Let’s talk about the difference between trauma bonding and healthy bonding! (I made a workbook that might be a good tool if you’re healing from a breakup!)
I really want to talk about trauma bonding more because it influenced my life for a long time and it still does. It also has a huge effect on our mental health and our self-esteem. Trauma bonding involves just that – trauma. When we understand that we went through a trauma bond it gives us so many more tools to cope. It’s not just a “bad relationship” where you give yourself a little bit of time and you’ll be fine.
Trauma Bonding: A cycle of physical or emotional abuse that creates a strong attachment between an abused person and their abuser. Reinforced by periods of love and affection and then periods of devaluation and emotional abuse. (You can read more signs here)
Trauma bonding can happen in pretty much any relationship, whether it’s with a partner or a family member. My experience was with a partner.
You have to completely unravel what you’ve come to associate with love.
I remember my ex asking me to go out on a date to Denny’s. There, she told me she was in love with someone else, (who she had met at the Denny’s we were currently at) and wanted to be with that person *right now* exclusively, but I was her *forever* and we were soulmates so if I could just wait for her while she explored the other relationship…. that would be awesome.
And she also needed new tires for her car so could I…?
And my response was not surprised and amounted to an “okay” while inside I wanted to die. After almost three years of ups and downs and more downs and so many crazy situations – I didn’t have that much left inside to be surprised.
And I look back now and I can’t even fathom how I got to that point. No one can.
When you’re in a trauma-bond, it slowly erodes who you are.
You know that the situations you’re in and the behavior you’re accepting isn’t okay but at the same time there are always “reasons” and extenuating circumstances and you tell yourself that it’s different and it will get better.
It was the worst time in my life. It was so full of lies, gaslighting, and emotional and financial abuse and I stayed because of that trauma-bond.
Breaking that bond is so hard. I wish I’d been able to do it sooner. I remember thinking I’d given so much of myself, and endured so much, that leaving would make it all a waste. If I stayed and *fixed* it, all that pain would mean something and be worth it.
But I left, and now three years past it, I’m happy and in a loving relationship. Am I still affected? Yes. Does it get better? So much better.
The best advice I have: Go to therapy and cut off contact.
Cut off contact – if you can. Learning how to unravel the trauma-bond is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It was harder than learning how to manage my anxiety or depression.
There’s no easy way to fix it or get over it. You have to learn what actual love looks like. You have to learn that boundaries are okay and normal. Relationships shouldn’t be full of toxic ups and downs. You have to learn how to feel safe again.
That was one of the biggest hurdles I had when I started dating my wife. I was over-compensating for a lot of things. I thought if my relationship was absolutely different from a trauma-bond then that would make it healthy. Which led me to not talk about my feelings, guarding my heart too much, and hyper-independence that showed the world I didn’t need or want anything from anyone.
I had to learn to find a happy and healthy balance. It’s a struggle but if I can do it, you can do it too.