abuse and normalized trauma bonding that it was. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do it. The last day we spoke, I tried to cling. I thought that I needed him, I almost drove to his state to see him! For over a month I was deeply depressed and suicidal. I could not imagine living without this person. It was the full force of my traumatic bond staring me in the face. That pain is real and I can see why people stay in toxic relationships to avoid going through it. You will go through a detox phase, and it will hurt. However, the pain and longterm damage of remaining in contact with an abusive person is much, much worse. I started going to therapy when the suicidal thoughts became louder– having that support is vital.

      If you are still in that space, I just want to encourage you. You deserve a healthy love. You do not need this person. YOU are the true prize. Please put yourself first and fall in love with learning about and caring for yourself. It was never about them, but about you. There is a whole world of people who love and are rooting for you, including me.

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      • November 6, 2018 at 1:56 am
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        I am in the same situation. I have no idea what to do. I wonder what’s wrong with me. We share a deep emotional connection through out the relationship, but he consistently hurts me & when I behave it obey treats me like a queen. The whole experience is traumatic. He asks me to imagine him with another girl. He asks me to find pictures on internet of girls. Chat with strangers. Many more. In whole situation I am in tears. I was pretty confident at the beginning…now I feel like no one wants me.. without him there’s no me.. I want to get out of the relationship, but I am scared. That he would something drastic..to ruin my reputation..& also I will miss him like crazy.. I sometimes give up..he wants me to fight for him as he says that’s why he asks me to do those stuff imaginig… I have hard time identifying reality from fantasy.. god I don’t know what wrong with me.. help me please

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  • September 9, 2018 at 9:02 pm
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    Why does it seem all the good trauma therapists are on the West Coast? Dang.

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  • October 9, 2018 at 12:32 pm
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    I feel so stupid…this man has mistreated me, cheated on me, caused financial havoc, has belittled me in social media and posted his infidelities on social media as well. I feel embarrassed, I felt as if no one would ever look my way except for him because that is what he made me believe. He calls me a narcissist and accuses me relentlessly of cheating on him even while he was present in the home, relentlessly accuses me of stealing money from him in form of past tax returns and his work employments. I have never done any of what he accuses me of, ever! I’ve been so loyal that even my thoughts have always been loyal to him. I can’t bear the thought of intimacy with any one else and yet I feel like a fish out of water at the thought of being without him forever, as if I can’t give him up, why?
    I wish I would stop having any feelings for him, this pain is unbearable.

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  • October 27, 2018 at 5:21 pm
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    Our stories are all about the same aren’t they? I was 23 and was aggressively pursued by a 29 year old who seemed successful and ambituous. I was married at the time. He wanted me and was relentless. We married. The first year I had one beating and a death threat made that I had better never try to leave the marriage. That created the emotional environment he wanted. I was half way across the country from my family, no access to money, and no car key. I stayed 45 years with my abuser who was very incidious. He was patient. He slowly brainwashed me using isolation, financial control, gaslighting, withholding , blame shifting, intellectualizing away his behavior. He is the one who left, yet he has convinced others I kicked him out. He has continued to abuse me by proxy. He was always able to give me just enough hope to enable fantasy thinking. It became a dance. We have lived apart for nearly four years. I have had two nervous breakdowns and a mirade of physical consequences. I have lived on credit because, at 70 with health issues, I can’t work. He sued for divorce. Maybe I see a light at the end of the tunnel but it won’t be pretty. If you are in one of these marriages get out even if it is only with the clothes on your back.

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