Trauma bonding is a toxic type of bond that exists in relationships where the abuser alternates between creating highs and lows within the relationship. The victim might feel safe sometimes, and that safety is taken away suddenly.
Abusers might also offer rewards or punishment as they deem fit. The possibility of rewards keeps the victim hopeful. Maybe one day, he will change. The victims, often self-blame because they are led to believe that If they do things that please the abuser, then the relationship will be restored.
They live their lives trying to figure out the things that will please and satisfy the abuser. Often the thought process is ‘How can I change to help them improve. However, as the problem is usually not with the victim, these changes work to aggravate as oppose to appease.
Therefore the cycle of rewards and punishments continues.
This cycle of rewards and punishment works to train the victim that happiness is solely dependent on how well they serve and please the abuser.
The bond can outlive the relationship leaving the victim craving the comfort of the very person, who hurt them.
Here are some signs of a relationship where trauma bonding exists.
Blame vs responsibility
In a healthy relationship, each person makes an effort to take responsibility for the things that they’ve done. These individuals have a better chance of healing from injuries and repair any damage.
The victim will often take a disproportionate amount of blame for any discord and feel they have the responsibility to fix it. Often the thought process is.’ If I change, then things will be better.’
In every relationship, there are two parties. Therefore any failing or breakdown cannot be attributed to one party.
In a healthy relationship, each person can take responsibility for their actions. They can apologise for what they’ve done to cause harm and take steps to change.
Three signs of a toxic relationship where trauma bonding could exist
Co-dependency is a learnt behaviour that affects an individual’s ability to have healthy, mutually satisfying relationships. It exists in a relationship where one party has an unhealthy reliance on the others who may like having that amount of control.
This person will have difficulty making decisions and often needs the approval of others before they can act.
Struggles to identify their feelings
Struggles to identify and communicate their needs. They sometimes feel unworthy or thinks they should not want to have their needs met.
Persons in relationships where trauma bonding exist often struggle with low self-esteem. Your self-esteem can repair, and you can enjoy safe, satisfying and fulfilling relationships.
The abuser makes enough promises that keep the victim believing that change is possible. The victim continues to think they will deliver on these promises, and all the energies are used to try to change for the abuser to improve. This cycle often leaves the victim feeling stuck, and the toxic period continues.
No win situation
In this toxic environment, there are ongoing fights where no one wins. Instead, there’s often a lack of boundaries, poor communication and conflict management strategies that keep these persons trapped in a type of vicious cycle.
The truth is both persons in these unions are hurting. Sometimes, the victim feels they can fix the abuser. However, the only way to break free is to get help.
Breaking free can be difficult and often leave people with issues such as low self-esteem.