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Trauma Bonding: An Unhealthy Attachment

What is a trauma bond?

Whatever the first relationship was that we witnessed becomes our model for all relationships to follow. If we grew up experiencing co-dependency or an absent/abusive parent, this sets the tone for the types of relationships we will seek out and find comfortable. A trauma bond is the continuation of this cycle in future relationships. Our minds and bodies search out that which is familiar and this in turn leads us to finding ourselves in a reenactment of all that is unhealthy. Codependency, emotional immaturity, lack of vulnerability and non-existent communication are the ingredients that comprise this trauma bond cocktail. We recycle patterns until they are broken.

What does a trauma bond look like?

It can take on many forms. Confusing abuse with love is one of the main forms. A smothering, over-the-top love that seems sweet as first but ends up manifesting controlling behaviors is common in trauma bonded relationships. In this state of mind, we are searching for a partner to rescue or fix us and what can seem like concern and dedication is often not the case when we are choosing someone out of our wounding. We will do anything to get our needs met, especially as children, even at the cost of self-sacrifice. If you were neglected emotionally as a child, you will draw attention to yourself in order to be seen. Any expectations that you felt the pressure of when young turn into unrealistic projections onto your partner. If you had to be a certain version of yourself to be acknowledged by your parents, you will end up in a stressful, perfectionist rut. The striving that we may have done when we were young carries over into adult relationships if it is not healed.

What are some of the signs of a trauma bonded relationship?

  • Lack of boundaries

  • “Addicted to them” feeling

  • All-encompassing, obsessive thoughts especially over someone who has hurt you

  • Rushed relationship that feels invasive in a way

  • Co-dependent behavior, attachment issues, self-worth suffers

  • Enabling or taking blame for partner’s poor behavior

  • Seeking to help or maintain a relationship with someone who is detrimental to your physical + mental wellbeing (will need some outside advice most times since trauma bonded relationships can be exceptionally blinding)

  • Affection and undying devotion professed soon from the start and with frequency

  • Oversharing at the beginning of relationship- using trauma to connect on a “deep” level; enmeshment

  • Obsessed with the highs and lows and assume that is “connection”

  • Making excuses for partner and reverting back to their “potential in the future”

  • Losing sense of self

How do you know you are done engaging in trauma bonds?

You desire security over the chaos and roller-coaster of emotions. The re-enactment of any past trauma or attachment issues stops and responsibility is taken. Making it a point to keep promises to yourself and not betraying yourself or compromising your convictions. When we realize that we are in charge of our healing and not in any need of someone to save or fulfill us, then we start showing signs that the trauma bonds are behind us.

What does a healthy relationship look like?

Real love grows steadily and slowly with healthy boundaries. It could even seem too “normal” if you are used to the chaos of an unhealthy dynamic. Love is a witness, a safe place, but leaves the healing to the other person. There is a sense of emotional vulnerability without compromise, and boundaries in place accompanied by clear communication. There is freedom in being your true self and also a mutual compatibility that allows for a symbiotic interdependence.

Love is the selfless choice to do the inner healing work so that you are in a place to hold space for another.




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