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Trauma Bond or True Love? How to Recognize & Break Free from Trauma Bonding

We are all hard-wired to bond. Luckily, in most cases, we attach our emotions and loyalty to caring and loving people. However, sometimes a relationship is based on trauma bonding.

If you cannot seem to leave a hot-and-cold, toxic relationship riddled with adversities, you might be trauma bonded. 

This article will help you see the truth about your relationship and show you how to build a healthier love life.

You will learn:

What is Trauma Bonding?

Trauma bonding happens when someone develops a strong attachment with an abusive person. The bond is based on cycles of intense adverse experiences and occasional positive reinforcement

The abuse may range from under-the-radar emotional mistreatment to full-blown physical and sexual abuse. However, the victim often seems blind to what is going on. They never leave—or they keep coming back.

It is because the trauma bond formed with the abuser is a notoriously powerful attachment. It does not only persist despite the adversities—it feeds off of them.

Explore the signs and symptoms of trauma bonding relationships to get a clearer perspective on your situation.

Signs and Symptoms of Trauma Bonds

Signs and Symptoms of Trauma Bonds

Take a look at your life as it is right now. Do you have many friends and keep in touch with your family? Do you pursue your interests and develop professionally and personally? Are your days rich in positive experiences? Do you feel happy and healthy?

Or is it the opposite? 

Does your life feel impoverished? Does your relationship consume all your energy and time? Did you find it easier to eliminate hobbies, people, habits, and desires from your life instead of causing friction between you and your partner? As a result, did you end up feeling lonely, empty, and hopeless?

If you responded affirmatively to the second set of questions, you are not alone. These are typical effects of staying in a trauma bond relationship. It has a way of draining your energy.

Every toxic relationship is toxic in its own way, to paraphrase Tolstoy. However, there are two very prominent signs and symptoms of a trauma bond. These are constant shifts between abuse and affection, and an apparent power imbalance. 

Cycles of abuse and honeymoon

what is trauma bonding

As a rule, a trauma bonded relationship is intense and consuming right from the start. Your partner probably made you believe that you met your soulmate, a love you were waiting for your entire life.

However, the days of courtship soon get replaced by maltreatment that can easily escalate to abuse.

Just when you have had enough and start doubting the relationship, your partner promises to have changed. They shower you with love and passion. You are back on the hook—yet again.

However, the honeymoon phase never lasts for too long. The cycle always starts again. 

Dramatic power imbalance

The abuser is in charge, and both partners feel it.

When they call you names or hurt you, they dominate. However, even when they apologize and beg—they are pulling strings. They use your fear of being alone and abandoned to reconcile.

Your partner skillfully got you in a position where you willfully renounced your power.

If you wonder if your emotions are based on a trauma bond, try to ask yourself: “Do I feel in control of my life?” If your honest response is “No,” it is possible that your bond is based on the trauma of abuse.

Other common signs and symptoms of trauma bonding

Being in such a relationship for a while, you end up:

Many victims of a trauma bond took years to recover. However, with help from Marisa Peer, a world-renowned therapist, you can heal in a matter of days. Her ground-breaking method, Rapid Transformational Therapy® (RTT®), can help you break the trauma bond and live a healthy life in as little as one to three sessions.

It combines psychotherapy, neuroscience, and hypnotherapy. As such, it addresses both conscious and subconscious beliefs that led you to where you are now. A trained RTT® therapist can help you reprogram your mind and open you to a fulfilling relationship.

What Causes a Trauma Bond?

What Causes a Trauma Bond?

Anyone could experience a trauma bond. It often comes as a surprise. Many victims would tell you that they were convinced it would never happen to them. However, a combination of factors could make anyone get into such a bond.

Past hurtful experience, victim’s psychological vulnerability, and abuser’s use of stress response and reinforcement are the primary causes of a trauma bond relationship.

Past hurtful experience

Two kinds of past traumatic experience predispose people to trauma bonding childhood experience and adult trauma.

Childhood experience

How we related to our parents shaped our adult attachment style. If the relationship with the primary caregiver was safe and secure, we would expect the same from our partners as adults. 

If the attachment was insecure, it now acts as a blueprint for our current meaningful relationships

Were your parents cold and pushed you away—or around? If you were abused as a child, the risk of becoming a victim of trauma bond in adulthood is even greater. Insecurely attached adults also have a greater risk of developing PTSD due to the abuse, according to a study.

Because you learned to expect bonding to happen through abuse, you might subconsciously interpret belittling as a part of love. 

Adult relationship trauma

When you enter a relationship hoping for love and care, any form of betrayal and mistreatment can be traumatizing. 

Did your ex-partner cheat on you, lie to you, insult you, belittle you? Or maybe you went through psychological, physical, or sexual abuse? Such traumatic experiences in adulthood have the power to alter the way you think and feel about relationships.

If trauma is not healed, people are often left feeling insecure, and low in self-love and self-worth. Some can develop relationship anxiety and have trouble trusting someone again. Others may become prone to codependency and trauma bonding as abuse becomes the new normal.

Psychological vulnerability

Can a trauma bond be fixed?

The second factor that might have led you to trauma bond with your partner was psychological vulnerability.

For example, you might have done things you were not proud of. In that case, the demeaning ways of your partner were interpreted by your subconscious mind as a sort of deserved punishment.

