Have You Heard Of A Trauma Bond?

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Here’s a statement that should make most couples smile (if not laugh out loud): relationships are hard! Yes, even good relationships require work. Beyond normal relationships, though, there are a variety of problematic relationships that can be toxic. One in particular is known as a “trauma bond.”

A woman with sad eyes

Writing for Healthline.com, Crystal Raypole points out that a trauma bond “develops out of a repeated cycle of abuse, devaluation, and positive reinforcement.” This cycle can be especially insidious because a person often wants to make excuses for their partner or immediately forgive the abuse, especially if they apologize or alternate the abuse with kindness.

Why does this pattern occur? According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, trauma bonds can form as a result of an unhealthy attachment or dependence on the abusive person to fulfill emotional needs.

There are key signs to look for if you believe you might be in such a relationship. According to Healthline, look for the following characteristics:

  • You feel unhappy and may not even like your partner any longer, but you still feel unable to end things.
  • When you do try to leave, you feel physically and emotionally distressed.
  • When you say you want to leave, they promise to change but make no effort to actually do so.
  • You fixate on the “good” days, using them as proof that they truly care.
  • You make excuses and defend their behavior when others express concern.
  • You continue to trust them and hope to change them.
  • You protect them by keeping abusive behavior secret.

Should you leave a relationship if you decide you have a trauma bond? It might help to answer this question a little more objectively by asking yourself: If a loved one confided in you about their relationship, describing in detail the cycle of abuse, would you advise them to leave?

For more information on this complex subject, see the Healthline article and a related article in Medical News Today.