Relationships all look different. Even a trauma bond can look different depending on what kind of relationship that you are in. Most of them though have two main things including a cyclical nature and a power imbalance.
What is a Cyclical Nature?
A cyclical nature happens when a person sometimes seems to care about what is going on in your life or if you are okay. This will depend on what kind of reinforcement that they have but this is a cycle of abuse that people often miss when looking at their relationship.
It is easier to leave a situation that is bad or one where the person that is abusing you is never kind or loving to you but someone that is cyclical in nature will leave you confused and wondering if they are going to change. These are people that will take time to be kind to you and love you, bringing you gifts, praising you and more but then will abuse you.
What happens is when they are kind and loving, you become more open to them, and this makes the abuse harder because you trust them a little bit and you forget the bad things that they have done to you. Then you allow this to happen over and over again.
Having a Power Imbalance
Imbalance of power is when they want to control you. They want to make you broken so that you can never leave them. Even if you do leave this kind of relationship, the bond might not be easy to break. You may even have to seek out professional help.
Leaving this kind of relationship can make you feel alone and lost. This will cause you to often return to them and let the abuse continue to happen. They are someone that you know, and you don’t know how you can live without them with you, even in the abuse.
Signs of Trauma Bonds
Here are some other signs that you might notice if you are stuck in a trauma bond:
- You have a hard time leaving your partner even if you are not happy in the relationship.
- When leaving or thinking of leaving your partner, you feel physically sick.
- You say that you want to leave, and they make promises that they never keep.
- You remember the good things and how they used to care for you.
- You are always excusing them and making defenses for how they act.
- You trust them and you want them to change.
- You don’t tell anyone that you are being abused.
A trauma bond is something that doesn’t just go away even if you have left the relationship. There might be times that you think about the person that used to hurt you or you might even feel like you should message or call them.
You need to ask yourself this, “Would I encourage someone I loved to leave this kind of relationship or encourage them to work it out?” If you answered that you would encourage them to leave but you don’t feel like you could ever leave, then this is a trauma bond.
Why Do Trauma Bonds Form?
When someone has never been in an abusive relationship, they have a hard time understanding why people stay in them. They believe that you can leave if you want to, but they don’t understand a trauma bond.
People don’t want to be abused and they cannot help it when this bond is formed.
Maybe you have heard of fight or flight which is the way that the body responds to fear. Some people will run while others will freeze. Some people will fight even.
Facing abuse in your relationship makes your brain know that there is a warning, and it sends that warning to the body releasing adrenaline and cortisol. This causes your instincts to kick in and makes your body tense.
When you have a power imbalance you will not feel like you can escape and so you choose to freeze and stay instead. The thoughts of the abuse might become to a point where it brings you stress and so you change your mindset to only think of the good things in the relationship.
You will make excuses for them, and you will decide that your best choice is to stay. Each time this happens, you have less and less power. You get to the point where you don’t believe you will ever be able to escape and that they will always be in control of you. You know that you need each other, and you might feel that you are nothing if you leave them.
These feelings actually change your identity, and this is why people will sometimes stay in these relationships.
Hormones and Abuse
Some people will stay because of their hormones. Dopamine makes you crave things in your body, and this is similar when there is trauma bonding. After abuse happens and the stress and fear subside, the abuser will bring gifts and apologize for their behavior. This brings dopamine in your body because you feel calmed down and reinforced that they really do love you.
This dopamine makes you to feel pleasure and it causes the bond, even with the abuser, to be stronger. You feel happy when they show you affection and make you feel that they love you, even if they already abused you.
When you have intimacy with this person, it produces oxytocin which is another hormone that makes the bond even stronger. It causes you to have positive feelings and to get rid of the fear that they have caused you. Having this affection from an abuser will make you forget the emotional pain and the poor treatment they showed you.
Getting the Bond Broken
When you have been abused as a child, you might recognize the abuse as an adult. Having a history of a trauma bond makes it harder to break the bonds in your adult relationships. Here are some things that you can do to break this bond easier:
Know the Situation
Don’t ignore what is going on. Know that you have this bond and that you need to get out of this abusive relationship.
Write down things that are happening to you so that you can see if there is some kind of pattern of abuse that you are dealing with. Make sure that you write down what you are feeling after each abusive moment.
Look at the Relationship Differently
Think about the relationship from a point of view of someone else. Imagine if your sister or your child was in this relationship. Does that make you feel uncomfortable?
Talk to Someone You Trust
Find someone that you trust that you can talk to. Talk to a family member or a friend. Put in effort of being honest and telling the whole story.
Don’t Blame Yourself
You cannot keep blaming yourself for what your partner does to you. It is not your fault that the abuse happens even if:
- You did something to upset them.
- You feel lonely without them.
- You have gone back to them multipole times.
You should never blame yourself and you have to learn to be more positive in how you talk to yourself.
Get Them Out of Your Life
As soon as you decide to break this bond, you have to stop talking to them. If you are a parent with this person, you need to talk to a therapist or have someone mediate that situation for you.
Create a safe place that you can go to get away for a while. Change your email, phone number and address. Block this person completely out of your life so that they cannot contact you.
This person will likely tell you that they have changed and that they will get help just so you will come back. Remember how many times they have made promises that they didn’t keep.
Talk to a Professional
Even though talking to a friend can help, seeking professional help might be what you need. Therapy can help you:
- Figure out why you have this bond.
- Set boundaries in your life.
- Build healthy relationships with yourself and others.
- Stop blaming yourself.
- Help you make a plan to better your life.
- Give you trauma and abuse advise.
Always tell your professional that you are dealing with abuse, and you might be referred to someone that specializes in PTSD or post-traumatic stress. They can help you to overcome the trauma bond that you are dealing with.
If you need to have help in an abusive relationship, here are some people you can contact:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233, you can call them or chat with them.
- Love is Respect is an online resource that can help people between the ages of 13 and 26 years old that are being abused.
Being in an abusive relationship can cause you to have a trauma bond. You have to figure out your self-worth and learn that you are important. Your life is special, and you can talk to someone that can help you to work through your situation but get the help that you need now.