Maybe you were thirsty for something great to happen. At that point, your partner swayed you to believe you were meant to be together. You surrendered yourself to love—and, unfortunately, the abuse.

Abuser’s use of stress response and reinforcement

The mechanism through which trauma bond occurs is what makes it a universal threat for anyone. 

Facing abuse, your body gets into survival mode. The sympathetic nervous system takes over, making you ready to fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. The stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol flood in. This shuts down your long-term planning or elaborate risk assessment.

Your ability to evaluate things rationally is decreased. Any sign of comfort and safety evokes surges of the “feel-good” and “bonding” hormones dopamine and oxytocin, which have addictive properties. Your mind and body will cling to whatever provides such a feeling.

Cuddling, apologies, passion, references to soul-mates—they reinforce the trauma bond. You do not, however, get love and affection whenever you need it. 

Decades of psychological research confirm that intermittent reinforcement trains you to stay because you never know precisely when you will get love and warmth.

This is why you find it so hard to leave. There is always another, “Maybe tomorrow is the day. They will change, and we will finally live happily ever after.”

Luckily, RTT® offers solutions that tackle both the causes and consequences of such a noxious mix of circumstances. Keep reading to find out how Marisa Peer’s experience can help you heal.

How to Deal With Trauma Bonding

how to break a trauma bond

Victims of trauma bond usually hope that the relationship can be fixed. Unfortunately, abusive dynamics are often challenging to change.

It might be done if both partners are genuinely willing to work on their issues. This solution is often recommended when children are involved. Also, the abuse must not be severe.

Whether you decide to give your relationship a try or to move on and never look back, the steps you need to take are the same. It is in your power to reprogram your mind. 

Here are the four effective paths you can take to deal with trauma bonding.

Analyze what is going on

To break free from a trauma bond relationship, it is important to understand how you ended up in it, and most importantly, why?

 For victims of abuse, this is often easier said than done. 

Your subconscious mind always works to protect you. When you are in an abusive relationship, it provides you with a skewed perspective of reality. That is why things may seem bearable—and justified. 

For example, instead of realizing: “I am a victim of intimate partner violence. I feel trapped and I put up with many things I thought I never would!”—you resort to defense mechanisms. Denial, repression, and rationalization are the most common ones. 

You likely have many ways in which you rationalize the state of your relationship. Maybe you explain your partner’s behavior by them being overstressed, overly emotional, or in need of your help. 

If you want to move past the trauma bond, you need to step back and see your relationship as an outsider. Would you tell a loved one that it is a healthy relationship for them?

You can keep a journal. After a while, try and read it as if it were a book. How does the relationship look to you from that perspective?

Build up your resilience

Marisa Peer I am anough

The first step to building resilience is to start developing self-love and self-confidence.

The most important words you will say in your life are the words you say to yourself.

― Marisa Peer

Based on her three decades of experience working with clients all over the world, Marisa Peer discovered the principles of how our mind works. She developed a free masterclass called I Am Enough to share her insights and help people rediscover the confidence they were born with. 

This masterclass will help you shift your focus from the perceived insufficiencies onto your strengths and abilities. If you want to rewire your brain to dismiss anxiety, self-hate, and self-doubt, sign up for the I Am Enough masterclass

When you change your self-talk from disempowering to empowering, your mind can no longer stick to old destructive convictions. Your subconsciousness now works to confirm new healthy, empowering beliefs. 

Deal with your subconscious expectations

RTT Marisa Peer

When someone stays in an abusive, traumatic relationship, it often is because they are holding on to subconscious expectations and beliefs. Could this be the case for you?

What is keeping you bonded? What need  were you fulfilling with this relationship? Were you hoping for a happy family, a soulmate, someone to chase away your fears and make the hard decisions for you? What was the “hook”? 

These subconscious expectations are notoriously difficult to tackle on our own. Fortunately, you can partner up with an experienced RTT® specialist therapist who will help you grab hold of your subconsciousness. They are trained to provide you with what you need to make your mind work for you, not against you. 

Prepare yourself for love

As Marisa Peer said: “You make your beliefs, and then your beliefs make you.” It is time for you to decide that you are worthy of a caring, kind relationship.

Marisa Peer’s Dating and Relationships bundle is the perfect tool to get you there. It consists of three self-hypnosis audios that work together to reprogram your mind and attract healthy, fulfilling relationships. They will boost your self-confidence so that you never accept deprecation again. You will start seeing yourself as a lovable person, and, as a result, others will treat you that way. 

Time to Break the Trauma Bond

Victims of trauma bonding are slowly drawn into their new reality of abuse in a similar way to cooking a live frog. The trick is in gradually increasing the heat. In that way, the frog gets boiled without realizing the danger. It does not jump out of the pot.

However, you are reading this article because you woke up to the increasing heat. It is time to undo the trauma bond. Contact an RTT® specialist therapist, break free, rebuild your life confidently, and start enjoying a healthy relationship.

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Marisa Peer

World-Class Therapist

Marisa Peer is a world renowned speaker, Rapid Transformational Therapy trainer and best-selling author

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Regression therapy is an approach to treatment that focuses on resolving significant past events believed to be interfering with a person’s present mental and emotional wellness. Only people with sound mental health who are confident that a review of past events will not adversely impact their emotional or mental health should participate. We request that you do not participate in regression therapy if you or your treating practitioners have any past or existing concerns about your mental health.

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