A trauma bond is any relationship scenario whereby one person is exercising an abuse of power over another, while often masking their unhealthy behaviours as love. More common than you may think, this kind of toxic bond can represent itself in many forms, and while the types of abuse involved may be unique to every relationship affected, one common denominator remains: it is an unhealthy situation and never one you should settle for.
To help you recognize the signs, and for tips on steering clear of trauma bonds in future, we’ve enlisted relationship therapist Alyson Jones.
You are highly captivated by the other person
Expert advice:“Enjoy the excitement of a new relationship – but take the time to really get to know the other person,” says Alyson Jones. “Trauma bonding can feel very good at first and it can masquerade as love, but in reality, it is an unhealthy attachment that binds people together in destructive patterns.”
Everything is moving at warp speed
Expert advice:Reflect on the potential root of your hurry to form a bond. “Be aware of your own hurts in childhood,” explains Alyson, “We have all been hurt and have some sort of attachment wounds. This does not mean anything is wrong with you – you are human, and every human incurs some wounds along the way.”
You’re feeling all the feels – all the time
Expert advice:“Go to a therapist to better understand your attachment wounds. The more aware we are of ourselves and our past hurts, the less likely we are to fall into an unconscious pattern of destructive behaviours and choices.” This isn’t exclusive to shy, introverted types, either. Explains Alyson, “Even a high-functioning person who is unaware of their attachment wounds can fall down the rabbit hole of an abusive relationship with a malignant narcissist, and they may not even realize it’s happening. No “type” of person is immune to the potential for a trauma bond.”
You’re on a rollercoaster — minus the fun
Expert advice:Consider the source. “Pay attention to your partner’s childhood and attachment wounds. Are they aware of their own hurts and patterns?” This, explains Alyson, is why it is crucial to really get to know someone, including important details about their childhood and past relationships, in order to have some advance insight as to any patterns in their behaviour. Self-awareness is key on both ends, especially as it relates to our past experiences: “The roots of attachment wounds are often in childhood and usually involve an insecure attachment with a loved one. This is the template of a trauma bond.”
It feels like everything is your fault
Expert advice:“Is your partner able to take responsibility for their own behaviours? If your partner is always blaming others for their problems, they may be a narcissist with no sense of self awareness.”
You lack self-confidence in the relationship
Expert advice:“Sometimes a hidden or unknown emotional wound can make someone vulnerable to being exploited by others.” The takeaway here? Do the work to understand your own behaviours and motivations, before investing in someone who may not have your best intentions in mind. Trust your gut!" says Alyson. “If it feels too good to be true – it probably is! Don’t jump straight in just because it feels good and then ignore warning signs because you want to hold onto the good times.”
You’ll do anything to avoid conflict in the relationship
“Conflict in the relationship is very stressful for you and you do whatever you can to make it stop. You give in to your partner’s wishes and suppress your own needs just to get the conflict to stop,” says Jones.