Recently I was doing a session with a client that is trying to work through the aftermath of her relationship with an abusive narcissist.
Throughout our session, she kept returning to the same thought over and over again.
“I don’t understand why I didn’t leave sooner… everything was so bad and I knew deep down that it wasn’t going to get better. Why couldn’t I just manage to walk away sooner?”
To someone who has never experienced a trauma bond, seeing it happen to someone else can be baffling due to a lack of understanding of why anyone would stay in such a toxic situation.
On the other hand, if you have ever been in a trauma bond you know that it transcends all logic and that breaking out is far from easy.
If you are somewhere in-between and have been wondering whether or not you are currently in a trauma bond, here are some of the most common feelings you would be experiencing.
#1. You are given little love kernels to keep you hanging on
When stuck in a trauma bond there will be moments throughout the relationship that are horrible and moments that are absolutely amazing. There will be almost no in-between as it is a constant roller-coaster of emotions.
Years ago when I was trapped in a trauma bond, it was incredibly confusing to me because it was something that I had never experienced. There were moments when my partner would invalidate and criticize my feelings and then I would be given tidbits of affection and love that caused me to question if I had exaggerated the previous mistreatment.
As time went on the affection and adoration became less and less but there was still enough of it to keep me hanging on for a long time that things would eventually get better.
#2. The roller-coaster feels unpredictable and exciting
Stability can feel boring after being in a relationship where you fight passionately and are told that by your partner that it’s actually bringing you closer together.
Recently I was talking to a client who mused that although she could look back and recognize how toxic and unhealthy her relationship was… she missed the ups and downs because they were such a rush.
When you grow accustomed to the chaos of a trauma bond it can be extremely difficult to cultivate new relationship habits and learn that you should not be tolerating the constant ups and downs that accompany a toxic partner.
#3. You can’t come up with one good reason to stay
One of my closest childhood friends constantly talks about how unhappy she is in her relationship with her boyfriend.
For years and years, they have stayed together even though they both yearn to explore other options and see other people. Not only that, but there have been numerous times over the years when her boyfriend will invalidate her feelings and make negative comments about her weight or appearance.
Recently I asked her the reasons why she stays or what she enjoys about her partner and she couldn’t come up with one. Yet even with that being said and her blatant unhappiness with their partnership, she can’t seem to leave him.
If you can’t come up with one good reason why you are with your partner, the relationship is most likely detrimental to your happiness.
#4. You can’t muster the strength to leave
There will be a point in the midst of a trauma mind where you will accept in your heart and your head that you are with someone that is hurting you. Most of the time you will most likely feel absolutely exhausted and miserable with how you are being treated by your partner.
Yet with all of this knowledge, the thought of walking away still feels like a knife going through your heart. Severing a trauma bond is one, if not the hardest actions you will ever take.
If you have gotten to the point where you are ready to step away, ensure that you have support from friends and family. Immediately go no contact with your abuser if at all possible so that you aren’t tempted by their words and the overwhelming desire to go back to them.
Although it will be hard, I promise that once you emerge on the other side with the bond broken, you will feel so incredibly free.