Alone in a Relationship: Understanding and Coping with a One-Sided RelationshipMarch 24, 2023
Behind AngerApril 26, 2023
Have you ever experienced a toxic relationship with a parent, romantic partner, or friend? Have you found it difficult to let go of the relationship? These types of relationships are what we call trauma bond relationships.
What Is A Trauma Bond?
A trauma bond is when two or more persons develop a connection rooted in trauma through repeated or continuous cycles of physical, mental, emotional, verbal, or even sexual abuse.
Trauma bonds display negative characteristics in relationships. Their connection defies logic to others and can be difficult to break, mainly for the abused person(s).
What Causes Trauma Bonds?
Three causes of trauma bonds are:
- Victims begin to identify with their captors or abusers as a defense mechanism in attempts to prevent further violence.
- Acts of kindness from the abuser, no matter how minimal, are amplified by the victim as it reinforces the hope of change that never comes.
- Oxytocin, “the love hormone,” is a crucial survival bonding hormone released in the brain after pleasant but also painful experiences. It can be so potent that it helps the brain forget or minimize the pain or hurt that came prior. When a mother gives birth to a child, Oxytocin is released, and she forgets the pain of labor and bonds with the baby. We can see here that this hormone has its usefulness. Unfortunately, our brains cannot distinguish between the pain of labor and abuse, which can result in victims bonding with their abuser.
Types Of Relationships Where Trauma Bonds Can Exist
In parent/child trauma bonds, the child may associate love with abuse. The child may perceive the situation as normal and not see the abusive parent as “bad.”
The abuse may be verbal, physical, or emotional. Although in some cases, the abuse doesn’t always escalate to physical but remains verbal or emotional. Despite knowing that these bonds are unhealthy, the abused may be unable to break away when they need support from their parents/caregivers.
Intimate Partner Relationships
In intimate partner relationships, the abused form attachments for survival. When their primary source of support is also their abuser, the possibility of forming a trauma bond is high.
An abused person may turn to their abusive partner for comfort when hurt, hoping to be loved and supported, even though that person was the one who caused it.
Sometimes the abuser may follow a pattern of abuse, then remorse. They use remorseful behaviors to minimize poor treatment. The smallest kind gestures or words magnifies because they see it as a possibility for change. They know the relationship is toxic, yet they are unable to detach themselves.
In friendship trauma bonds, when you have shared many memorable times or you have known them for a very long time, you may ignore the red flags that have always been there.
They have made you feel paranoid around them, or you must choose your words wisely to prevent escalating an already tense situation. Your differences in opinions/viewpoints will show you whether they continue to respect you in the same way as they do when you agree with them.
Having to make excuses for their behavior towards you or allowing them to put you in uncomfortable, compromising positions due to fear of them. Wanting to please them or having difficulty exiting those friendships, knowing it’s unhealthy, may be signs that you are in a trauma-bonded friendship.
How To Break Trauma Bonds?
A few ways in which you can break trauma bonds are:
- Educate yourself on what you’re dealing with.
- Journal everything you experience and note the abuser’s excuses to learn the pattern.
- Consider the relationship from a different perspective.
- Avoid blaming yourself.
- Stop making excuses for them and see the situation for what it is.
- Talk to someone or seek therapeutic help.
- Cut off all contact with them if it is safe to do so.
Trauma bonding may be more common than we realize. It can occur in any relationship and affect the abused future relations, challenging maintaining or forming healthy bonds.
However, there is hope for the future. You can break free and live a happy, healthy, and peaceful life. You can learn to form healthy relationships. Seek the help you need and reward yourself with the life you deserve.